Global Foodservice News – July 1st, 2024 (2024)

The firm will represent Thermo-Kool in Iowa, Southern Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Thermo-Kool has added Heartland Reps, St. Charles, Mo., to its roster of manufacturers’ rep firms.

Heartland Reps will represent Thermo-Kool in the territory comprised of Iowa, Southern Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Its team of sales reps share a combined 145 years of experience in the foodservice industry.

Thermo-Kool Executive Vice President and National Sales Manager Mark Fogarty says in the release, “Heartland has established themselves as a premier rep group in the foodservice industry, and as Thermo-Kool extends its presence into the Iowa, Southern Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska markets, we are excited to continue to develop that foundation together.”

Inside Sales Manager Melissa Harrison adds, “After meeting and speaking with the Heartland Reps’ team, I am confident they will excel as our representative in MAFSI Region 16. I look forward to seeing what new and exciting opportunities they bring to our brand.”


Polar Leasing Promotes One
The individual is stepping up from a refrigeration tech role.

Polar Leasing Co. is announcing the promotion of Nate Roof, a former Polar Leasing refrigeration technician, to line supervisor.

In his new position, Roof will ensure product quality and efficiency across the company’s full assembly line of cold storage solutions.

Prior to Polar Leasing, Roof worked at at Tippmann Ordnance, where he was a shipping manager and marketing manager for Tippmann Industrial and Tippmann Armory.

Polar Leasing Co. provides electric ground-resting outdoor walk-in freezers and refrigerated rental units. The company maintains nearly 100 distribution depots as well as a 24/7 service hotline.


Malachy Parts and Service Teams With Manufacturer
MPS will serve as the master parts distributor and service partner for the maker in the Northeast region.

Malachy Parts & Service and Pasmo America have entered into an agreement. Effective immediately, MPS will serve as the master parts distributor and service partner for Pasmo in the Northeast region.

As the master parts distributor, MPS will stock and distribute genuine Pasmo parts, ensuring timely availability for Pasmo equipment owners in New Jersey and New York City. MPS also will serve as a service and tech partner for Pasmo equipment.

“We’re excited to strengthen our relationship with Pasmo America. As the master parts distributor and service partner, we look forward to providing exceptional support to Pasmo equipment owners,” says Rich Malachy, CEO of MPS, in the release. “Whether it’s routine maintenance or urgent repairs, MPS is committed to keeping Pasmo equipment running smoothly and resolving issues quickly.”

Pasmo America offers soft serve machines, frozen beverage machines, whipped cream machines and soft serve robotic vending machines.


Tabletop and Front of House

Cracker Barrel plans to invest $700M in a massive ‘transformation’
With traffic down 16% year-to-date, the family dining chain is embarking on a rejuvenation effort to enhance its relevance to new and lapsed customers.

Cracker Barrel expects to spend as much as $700 million over the next three years to rejuvenate the 54-year-old concept’s operations, menu and perception among hardcore fans and uninitiated consumers alike.

The comprehensive update is intended to reverse a drop in guest counts that’s currently running about 16% year-to-date. The decline has been particularly severe at dinner, according to executives.

They acknowledged that the brand is also losing market share to competitors. Research revealed that the rivals, whom the officials did not name, are outshining the chain on such fundamentals as menu appeal, value, convenience and the overall guest experience.

“We generally rank in the middle of the peer set, and we do not lead in any of these areas,” CEO Julie Masino said in revealing the particulars of the recast to Wall Street analysts and members of the media.

The core problem, she said, is “we’re just not as relevant as we once were.”

The rejuvenation effort will touch virtually every aspect of the concept, Masino indicated. In all, she said, the attempt to make the concept more contemporary without losing its nostalgic ambiance encompasses about 20 initiatives. She grouped them into four areas:

Menu. Ten stores are currently testing a new bill of fare that Masino characterized as building on Cracker Barrel’s perception as a place to go for scratch-made homestyle foods while simultaneously appealing to more contemporary preferences. She cited the examples of a shepherd’s pie casserole, slow-braised pot roast and creamy chicken and rice.

In addition to revamping the options, the company will update the way certain dishes are made to simply the preparation process. For instance, back-of-house employees still cut lettuce and pineapples by hand. “Some of our recipes and processes haven’t evolved in decades,” Masino said.

For the sake of simplicity, some items will be dropped, she said.

Pricing. “We believe there is a large opportunity to improve the way we price,” Masino said. She explained that there’s a surprising lack of variety in pricing from one market to another, with most units opting for the least-pricey of Cracker Barrel’s five pricing tiers. A unit in an area with $90,000-a-year households is charging the same as a store where the mean income is less than half. She suggested that pricing will be customized more aggressively to the market a store serves. In test areas where pricing was more tailored to the market, the average check rose about 3%, according to the CEO.

Physical appearance. Many stores have not been adequately maintained, requiring “a defensive investment” in their physical appearance and functionality, said Masino. Two units have tested a renovation package that guests characterized as “lighter, brighter, fresher, cleaner.”

Simultaneously, the chain is testing a new prototype that’s 15% smaller than the current typical Cracker Barrel, without any loss in seating. “This will help unlock unit growth over the long term,” Masino said.

The company has retained an industrial engineering company to ensure the operations of new stores are simpler and more efficient.

Off-premise. Although Cracker Barrel has grown its delivery and to-go businesses and has enjoyed particular success from its holiday catering programs, “there’s an opportunity to further grow this business,” said Masino. She did not divulge any particulars on how the chain intends to do it, but noted that the brand will continue to invest in digital enhancements like functionality upgrades to its loyalty program. Though introduced just a few months ago, it already boasts 5 million members, she noted.

To pay at least a portion of the rejuvenation effort, Cracker Barrel’s board voted to cut the company’s next quarterly dividend from $1.30 a share to about 25 cents.

The plan calls for spending $160 million to $180 million in its next fiscal year; $180 million to $220 million in fiscal 2026; and $260 to $300 million in fiscal 2027.

Masino indicated that Cracker Barrel’s results for the third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2024 will likely fall below expectations because of continuing traffic erosion.

CFO Craig Pommells indicated that results should start to improve significantly during the second half of fiscal 2026 and then continue into the next year.

The rejuvenation program was drafted not as one or two-year fix, but “for the next 10 years and beyond,” said Masino.

“We simply have to invest in the future,” she said.

The company is scheduled to report Q3 results on May 30.


Say Hello to ‘Perkins American Food Co.,’ a Reimagined Take of a Classic Brand
The legacy family dining chain is changing its name, visuals, and potential as it looks to the future.
Perkins’ reintroduction arrives at a time when “service levels are on fire,” brand president Toni Ronayne says. It gained 17 points, year-over-year, per Black Box. Beverage climbed 13 points, ambiance nine, and “intent to return” double digits as food and value hiked 7 and eight points, respectively.

These results support a larger point, says Ronayne, a former managing director of Canada for Little Caesars who joined the 1958-founded family dining brand in February. When she onboarded under new CEO James O’Reilly, who came over from Smokey Bones the prior June, consumer research peeled back a clear directive. “One of the things that kept coming up for us was that guests want the American classics of yesterday in a place that feels like today,” she says.

Spun differently, Perkins wasn’t in need of a total inside-and-out overhaul, but it could benefit from adopting “a new attitude,” Ronayne says.

And so, the brand began moving toward a new brand identity that includes a modern “vintage fresh” restaurant design and updated look, from logo to visual appeal. Also, the legacy chain is changing its name and introducing an offshoot fast casual concept intended to widen Perkins’ growth prospects.

Perkins Restaurant & Bakery will become “Perkins American Food Co.,” the company shared with FSR, a change it announced last week to operators, corporate employees, and stakeholders at its 2024 Brand Conference in Minnesota. The fast casual Express model is expected to launch this fall in Canada.

Perkins developed the rebrand with agency Dunn & Co. and design firm Aria Group. It recently signed a lease in Orlando, Florida, to introduce the new flagship restaurant in December.

Ronayne refers to the interior design as “modern with a timeless ascetic.”
More imminent changes will be visible to customers starting next week through advertising, social channels, the website, and interior signage across Perkins’ roughly 300-unit system. Other initiatives include a revamped menu, expansion of value offerings, and broadening of capabilities, including third-party delivery, off-premises dining, catering, and an upcoming loyalty program.

Ronayne says the wider goal was to consider how the company could reimagine Perkins and, ultimately, family dining, yet marry historic strengths. In Q1, 80 percent of Perkins’ units received average star ratings, or ASR, on Google higher than their guest-facing or lifetime numbers. Food sentiment improved—quality (10 points), flavor (11), breakfast (7), and appetizers (11). So did service sentiment—attentiveness (22 points), speed (21), and friendliness (6), as well as ambiance clean sentiment (6).

Ronayne believes this upward trend revealed opportunity rather than a reason to sit back. Perkins had worked on the bones of its business under new leadership for months and was amping up advertising. It ran late-night campaigns to promote apps and refocused on service, whether it was managers interacting with guests or servers zeroing in on tables. The chain’s average net sales per unit in 2022 was $1.932 million. The previous two years it was $1.8 million and $759,929 (COVID strapped 2020). And a new commercial campaign recently showcased these efforts.

“For us, every indication is that this is the time for Perkins to continue to evolve and grow in ways that potentially we haven’t invested in,” Ronayne says. “And so, investing in the new restaurant designs, investing in the new logo and the brand, is just going to build on the foundation that we’re already working through, which is we’re known for having great operations and being consistent.”

Like O’Reilly said earlier in the year, Ronayne feels family dining, and Perkins squarely in the center, has a chance to emerge as a value play in today’s climate where inflation has squeezed service and sentiment from both sides. It’s a category where spend per guests tends to range between $12–$15. Casual dining is closer to $20. Quick service isn’t all that under that first number anymore. However, Perkins hits the $12–$15 realm while cooking food to order with hospitality in a welcoming environment

That’s the holistic case, Ronayne says, behind why the brand’s scores surged this past year. Couple that with operational and marketing improvements and you grasp the full view of 2023’s momentum.

But you also get a glimpse into why Ronayne sees significant whitespace by dialing Perkins up another measure.

So why “American Food Co.?” Ronayne says it speaks to the brand’s American values and captures a more diverse offering, with potential to keep evolving.

“We’re known for being hard-working people,” she says. “We want to deliver generosity in abundance to our guests every single day. We love the idea of American Food Company because it speaks to our hearty classics, our bakery favorites, and our modern twists. And it’s a nod to our authenticity and who we are.”

“Same soul. New attitude.”

Naturally, bakery isn’t fading despite leaving Perkins’ name. It’s out front and elevated, Ronayne says. “We’ll be able to continue with classics, like pies and Mammoth Muffins that we’ve been known for, but American Food Company challenges us to think about how we can be more innovative and more exciting as we’re serving classics,” she says.

Ronayne refers to the interior design as “modern with a timeless ascetic.” The fast-casual iteration, seen below, she adds, will allow the brand to reach guests from a convenience and value standpoint. Historically, the brand opens units in the 4,000- to 6,500-square-foot range on 1–1.75-acre parcels. This is 1,500 square feet.

Perkins’ fast casual will allow it to rethink development.
Ronayne says it could land in nontraditional as well as traditional sites, with unit-level economics that fit international growth, large cities, small towns (like the Ontario debut) or just, generally, spaces Perkins wasn’t able to consider before. “It opens up a wealth of opportunities for us to really grow the brand,” she says.

The Ontario unit, for instance, is a market that wouldn’t have made sense for a franchisee to make a larger investment in a 6,000-square-foot restaurant.

Travel plazas. Airports. Lounges. These are just some of the possibilities, Ronayne continues. “And then, also, as we think about high-rent locations being able to be a standalone, 1,500 [square-foot restaurant) that can reach guests, cities like New York or Chicago or anywhere operators are looking for a smaller footprint,” she says. “So Express for us is a huge opportunity.”

Perkins recently inked a 10-store deal in California that’s going to be a combination of the mainline and fast casual. “We’re working with them from a real estate perspective to identify what’s the right model for that particular market and then using them to guide our decisions,” Ronayne says.

Perkins’ updated visual ID includes new food photography and, out of the gate, a spotlight on decked-out double burgers. Perkins evolved its entire burger platform in anticipation of the launch—new ingredients, more flavorful builds, and a nod toward the abundance Perkins is trying to present to guests as a value proposition. “It’s a massive burger,” Ronayne says. “You’ve got double patties. But we’re bringing in some freshness through fresh avocado, pickled onions, and marrying some of the flavors consumers are looking for partnered with traditional Perkins items, like tater tots.”

As the company began thinking about its tone, Ronayne says, a vision of a “fun friend” emerged. So expect to see humor in advertising and POP as Perkins looks to be “clever and interesting as we go on this journey,” she explains.

“We have the opportunity to be relevant in a way that feels authentic and approachable to who we are today,” Ronayne notes.

Becoming “Perkins American Food Co.” was in the works before Ronayne arrived. Consumer research started in the fall in an effort to better understand Perkins’ guest profile and how it could transform. When she got there in February, Ronayne took the data and started to work with agencies on the rebrand, logo, and design work inside restaurants.

Simply, it’s been a frenetic five or so months.

She says franchisees (the brand is about 70 percent split, with 80 corporate units and the rest franchise run), were “highly engaged and excited” by last week’s reveal. The next phase will be costing out and working with Aria Group on a package for operators to retrofit features. As that develops, logos, uniforms, and digital and marketing materials will roll out. “We’re very invested in the change,” she says. “Not only are we going to renovate corporate restaurants and build this restaurant of the future, but we want to work with [franchisees] and incentivize to be able to make those changes with us.”

Additionally, the upcoming Orlando flagship is going to be the first in-line Perkins unit on the market (as noted, they’ve historically been roughly 6,000 square-foot standalones). It’s a model that’s been proven through the category as brands like First Watch diversify across lifestyle centers.

Ronayne says the store will explore Perkins’ new menu (more to come later) in conjunction with refitted technology—“it will be a place for us to be able to learn and grow,” she says.

While exact details can’t be shared just yet, Ronayne says Perkins is through the process of looking at new point-of-sale systems. Today, customers have to cash out at the front of the house. They’ll be able to do so at the table. O’Reilly, who has a resume in tech-forward leadership at Smokey Bones (virtual brands, drive-thru) and his days as CEO of Long John Silver’s, has a plan for parent company Ascent Hospitality, which also owns Huddle House, to be the technology frontrunners in the segment, Ronayne says.

The aforementioned consumer research identified a couple of core buckets to guide Perkins as it goes forward with the rebrand.

One was Perkins’ most frequent user. This diner shows up at all dayparts and gravitates toward quality, but also appreciates value in a way that doesn’t feel cheap. “He’s not interested in heavy discounts,” Ronayne says.

The other was “Mom on the Move”—somebody who’s attracted to convenience and friendly service. “But both of these guests felt very, very connected with us as a brand and our American values and our American comfort food,” she says.

“American Food Company” is a moniker that enables Perkins to serve multiple cohorts through varied channels. It could even mean CPG or other direct-to-consumer ideas down the line. “We’ve got such great products and such a great foundation,” Ronayne says. “How can we evolve and bring in this new iteration as we go forward.”

“Everything and every decision in our strategy has been intentional and speaking about how we can reach those core guests without isolating some of the guests of today,” she adds. “We feel confident that there’s enough intersection of those users of our brand that we won’t isolate or lose them. Because upgrading the ambiance of the restaurant or having a more modern vibe—those are things that as long as we’re staying true to who we are, we continue to deliver quality value and service, we’re confident that not only will we be able to reach all of our guests, we’ll be able to grow new ones, too.”

One thing that won’t change, either? The “Modern American hospitality” Ronayne says defines Perkins.

“We’ve got the 65-year legacy of being known for service. So that is something that absolutely will not be changing,” she says. “If anything, I think Perkins is the best-kept secret. And we’re in a position where we’re ready to shout from the rooftops for our guests as well as prospective franchisees that we’re ready to grow and we feel very confident that these are the changes that will help us to do that.”

Perkins was acquired by Huddle House for $51.5 million out of bankruptcy in September 2019. The brand had filed for Chapter 11 protection that August. At the time, Perkins had 342 stores in 32 states and Canada. It exited 2022 with 272 restaurants (191 franchised) after closing seven, 11, and 23 net locations over the past three years, respectively. The deal also broke off Perkins’ smaller chain at the time, Marie Callender’s.

Perkins declared Chapter 11 in June 2011 as well, but said it witnessed “dramatic same-store sales increases” from late 2018 onward as it revised marketing and media, and introduced an off-premises program. Huddle House was sold by Sentinel Capital Partners in February 2018 to private-equity firm Elysium Management for an undisclosed amount.

The combined brands, now collectively backed by Elysium under Ascent, said in June it closed its fiscal year, which ended in April, with 46 new signed agreements, a material increase from the prior year—and is firmly in growth mode. Deals would expand Huddle House and Perkins in Canada, California, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and more. Over the past three years, the company said it has signed north of 100 franchisee agreements that progresses its portfolio to more than 600 locations open or in development.


Food Photography Tips
If you want to improve your Instagram or update your restaurant’s website, professional photos of your food help legitimize your business and appeal to new customers. Taking these photos yourself saves money and time, but capturing appetizing pictures of your dishes requires more than just a good camera. Lighting, composition, styling, and editing all play a crucial role in creating stunning food images that make mouths water. By understanding the principles of food photography and implementing some fundamental techniques, you can bring your culinary creations to life on screen and entice customers to indulge in your offerings.

1. Find the Perfect Lighting
Food photography camera setup next to window

Lighting makes or breaks a photo, accenting colors and shapes more effectively than editing software. Finding the perfect lighting helps you capture appealing images that showcase your dishes in the best possible way. Here are some tips to help you achieve optimal lighting for your food photography:

Utilize natural light: Natural light is often the best option for food photography as it provides a soft, diffused light that enhances the colors and textures of your dishes. Position your subject near a window or in a well-lit area to make the most of natural light.

Avoid harsh fluorescent lighting: Harsh fluorescent and other indoor lighting creates unflattering shadows and colors in your photos. If you shoot in a commercial kitchen with fluorescent lighting, consider using diffusers or filters to soften the light and minimize its negative effects on your images.

Be careful of shadows: Pay attention to where shadows fall and adjust your lighting setup to minimize harsh shadows that could obscure the defining details of your dishes.

Avoid flash: While it may be tempting to use a flash to brighten your photos, it creates unappealing reflections and washes out the colors of your dishes. Opt for a natural lighting source that provides a softer, more natural-looking illumination.

Avoid direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can be too harsh and create strong shadows that may not be flattering for your food photography. Look for shaded areas or shoot in rooms lit by natural light, but avoid placing food directly in the light.

2. Try Different Angles
The angle you choose should accentuate the unique elements of the type of food you’re shooting. Pay attention to how the food’s texture, color, and composition appear from different angles. Use these guidelines as a starting point for different angles:

Shooting from above: Flat foods such as pizza, charcuterie, and appetizers, or large dishes like rotisserie chickens or whole turkeys.
Shooting from the side: Shaped foods such as burgers, fruits, cakes, sandwiches, or wraps.
Shooting from a 45-degree angle: Tall foods and drinks like soup, milkshakes, salads, or ice cream.
Experiment from multiple angles: If an angle isn’t working, try different approaches until you find an option that matches your vision.

3. Involve an Action
Food photography aerial shot with hand placing cookies
Action shots are a great way to create dynamic photos that captivate your audience. Incorporating movement into your food photography adds excitement and energy to your images. This style is especially effective for liquid foods like soups, drinks, and ice cream, or items with garnish you can add during the shot.

Here are some popular ideas for dynamic photos:

Liquid pouring into a bowl or cup
Placing toppings or garnishes on a dish
Drizzling sauce on a dish
Sprinkling powdered sugar on a dessert
Scooping a spoonful of soup from a bowl
A hand holding finger-food items

4. Learn Basic Editing
Employing basic editing techniques helps your photos stand out on a social media feed. Editing software allows you to sharpen images and adjust the focus, making the food pop against the background. Many food photographers invest in Lightroom, Photoshop, or a similar editing platform to fix issues with photos. Some common edits include:

White balance: Use the white balance tool to fix odd coloring in your images. Simply click on items that should be neutral colors, like napkins, menus, or shadows, to adjust their colors.

Levels: Light should highlight the most important part of your photo, so adjust the levels to brighten or darken parts of your image.

Contrast, brightness, sharpness, and saturation: Make minor edits in these areas to ensure the food pops in the image, allowing you to accent the natural features of the photograph.

5. No Staging Shortcuts
Food photography setup in a studio environment
Adding styling to your food for photos is a delicate balance between adding personality and avoiding clutter. Avoid overwhelming viewers by keeping the sets simple, but adding the right props differentiates your photos on social media. Choose colors and settings that accentuate the food, such as a rustic wooden tabletop for boneless wings or white drapes for a flowery cake.

Be true to the food: Understanding the setting where customers enjoy specific foods will help you shoot dishes in the appropriate context. For example, a s’mores dessert is often associated with a rustic, outdoorsy setting and might shoot best outside.

Try different props and backgrounds: Garnishes, utensils, napkins, and dishware add a unique flair to your photos. Add a few compatible items to each photo to make the image seem more natural.

Find the best surface: Experiment with wood, tile, cloth, and stone surfaces to find one that matches your set. Many hardware stores carry flooring samples, allowing you to try multiple options inexpensively.

Less is more: Too many props or a busy background draws attention away from the food. Ensure your photos are not distracting by minimizing props and complex backgrounds.

Don’t clash colors: Color scheme affects customer perception, causing a dish to appear appetizing or distasteful. Choose colors that blend well together for a beautiful image.

6. Establish Your Brand
In digital marketing, brand perception motivates customers just as strongly as the products. Your food photos are often the first taste of your establishment to new customers, so it’s vital to create a positive, accurate impression. Maintain a cohesive look that aligns with your brand on your Instagram, website, Facebook, and other platforms using similar angles, lighting, and color schemes. Additionally, make photos feel authentic by using natural settings and props from your actual business.

7. Study Your Inspiration
When learning a new skill, it’s best to find someone who excels in their craft and mimic them. Many fantastic food photographers showcase their work on social media and websites, giving you the perfect opportunity to learn from the best. Whether you like a photographer’s composition, lighting techniques, or styling choices, identify what draws you to their photos and dedicate time to studying their work closely. Note the angles they use, the way they play with light and shadows, and how they compose their shots.

Once you find photographers you like, try to replicate their techniques and compositions in your food photography. By doing so, you can gain a deeper understanding of the thought process behind their images and how you can apply similar principles to your work. Remember, imitation is a form of flattery and a valuable learning tool in food photography.

8. Common Food Photography Mistakes
Food photography aerial view thru camera view finder
Like most skills, taking high-quality food photos requires patience and practice. Over time, you’ll learn what lighting, lenses, and styling choices work best for your food. As you begin, avoid these common pitfalls as you begin your food photography journey.

Blurry photos: If your pictures are blurry, place the camera on a tripod to hold it steady and check that the tripod is level. Move to a space with better lighting and increase the shutter speed if the blurriness persists.

Colors look off: Adjust the white balance while editing your photos to remove inaccurate colors. Shooting in RAW format makes it easier to adjust the color balance in the editing process, but isn’t necessary.

Poor editing: Some new photographers might overedit their photos seeking the perfect “pop” or will fail to edit them enough. Make simple edits to contrast, levels, and sharpness that accentuate your food, and be careful not to add unnatural effects.

Incorrect lens: If you’re using a physical camera, find the right lens that focuses best on your food. Some photographers prefer fixed lenses that don’t zoom, which gives them greater control over the photo’s depth.

Too busy: Staging photos is fun, but some photographers add too many elements to their sets and make the images feel cluttered. Keep the styling simple to ensure the focus stays on the food you’re showcasing.

Inconsistency: Using drastically different lenses, angles, lighting, and colors on photos featured in your menu and website hurts your branding and makes your photos look clumsy. Avoid cognitive dissonance by keeping photos similar, though not identical.

Dedicating time and effort to enhancing your food photography abilities is a valuable tactic for enhancing your restaurant’s marketing approach. With a wide array of food options, backgrounds, and photography elements to experiment with, you can unleash your creativity to attract new customers and retain loyal ones.


Food & Beverage News

How Restaurants are Achieving Zero-Waste Status
Success in a zero-waste strategy hinges on the engagement of employees and customers.
The restaurant industry—renowned for its dynamic nature and relentless pace—is making significant strides in sustainability, particularly in achieving zero-waste status. Aside from enhancing environmental stewardship, this commitment appeals to the increasingly eco-conscious consumer. Explore how leading full-service restaurants are innovating toward zero waste.

The Imperativeness of Zero-Waste

The zero-waste movement is gaining momentum across various sectors, driven by the pressing need to address global waste issues. The hospitality industry—a significant contributor to food waste—is at the forefront of this transition.

Approximately one-third of all food produced globally is wasted. For restaurants, this number represents a substantial environmental burden and a financial loss.

7 Ways Restaurants Are Going Zero Waste

Here are seven ways restaurants are achieving zero-waste status.

1. Comprehensive Waste Audits

Successful zero-waste strategies often begin with a thorough waste audit. This process involves assessing the types and volumes of trash produced, which provides a clear picture of generation patterns. Identifying key waste areas can help restaurants develop targeted strategies to minimize and manage it effectively. These audits are crucial for uncovering inefficiencies and pinpointing opportunities for improvement.

2. Source Reduction

Source reduction is a cornerstone of the zero-waste philosophy. Improved inventory management has been proven to reduce food waste. Restaurants are increasingly adopting practices that minimize garbage generation from the outset.

For instance, by refining inventory management systems, establishments can reduce over-ordering and spoilage. Additionally, menu engineering—designing menus that utilize ingredients more efficiently—is pivotal in reducing food waste.

3. Food Waste Management Methods

Food waste that cannot be prevented is increasingly being diverted to the following management processes.


This process breaks down organic materials like food scraps into nutrient-rich soil, which can improve garden or farm soil. Many restaurants partner with local composting facilities or set up on-site composting systems. Doing so keeps food waste out of landfills and returns valuable nutrients to the soil.

Meat Separation

This practice is another crucial step in managing food waste. It involves capturing and separating edible and inedible meat scraps from the trash stream. These are valuable when rendered and upcycled into new products.

Advanced rendering technologies use high-temperature treatment and controlled processes to cook meat and fish materials, ensuring the destruction of bacteria and other hazards. The resulting product can be used in biofuel, animal feed and various industrial applications.

Anaerobic Digestion

In this process, microorganisms break down organic material without oxygen, producing biogas—a type of renewable energy—and digestate—a nutrient-rich byproduct. The biogas can generate electricity or heat, while the digestate can be used as a fertilizer.

4. Packaging Innovations

Packaging waste is another significant concern for restaurants. To address it, many establishments are transitioning to sustainable packaging solutions, including compostable or recyclable materials.

Companies like Eco-products and World Centric are leading the charge by providing a wide range of sustainable packaging options tailored to the food service industry. With increased production and disposal costs for single-use packaging, restaurants that switch to eco-friendly packaging can also save money, aside from reducing garbage.

5. Employee and Customer Engagement

Success in a zero-waste strategy hinges on the engagement of employees and customers. Restaurants are investing in training programs to educate staff on sustainable practices, from proper trash sorting to creative food repurposing techniques.

Additionally, involving customers through transparency and education fosters a culture of sustainability. For example, restaurants can display their zero-waste commitments prominently and encourage patrons to participate in reduction efforts, such as bringing reusable containers or sharing their cause on social media.

6. Technology for Waste Management

Here are ways innovative technology plays a key role in helping restaurants achieve zero-waste status.

Inventory Management Software

The information modern inventory management systems use minimizes food spoilage and ensures ingredients are used efficiently. Systems like BlueCart and MarketMan offer features that help restaurants maintain optimal inventory levels.

Smart Kitchen Appliances

Technology is also enhancing kitchen efficiency. Smart refrigerators, for example, monitor temperature and humidity levels to extend the shelf life of perishable items. Additionally, appliances with waste tracking capabilities—such as Winnow Vision—use AI to monitor and analyze food waste, providing insights that help kitchens maximize available stock.

Food Waste Apps

Several mobile applications are designed to connect restaurants with customers or businesses that can use surplus food. Apps like Too Good To Go and Food Rescue Hero help redistribute unsold items to consumers at a discount or to local charities, ensuring no excess food goes to waste.

7. Partnerships with Nonprofits and Local Organizations

Collaboration is a powerful tool in the journey toward zero waste. Restaurants are increasingly partnering with nonprofits and local groups dedicated to food rescue and waste management. Programs like Food Rescue U.S. and Feeding America help redistribute surplus food to those in need, reducing trash while addressing food insecurity. Organizations such as ReFED also provide valuable resources and guidance on implementing effective waste reduction strategies.

Leading the Way to a Sustainable Future

As the restaurant industry evolves, the commitment to eco-friendly practices has become a competitive advantage. The journey to zero waste is challenging, but the environmental and economic benefits are substantial. As leaders in the full-service restaurant sector, the time to act is now. Embrace these innovative practices and get ready to enhance sustainability credentials and inspire a new era of environmental stewardship.


Lunch Takeout Market Outlook (2022-2032)
[309 Pages Report] The global lunch takeout market is valued at US$ 215.3 Billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9 per cent predicted from 2022 to 2032.

The demand for lunch takeout has been gaining steam among customers in the United States, with various delivery service providers introducing single and multiple servings for consumers.

Homemade cuisine, for example, is less expensive than eating out at a restaurant. Furthermore, the product’s availability has made prepared dinners more time-efficient than takeout and home delivery services.

Food preparation at home also allows for complete control over the ingredients used, which is beneficial for persons who are allergic to or attempting to avoid specific substances. This has changed the lunch takeout market outlook significantly over the years.

As per the lunch takeout market analysis, the global lunch takeout market is divided into two types as per the online model: platform-to-customer and restaurant-to-customer; channel type, which includes websites and mobile applications; and payment method, which includes cash on delivery and online payment.

The lunch takeout market size will be constrained by supply chain and logistics costs. Order fulfilment, shipping, changing business resources to dynamic market demand, and last-mile connection are all included in this cost. In addition, there are charges for packaging cardboard boxes, gas, mileage, and hiring a driver.

The lunch takeout market analysis indicates that to avoid the rotting of items with a short shelf life, the supply chain and logistics must be in place.

In the lunch takeout sector, upgrading the distribution network to a more decentralised system, known as Distribution 4.0, is on the rise.

The lunch takeout market trends indicates that the suppliers collaborate with multiple participants in Distribution 4.0 to achieve the best market coverage between urban and rural areas, focusing their efforts on marketing, branding, and in-store merchandising to offer a best-in-class customer experience.

To expand coverage, they are likely to work with aggregators, e-commerce delivery companies, rural distribution companies, and modern trade distribution arms. This is leading to new lunch takeout market opportunities and development.

Amazon, the e-commerce aggregator, has announced plans to collaborate with a number of small businesses, retail shops, and rural supermarkets in order to improve last-mile connectivity. As a result, the Distribution 4.0 trend is expected to have a favourable impact on the adoption of lunch takeout

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How does COVID-19 influence the Lunch Takeout Market?
As all restaurants, cafés, and hotels throughout the world were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lunch takeout market has exploded. Individuals have begun to place a greater emphasis on a healthy diet than ever before in order to boost their immunity and maintain a balanced diet. The lunch takeout market report shows that as a result, a growing number of people are looking for healthy and convenient meal options.

Furthermore, prominent lunch takeout market participants have seen an increase in sales during the pandemic compared to 2019. Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and others have reported increases in global sales, including Blue Apron, which doubled its client base in the United States with a 66 percent rise in Y-O-Y revenue.

What is Propelling the Lunch Takeout Market?
A major aspect driving the lunch takeout market’s rise is millennials’ growing desire for home-cooked and chef-prepared meals. Among generations Y and Z, the delivery service has grown in popularity and use.

The benefits of cooked meals, which are less expensive than takeout and home delivery services, are driving the rising popularity of the product. This is driving the emerging trends in the lunch takeout market.

Find your sweet spots for generating winning opportunities in this market.

What Restrains the Lunch Takeout Market?
The main focus of the lunch takeout market should be on increasing market share by providing the highest possible value to clients at the lowest feasible cost. Existing companies have raised the marketing game to the point where clients are spoiled for choice, even as competition rises, causing customer base instability and hurting brand loyalty.

Food delivery companies are using marketing strategies and methods to increase engagement and propagate word-of-mouth in order to reduce client churn. Thus, the increasing choices for consumers are also detrimentally impacting the lunch takeout market opportunities.

Businesses are striving to maintain food quality standards as a result of the significant increase in online orders. There will always be a gap between food served fresh at a restaurant and food delivered to customers’ doorsteps after a short journey, and businesses should develop new ways to address this. As per the lunch takeout market analysis, quality standards are becoming harder to maintain.

What are the Trends in the Lunch Takeout Market?
While millennials have surpassed baby boomers in terms of population, boomers still make up a sizable portion of the population, and their habits have a considerable impact on the home cooking market.

Lunch takeout is an excellent option because meal preparation ahead of time reduces food waste dramatically. Owing to each portion being pre-measured, lunch takeout contains components in the exact quantity needed to cook a meal.

Although some delivery services serve larger quantities, they nonetheless include calorie counts and nutritional information depending on the portions. These new lunch takeout market trends are carefully crafted for the rising generation.

As many families now have two working parents, they are growing busier and more stressed. Households are opting for these delivery services to alleviate this strain, as they provide a proper solution to the time and effort-intensive chore of cooking.

The most common reason for not participating in traditional cooking is a lack of time. Furthermore, because the millennial age is known for being foodies, they want something that fits somewhere between traditional cooking and saving time. As a result, these various lunch takeout companies provide the ideal solution to these issues.

Which is the Leading Segment in the Lunch Takeout Market by Platform Type?
In 2021, the online segment dominated the lunch takeout market, accounting for 63.2 percent of total revenue. Companies who have built an online platform are able to provide better customer care since they are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To provide consumers with ease, the majority of businesses offer their products through their own websites. Instead of visiting the service provider in person or calling, customers prefer to go to websites to learn about the weekly and monthly menus as well as the different types of food subscriptions offered.

The lunch takeout adoption trends state that it also makes it easier for businesses to service clients that are spread out across a large geographic area.

Which is the Leading Segment in the Lunch Takeout Market by Meal Type?
In 2021, the non-vegetarian sector dominated the lunch takeout market, accounting for 63.7 percent of total revenue. Over the forecast period, the category is expected to maintain its dominance.

The availability of protein, as well as vitamins and minerals like A, B6, B12, niacin, and thiamine in meat, contributes to the growth of demand for lunch takeout, making it enticing to customers who wish to include lean protein in their diets.

Several product delivery service firms are now offering a wide range of fresh, value-added, and healthy meats, which is encouraging non-vegetarian meal kit consumption. Other reasons, such as rising consumer knowledge of the benefits of eating non-vegetarian diets like fish and chicken, are fuelling adoption of lunch takeout.

Which is the Leading Region in the Lunch Takeout Market?
From 2022 to 2030, the lunch takeout market in the Asia Pacific is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 18.8%. Because of the convenience and freshness of the product, the market is likely to grow rapidly in the region. The demand for these delivery services has been fuelled by an increase in the number of time-strapped clients in the region. China, Japan, and South Korea are the region’s most important lunch takeout markets.

Furthermore, COVID-19 has heightened interest in home-cooked meals and boosted demand for lunch takeout across the country. The market for vegetarian and vegan meal kits is being driven by countries such as Australia, Japan, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, and India.

North America dominated the lunch takeout market in 2021, accounting for 46.2 percent of total revenue. A big number of customers in the area buy these kits to save time and effort. The product has evolved into a healthier and more affordable alternative to pre-cooked foods found in grocery shops, delivery services, and restaurants.

How Competition Influences the Lunch Takeout Market?
There are a few well-established participants in the lunch takeout market, as well as a number of small and medium-sized businesses. Mergers, acquisitions, and product launches are still among the industry’s most important strategic activities.

Some of the recent developments in the lunch takeout market are:

Freshly Inc. introduced its first-ever plant-based prepared meals line, ‘Purely Plant,’ in August 2021, with six new meals incorporating plant-based proteins crafted with clean, whole-food ingredients to meet consumer demand for diversity, taste, nutrition, plant-based meal options, and convenience. No preparation is necessary for meals that may be heated and served in three minutes.

HelloFresh paid USD 277 million for Factor75, LLC in November 2020. The acquisition was made to help HelloFresh boost its position in the US market and expand its customer base.

Nestlé paid USD 950 million for Freshly Inc. in October 2020. This acquisition was made to help Freshly Inc. grow, as well as to allow Nestlé to enter a fast-growing industry in the United States.

Key Players
Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc.
Manchu Wok
HuHot Mongolian Grill
Panda Express
Olive Garden
Mama Fu’s
McDonald’s Corp. (MCD)
Domino’s Pizza, Inc. (DPZ)
Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. (BLMN)
Autogrill SpA (ATGSF)
Yum China Holdings, Inc. (YUMC)
Spaghetti Warehouse


Sonic launches 6 beverages to quench America’s thirst for innovation
The drive-in chain is a longtime beverage destination, but the category has gotten increasingly competitive with new players and expanded drink selections on menus.

Sonic announced the launch of Flavorista Favorites, a menu of six curated signature drinks with a focus on customization.

The lineup, which will debut Friday at X Games Ventura 2024 and be exclusive to Sonic app customers starting July 1, includes lemonades, slushies and classic soft drinks with a twist.

The Classic Cruiser, for example, combines cola with a hint of cherry vanilla, while the Twisted Flamingo features lemon-lime soda flavored with cherry vanilla and sweet cream.

Paradise Sunset is a bubbly drink with a burst of blood orange and real strawberries and Rainbow Slush pairs blue raspberry, strawberries and lemonade in an icy refresher. Rounding out the menu is the Lemonade Cream Cooler (lemonade slush blended with soft serve) and Grape Escape, a mix of grape and lime.

Several of the beverages fit into the “dirty soda” trend popularized by Swig, a fast-growing drinks-only concept, where drinks are “dirtied” with flavor shots, cream and candies.

But Swig is far from the only brand that is quenching consumers’ thirsts with innovative drinks. Coffee chains including Dutch Bros, Caribou and even Starbucks are focusing on cold beverages and “refreshers,” with up-and-comers like 7 Brew Drive-Thru Coffee growing sales 267% year-over-year according to Technomic’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report.

Sonic has long been a destination for innovative drinks, but it’s evident that the beverage category has gotten a lot more competitive lately. Even fellow QSR players McDonald’s and Taco Bell have more skin in the game, all vying for a bigger piece of the $100 billion specialty beverage market.

“As the trailblazers of drink customization, our new app-exclusive lineup, Flavorista Favorites, offers something special for every taste – whether it’s sweet, tangy, creamy or citrusy,” said Mackenzie Gibson, VP of culinary & menu innovation at Sonic. “Previously, the number of ready-to-order drink combinations on our menu was limited to only a few Sonic signature drinks like Cherry Limeade and Ocean Water, but now with these new ready-to-order options, it’s easier than ever to enjoy the bold flavors at Sonic with just the push of a button.”


HVAC & Plumbing

Selling Smart HVAC on Comfort and Efficiency
Intelligent systems can increase customer satisfaction, meaning more referrals for contractors

The advent of smart home technology has revolutionized the way homeowners interact with their living spaces. And it will likely continue, as home automation is expanding in just about every area, from lighting to security to HVAC, offering residents unprecedented levels of convenience and control.

In addition to these benefits, smart, communicating HVAC technology offers the ability to optimize energy usage without compromising comfort. By leveraging data analytics and machine learning algorithms, many of these systems can intelligently regulate temperature, airflow, and humidity levels based on real-time conditions and user behavior. This proactive approach not only ensures a consistently comfortable indoor environment, but can also result in lower energy bills — both of which will be highly attractive to many homeowners.

Better Efficiency
When homeowners invest in a new HVAC system, they usually expect to see a reduction in their energy bills, and that expectation can often be realized if they opt for a smart system. As Christine Rasche, associate director of strategic business development at Carrier, noted, when paired with smart controls, smart HVAC systems, such as Carrier’s Infinity System, save on heating and cooling costs by making automatic adjustments and only turning on the system as needed, thus saving energy.

“Additionally, many of them offer energy tracking and reporting for increased awareness of energy use, and an occupancy sensing ability that automatically adjusts the system to maximize savings while homeowners are away,” said Rasche. “Smart scheduling such as ‘away’ mode, while homeowners are out of the house, can save on utility bills as well.”

When combined with variable-speed technology, smart systems continually adjust to provide the exact amount of heating and cooling needed within the home, allowing the systems to cycle less and run at more efficient operating points, leading to less energy use, said Justin Huntington, senior product marketing manager at Lennox Residential HVAC.

“While there are multiple factors involved, generally a smart HVAC system will provide a reasonable return on investment (ROI),” he said. “For example, the Lennox Ultimate Comfort System boasts an efficiency rating of up to 99% and 25.80 SEER2 due to its smart capabilities. These ratings not only prove sustainability, but also save hundreds of dollars from homeowners’ energy bills each year.”

While the ROI for a smart system will depend on the specifics of the installation and the installation cost, there is no question that this technology will optimize system performance and shorten the payback of the total smart HVAC system, said Jim Cahill, IoT solutions business leader at Daikin Comfort Technologies North America Inc.

“Daikin’s smart HVAC systems help optimize energy usage from the day of startup through to the system’s end of life,” said Cahill. “We do this via a mobile app that guides installers through the commissioning of the system on the day of installation.”

The app allows contractors to quickly set or adjust system parameters such as airflow and balance points, as well as helps installers calculate refrigerant charge and then verify the precise charge to ensure optimal performance and efficiency, said Cahill.

“Our smart connected systems help maintain efficiency beyond day of installation by having the Daikin Cloud continuously verify the charge integrity of the system. As long as one of our smart systems is connected to the Daikin Cloud, the performance of the system is tracked and ongoing insights are available to the installing/servicing contractor.”

Prajakta Surve, smart systems portfolio leader at Trane Technologies, agrees that smart HVAC systems play a vital role in optimizing energy efficiency and reducing utility costs.

“Smart HVAC systems, like Trane’s, enable homeowners to create personalized schedules and automation rules for their heating and cooling preferences. By adjusting the temperature when the house is unoccupied or during sleeping hours, energy waste is minimized, resulting in lower utility costs,” said Surve. “Smart HVAC systems also come equipped with system monitoring features that provide dealers with real-time information on their customers’ equipment health. This allows dealers to proactively fix issues that could cause inefficient energy usage or wastage.”

Even though the ROI associated with smart HVAC systems can vary depending on factors like the cost of the system, energy prices, and usage patterns, Surve noted that many homeowners have found that the energy savings achieved through the enhanced control and optimization features of smart HVAC systems often justify the initial investment over time.

“By reducing utility bills and optimizing energy usage, homeowners can often recoup the cost of a smart HVAC system and continue to enjoy long-term energy savings and increased comfort,” she said.

Improved Comfort
Speaking of increased comfort, that’s another feature that homeowners expect to experience when they invest in a new smart HVAC system. According to Huntington, when variable-speed technology is incorporated, these intelligent systems can modulate the capacity they provide, allowing greater control over temperature and humidity levels within the home compared to traditional systems.

“Traditional systems cycle on and off to maintain the temperature set point. Typically, these systems will turn on when the temperature in the space exceeds 1°F of the set point and turn off when it exceeds 1°F of the set point in the other direction — meaning there is a 2°F swing in temperature while the unit cycles on and off,” said Huntington. “In contrast, smart HVAC systems can control the temperature within 0.5°F or better. They also have additional sensors and variable-speed fan motors that allow for special dehumidification modes, controlling humidity in the space in a way that traditional systems cannot.”

Having the ability to monitor and control humidity levels is particularly beneficial in humid climates or during seasons with fluctuating humidity levels, said Surve.

“Smart HVAC systems help prevent excessive moisture or dryness by maintaining the desired humidity range, enhancing overall comfort and IAQ,” she said. “Smart HVAC systems also offer zoning capabilities, allowing homeowners to create distinct temperature zones within their homes. This feature is especially useful for larger homes or multiple floors, allowing individual temperature control for different areas. Zoning ensures that each zone is heated or cooled precisely to the desired temperature, providing customized comfort for every part of the home.”

Smart HVAC systems can indeed play a crucial role in enhancing homeowner comfort by offering improved humidity control, said Rasche. This is made possible by variable-speed systems, which can adjust system operation to increase moisture extraction, ultimately making the homeowner feel more comfortable. And the higher the system tier, the more benefits the homeowner may experience.

“For example, our Infinity System Control for the Infinity System lets homeowners control temperature, humidity levels, airflow, ventilation, IAQ, and manage individual comfort zones from either the wall control or the mobile app,” said Rasche. “Additional features include real-time energy tracking, occupancy-sensing technology with programmable schedules, and smart home compatibility.”

Cahill noted that apart from regulating temperature and humidity levels, smart inverter-driven systems also provide homeowners with the added benefit of quiet operation, with sound levels as low as 45 dBA. He added that the inverter’s capacity to run low and slow and continuously wick moisture from the indoor environment can greatly improve comfort for homeowners. There are additional benefits for homeowners as well.

“When these smart systems are connected to the Daikin Cloud, the system, its components, and its performance are transmitting system operational data,” said Cahill. “It’s possible to ascertain how a system is running, and as a system ages, identify changes in performance over time which allows us to provide insights and alerts to the servicing contractor and homeowner of the system.”

Contractor Benefits

While smart systems can provide better efficiency and improved comfort for homeowners, contractors can benefit from offering these systems as well. According to Surve, those benefits can include increased customer satisfaction leading to more referrals; upselling opportunities to boost profitability; and the ability to remotely monitor and diagnose a system, which allows contractors to detect and address issues proactively.

“By offering cutting-edge smart HVAC solutions, contractors can also demonstrate their expertise and commitment to staying current with industry trends, which enhances their reputation as innovative and reliable professionals,” she said. “In addition, contractors can leverage the smart HVAC system’s data on energy usage, performance, and system operations to provide valuable insights to homeowners, such as energy consumption patterns or system efficiency.”

Smart systems can also provide contractors with insights into systems by verifying system installation, setup, and charge on the day of installation, as well as provide notifications and alerts if/when systems need attention, said Cahill.

“Beyond the initial system installation, contractors who leverage connected smart systems can also enhance their preventive maintenance agreements with these connected systems. This essentially adds a new tier of service or increases the revenue generated from their top tier of service.”

One thing to keep in mind is that smart HVAC systems are interconnected and provide increased efficiency, comfort, and reliability because the components function in unison based on continuous feedback from all parts of the system, said Lee Smith, vice president of strategic marketing and environmental technology solutions at Daikin Comfort Technologies North America, Inc. This synchronization of system components necessitates a dedicated communication protocol, which is different from traditional thermostat switches.

“When specifying smart HVAC systems, a dedicated communication wire is needed, and depending on the manufacturer, it may not be compatible with solid core wire, so that is an area contractors need to keep in mind,” said Smith.

Another difference is that smart systems allow for total customizable comfort either at the unit or through the app, while non-smart systems have fewer options at the thermostat, said Rasche. That is why contractors installing a smart HVAC system should always recommend installing the corresponding controls.

“Homeowners will not experience the full benefits of a smart system without the correct controls, and there are sometimes rebates or cost savings associated with a full system,” said Rasche.

Contractors hesitant to provide smart HVAC systems or controls due to concerns about their complexity should rest assured that there is nothing to fear. While smart HVAC systems are more advanced than ever before, they provide easy installation, servicing, and troubleshooting, as all the tools are built into one unit, said Huntington.

“Thanks to these features, smart HVAC units can be easier to install and service than non-smart HVAC systems,” he said. “Traditional installation and service manuals are also provided with a smart HVAC system, in addition to easy-to-follow setup processes through smart thermostats, allowing contractors to use the method that works best for them, which makes installing and servicing a breeze.”


U.S. Construction Starts Surged 10% in May
Overall market strength boosted by steep rise in energy work, as housing starts continue to gain momentum.
BEDFORD, MA — June 20, 2024 — Total construction starts rose 10% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.24 trillion, according to Dodge Construction Network. Nonbuilding starts gained an impressive 49% during the month, driven by the start of an offshore wind project and an LNG facility, while residential starts lost 7% and nonresidential building starts were down 2%.

On a year-to-date basis through May, total construction starts were up 11% from the first five months of 2023. Residential starts were up 16%, while nonbuilding starts gained 17%, and nonresidential building starts rose 3%.

For the 12 months ending May 2024, total construction starts were up 2% from the 12 months ending May 2023. Nonresidential building starts were down 7%, residential starts were up 5%, and nonbuilding starts were up 14% on a 12-month rolling sum basis.

“Even though May’s gain in construction starts was mainly due to a handful of large projects, the data highlights that there is some grassroots demand building in the market,” said Richard Branch, chief economist of Dodge Construction Network. “Single-family starts, in particular, have risen in 8 of the last 12 months despite high mortgage rates. Growth in single-family will incentivize further demand for retail, health, and education starts, among others, and the stability in the Dodge Momentum Index, which tracks projects in planning, underscores this optimism.”


Nonbuilding construction starts rose 49% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $463 billion. The increase was solely on the back of a massive gain in gas/utility starts as two large projects (offshore wind and LNG) got underway. Environmental public works starts fell 10%, miscellaneous nonbuilding starts lost 16%, while highway and bridge starts were 22% lower in May. On a year-to-date basis through May, total nonbuilding starts were 17% higher. Gas/utility starts were up 35%, environmental public works and miscellaneous nonbuilding were each up 24%, and highway and bridge starts were up 3% on a year-to-date basis through May.

For the 12 months ending May 2024, total nonbuilding starts were 14% higher than the 12 months ending May 2023. Utility/gas starts were up 28%, miscellaneous nonbuilding starts rose 19%, environmental public works starts moved 14% higher, and highway and bridge starts rose 4% for the 12 months ending May 2024.

The largest nonbuilding projects to break ground in May were the $10 billion Dominion Energy offshore wind project off Virginia Beach, Virginia, the $11 billion trains 1 & 2 of the Port Arthur LNG project in Port Arthur, Texas, and the $1 billion Green River Energy Center in Emery County, Utah.


Nonresidential building starts fell 2% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $415 billion. Manufacturing starts lost 14% following a very strong April, while institutional starts dropped 6%. Commercial starts gained 10% due to gains in warehouse, office, and parking starts. On a year-to-date basis through May, total nonresidential starts were up 3%. Institutional starts were 20% higher, while commercial starts were down 5%, and manufacturing starts were 19% lower on a year-to-date basis through May.

For the 12 months ending May 2024, nonresidential building starts were 7% lower than the previous 12 months. Manufacturing starts were down 32% and commercial starts were down 11%, while institutional starts were 10% higher for the 12 months ending May 2024.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in May were the $2.1 billion Tennessee Titans Football Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, the $1 billion Gotion EV Battery plant in Manteno, Illinois, and the $875 million General Motors Battery Cell factory in New Carlisle, Indiana.


Residential building starts moved 7% lower in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $365 billion. Single-family starts rose 2%, while multifamily starts lost 25%. On a year-to-date basis through five months, total residential starts were 16% higher. Single-family starts improved 29%, and multifamily starts were 5% lower on a year-to-date basis.

For the 12 months ending May 2024, residential starts were 5% higher than the previous 12 months. Single-family starts were 15% higher, while multifamily starts were 10% lower on a 12-month rolling sum basis.

The largest multifamily structures to break ground in May were the $200 million The Atlantic Club in Long Branch building in Long Branch, New Jersey, the $150 million mixed-use project at 880 Atlantic Avenue in Prospect Heights, New York, and the $150 million Tuscany at Gabriella Pointe in Gilbert, Arizona.

Regionally, total construction starts in May rose in the Midwest, South Atlantic, and South Central regions but fell in the Northeast and West regions.


How to Maintain Constantly Evolving Smart Buildings
Modern building systems must support devices from yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Here are some best practices to make that all work.

The expectations for smart buildings are rapidly evolving in response to market and technology changes. Customers are demanding more from their connected HVAC systems. Drivers including cybersecurity, integration potential, accessibility, and remote serviceability are influencing smart building evolution and impacting the long-term success of solutions. Building automation systems and controls are key to creating spaces that prioritize performance and energy efficiency without sacrificing comfort. Learn more about evolving technologies, market trends, and the resources available for you.

Download the guide.


Controls Engineering & IoT

American Express to acquire Tock reservations platform and tech company Rooam
American Express now owns both Tock and Resy: two of the largest reservations and event management platforms in the restaurant industry

American Express announced last week an agreement to acquire reservations, table, and event management technology provider, Tock from Squarespace for $400 million. In a dual announcement, the credit card company will also be acquiring Rooam — a mobile payment, ordering, and integrations tech company — for an undisclosed sum.

With the acquisition of Tock, American Express will become more of an integral player in the restaurant reservations industry, as the credit card company already owns Tock’s now-former competitor, Resy. In 2019, American Express acquired Resy from former CEO Ben Leventhal, who eventually left the reservations platform to form his own digital loyalty startup, Blackbird Labs.

With its two latest acquisitions, American Express is expanding “the company’s suite of digital tools for restaurants and merchants” with the additional goal of expanding experiences and tools for AmEx cardholders on the consumer side.

“We’ve been offering unique dining benefits, exclusive access, and special experiences to our Card Members for years through Resy and Global Dining Access by Resy; now, we can connect even more premium customers with the most exciting restaurants, while providing merchants and restaurants more technology to help their businesses thrive,” Howard Grosfield, president, U.S. consumer services for American Express, said in a statement. “We will be able to offer restaurants the tools to deliver more personalized hospitality, facilitate pre-paid experiences like tasting menus, and provide more convenient ways for customers to pay the bill.”

Tock was launched independently in 2014 as a restaurant reservations platform by cofounder Nick Kokonas (who also founded Chicago fine-dining restaurant, Alinea), and later acquired by Squarespace in 2021. The company currently offers reservations, table management, and event booking for 7,000 foodservice venues nationally. Tock’s suite of restaurant partnerships will be added to Resy’s portfolio under the American Express dining platform. Additionally, as part of the acquisition, Squarespace is partnering with American Express to provide extra benefits for small businesses who use AmEx cards under the Amex Offers program.

“We appreciate American Express’ recognition of Tock’s exceptional products, experienced team, and our first-rate customer base,” Matthew Tucker, head of Tock, said in a statement. “We look forward to working together to broaden American Express’ world class dining program and are excited by the tremendous opportunity to continue to innovate on behalf of our customers as part of American Express.”

The acquisition of Rooam, meanwhile, will add new merchant tools to the Resy dashboard, allowing Resy operator customers to add personalized marketing and loyalty features, and making American Express’ dining platform more of an end-to-end technology suite.

The transactions are subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval for the Tock acquisition.

Contact Joanna at


PepsiCo experiments with Smart Cans, AI tech to improve personalization
At Cannes Lions, the marketer showed off a new AI Hydration Coach for Gatorade and connected device for Pepsi inspired by its can shape.

Dive Brief:
PepsiCo brands Gatorade and Pepsi showed off new tech bells and whistles as part of their showcase at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week, per details shared with Marketing Dive.
Gatorade demoed an artificial intelligence-powered AI Hydration Coach named Anna at Stagwell’s Sport Beach venue, where the brand acted as a sponsor. The assistant, trained on historical expertise from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, breaks down the science behind hydration into an easily digestible form for consumers.
Meanwhile, Pepsi shared a first look at its Smart Can, a connected device outfitted with wraparound screens, movement sensors and accelerometers that help customize the user experience. The soft drink brand will promote the can-shaped gadget at a future date with creators and fans who will make football, gaming, music and food content.

Dive Insight:
Cannes Lions, which wrapped Friday, is an annual gathering honoring the best in advertising, effectively serving as the industry’s Oscars. PepsiCo this year used the event to preview new experiments that meld marketing, design and technology, with a focus on leveling up personalization.

Gatorade’s AI Hydration Coach taps into the tech of the moment — and talk of the festival — applying AI to educate users about the best ways to stay hydrated through an assistant that draws on decades of historical data from the sport beverage brand’s research institute. The concept leans into the idea that AI has the power to democratize services that were once exclusive, giving everyday consumers the type of expert guidance usually reserved for elite athletes.

At Cannes Lions, Anna was available via a touch screen interface and presented as a virtual avatar wearing a shirt and blazer. Users could ask specific questions related to their hydration needs but also more lighthearted ones, like what Anna’s favorite flavor of Gatorade is. The AI Hydration Coach is aiming for a pilot in a small number of markets in either late 2024 or early 2025, with the goal of eventually engaging consumers at different online and physical touchpoints like in-store displays, a spokesperson said.

Sister brand Pepsi’s innovation toyed with the iconography of the soda can, reinventing it as an “interactive portal” equipped with digital screens, cutting-edge sound technology and motion sensors. The marketer positioned the Smart Can — which, despite its shape, does not contain soda — as a way to deliver personalized experiences to fans and potentially send exclusive assets, such as access codes.

Smart Cans will factor into future Pepsi promotions with creators around gaming, sports and more, though they are not currently available to purchase at retail. The timeline of the Smart Can marketing efforts wasn’t immediately clear beyond Pepsi having more to share in the coming months.

Pepsi trying to push the envelope on consumer tech comes as it recently lost a long-held spot as the No. 2 soda brand in the U.S. to Dr Pepper. Marketing chief Todd Kaplan, a company veteran, departed the brand earlier in June.


How Food Traceability Software and Other Technologies Help Restaurants Ensure Risk-Free Food Safety Operations
Food safety can affect people’s health regardless of age, race, gender, and income level around the world, and lack of compliance in Food Safety and Quality (FSQ) consistently poses significant risks to organizations. Whether it’s tracking ingredient usage or food labels, organizations are constantly trying to maintain compliance standards, while also meeting customer needs.

Thanks to modern advancements in process management as well as advancements in technology such as Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), organizations can now conduct comprehensive audits across all sites in real-time, providing instant visibility of compliance status with automated alerts of any anomalies to trigger corrective actions.

By leveraging technology and intelligent food traceability software, organizations can better streamline their food service operations, simplify critical compliance procedures through clear documentation and achieve Grade A distribution across all establishments. Moreover, food management software can enhance the efficiency of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP systems to simplify the process of implementing and managing food safety protocols.

The Future of Restaurant Success is in Your Favor
Like cooks in the kitchen, technology such as AI and IoT is no longer optional; it’s an essential tool to keep your business afloat in the competitive restaurant industry. The rapid pace of technology can offer incredible opportunities:

Help minimize FSQ risks from human error
Keep your team more productive, communicative, and tasks streamlined via digital logbooks
Provide real-time insights through smart monitoring systems ensuring standards are maintained
Improve monitoring of the health and safety of both staff and customers
Let’s dive into these areas of opportunity and the ROI they can deliver further.

Auditing Food Safety and Quality
Ensuring safety and quality is paramount for all types of food businesses. Performing daily, digitized audits of critical control points (CCPs) allows for early detection of any quality concerns or food safety issues, such as allergen checks and refrigeration monitoring (don’t you hate it when you accidentally leave the freezer open? Fear no more), to ensure consistently-safe meals and high quality service. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has an online Safe Food Handling guide, as well as a Consumer Complaint system to report reactions or other problems with FDA-regulated food and products.

Regular audits also pinpoint areas for potential improvement across food handling practices, quality control and sanitation procedures, all the while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Many organizations have bid their farewells to putting pen to paper for manual food checks as it is of course time-consuming and leaves restaurants prone to more errors. Food safety compliance software, like mpro5, makes it easy to track regulatory requirements, conduct compliance audits and maintain ongoing compliance documentation to avoid regulatory violations and penalties.

Additionally, it’s important to note that food businesses must ensure everyone’s on the right page in terms of priorities. With manual processes, one small mistake can jeopardize the integrity of the food and business, leaving something consumers just can’t forgive. By regularly training staff on food safety protocols and quality standards, this can quickly identify root causes of quality issues or non-compliance. Such audits can help document findings and determine whether issues stem from inadequate training, supplier issues, equipment failures, or other factors.

Embracing Digital Logbooks
Transitioning from burdensome paper filing systems (that can oftentimes find you misplacing important pieces of information) to modernized digital logbooks saves time and reduces error for a more efficient and effective approach to restaurant operations. By digitizing and standardizing essential paperwork, management can not only streamline data entry and retrieval processes, but also ensure accuracy and allow for real-time monitoring of essential food safety parameters, such as temperature, humidity and more.

For example, with the use of digital logbooks, food service companies can easily track and manage ingredients, update menus in real-time and ensure accuracy across all locations. This ensures quality standards are met and reduces risk of mislabeled or inaccurate menu items for consumers. Digitalization is not just about the customer experience: there are opportunities to transform behind-the-scenes operations with the right software.

Harnessing IoT Data for Better, Streamlined Operations
IoT sensors can be used to monitor a variety of conditions in real-time, such as temperature, humidity, and air quality indexes. These sensors help unlock actionable insights to improve food process compliance and boost productivity through data-driven decision making that prevents overall risk.

By harnessing the power of IoT data and smart monitoring technologies, food service organizations can seamlessly monitor a variety of CCP factors including temperatures in refrigerators, freezers and food storage areas via IoT-enabled sensors; food inventory levels, expiration dates and usage patterns via IoT-based inventory management systems; and equipment performance and usage including fryers, ovens and, dishwashers via IoT sensors.

Effortless Monitoring of Team and Customer Health & Safety
Effective food service management software grants organizations a new gateway to better focus on health and safety with automated checks, digitized reports and real-time risk assessments. By implementing such checks, it’s easy to indisputably prove continuous compliance and thus, mitigate risk related to FSQ.

Food service management software can serve as a valuable tool for promoting positive team cultures that value health and safety. Food service organizations can utilize it for streamlined communications, automate regular equipment inspections and cleanings across the team, and track health and safety training and certifications.

If you were audited tomorrow, how long would it take to demonstrate that you have effectively eliminated FSQ risks? How confident are you that your data is both accurate and dependable? Intelligent food service management software, like mpro5, plays an essential role in mitigating FSQ risks by offering enhanced reporting, centralized data, simplified workflows, compliance management and more. Implementing such software provides tools for monitoring, control, documenting and reporting that aligns with HACCP standards and allows organizations to uphold their commitment to delivering safe, high-quality food products and services.


Jan/San & Disposables

Starbucks reduces plastic waste with Wisconsin-made lid
CROSS PLAINS, Wis. — Starbucks is making strides in reducing plastic waste by introducing a new cold drink cup made with less plastic.

What You Need To Know
Starbucks recently announced it has reduced plastic waste with a new cold drink cup made with less plastic
Plastic Ingenuity collaborated with Starbucks to create innovative strawless lids, enhancing the coffee giant’s sustainability efforts
Plastic Ingenuity’s engineers perfected the sip opening and the snap mechanism for the lids
Starbucks and Plastic Ingenuity are exploring recycled and environmentally sound plastics for future lid iterations

The initiative, combined with Wisconsin based Plastic Ingenuity’s inventive lid designs, aims to increase sustainability.

Zach Muscato, Plastic Ingenuity’s corporate sustainability officer, said he was proud of the company’s collaboration with Starbucks. He highlighted the meticulous process behind creating environmentally friendly lids.

“Really came to fruition really gained momentum when they (Starbucks) started to put more focus and goals behind eliminating straws,” Muscato said.

The collaboration didn’t just focus on functionality; Starbucks sought lids that would also enhance the overall consumer experience. This led to the development of strawless lids with an audible snap feature for a secure fit.

In 2018, behind the scenes, Plastic Ingenuity’s engineers worked tirelessly to perfect the sip opening and snap mechanism, resulting in multiple strawless lid styles.

“We aimed to preserve spill-proof gulp-ability and enhance the consumer experience,” Muscato said.

Starbucks’ dedication to sustainability extends beyond its partnership with Plastic Ingenuity. Muscato’s team is currently exploring recycled and environmentally sound plastics for future lid iterations.

“We today, we make it (plastic) mostly from oil and gas, but in the future that will be soybeans. It’ll be corn and it’ll be sugar cane. It’ll be any biomass really,” Muscato said.

Katie Rizzo-Pitts, also from Plastic Ingenuity, emphasized the challenges and triumphs of the company’s work, expressing optimism for a greener future.

“Yeah, it’s not always easy working in a plastics company. You have a lot going against you, but I think we’re doing a lot right. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are certainly on the path,” Rizzo-Pitts said.

For more information about Plastic Ingenuity’s projects, visit Plastic Ingenuity’s Starbucks Strawless Lid Customer Story.

For details on Starbucks’ reduction in plastic cups, visit Starbucks’ Cold Drink Cup Made with Less Plastic.


Kimberly-Clark to close operations in Nigeria
The company announced that will close its manufacturing facility and commercial office in Lagos and will no longer manufacture, market, or sell its Huggies and Kotex products in the country

Recently, Kimberly-Clark announced that it will close its business in Nigeria after almost 15 years, due to the recent reorientation of the company’s strategic priorities at a global level, as well as economic developments in the country.

The company will close its manufacturing facility and commercial office in Lagos and will no longer manufacture, market, or sell its Huggies and Kotex products in the country.

Consistent with Kimberly-Clark’s value of care, the company’s top priority will be to fulfil its obligations and ensure that employees and partners are treated with fairness and respect.


Exploring the Innovative Trends of Toilet Seats
The global toilet seats market size is estimated to grow by $1.43 billion from 2024-2028, according to Technavio. The market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 6.08 percent, according to research from Technavio. Demand for bio bidets is driving market growth, with a trend towards increase in demand for toilet seat assistive devices. However, maintenance and repair of toilet seats poses a challenge.

Market Drivers
The aging population and individuals with disabilities are driving market growth for toilet seat raisers. Manufacturers are modifying these devices to meet their specific needs, providing relief for caregivers. Japan, with its large elderly population, is a significant market due to government initiatives prioritizing long-term care. In the European Union, an increasing older population and improved healthcare facilities are boosting demand. These factors collectively contribute to the expanding market for assistive toilet seats.

The market is experiencing significant advances with technology and design. Comfort and convenience are key trends. Advanced features include heated seats, bidet functions, and adjustable heights. Materials like plastic, wood, and bamboo are common. The market is growing, with countries like China and India showing increased demand. Advanced technologies like ceramic and self-cleaning seats are gaining popularity. The market is competitive, with companies focusing on innovation and consumer preferences. The market is expected to reach 100 percent growth by 2025. The future of the Toilet Seats market is promising, with a focus on eco-friendly and sustainable options.

Market Challenges
The toilet seats market encompasses both electronic and conventional options. Electronic seats necessitate careful handling during installation due to delicate electronics and electrical wires. Frozen water and prolonged non-use can also cause damage. Warm-up and bidet cleaning take additional time. Batteries require annual replacement. Conventional seats require mild detergent for cleaning to preserve their finish. Improper maintenance can lead to hinge finish peeling and seat corrosion. Bumpers and hinges are integral parts, installed with special tools during manufacturing.

The market faces additional challenges as well. Disposable toilet seats are gaining popularity due to their convenience, but their environmental impact is a concern. Durability is another challenge, as some seats may crack or break over time. Comfort is also essential, with consumers seeking seats that are easy to clean and provide adequate support. The cost of manufacturing and shipping toilet seats from countries like China and India adds to the complexity of the market. Additionally, the rise of smart technology in bathroom fixtures presents opportunities and challenges for toilet seat manufacturers. Ensuring compatibility with various smart devices and maintaining a competitive price point are key considerations. Overall, the toilet seats market requires innovative solutions to address these challenges and meet consumer demands.


Industry Spotlight

THE TECHNOMIC TOP 500 Chain Restaurants
The 2024 Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report is out. Check out the annual ranking of the 500 largest restaurant chains in the U.S. by annual system sales.

1 McDonald’s
2 Starbucks
3 Chick-fil-A
4 Taco Bell
5 Wendy’s
6 Dunkin’
7 Burger King
8 Subway
9 Chipotle Mexican Grill
10 Domino’s
11 Panera Bread
12 Panda Express
13 Pizza Hut
14 Sonic Drive-In
15 Popeyes
16 KFC
17 Olive Garden
18 Dairy Queen
19 Texas Roadhouse
20 Arby’s
21 Little Caesars
22 Jack in the Box
23 Applebee’s
24 Chili’s Grill & Bar
25 Buffalo Wild Wings
Rank Chain
26 Papa Johns
27 Whataburger
28 Raising Cane’s
30 Jersey Mike’s Subs
31 Culver’s
32 Wingstop
33 Outback Steakhouse
34 LongHorn Steakhouse
35 Denny’s
36 Cracker Barrel
37 The Cheesecake Factory
38 Jimmy John’s
39 Zaxby’s
40 Five Guys
41 Red Lobster
42 In-N-Out Burger
43 Hardee’s
44 Bojangles
45 Carl’s Jr.
46 Golden Corral
47 Red Robin
48 Dutch Bros Coffee
49 Waffle House
50 BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse

See all 500.


A look at some of the restaurant industry’s biggest concerns
A Deeper Dive: Scott Redler, co-founder of Freddy’s and former chair of the National Restaurant Association, joins the podcast to talk about the state of the industry right now.

What are the restaurant industry’s biggest concerns right now?

This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Scott Redler, the co-founder of Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers.

We spoke with Scott at the National Restaurant Show in May and we chatted on a variety of issues. We wanted to talk with him about some of the bigger concerns in the industry right now, given regulatory efforts such as the $20 fast-food wage in California and other issues. I also wanted to talk about the overall operating environment, as many restaurants are struggling with weak traffic.

Scott has been busy in the three years since he and his co-founders sold a majority stake in Freddy’s to Thompson Street Capital Partners. We talk about what he’s been doing since then, including his role as the former chair of the National Restaurant Association.

It’s a wide-ranging conversation with the co-founder of Freddy’s on A Deeper Dive so please have a listen.


In-N-Out Burger is one of the 10 best-led companies in America, says new report—a workplace culture expert isn’t surprised
In-N-Out Burger has a devoted following of fans and customers — and a top 10 spot on Glassdoor’s inaugural Best-Led Companies list, next to computer chip makers and artificial intelligence businesses like Nvidia and Databricks.

The new ranking doesn’t surprise LaShawn Davis, a leadership and workplace culture expert who founded and runs consulting firm The HR Plug. Davis has worked in human resources for more than a decade, and says it’s clear why In-N-Out Burger rivals those tech companies when it comes to leadership and culture.

“It starts with the CEO,” Davis tells CNBC Make It. “They shape what the culture is. It definitely does trickle down throughout the organization.”

In-N-Out’s CEO is Linsi Snyder, 42, who took over her family’s business at age 27 after a series of family deaths. She started out as a cashier, waiting in a two-hour line to snag a summer job at a Redding, California, location, Snyder told NBC’s “Today” last month.

“I think that there’s a stigma that can come with being the owner’s kid,” said Snyder. “I just wanted to be respected like others, doing it the right way and not having the special treatment.”

In her early days as president, she felt the pressure to be a typical buttoned-up, reserved boss — but quickly found that being authentic was more beneficial for herself and the company, she said. She traded in her blazers for tank tops and athleisure and ran the company with a people-first attitude, even in the face of inflation.

Snyder’s equity in the fast food chain helped her become a billionaire in 2017, and her estimated net worth has grown since then, according to Forbes — up to $6.7 billion.

“I was sitting in VP meetings going toe-to-toe saying, ‘We can’t raise the price that much,’ because I felt such an obligation to look out for our customers. When everyone else was taking these jumps, we weren’t,” she told “Today.”

What In-N-Out employees say
In-N-Out placed ninth on Glassdoor’s Best Led Companies list, which reviewed ratings and reviews of CEO and senior management approval, and sixth on its most recent Best Places to Work list. Anonymous employee reviews cited great pay, people, perks and benefits as reasons they enjoyed working there.

“They pay well, they offer above average and benefits for the fast-food industry and I think that really helps them stand out in the industry,” Daniel Zhao, a lead economist at Glassdoor, tells Make It. “And that decision comes from the top.”

Ninety-two percent of employees who’ve submitted Glassdoor reviews approve of the CEO, the website says. “I was never bored and the pay was very good for the work being done,” reads one review. “Flexible hours and ability to transfer to other stores is a plus,” notes another.

Good pay, flexible hours and career opportunities are important job traits for a lot of people, including fast-food employees, says Zhao.

“In addition to the strong paying benefits that they offer, they also have an emphasis on career opportunities in terms of making sure that folks can move up within the company,” he says. “So it’s not that working at In-N-Out is just a job. I think they try to encourage people to view it more as a career.”

‘Don’t underestimate the power of humanity’
Other industries should take a page out of In-N-Out’s book, says Davis. There are usually 10 employees in the storefront, almost double than what Davis sees at rival fast food chains, and everyone is doing their part to ensure no one person is overworked, she says.

“It’s a sign that the company actually cares about what the worker has to endure when they’re here,” says Davis. “Workplace culture means taking care of the people you depend on. And in tech companies, sometimes you’re depending more on the tech, not the people. In-N-Out is still relying on people.”

The tech and retail industries in particular have been riddled by layoffs and pay cuts over the past year, with some workers finding out their fate through curt emails or abrupt Slack messages. Strict return-to-office mandates across multiple sectors are leaving a bad taste in some employees’ mouths.

Davis recommends business leaders tap into soft skills like empathy, understanding and authenticity — so that when they need to make tough decisions, they can communicate them effectively without frustrating employees.

“If companies really take the time to leverage their dollars wisely, investing in the things that matter to the people — not that matter to the company’s reputation — it proves to be valuable for everyone overall,” Davis says.

“Don’t underestimate the power of humanity and emotion that’s necessary in the workplace,” she adds.

Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are divisions of NBCUniversal.


California restaurants have lost traffic since the minimum wage increase
According to new data from, traffic patterns in California shifted to negative compared to the national average after the minimum wage increase went into place April 1.

It’s probably still way too early to understand the full impact of California’s minimum wage increase to $20 an hour on April 1. But for now, we do know several chains have raised their prices in response to that 25% increase and, so far, those increases have led to lower foot traffic.

According to new data from, year-over-year visit trends for the state’s quick-service segment were trending slightly ahead of national averages in February and March. Once the minimum wage increase went into effect in April, however, the nationwide visit trend year-over-year exceeded California’s average for seven out of the eight weeks throughout April and May. Further, during every week except April 1 and April 29, California’s traffic had turned negative or flat after a mostly positive February and March.

Related: Rubio’s abruptly closes nearly 50 California locations also looked specifically at McDonald’s, which counted about 9% of its domestic system in California as of the end of 2023. The traffic analytics firm found that the chain was about equal to national traffic trends in February and March but underperformed by almost 250 basis points after the wage increase went into effect. notes that QSR burger chains in general have been hit the hardest by the minimum wage increase in California. In addition to McDonald’s, other chains affected include Burger King, with visits down -3.86%; Wendy’s, with visits down -3.24%; Jack in the Box, with visits down -0.8%; and In-N-Out Burger, with visits down -2.59%.

During McDonald’s Q1 earnings call, CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company is expecting high single-digit labor inflation at the national level, “much of that from the bleed over of what California introduced.” Still, the QSR burger category is certainly not alone in raising prices to manage the higher costs. Chipotle executives noted during the company’s Q1 earnings call that prices are up 6 to 7% in California, adding almost a full point to total company pricing in Q2. Domino’s also reported a high-single-digit increase in California to “protect franchisee profitability.”

Higher prices correlating with lower traffic levels should not come as a surprise. Menu prices across the board remain elevated year-over-year, which has led to an industry-wide traffic dip of -2.1% in May, down from -1.6% year-over-year in April, according to Revenue Management Solutions data. It has also led to a perception shift among consumers, 78% of whom now think of fast food as a “luxury,” according to recent Lending Tree data. As such, several brands have adjusted their strategy to be more value focused and that value is defined differently depending on market. A $5 meal deal in Omaha, for instance, is likely to be a $6 meal deal in San Diego.

Because of California’s higher input costs, and higher pricing to offset those costs, some concepts are avoiding expansion in the state. Higher labor costs have also been cited by other concepts as the main driver behind their struggles. Rubio’s, for instance, recently shuttered 48 locations in California and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy shortly thereafter, noting that “the closings were brought about by the rising cost of doing business in California.” In January, two California-based Pizza Hut franchisees laid off delivery workers ahead of the hike.

That said, despite early reports of closures and traffic declines, don’t count California out just yet. Some brands are capitalizing on the opportunity to grow in the state. As Shannon Hennessy, CEO of The Habit Burger Grill, said during a recent interview, the minimum wage increase is a big disruption, but “we’ve been through a lot of disruptions throughout the past couple of years … This is a moment where strong concepts can win. It’s an opportunity, in addition to the challenge.”

Blake Kaplan, managing director on JLL’s national restaurant team, has seen real estate activity continue if not accelerate in California since AB 1228 went into effect.

“The reality is there have been a lot of brands wanting to engage in California for many years, and with inventory at an all-time low, and costs high, we’re starting to see a lot of stale brands move out and new brands or brands with high revenue projections starting to have more of an opportunity,” Kaplan said during a recent interview. “It’s become a bit of a feeding frenzy of closures making room for other brands to move in. In the next year or so, we’ll see more polished brands take over vacancies. There is still a lot of competition here despite economics.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at


A look at the most frequent QSR customers and what drives their frequency
New data from YouGov finds that nearly 9% of consumers visit QSRs 15-plus times a month and 57% of them are 25-to-44 years old.

Consumer spending is clearly starting to soften at eating and drinking places, as evidenced by preliminary data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that such sales in May were $93.6 billion, or a 0.4% decline from April and the lowest monthly sales volume since October 2023. Amid a slowing environment, which also includes continued negative traffic, it’s important to know who your most frequent customers are and what is driving their frequency in the first place. YouGov’s new Quick Service Restaurant Report 2024 takes a look at who is eating at quick-service restaurants most and the results may not be all that surprising. The most frequent QSR customers – “frequent” defined by 15-plus visits per month – are between the ages of 25 and 44 (57%), and 50% of them have children under the age of 18. The data is based on 5,000 respondents ages 18 to 64 who purchased from a QSR restaurant at least once in the month preceding the survey.


Nearly 9% of QSR customers order at least 15 times a month and 56% of those frequent customers are male. Customers who visit at least five times a month are also mostly male (53%), while once monthlies are 50/50 men and women. The most frequent visitors are 25-34 years old, followed closely by 35-44 year olds.

The most frequent QSR consumers live in the south, including those that visit at least once a month to those who visit 15-plus times a month. Nearly 40% of Southern consumers visit a QSR at least once a month. Same for those who visit at least 15 times a month. By comparison, 22% of Northeast consumers visit 15-plus times a month, while 13% of Midwesterners do the same.

Nearly 60% of frequent QSR consumers live in an urban market, while 48% of urban consumers and 41% of suburban consumers visit five-plus times monthly. For those who visit once a month, the urban/suburban divide is pretty even, at 42% and 43%, respectively.

Households with two adults and children under 18 are the most frequent QSR visitors; 42% of those who live with another adult/adults and a child under 18 visit at least 15 times a month, while 40% visit at least five times monthly and 36% visit once a month. This is compared to 14%, 13%, and 17%, respectively, for those who live alone.

Frequent QSR customers have higher incomes than the average American; 28% who buy 15-plus times monthly have a gross household income exceeding $150,000. For context, just 8% of the general population has this household income. The highest percentage of low-income consumers (34%), or those earning less than $50,000, visit QSRs about once monthly, perhaps reiterating some pullback among these consumers, as has been reported in recent quarters.

QSR motivators

The YouGov survey strived to find the “why” behind consumers’ QSR habits, asking what influenced their purchasing decision. It found that taste (49%), speed (47%), and convenience (45%) are the biggest motivators, followed by affordability (35%) and quality (31%).

These factors, however, change depending on occasion. Most customers who want breakfast are looking for convenience, for instance, while 32% actually bought breakfast from a QSR because it was affordable.

Most late-night customers and after-dinner customers want speed, but they’re motivated by craving and affordability, respectively. Mid-morning snack customers want taste and make the purchase because of affordability, while lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner customers want taste and are motivated by cravings.

That said, consumers are also looking for staff friendliness and healthy options, especially at breakfast. Across dayparts, QSR customers made their most recent purchase based on satisfying a craving (35%), affordability (34%), quality (28%), great deals (25%), and treating themselves (25%). For those who visit 15 or more times a month, they’re more likely to purchase from brands that are top of mind (33%) and that make them feel comfortable (38%). Satisfying a craving (40%) is also a critical driver of frequent consumers.

How QSR consumers order

For frequent QSR guests, the drive-thru has proven it is king; 30% made their last purchase at a drive-thru, while 27% ordered delivery. Twenty-five percent ordered at the counter. Perhaps surprisingly, given their increasing presence, just 7% of frequent QSR consumers ordered from a kiosk in the past month. Unsurprisingly, however, consumers said they are least satisfied with kiosk ordering.

Notably, drive-thrus are also the preferred ordering method for once/monthly visitors (33%) and five-plus times/monthly (31%).

Brand affinities

Chains that generated the highest percentage of customer visits in the past month include:

McDonald’s, 56%
McDonald’s is ranked No. 1 across all age groups, indicating its broad appeal, convenience and ubiquity. On that latter piece, McDonald’s ranks No. 1 for top-of-mind awareness, at 21.9%, well ahead of KFC at No. 2, with 10%. McDonald’s also ranked No. 1 – and by far – for convenience (23.9% versus No. 2 Burger King, at 8.7%), taste (21.5%), and speed (21.7%). McDonald’s also outpaces every other brand for “fits my lifestyle” (22.2%), high quality (22.8%), and innovative (25.9%). McDonald’s also holds the top spot for all dayparts except mid-morning snack, which is held by Starbucks.

Burger King, 32%
Burger King ranks second overall. It is ranked the highest among those 35-54 years old, while its ranking drops to fourth among younger consumers, and fifth for those older than 55.

Taco Bell, 29%
At third overall, Taco Bell ranks much lower among younger consumers (sixth) than it does those 35-64, perhaps surprisingly given its strong marketing presence and menu innovations such as the Cheez-It Crunchwrap.

KFC, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, 27% each

This three-way tie is actually quite disparate among age groups. KFC indexes high for customers 18-34, signaling that the company’s efforts to provide more boneless, portable options that appeal to younger consumers are paying off. KFC drops to ninth for those 45-54 years of age.

Starbucks, meanwhile, is third among 25-to-34 year olds, and fifth for those 18-24 and 35-44, but drops to ninth for the oldest demographic surveyed. Pizza Hut ranks third among the youngest consumers and 12th for the oldest.

Wendy’s, 25%
Wendy’s strongest demographic, by far, is the 55-to-64 year-old range.

Chick-fil-A, 24%
Chick-fil-A is relatively steady across all age groups, gradually increasing frequency among the older demographics. Chick-fil-A overindexes for friendliness and quality.

Subway, 22%
Dunkin’, 14%
Subway and Dunkin’ are also mostly consistent across age groups.

Popeyes, 12%
Sonic, 11%
Arby’s, 10%
Jack in the Box, Whataburger, Five Guys, Jersey Mike’s, In-N-Out, Jimmy John’s, Del Taco, Hardee’s, Church’s, and Carl’s Jr. round out the top 23 brands measured, each in the single digits for visit frequency among consumers surveyed.

Contact Alicia Kelso at


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Global Foodservice News – July 1st, 2024 (2024)
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