27 minutes | Jun 7, 2023
Why Peter Piper Pizza is developing a fast-casual concept
Can Peter Piper go fast casual? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features David McKillips, CEO of CEC Entertainment, the parent company of Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza. CEC has had an almost literal roller coaster ride in the three years since David became CEO. The pandemic pushed it into bankruptcy and then the reopening helped it come back remarkably strong as fun-and-games chains proved popular among consumers who wanted to get out of the house. We talk about those issues and we also talk about Peter Piper, the regional pizza chain CEC operates. David talks about the company’s efforts to break out of its core market. Specifically, he talks about a new type of fast-casual concept based on the Peter Piper name that CEC has started to test. That could give the company a third brand it can grow with. It’s a newsy discussion on pizza and games on A Deeper Dive so please have a listen.
27 minutes | May 31, 2023
Who will win, and who will lose, as the economy slows
Where are sales and traffic going in 2023 and who will win? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features R.J. Hottovy, head of analytical research with the data firm Placer.ai. R.J. has covered the industry for more than two decades and knows a thing or two about the restaurant and retail sectors and we like having him on every so often to talk about the state of industry traffic. R.J. joined us at the recently concluded National Restaurant Association Show. We discuss the potential impact of a recession on industry sales and traffic. Consumers have been increasingly reliant on credit card debt to pay various expenses, leading many to believe that cutbacks in spending are coming. Who will win in that scenario? And who will lose? R.J. and I talk about those issues on this week’s episode of A Deeper Dive so please have a listen.
21 minutes | May 24, 2023
How Taco John's responded to the 'Taco Tuesday' challenge
What happens when a giant brand suddenly gives you a marketing gift? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Barry Westrum, chief marketing officer for Taco John's. Westrum joined me on the podcast at the National Restaurant Association Show less than a week after taco bell asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Taco John’s registration for “Taco Tuesday.” Taco Bell has since then brought in NBA star LeBron James to assist in the effort. Taco Bell is many times the size of Taco John’s. Taco Bell’s campaign almost instantly gave the less-than-400-unit Taco John's a ton of attention. We talked with Westrum about how the company responds to an opportunity like that and what the company thinks about the whole thing. We also discuss how things are going at the chain and what kind of interesting things they may have coming down the pipe. We’re talking Taco Tuesday on A Deeper Dive, so please have a listen.
28 minutes | May 17, 2023
Why DoorDash is taking a stand on delivery menu prices
How long will people keep paying high delivery prices? This week’s episode of A Deeper Dive features Restaurant Business Senior Technology Editor Joe Guszkowski, who joins me on the podcast to talk about DoorDash’s push to get operators to keep delivery prices the same as regular menu prices. Joe and I discuss his recent report on the menu price markups on delivery compared with buying in the restaurant, and why operators do this. We also discuss why DoorDash’s algorithm punishes those restaurants that charge higher menu prices, and what the provider’s push on the topic means for broader delivery demand. Consumers have been shifting away from pizza delivery, perhaps in part over inflation. Is DoorDash’s move a sign they’re worried about the same thing? We talk about that on the podcast. It’s an interesting discussion on the future of delivery so check it out.
25 minutes | May 10, 2023
How higher menu prices will affect restaurants as grocery inflation slows
Will menu price inflation ultimately hurt restaurants? Michael Swanson, an agricultural economist and consultant with Wells Fargo, joins the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive to discuss the economy and the outlook for inflation.
33 minutes | May 3, 2023
Chain restaurants had a good 2022. Or did they?
How good of a year did chain restaurants have in 2022, really? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Joe Pawlak, managing principal with RB sister company Technomic, to talk about the Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report. Specifically, we discuss the performance of chain restaurants, whose sales rose just over 8% last year. But that barely kept pace with menu price inflation. We also discuss restaurants’ surprising unit growth last year, the remarkable unit volumes of certain chicken concepts, that sectors that stood out the most and why Raising Cane’s very well may be a Top 10 restaurant brand by 2030. Joe and I also talk Subway, the pizza business and delivery. It’s a loaded episode so check it out.
20 minutes | Apr 26, 2023
Duck Donuts CEO Betsy Hamm on adapting to a changing market
How is Duck Donuts evolving its prototype? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Betsy Hamm, CEO of the 115-unit chain, who joined me at the Restaurant Leadership Conference recently to discuss a wide range of issues. Duck Donuts is based in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and is known for selling made-to-order doughnuts in tourist spots. The company generated $60.6 million in system sales last year, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. The company just released a new prototype designed to give operators more flexibility as they expand. It features kiosks, for instance, but it also designed to go into smaller spots. We talk about a wide variety of other topics on the podcast, including where the chain got its name. It’s an interesting conversation with a doughnut CEO, so please have a listen
28 minutes | Apr 19, 2023
How Smashburger is rethinking the drive-thru
Why is Smashburger ditching traditional drive-thrus? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Carl Bachmann, president of the fast-casual burger chain that is looking to get back on the growth path after some difficult years. The chain is operated by the Philippines-based Jollibee Corp. It operates fewer than 250 locations, down by about a third over the past five years. But Bachmann talks on the podcast about why the brand is ready for growth again and what Smashburger has been doing to prepare for that growth. And he talks a lot about the company’s new “virtual” drive-thrus, or mobile-order drive-thrus and why that will be the company’s option going forward. That goes in a different direction from many other fast-casual chains that have focused on increasing the number of traditional drive-thru lanes. It’s an interesting discussion about fast-casual drive-thrus so check it out.
27 minutes | Apr 12, 2023
How corporate layoffs will affect McDonald's
What are we to make of the situations at major burger chains these days? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Michael Halen, senior restaurant and foodservice analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, to discuss what’s going on with McDonald’s and Burger King, in particular. McDonald’s recently laid off hundreds of employees around the world, closing its U.S. field offices and eliminating its two-zone field office structure. This, despite the company’s generally strong results. We discuss those layoffs and what they mean to the company. We also talk about Burger King, which has struggled with bankruptcy filings and restaurant closures of late. And we talk about the potential impact that former Domino’s CEO Patrick Doyle could have on the chain and its parent company Restaurant Brands International.
27 minutes | Apr 5, 2023
An interview with Firehouse Subs President Mike Hancock
Who is Mike Hancock? We find out in this week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive. Hancock recently took over as president of Firehouse Subs for longtime CEO Don Fox. Hancock has worked for Firehouse Subs parent company Restaurant Brands International. He started with the chain as chief operating officer last year after serving in a similar role at the Canadian chain Tim Hortons. Hancock discusses his views of Firehouse after a year with the chain, including its strengths and opportunities. He discusses technology in particular and the brand’s foundation. We also get into a discussion on the future of the brand. And I can’t help but ask him about Tim Hortons.
29 minutes | Mar 29, 2023
Focus Brands CEO Jim Holthouser on the future of the company's concepts
What happens when you mix ice cream and cinnamon rolls? We’re about to find out. This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast Deeper Dive features Jim Holthouser, CEO of the Atlanta-based brand operator Focus Brands, which operates Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzski’s, Jamba and Moe’s. He discusses the status of these brands and the company’s plans for them. He talks about the future of development in and out of the mall. And he talks about the potential for McAlister’s to become a $1 billion brand. But Holthouser also talks about Swirl, a concept Focus is developing that combines Cinnabon and Carvel in a new type of co-branding arrangement. In addition, I talk about the future of restaurant IPOs, franchisee optimism, and why tipping culture will never change.
26 minutes | Mar 21, 2023
Why tipping is so important to restaurant employees
How important is tipping to a restaurant employee? In this week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive, Associate Editor Reyna Estrada joins me to discuss tipping. Estrada is a former restaurant worker herself, having spent years as a server at Steak n Shake (before it went limited service) and then as a Panera Bread employee. She relied on tips the entire time. We discuss the practice and she discusses how much it meant to get those tips, both at the full-service restaurant and at the fast-food concept. She talks about where she made the most money and whether the tips influenced her service. In addition, I talk about the Starbucks CEO, restaurants that sold for high multiples and joint employer.
29 minutes | Mar 15, 2023
A look into third-party delivery, virtual brands and ghost kitchens
What is the future of third-party delivery? How about virtual brands or ghost kitchens? In this week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive, Senior Editor Joe Guszkowski joins me to talk about the state of some of the biggest trends during the pandemic. We talk about delivery. Some data is suggesting that third-party delivery demand is growing. But other data suggests the opposite. We try to get at the real story. We also talk about virtual brands and what the future of those concepts. And we get into a discussion on ghost kitchens in light of Wendy’s pulling back on its deal to open in some 700 Reef Kitchens locations. Meanwhile, three things I’m thinking about right now.
29 minutes | Mar 8, 2023
A deep dive into Subway's recovery and sale
Who is going to buy Subway? In case you haven’t heard, the fast-food sandwich chain is on the market. In this week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive, I speak with John Gordon, a restaurant consultant out of San Diego, to discuss the chain. Subway has hired JP Morgan to help find a buyer. Reports suggest a host of large private equity firms, including Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital, are looking at it, with a price tag of $8 billion or more. John and I discuss that sale and the price tag. We also talk about the numerous changes Subway has made over the past two-plus years and how they are influencing the company and the sale process. I also give my thoughts on Bojangles, Wendy’s and Sardar Biglari.
32 minutes | Mar 1, 2023
A look at the future of Bojangles
What is the future of Bojangles? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Jose Armario, the CEO of the 800-unit chicken chain. Armario took over the chain after it was sold in 2018 to Durational Capital Management, and he takes time to discuss how the chain did last year. He also discusses the brand’s future, including plans to expand well beyond its Southeastern roots. And he reveals some interesting information about the company’s menu as it looks to expand into new markets. In addition, some thoughts on pizza fatigue, the Corner Bakery bankruptcy and M&A markets.
29 minutes | Feb 22, 2023
How the restaurant of the future will help, or hinder, customer service
What is the future of restaurant automation? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Matt Newberg, the founder of the media platform Hngry. Hngry is a subscription media platform that examines how technology is reshaping our food system through trends like ghost kitchens, microfulfillment, fungi-based proteins, personalized nutrition and other things. We talk about the state of technology and automation and how all this technology will influence customer service inside the restaurant. In addition, I give some thoughts on franchisee profitability, electric vehicle chargers and the weather.
31 minutes | Feb 15, 2023
Why culture is so important in a restaurant
Why are chocolate milkshakes so important to Cameron Mitchell? This week's episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features Mitchell, founder of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and one of the country's most successful restaurant creators. Mitchell's company operates 64 restaurants in 20 brands, including the fine dining brand Ocean Prime. He talks about his reasons for starting a restaurant company and why culture was so important to him from day one. We talk about a range of other topics, including the state of fine dining and how his company was able to emerge from the pandemic. He also talks about hospitality and chocolate milkshakes but we will let him tell that story. It’s a great conversation with one of the industry’s more accomplished restaurateurs. And this week, I give you thoughts on three big stories this week, including Subway, Chipotle and Patrick Doyle.
32 minutes | Feb 8, 2023
Plant-based meat is dead. Or maybe it isn't.
The plant-based meat trend is dead. Or maybe it isn’t. This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast “A Deeper Dive” is about plant-based meat, and specifically, why fake meat hasn’t quite taken off at fast-food restaurants the way many predicted three years ago. Nancy Kruse, RB’s menu trends columnist, joins me on the podcast to discuss the topic. While products like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat burgers were all the rage in 2019, sales of both appear to have slowed considerably—both companies have laid workers off, for instance, and brands like McDonald’s have not followed through on hoped-for plans for plant-based offerings in the U.S. We discuss why that trend hasn’t quite matched some of the early promise and whether that early promise was a bit overblown. We also talk about the reasons why average consumers have not been as accepting of such products as many hoped.
29 minutes | Feb 1, 2023
Why Capriotti's hoards stuffing every Thanksgiving
What happens when you combine chicken wings and sandwiches? This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast A Deeper Dive features David Bloom, chief operating and development officer for Capriotti’s, a Las Vegas chain of sandwich shops. Capriotti’s acquired Wing Zone in 2021. Capriotti’s operates 175 locations. Wing Zone now operates 61. Bloom talks about that combination and what the company saw in Wing Zone and how it has integrated that chain into its system. He also discusses both chains’ growth plans, as well as its overall franchising strategy. Both brands have strategies in place to ramp up unit growth in the coming years. We talk about plenty of other things, including commodities and why Capriotti’s sometimes has to hoard stuffing. We’re talking sandwiches, wings and stuffing on A Deeper Dive, so please have a listen.
28 minutes | Jan 25, 2023
How younger consumers are adapting to inflation
How are younger consumers reacting to inflation? This week’s episode of A Deeper Dive features Lori Rakoczy, associate principal with Restaurant Business sister company Technomic and one of the co-authors of the blog Technomic’s Take. And we’re talking about inflation. Specifically, we’re talking about how younger consumers are dealing with high prices. Menu prices have taken off over the past year-plus—they were up 8.5% year over year in December. Rakoczy wrote recently that younger Gen Z consumers are not necessarily cutting restaurant dining out altogether as a result of the higher prices. But they are changing their behaviors. They’re more likely than other consumers to price shop and keep eating out. Rakoczy discusses how operators should adapt and what this could mean for restaurants. She also talks about convenience and why that is so important in the restaurant business. We’re talking about Gen Z consumers on A Deeper Dive so please have a listen.