Archive for November, 2012

Thanksgiving Sales Indicate Strong Holiday Season for Restaurants

Friday, November 30th, 2012

With December approaching, some restaurant chains see the healthy flow of shopping and restaurant traffic during the Thanksgiving weekend as a positive indicator for the holiday season ahead.

Last weekend began with strong Thanksgiving Day sales among those promoting holiday feasts for dine-in or take-out, operators said this week.

“Strong results for Thanksgiving usually provide an indication of a better-than-average December,” said George Michel, chief executive of Boston Market.

The Golden, Colo.-based chain said weekly sales per restaurant for Nov. 19-23 rose 13 percent this year over last. The chain saw a 27-percent increase in catering, and a more than 10 percent increase in sales of heat-and-serve “chilled banquet” meals.

The various trackers of Black Friday shopping behavior this week had differing results for the holiday weekend, but all reported an increase in activity this year, indicating that consumers are feeling more confident about spending this season.

The National Retail Federation estimated that a record 247 million people visited stores or retail websites over the holiday weekend, an increase of 9 percent over last year’s 226 million. This year those shoppers spent an estimated $59.1 billion, or an average of $423 per person, compared with $398 last year.

Retail research firm ShopperTrak estimated that retail foot traffic rose 8.2 percent this Thanksgiving weekend over last with more than 594 million store visits. ShopperTrak estimated sales rose 2.7 percent to $22 billion over the four days.

And First Data, which tracks credit and debit card sales, said the average spend per shopping trip on Thanksgiving and Black Friday specifically increased 1.9 percent this year over last.

The holiday weekend results were followed this week by news that consumer confidence in November reached its highest level in nearly five years — despite warnings of the “fiscal cliff,” tax increases that could go into effect next year.

Though the retail data did not offer specific insight into restaurant spending, several chains — especially those with specific holiday promotions or those located near shopping centers — indicated that they also fared well last weekend.

For example, Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel, in its earnings report Thursday, said Thanksgiving Day was the strongest single sales day in the chain’s history.

Mimi’s Café, owned by Columbus, Ohio-based Bob Evans Farms Inc., said it recorded double-digit sales increases on Thanksgiving Day this year, which the chain attributed to both dine-in and take-out sales, including two new to-go packages: a Brunch Feast To-Go with six muffins, six quiches and seasonal fruit for $39.99; as well as Holiday Sides To-Go package options that added incremental sales to the primary Holiday Feast To-Go.

Karen Eadon, Mimi’s vice president of marketing, said, “We expect it to be even stronger in December because more people will be aware that we have these new offerings.”

Eadon also noted an interesting new twist to Thanksgiving sales this year: One anonymous donor bought 100 Holiday Feasts To-Go at $89.99 each for families in need.

Online ordering on the rise

Cyber Monday has also become a big day for chains with online ordering.

More consumers shopped online last weekend than in the past. The NRF said the average shopper spent $172.42 online over the weekend, or about 40 percent of the weekend’s spending, up from 37.8 percent last year. That figure didn’t include Cyber Monday, when online sales rose 17 percent over last year to $1.5 billion, according to online retail tracking firm comScore Inc.

Seattle-based Starbucks declined to give specifics, but a spokeswoman said the company was “exceptionally pleased” with sales over the weekend, and, in particular on Cyber Monday.

Last year, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Domino’s said Cyber Monday helped the chain reach its first week with 1 million orders through online and mobile ordering. The holiday season also includes three of Domino’s top five selling days: the day before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

It’s too early to say how Domino’s did this year on Thanksgiving Eve, said chain spokesman Chris Brandon. But Domino’s is ramping up hiring for the busy holiday season, with franchise owners planning to add roughly one to five people per store — from delivery drivers to pizza makers.

Some restaurant chains waited until this week to promote online gift card sales. The Cheesecake Factory, based in Calabasas Hills, Calif., for example, began promoting its seasonal Peppermint Bark Cheesecake this week with a sweepstakes opportunity to win free cheesecake for a year. A free slice of cheesecake is available with the purchase of a $25 gift card or eGift card purchased online through Dec. 24, and the casual dining chain is also promoting the sale of whole cheesecakes that can be bought online and sent as a gift.

Other chains geared holiday promotions to time-starved consumers needing to feed larger gatherings through the holidays. Louisville, Ky.-based KFC, for example, this week launched a new Festive Feast package for $19.99 that includes an eight-piece chicken meal along with four biscuits, two sides and a dozen chocolate-chip cookies — a new dessert offering for the quick-service chain.

Jack in the Box on Thursday debuted new Brownie Bites, the latest addition to the chain’s mini dessert menu that includes Mini Churros and Mini Cookies. Served warm and priced at five for $1 at participating locations, the brownies offer consumers a quick option for holiday potluck parties, the San Diego-based chain said.

Bob Evans Explores Sale of Mimi’s Café

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Encouraged by second-quarter results from the company’s namesake restaurant brand and packaged-foods business, officials for Bob Evans Farms Inc. expressed optimism that the Columbus, Ohio-based firm could increase its long-term earnings growth — most likely, however, without the Mimi’s Café chain still in its portfolio.

Bob Evans announced a strategic review for Irvine, Calif.-based Mimi’s Café, though chief executive Steve Davis noted during the company’s fiscal-2013 second-quarter earnings call that the future is bright for Bob Evans restaurants and the company’s BEF Foods segment.

He credited “the sustainability and long-term growth potential of the transformations we have achieved” in those divisions for Bob Evans raising its long-term earnings-per-share growth guidance to an annual range of 8 percent to 12 percent, an increase from the previous guidance of 7 percent to 10 percent.

The namesake restaurant chain’s remodeling program, the key source of executives’ confidence, would accelerate in the coming quarters, Davis said. He also noted that the packaged-foods diversification into more sales of side dishes and its acquisition of the Kettle Creations food manufacturer would make BEF Foods’ future growth less dependent upon sales of sausage and less vulnerable to volatility in sow costs on the commodities market.

Mimi’s Café, charges drag down earnings

Bob Evans’ second-quarter net income fell 18.9 percent to $10.3 million, or 36 cents per share, compared with $12.7 million, or 42 cents per share, in the second quarter of fiscal 2012. Several pretax charges for restructuring the company’s packaged-foods business negatively affected earnings, Bob Evans said.

Revenue for the Oct. 26, 2012-ended second quarter increased 0.9 percent to $410.9 million, reflecting sales growth in the namesake family-dining chain and the packaged-foods division, partially offset by a same-store sales decline at Mimi’s Café.

Same-store sales grew 1 percent at Bob Evans, and the brand remodeled 45 stores during the quarter. However, same-store sales declined 5.6 percent for Mimi’s Café.

The continuation of Mimi’s prolonged same-store sales slump led Bob Evans Farms to begin a formal pursuit of strategic alternatives for its casual-dining chain. “The strategic fit and long-term growth potential of Mimi’s Café relative to our other businesses prompted us to initiate a process to evaluate our strategic alternatives for that segment,” Davis said, “including but not limited to a potential sale.”

Until the review is completed, however, Mimi’s will continue to attempt a sales turnaround by building up its takeout and catering businesses, he said. “Part of getting into catering is to make it simple for the consumer, focusing on packaging and making it a great value,” Davis said. “They’ve completely retooled an outdated catering program. Then it’s just about getting people maniacally focused against customer service.”

The company will remodel three Mimi’s locations in fiscal 2013 but does not plan to build any new units.

Remodeling to pick up the pace

Bob Evans also announced that its Farm Fresh Refresh restaurant remodeling program would accelerate. The company is aiming to complete the reimaging of all 565 restaurants by the end of fiscal 2014, one year earlier than originally projected. By the end of fiscal 2013, 56 percent of the chain is expected to be remodeled.

Chief financial officer Paul DeSantis said Bob Evans would not only increase the pace of Farm Fresh Refresh remodeling but also would raise other goals for the program, including reducing the number of store days lost to closure, a faster realization of profitability and an overall lower cost to remodel each restaurant.

“We are at that critical point now, with enough refreshes under our belt that the overall positive effects will start to accelerate as we add more units to that pool of transition restaurants,” he said. “As we get more restaurants into completion, that’s where we see the sales and profit acceleration.”

DeSantis said the combined food and labor costs of remodeled locations that were open for all of fiscal 2012 are now running about 1.5 percent lower as Bob Evans begins to realize some of the intended efficiencies of the refreshes. Increased sales, new sales layers like bakery items and catering, and service enhancements from retrained staff are driving the margin improvements, he said.

“The real benefit of the five days we’re closed is in the retraining,” Davis added. “We couldn’t send our employees to refreshed units to practice when we began this program, but now we can send them to nearby ‘new Bob’s’ locations to learn. We’re getting a chance to practice with the new Bob Evans, and that’s why we’re getting off to a better start with each new refresh.”

He added that many of the company’s contractors are getting better at completing more remodels on a faster schedule as well.

Columbus, Ohio-based Bob Evans operates 565 namesake family-dining units in 19 states and 145 Mimi’s Café locations in 24 states.

Pie Five Pizza Begins Franchising

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Pie Five Pizza Co., the subsidiary of Pizza Inn Holdings Inc., on Monday announced that it had awarded its first two franchise development agreements for the fast-casual concept in North Carolina and Utah.

Pie Five had penned two multi-unit franchise development agreements with rights for up to eight locations in the greater Salt Lake City area of Utah and 10 in Charlotte, N.C. The Colony, Texas-based company said it would disclose the names and headquarters of the two new franchisees at a later time.

Madison Jobe, Pizza Inn’s chief development officer, said the company has eight Pie Five Pizza stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, all developed since the concept debuted in 2011. A ninth Pie Five is under construction in Denton, Texas, Jobe said, and several more leases are executed for 2013 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“It’s important for us to continue to the grow the brand in the Metroplex,” Jobe said Monday, “and these franchise agreements will further build our base for the concept.”

The first franchised stores are scheduled to open in 2013, the company said.

The fast-casual pizza space, borrowing from the Subway-Chipotle customizing model, has been getting growing attention with brands such as 800 Degrees in Los Angeles; Fullerton, Calif.-based Pieology; Project Pie in Las Vegas; and Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza in Irvine, Calif. Chains in the space include Pie Five, MOD Pizza, Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint and Top That! Pizza.

Pie Five recently added the option of gluten-free crusts to its line up of crispy thin, classic pan and Italian-herb thin versions. The concept offers pies ready in five minutes with either customized toppings or combinations from the menu.

Parent company Pizza Inn Holdings Inc. last week appointed Randy Gier as its new chief executive. The company owns and operates 12 restaurants and has nearly 300 franchised Pizza Inn units.

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SOS Raises More than $5M to Fight Childhood Hunger

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Nearly 8,300 restaurants pitched in throughout the month of September in an effort to end childhood hunger by participating in Share Our Strength’s annual Dine Out for No Kid Hungry fundraising campaign.

Restaurateurs, together with their employees and customers, raised more than $5 million, or double the amount raised last year, helping to ensure that hungry children across the nation are fed.

Billy Shore, founder and chief executive of Washington, D.C.-based SOS, called the effects of childhood hunger “far-reaching. This is not a political issue; it’s a commonsense issue. When we feed our kids, they grow up smarter, stronger and healthier.”

SOS said more than 16 million children in the United States face hunger problems.

Throughout the month of September, chain and independent restaurants around the country focused their energies on raising funds for the campaign through a variety of methods. 

From Aug. 20 through Sept. 30, Arby’s restaurants reached a new record by raising $2.5 million. The Atlanta-based quick-service chain collected money for the Arby’s Foundation and its mission to end childhood hunger, through a partnership with SOS’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Customers who donated $1 received a pin-up pledge to sign and hang on the wall of the restaurant to show their support. 

“We’re extremely proud of the extraordinary efforts of our franchisees, company-owned restaurants and employees who went the extra mile,” said Hala Moddelmog, president of Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. “Childhood hunger is a monumental problem in this country, and we’ve pledged as a brand to stand up and take action to ensure that no child grows up hungry.” 

Bruegger’s Bagels in Burlington, Vt., said it would donate $125,000 to the SOS campaign. The funds were raised in a monthlong fundraising drive on the Bruegger’s Facebook page and through coupon-book sales in the brand’s 300-plus locations.

Bruegger’s said its customers participated in record numbers this year, enabling the bagel bakery to meet its fundraising goal — four times the amount raised in 2011. 

“Bruegger’s employees and its guests pulled out all the stops this year in the fight against childhood hunger,” said Jim Vinz, co-CEO of Bruegger’s parent company Le Duff America and chairman of the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry Advisory Board. “Their tremendous efforts will help Share Our Strength provide relief for the 16.6 million children in this country who are at risk of hunger and help ensure that every child in the U.S. gets the food they need.” 

Employees of Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap — part of Ignite Restaurant Group in Houston — raised in excess of $1 million for the program this year. A national partner and fundraiser for SOS, Joe’s has participated in the annual No Kid Hungry initiative since it began in 2008.

During September’s event Joe’s and Brick House offered customers the chance to donate in increments ranging from $1 to $10 in exchange for coupons redeemable for various menu items. Guests also were able to donate to the No Kid Hungry campaign by visiting both brands’ websites, where they received similar online coupons. 

“As a restaurant group and longtime partner with Share Our Strength, we are committed to supporting our nation’s children and the fight against childhood hunger,” said Joe’s chief operating officer Jim Mazany, the 2013 chair of the No Kid Hungry Advisory Board. “We want to thank our devoted customers who gave so generously to the effort and our employee teams who worked hard to spread the Share Our Strength message. Their dedication to No Kid Hungry’s goal of eliminating childhood hunger by 2015 is inspiring.”

Romano’s Macaroni Grill said it raised $300,000, surpassing its fundraising goal by 200 percent. 

“Our campaign to support No Kid Hungry exceeded all expectations,” said Romano’s Macaroni Grill CEO Norman Abdallah. “It rallied the nation to come together for an important cause, ultimately raising more than $300,000 and helping connect kids to as many as three million meals — triple what we had initially targeted.”

Other participants in the No Kid Hungry campaign were Bellizzi, Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy, Border Grill, Colore Italian Restaurant, Corner Bakery Cafe, Denny’s, Fuddruckers, La Madeleine, Legal Sea Foods, Magnolia’s Restaurant & Catering, Manito Tap House, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Shari’s Cafe & Pies, Ted’s Montana Grill, Togo’s and many others.

The money raised through No Kid Hungry is used to fund effective nutrition programs like the School Breakfast Program and summer meals programs, and to help eliminate barriers that prevent children from accessing programs like these and other existing food and nutrition resources, SOS said.

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Restaurants Aid Post-Sandy Recovery Efforts

Monday, November 5th, 2012

After millions of East Coast residents were left without power in the post-Sandy aftermath last week, restaurants stepped in to help provide relief to customers, from serving food and supplying power to raising funds for recovery efforts.

The storm made landfall in the U.S. on Oct. 29, hitting New York City and New Jersey especially hard. Sandy lead to several dozen reported deaths, caused widespread power outages and flooding, and left an estimated $20 billion in damages. Most restaurants and businesses closed Monday to avoid as much of the storm as possible, and reopening and operating over the next few days required many eateries to limit their menus to what could still be prepared with spotty electricity and gas service and decimated inventory.

By Tuesday, restaurants had begun reopening their doors to affected customers and serving as a refuge for those people unable to cook their own food or charge electronic devices.

In East Meadow, N.Y., on Long Island, a Texas Roadhouse location went on a 40-minute wait all evening, a rare occurrence for a Tuesday, the unit’s managing partner, Keith Deluise, told Bloomberg Businessweek. He added that the day’s biggest sales increases came from alcoholic beverages, which shot from their normal sales mix of 12 percent of sales to 20 percent.

That anecdote drew a few relieved laughs during Texas Roadhouse Inc.’s third-quarter earnings call, which had been rescheduled from Monday to Thursday evening. During the call, president Scott Colosi said the brand was thankful its team members and its restaurants were relatively unharmed and indicated that any silver linings would take care of themselves.

“In some areas, you have a little more to-go business because people have no power and they’re taking food home, but that’s about it,” Colosi said. “It was also a benefit that the storm was on Monday and Tuesday, not Friday and Saturday — so yes, that’s a big deal as well.”

Chief financial officer Price Cooper added that Texas Roadhouse had a total of 36 restaurants closed on Monday when Sandy made landfall in the United States, but 30 opened back up on Tuesday and all but one had reopened by Thursday.

“We’ve had no real material damage to our restaurants,” Cooper said. “So we’ve lost a few days, but typically, you tend to get a little bounce back as things kind of come back up and as you’re able to have power for these people.”

As 14 of its closed stores reopened by Thursday, New York-based 16 Handles put a greater emphasis on helping people recharge and reconnect than on selling them frozen yogurt. The 28-unit chain offered everybody the chance to enter their stores and recharge their phones for free.

“All operating 16 Handles stores are providing relief to those affected by Hurricane Sandy as we make outlets accessible to those who need to recharge their phones and other devices in order to reconnect with their family and loved ones during this challenging time,” Jon Lake, vice president of operations, said in a statement.

Similarly, Margaritas Mexican Restaurant opened its doors to as many people as it could, not only sharing its warmth and electricity, but providing free food to affected customers and emergency workers. Its Lansdale, Pa.-based restaurant, which had opened only a few days before Sandy hit, reopened Tuesday night and gave away 1,200 free tacos to community members. The restaurant also delivered tacos to relief workers assessing damage around the area.

The effort was advertised solely through word of mouth and social media, a representative for Margaritas said.
Funding recovery

The Red Cross was the biggest recipient of funds from restaurants and other businesses hoping to help those affected by the storm.

At its Times Square location in New York, The Counter will donate 10 percent of all proceeds from sales of its Burger Bar catering option to the Red Cross.

Darden Restaurants was an outsize contributor, as it has participated in the charity’s Annual Disaster Giving Program since the initiative’s inception in 1997. In addition to that ongoing financial contribution, Orlando, Fla.-based Darden last week donated 6,000 cases of bottled water from its storm-closed restaurants — including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and others — to Red Cross shelters in New York and New Jersey.

“These communities have supported our restaurants for decades,” Gary Brown, senior vice president of operations for Olive Garden, said in a statement. “Our restaurant teams wanted to help out right away, so we got to work immediately on re-routing these shipments of water to the local Red Cross shelters.”

The operator of more than 2,000 casual-dining restaurants also provided financial assistance to employees in restaurants and communities affected by the storm through the Darden Dimes initiative, an employee-funded assistance program with $1.7 million in annual donations.

Many restaurant companies based far from the path of the storm also raised funds for the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts, as McDonald’s Corp. announced Monday with a $500,000 donation.

Chicago-based DMK Restaurants, operator of DMK Burger Bar, Ada Street and Fish Bar, donated 20 percent of all beverage sales from Wednesday to Friday for its “Drink Them Dry” fundraiser. It also raffled off a $250 gift card.

More than 60 units of Tampa, Fla.-based Beef ‘O’ Brady’s staged a one-day donation event to give 10 percent of the day’s earnings to the Red Cross.

The 11 franchisees in the Cincinnati market for Marco’s Pizza acted quickly to donate $1 from every specialty New Yorker pizza to the Red Cross last Wednesday — on Halloween, the chain’s busiest night of the year — for storm relief.

“There’s no better time to do this than the busiest night of the year,” said area representative Kevin Pong said. “I think it will be a huge success for the Red Cross, and they cross-posted this on their Facebook and Twitter pages.”

Linking donations to the New Yorker pizza, rather than all menu items, still would produce a large gift, Pong said, because — beyond its symbolic tie to one of the areas most affected by the storm — that particular item was a very popular limited-time offer this past summer. The donation promotion was advertised as a prelude to every online or phone order, and the pizza was sold at a discounted price of $11.99.

The Cincinnati franchise group immediately sent word of its fundraising effort to Marco’s headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, in the hopes that much of the 320-unit system would participate in time for Halloween.

“We figured it would be a great way to raise awareness that these folks will need a lot of help,” Pong said. “If it happened to Cincinnati, they would all help us out.”

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California’s Prop. 37 Brings GMOs to Forefront for Restaurant Operators

Monday, November 5th, 2012

A growing number of restaurant operators are taking interest in a proposition to be decided by California voters on Tuesday that would require the labeling of some genetically modified foods.

Proposition 37, the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Food Act, is designed to give consumers more information about foods and products that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. A high percentage of corn, soybeans and sugar beets used in processed foods in the U.S. are genetically modified.

The measure would apply to labels on supermarket foods, primarily, and restaurants would not be required to disclose the presence of GMO ingredients on menus. However, restaurant operators say the proposal has raised awareness of GMOs among consumers, and now it’s an issue they must also address.

Some operators say labeling would help them know what ingredients are genetically engineered — though they’re not necessarily going to avoid them when purchasing products for their restaurants.

“The jury’s still out on GMOs,” said Mary Sue Milliken, co-owner of the multi-unit Border Grill based in Los Angeles. “They may be the next best thing that will save the world and feed the hungry. I don’t think we know one way or the other. But it’s important to know what you’re buying.”

Prop. 37 is officially opposed by the California Restaurant Association, based on a vote by the group’s political action committee board. “We think it’s poor policy, not based on sound science,” said Matt Sutton, CRA’s vice president of government affairs.

Opponents of Prop. 37 — which include large food companies producing consumer and foodservice goods — argue that the labeling requirement is deceptive and would mislead consumers about the safety of biotechnology, which has been in use for two decades. In addition, opponents say that approval of the measure would result in higher grocery bills, as well as open up farmers and other businesses to lawsuits, and increase the state’s bureaucracy and red tape.

Supporters of Prop. 37, on the other hand, disagree on all counts. The long-term safety of GMO use has not been adequately studied, they contend, and labeling will allow consumers to decide for themselves whether to buy, or avoid, such foods.

A growing foodservice issue

Prop. 37 has already had an impact on the foodservice industry nationwide — even before the vote. Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., with 1,300 units, for example, is moving away from genetically modified ingredients. In reporting third-quarter results last month, Chipotle officials said the company is expanding the use of GMO-free sunflower oil and testing a GMO-free rice bran oil to eventually replace the conventionally produced soybean oil used currently.

Steve Ells, the company’s co-chief executive, said, “With California’s Prop. 37 on the ballot, the subject of GMOs is becoming a bigger part of the conversation about food-related issues. And we’re pleased to be ahead of the curve looking for non-GMO options to replace the ingredients we use that are genetically modified.”
Other operators say they would like to move away from GMO products but question how they can do that without more disclosure. Erik Oberholtzer, for example, co-founder of the eight-unit chain Tender Greens in Los Angeles, said his customers are increasingly asking about the presence of GMOs on his restaurant menus. After doing some research, however, Oberholtzer said he realized that wasn’t an easy question to answer.

“No one can say conclusively that corn or soy isn’t genetically modified,” he said. “But with Prop. 37, all that’s being asked for is transparency.”

Though he supports Prop. 37, Oberholtzer said he understands the arguments in favor of GMO use. In a world with population explosion, massive drought and the loss of farmland to suburban sprawl, generating higher crop yield could be a solution. And GMO use might also prevent the overuse of pesticides and herbicides that could end up in waterways, further harming the environment.

“There is a place for GMOs,” he said. “Just probably not on the menu at Tender Greens.”

Recently, Prop. 37 won the support of more than 300 chefs and restaurateurs, who signed a petition endorsed by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. Among them: Mario Batali, Jacques Pepin, Charles Phan, Dan Barber and Floyd Cardoz.

“As chefs,” the petition read, “we are on the frontlines of feeding America, and we have an enormous stake in ensuring transparency in our food system. It is our duty to nourish our guests, both in body and soul. However, we can’t prepare the best food we know how when information about the ingredients we purchase is hidden from us with labels that are missing basic facts.”

The petition notes that 50 countries already require GMO labeling, including all of Europe, Japan, India and China.

If Prop. 37 is approved, California would become the first state to require labels on products using GMO ingredients. At least 18 states, including California, reportedly have attempted similar legislation in the past, but have failed.

Milliken said she isn’t certain whether Border Grill will move away from GMO ingredients if Prop. 37 is passed. “I treat my restaurants like I do my family. What do I want my kids eating? If there is a choice, I’d probably go for the more natural option,” she said. “But I still think it’s important to look at more of the science.”

Others said they look forward to a day when they could get more information on the subject without “spin.”

“We just want the information to be transparent and uncluttered,” Oberholtzer said. “Then we can make a decision about what we want to do for our business.”

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