Archive for July, 2010

McDonald’s Axes Smoothie Event

Monday, July 19th, 2010

To ensure continued supply and meet customers’ needs due to overwhelming popularity, McDonald’s USA announced that it will not be executing the national in-restaurant sampling event of McCafé Real Fruit Smoothies on July 22-24. McCafé Real Fruit Smoothies launched nationwide on Tuesday this week.

“The McCafé Real Fruit Smoothies are an absolute hit with our customers and we’re experiencing unprecedented demand for this delicious new choice on our menu,” says Neil Golden, chief marketing officer of McDonald’s USA. “We always want to meet our customers’ expectations and provide the service, convenience, and value they expect when visiting McDonald’s.”

Working with franchisees and suppliers, McDonald’s will be reviewing the potential of rescheduling the national in-restaurant Smoothie sampling event for a later date. However, all other national promotional activities, including coupons, will be accepted at participating restaurants.

McCafé Real Fruit Smoothies, available in Strawberry Banana and Wild Berry flavors, are made with an invigorating blend of real fruit—combinations of strawberries and bananas or blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries—fruit juice, low-fat yogurt, and blended with ice. Real Fruit Smoothies can be customized by requesting the beverage with or without low-fat yogurt.

McCafé Real Fruit Smoothies are available in small (12 ounces), medium (16 ounces), and large (22 ounces) at participating U.S. McDonald’s restaurants across the nation.

Blimpie debuts lighter menu

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The Blimpie sandwich chain on Monday launched a lighter menu line that will be promoted by Arizona Cardinals running back Chris “Beanie” Wells

Dubbed “The Lighter Stuff,” the new menu line features six items, all with fewer than 400 calories and 6 grams of fat.

“Being a professional athlete, nutritious, wholesome meals are an important part of my daily routine,” Wells said. “Now with The Lighter Stuff menu, Blimpie has made it even easier and tastier for me to stay on point with my health and fitness goals.”

Wells said his favorite sandwich is the Deli Trio, which includes ham, turkey, roast beef and tomatoes, lettuce and onion. A 6-inch version is about 330 calories.

Other new additions include:

Asian Teriyaki Sub, with grilled chicken breast and onion in a sweet teriyaki sauce
Veggie Salad Sub, with lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers, roasted red peppers, black olives and vinegar
Turkey and Sweet & Spice Mustard Sub, with turkey, tomato, lettuce, onion and sweet and spicy mustard
Ham and Pepper Relish Sub, with ham and tomatoes topped with a relish of banana, sweet and red peppers and black olives
Buffalo Chicken Salad, with lettuce topped with Buffalo chicken breast, tomatoes, onion and banana peppers.
With more than 1,000 locations across the country and in Kuwait, Blimpie is part of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Kahala Corp.’s group of franchised brands.

Read more:

Hilton official seek to improve flavor of hotels’ restaurants

Monday, July 12th, 2010

If you tuned in to last Wednesday’s episode of Bravo’s “Top Chef D.C.,” you would have caught a glimpse of what Beth Scott does every day — spicing up the menu.

On the show, the vice president of restaurant concepts for full-service and luxury brands at Hilton Worldwide challenged contestants to create a signature dish for the hotel chain. In reality, Scott, who has held her position for about a year, finds herself similarly challenged to breathe new life into Hilton’s food and beverage division.

“For so long, we, as a hotel industry, had given up,” Scott said before a screening of the episode at the Washington Hilton last week. Hilton has a vast network of celebrated chefs, several of whom were displaying their craft at the screening, but Scott admits food and beverage has not been a high priority at all of the more than 530 hotels and resorts that fly the Hilton flag. She hopes to change that.

“We want to recognize and celebrate the talent that we have and get all of our stakeholders on board with [food and beverage] being a main focus,” Scott said.

It is no surprise that Hilton is lavishing greater attention on its food and beverage services. Industry-wide, the segment accounted for roughly 25.6 percent of hotel revenue in 2009, according to PKF Hospitality Research. Hilton declined to provide its revenue figures for the segment, but Scott said it makes up one-third of the company’s property revenue.

“The hotel industry is realizing that revenue per room is going down based on the lack of travelers,” said Reginald Foucar-Szocki, professor of hospitality and tourism management at James Madison University. Operators, he said, are asking, “How can we get guests to spend more money? And one way is through food and beverage.”

To be sure, restaurant revenue has continued to slip since the onslaught of the recession in 2008. PKF estimates food sales dipped 19.5 percent in 2009. Still, the relevance of the segment has become more apparent across the industry, Foucar-Szocki said. He noted the proliferation of operators teaming with specialty chains, such as Wolfgang Puck, and bringing in celebrity chefs to keep guests at the hotel.

While Hilton is not opposed to partnering with such entities, Scott said, “We can do it just as well as anybody else; we have the talent and we know the mission.” Her determination to take ownership of the process is largely born out of her background. Having helped celebrity chef Todd English launch restaurants at such hotels as the Bellagio in Las Vegas in the late 1990s, Scott began questioning why hotel operators didn’t just do it themselves.

That led Scott to try her hand at corporate restaurants for Lowe’s Hotels, where she was for five years before moving to Asia to do consulting work. When Scott returned to the United States, she wanted to team with a hotel operator with global reach. And Hilton, which had re-merged with its international brand a few years back, was a natural fit. “Hilton had also just been bought by Blackstone, so there was a renewed energy,” Scott said. “I knew that if I could do what I did on a small scale on a greater scale, the impact would be extraordinary.”

There are at least 20 goals that Scott has on her agenda, but the most immediate involve changing the mind-set around restaurants and helping hotels streamline the process. “We’re not looking to brand food and beverage, but to brand quality,” she said. “We’re not saying that every Hilton has to have this hamburger, but if you walk into Hilton, you should know that they are going to have a good hamburger.”

Much of Scott’s work is centered on creating standout concepts that can translate across many of the 76 countries where Hilton has hotels. Scott said that Hilton has 70 hotels in the pipeline in Asia, each slated to have four to five restaurants. “We are opening a total of 350 restaurants in three years,” she said. “There is no possible way that we can take a very linear approach to that process. We have to create some concepts that have legs beyond one hotel.”

To that end, Scott and her team have been testing a number of concepts at the Hilton McLean, which sits adjacent to the company’s headquarters. “If we are going to do an American steakhouse oversees, we don’t need to reinvent it over and over again,” said Scott, noting that the steakhouse, along with a 24-hour bistro and hibachi-style restaurant, is among the top concepts.

While having an arsenal of concepts on hand is important to Scott, so is authenticity. Each hotel still retains its own local flavor, meaning you’d likely see blood pudding for breakfast at a Hilton in London or crab cakes for dinner in D.C. The company just completed a global survey of some 22,000 guests and employees, and found that authenticity as well as healthy options and convenience were important.

“If you understand the needs of the guest and what attracts them to you, then you can be successful,” Foucar-Szocki said. “Hilton is once again refocusing who they are and what their role is within the larger hotel industry.”

Scott trusts that Hilton managers are largely capable of enhancing their restaurant operations. But for those who are not equipped to do it themselves, Scott is working toward an October launch of an interactive database of preferred partners that operators can team with. She calls it her “eHarmony” of hotel operation.

Changes can certainly help sell a hotel. But as franchisees throughout the industry began suffering from the downturn, some bristled at requests to upgrade their sites with pricey brand rollouts.

“We don’t ask [our owners] to do anything that is extraordinary in extraordinary times,” Scott said. Instead, she appeals to owners’ need to stay competitive and differentiate themselves from other brands. “Our owners are starting to understand the need to put some capital back into their hotels.”

Fuddruckers adds elk to Exotics burger line

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Fuddruckers has added a half-pound elk burger to its premium priced Exotics line of burgers.

The nearly 200-unit Austin, Texas-based chain has offered a selection of game-meat burgers for some time, but they were previously marketed piecemeal and as one of the system’s Burgers with Benefits. In May, Fuddruckers repackaged the products into the Fudds Exotics line for systemwide promotion, and the first featured item, a half-pound buffalo burger, was “one of the most successful rollouts in recent years,” said Fuddruckers representative Kelly Pascal Gould.

Along with the elk and buffalo burgers, Fuddruckers’ exotics line includes a half-pound wild boar burger, a 7-ounce ostrich burger and 5-ounce salmon burger.

In promotional materials, the chain touts the “all-natural, free-range grass-and-grain fed” game burgers and “wild-caught” salmon fillet, as well as some of the individual products’ desirable nutritional traits, such as the buffalo being “a good source of iron” and the salmon’s Omega-3 fatty acids.

By offering alternatives to beef, Fuddruckers is differentiating itself from a number of other chains that have recently introduced or promoted regional specialty burgers, such as Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar and Johnny Rockets, as well as competitors that have maintained a more general approach while gilding their sandwich lilies with a wide range of premium toppings, including The Cheesecake Factory and its “Glamburger” menu.

Fuddruckers officials said the systemwide average price of a half-pound burger made with the chain’s signature Fudds Prime American-raised, vegetable or grain-fed beef is $5.69. Half-pound exotic burgers, they said, range in price from $7.99 to $9.99, depending on the game meat and market in question.

To raise consumer awareness about the elk burger and the entire Fudds Exotics menu, Fuddruckers this week launched a contest for fans called Exotic Fridays, which gives participants a chance to a $50 gift certificate in exchange for their posting of exotics icon on their Facebook profile page.

The game meat products, like all Fuddruckers burgers, are ordered at the service counter, cooked to order, placed in buns baked in-house and then “built” or dressed by customers to their liking from a variety of condiments and toppings at the chain’s Market Fresh Produce and Fixins’ Bar.

For the elk burger, Fuddruckers suggests that it be ordered grilled to “medium” well done and topped with Swiss cheese and grilled onions.

Elk burgers have been available in Fuddruckers restaurants since July 6 and, in the first few days, have been strong sellers, Pascal Gould said.

Though Fudds Exotics are part of a systemwide marketing initiative, Fuddruckers pointed out that some items, such as the ostrich burgers, are seasonal because of supply or other issues, and that offerings may vary by region, depending on local taste preferences.

Read more:

Dunkin’ Drivers Postpone Strike

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

A union representing drivers and delivery staff for Dunkin’ Donuts’ largest distributor in New England has postponed plans to strike after making progress in contract negotiations, parent company Dunkin’ Brands Inc. said Tuesday.

Teamsters Local 25 indicated last week that its members would strike the distributor, Northeast DCP, potentially halting operations at as many as 2,500 Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins locations.

The union has accused Northeast DCP, which is owned by Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, of interfering in contract negotiations for some 200 drivers who elected to join the union last August. The union has until August to negotiate the first-time contract or face possible decertification.

The Teamsters are expected to resume talks with Northeast DCP on July 16, under the supervision of a federal mediator, said Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands.

King said Dunkin’ would continue to monitor the situation and do everything it could to keep business operating without interruption should the drivers decide to strike the distributorship.

“The Teamsters’ dispute is with an independent distributor. The distributor has informed us that they are bargaining in good faith and intend to continue discussions until they reach an agreement,” King said in a statement. “While Dunkin’ Donuts has no role in these negotiations, on behalf of both parties we hope an agreement is reached soon.”

Representatives for Teamsters Local 25 and Northeast DCP did not return requests for comment at press time.

Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands franchises 8,800 Dunkin’ Donuts stores and 6,000 Baskin-Robbins locations worldwide.

Read more:

The Melting Pot Bolsters Food and Beverage Team

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The Melting Pot Restaurants said it has made changes to its executive ranks in an effort to develop its beverage program.

The fondue-style chain promoted Shane Schaibly to the position of director of food and beverage. Schaibly, who previously was manager of culinary development, will retain his post as corporate chef.

In his new role, Schaibly will work closely with Kyle Wray, who was named to the newly created position of beverage manager. Schaibly’s new responsibilities include purchasing the chain’s signature cocktail ingredients and overseeing its wine program. Wray will be responsible for developing the chain’s beverage program.

Schaibly was lead pastry chef and sous chef for Café Ponte in Clearwater, Fla., before joining The Melting Pot. Wray’s experience includes consumer package goods and brand marketing at Southern Wine & Spirits, an Indianapolis-based beverage distributor.

The Melting Pot Restaurants is based in Tampa, Fla., and has 144 restaurants in North America.
Read more: