A Yum! Habit, Chasing DoorDash and BellaBot

This edition of MRM News Bites features Yum! Brands and The Habit, Chase and DoorDash, Waitr, Local Foods, C3 Signature, Pudu Tech, Southern Glazer's, Voodoo Doughnut, The Friendship Café and Digital Signage Expo.

Yum! Beefing Up with Habit Acquisition

Yum! Brands, Inc. has agreed to acquire The Habit Restaurants, Inc., parent company of fast-casual restaurant chain The Habit Burger Grill, for approximately $375 million in a cash transaction. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of 2020 and remains subject to stockholder and regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.

Founded in 1969, The Habit Burger Grill operates nearly 300 company-owned and franchised restaurants across the United States and in China. 

“We’ve emerged from our three-year transformation stronger and in a better position to accelerate the growth of our existing brands and leverage our scale to unlock value from strategic acquisitions,” said David W. Gibbs, chief executive officer of Yum! Brands. “As a fast-casual concept with strong unit economics, The Habit Burger Grill is a fantastic addition to the Yum! family and has significant untapped growth potential in the U.S. and internationally. With its delicious burgers and fresh proteins chargrilled over an open flame, The Habit Burger Grill offers consumers a diverse, California-style menu with premium ingredients at a Q.S.R.-like value. The transaction is a win-win because it allows us to offer an exciting new investment to our franchisees and to expand an award-winning, trend-forward brand through the power of Yum!’s unmatched scale and strengths in franchising, purchasing and brand-building.”

Upon completion of the transaction, The Habit Burger Grill will remain in Irvine, California., and will continue to be managed by Russell Bendel, president and c.e.o., and Ira Fils, chief financial officer. Bendel will report directly to Gibbs.

“Over the past few years, we’ve focused on becoming a total access brand by growing our delivery business, expanding our online ordering and mobile channels and enhancing the in-store experience by introducing drive-thrus, kiosks and technology-centric solutions for operations,” Bendel said. “We’re proud these and other actions have made The Habit Burger Grill an attractive candidate for a transaction of this kind. On behalf of The Habit Burger Grill board of directors, this transaction represents an exciting new chapter to strengthen and significantly grow The Habit Burger Grill by leveraging Yum! Brands’ global scale, resources and franchising capabilities. We’re confident the agreement delivers immediate value to The Habit Burger Grill shareholders and will greatly benefit our beloved brand, team members, franchisees and loyal guests for many years to come.”

Chasing DoorDash

Chase is partnering with DoorDash to offer complimentary DashPass subscriptions for Sapphire, Freedom, and Slate cardmembers. Eligible cardmembers can activate and enjoy the convenience of DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service that offers unlimited $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on orders of $12 or more from DoorDash’s industry-leading selection of participating restaurants nationwide.


 “Across Chase branded cards, we’ve seen spending with food delivery more than double in the last year, and the majority of those cardmembers are ordering-in on average at least one time per month,” said Catherine Hogan, President of Chase Branded Cards. “We’re excited to team up with DoorDash to bring their industry-leading selection of restaurants to our cardmembers with an added perk to make dining in more rewarding.”

To activate the complimentary DashPass membership offer, cardmembers will need to add an eligible Chase credit card as the default payment in the DoorDash app. Once the membership is activated, the benefit with Chase credit cards will be:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Preferred® cardmembers will have access to complimentary DashPass for minimum of one year*, valued at over $100.
  • Chase Freedom®, Freedom Unlimited®, Freedom Student® and Slate® cardmembers will receive complimentary DashPass for the first three months**, followed by a 50% discount price at the current rate for the next nine months.


Cardmembers will need to activate by December 31, 2021 to enjoy the new benefit.

“We are excited to partner nationwide with Chase and add our subscription service DashPass to their renowned list of credit card benefits, while growing our industry-leading subscriber base,” said Keith Yandell, DoorDash’s Chief Business & Legal Officer. “This partnership will make ordering from our unmatched selection of restaurants even more rewarding and provide Chase customers with access to incredible deals they can only find on DoorDash.”

New CEO at Waitr

Carl Grimstad has been named Chief Executive Officer at Waitr Holdings Inc., and a member of Waitr’s Board of Directors, effectively immediately. Adam Price, the Company’s prior Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board, has resigned from both positions.

“We are excited to welcome Carl to the Waitr organization. We believe that the combination of his extensive operational, executive and leadership experience, including as a successful president of a public company, as well as his career focus of providing small and medium-sized merchants payment and technology solutions, will create substantial shareholder value,” said Chris Meaux, Chairman of the Board.

“I look forward to working with the many talented team members at Waitr as we continue to reshape the Company,” said Grimstad. “Over the past few weeks I, along with the Company’s Board, advisors and key stakeholders, have been evaluating every aspect of Waitr. This process has given me confidence in the future of Waitr. I see significant potential to build upon the solid foundation of the Company’s existing relationships with diners and restaurant partners in terms of Waitr’s product offering and customer service, and I look forward to discussing these initiatives in future interactions with the financial community.”

Grimstad is currently the chief manager of C. Grimstad Associates, LLC, a family private investment entity formed in 2006, and the managing partner of GS Capital, LLC, a family private investment company formed in 1995. In 1999, he co-founded iPayment Inc. (“iPayment”), a provider of credit and debit card payment processing services to small and medium-sized merchants across the United States and Canada. He acted as the president of iPayment until 2011, when he became the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company until 2016. Under his leadership, iPayment closed an initial public offering in 2003 and then went private in 2006.  Grimstad serves on the board of directors of Beauty Tap Inc. and Kard Financial Inc. He graduated with a B.A. in Economics from Boston University in 1989.

Local Foods Eyes Austin

Local Foods, part of a Texas restaurant group with five locations in Houston owned by Benjy Levit and partner/culinary director Dylan Murray, has partnered with Austinite Martin Berson to bring the chef-driven concept to the state capital later this year, top photo. Local Foods Austin is scheduled to open in late Summer 2020 in the fast-paced 2nd Street District of Downtown Austin at 454 W 2nd Street on the corner of 2nd and San Antonio.

Local Foods photos by Julie Soefer

Berson, will oversee operations for the new location. He first partnered with Levit in 1995 to open the highly-acclaimed benjy’s restaurant in Houston, the first of Levit’s now multi- unit restaurant business. He then founded Snap Kitchen in 2010 and expanded the brand as CEO and President to almost sixty stores and kiosks before stepping back in 2017 to focus on new projects. Levit, Murray and Berson all attended The University of Texas making Austin the perfect place to grow. 

“I’m beyond thrilled to bring the Local Foods concept to Austin and have the opportunity to work with Benjy and Chef Dylan again after all these years,” said Berson. “What these two have created with this unique approach to everyday sandwiches and salads is best in class in a growing space of fast-fine concepts. The local farms, vendors, and amazing Austin vibe is a perfect fit for Local Foods.” 

“Dylan and I are excited to collaborate with Martin on Local Foods’ first expansion into a new market. We love Austin and are ecstatic to have a reason to spend even more time working with the amazing people involved in the city’s ever growing food scene,” said owner Benjy Levit. “We truly believe in forming our menu around as many high-quality, local ingredients as we can and look forward to doing so in Austin.” 

Local Foods photos by Julie Soefer

Working again with architect Michael Hsu in collaboration with award-winning interior designer Aaron Rambo, the 4,500-square foot restaurant will feature two dining levels as well as a patio. The Local Foods menu focuses on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Customers can expect high-quality sandwiches, soups, salads, chef driven entrees, and desserts with a curated selection of wines on tap and local beers. 

Becoming More Kid-Friendly

C3 // Creative Consumer Concepts (C3), a marketing agency that helps restaurant brands connect to families with children, introduced a new product line, C3 Signature, offering a variety of kids and family entertainment products that allows local restaurants to offer big-brand ideas that still help reinforce local restaurant identity. C3 Signature includes a variety of personalized kids’ meal entertainment options such as activity books, menus, cups, crayons, and meal bags.


 “There are small ways to make a big impact but for those independently owned-restaurants, there are very limited options for entertaining kids,” says Jennifer Loper, President for C3. “There is a glut of inexpensive and low-quality materials that have little relevance with today’s consumer or direct ties with modern brands, which we specifically address with C3 Signature.” 

C3 Signature offers quality games and activities to foster and promote a range of interactivity between kids and parents, turning a dinner into an experience. Research shows that casual dining restaurants see an average check increase of 275 percent when kids ages six to 12 are present compared to an adults-only group, according to NPD's CREST® service. 

“When making an out-of-home dining choice, children influence the head of the house and more often than not, they decide where the family eats and how long they sit at an establishment,” says Loper. “With Americans dining out more than ever, it represents a great opportunity for restaurant operators to appeal more to the family dynamic.”

The products are ready-made, but also offer restaurant personalization and are specifically designed to serve the needs of both casual dining and fast casual restaurants, enabling restaurant organizations of any size to have a strong kids’ program. Personalized products feature templated designs with the option to include a restaurant’s brand name, logo, menu and pricing. 

Food Delivery Robots

PuduTech debuted its line of food delivery robots at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2020)—a delivery robot called BellaBot and a dish-return robot HolaBot.

As a new member in PuduTech’s existing fleet, BellaBot serves as a delivery robot equipped with large four-layer trays, multiple delivery functions, precise positioning and navigation systems and optimal scheduling algorithms, which inherit characteristics of the last-generation robot called PuduBot. What is even more remarkable is that the new arrival demonstrates breakthroughs in appearance and human-robot interaction experience, making BellaBot itself more affable when doing its job.


 BellaBot has the look as a cute kitty and its rich expressions that change when people interact with it in different ways. BellaBot features an advanced tactile feedback system, which makes it more human-like. That is to say, when you touch it in different parts such as the head and the ears, it reacts to you just like a person does. For example, BellaBot shows you a lovely face in the screen when you touch its ear. But if you keep doing so, it gets mad to remind you not to interrupt its job.

As its delivery robots get developed well day by day, PuduTech eyes on a broader robot market in another scenario, dish returning.

That’s when the revolutionary HolaBot was developed. HolaBot is equipped with a 120L enclosed cabin, which contains three-layer trays capable of holding 20kg of items in each layer. It can carry 120 small plates, 39 large plates, and 33 bowls in a single delivery, working with efficiency 6 times that of a waiter.

HolaBot is unique for its advanced task scheduling system. To get a dish-return robot into work, an operator needs to make a remote call and the central control system arranges tasks for the robot. That’s why PuduTech develops a system, one that supports multi-calling devices such as beepers, APPs and intelligent induction balance, to enable operators to assign the robot for designated places at any time according to scheduling signals from the central control system. This approach enables multiple HolaBots to work in optimal efficiency.

For Good Causes

Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits announced the results of its Holiday Giving Campaign, which ran from November 1 to December 31, 2019. Southern Glazer’s encouraged its employees to vote and select three organizations from a pool of 10 deserving charities on VolunCheers Online, the Company’s enterprise-wide employee volunteering and giving portal. The three organizations that garnered the most votes, and are recipients of the final donation, are Feeding America, the Humane Society, and Operation Gratitude.

As part of the Holiday Giving Campaign, Southern Glazer’s pledged to donate $25 for each employee volunteer hour recorded on VolunCheers Online during the campaign period. Southern Glazer’s also included an additional $50 donation for every employee, up to 500, who registered on VolunCheers Online for the first time during the campaign period.

Together, employees recorded an impressive 3,850 volunteer hours on VolunCheers Online, and the platform garnered more than 500 registered users, totaling a final donation amount of $121,250. Feeding America, the Humane Society, and Operation Gratitude will each be receiving $40,417 on behalf of Southern Glazer’s employees.

“This campaign’s success was achieved through the significant time and effort our employees put into giving back through volunteerism,” said Wayne E. Chaplin, Chief Executive Officer, Southern Glazer’s. “We’re so proud to have such a compassionate team and are thrilled to be supporting these meaningful and diverse causes.”

Southern Glazer’s employees created 78 volunteer events during the Holiday Giving Campaign period, benefiting 67 diverse charitable organizations. More than 25 percent of Southern Glazer’s 22,000 employees across the U.S., Canada, and Caribbean are currently active on the VolunCheers Online portal.

Voodoo Giving Back

Voodoo Doughnut launched its first give-back campaign in 2020, partnering with the National Alliance to End Homelessness through the creation of the brand new Hi Tea Doughnut.  The Hi Tea is a raised yeast doughnut topped with both Earl Grey and Hibiscus frosting; pairing well with a cup of hot tea, also available at Voodoo Doughnut locations.


A portion of proceeds from every Hi Tea Doughnut sold will go directly to National Alliance to End Homelessness, an organization whose sole focus is to end homelessness.  The Hi Tea will be sold at all seven Voodoo Doughnut locations across three states, including the new location in Buffalo Heights location in Houston, Texas that is set to open later this month.  

“We are grateful for Voodoo Doughnut’s creative and generous initiative to support the mission to end homelessness,” said Nan Roman, President & CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We’re hopeful that it will help raise awareness among Voodoo Doughnut’s customers, and that we can all work together to be part of the solution to the problem.” Roman continued.

“Giving back to the communities we serve is core to Voodoo’s culture.” said Voodoo Doughnut CEO, Chris Schultz. “A community can’t thrive unless its residents are thriving and one should never suffer the hardships of homelessness. We hope that our giving campaign not only raises funds, but helps to destigmatize homelessness and create more awareness of the amazing resources and programs provided by National Alliance to End Homelessness.”  Schultz continued.   

During 2019, Voodoo Doughnut raised more than $25,000 for non-profit organizations through its quarterly give-back campaign.  The company plans to open three to five additional stores in 2020, helping to increase both funds and awareness for Voodoo’s charitable partners.  

The Friendship Cafe Opens

The Friendship Circle Fort Lauderdale, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, will open The Friendship Café, a Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant that trains and employs adults with autism, down syndrome, and other special needs. 

Located at 1306 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, the official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Mayor Dean Trantalis will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

"The Friendship Cafe is an exciting community project, and I am truly thrilled by the idea of a restaurant that serves great food made with love by our special needs adults," stated Dean Myerow, a local cannabis entrepreneur and advisor to the Friendship Circle. "After being introduced to The Friendship Circle and their impact on the community through my teenagers, who regularly volunteer, I began attending weekly programming. The café expands the potential to do good, one of the core values of the organization."

Friendship Café offers employment training, education, and employment to adults and young adults with developmental disabilities who want to work in the food service, hospitality, or customer service industry. The job skills that will be acquired by special needs adults include customer service, food safety, food prep, and many more. 

The one-story, 700-square foot cafe was created from two former restaurant spaces that had been vacated on Las Olas, and the vision was executed by Bill Feinberg, President of Allied Kitchen & Bath, whose firm donated time and materials to the project. The fast-casual restaurant will feature a warm and cozy French country theme designed by international interior designer, Perla Lichi of Perla Lichi Designs.

The Friendship Cafe is a community-based Mediterranean restaurant featuring a menu that includes falafel platters, falafel pitas, hummus platters, vegetarian shawarma, fresh salads, coffee, pastries, and sandwiches. The delectable offering was conceptualized by Alex Rabino and Ana Silva of Netspot USA, along with all logistical procedures to support the special needs team members they hire.

World-renowned chef, Yoram Getter, the owner of several of the most successful restaurants in all of Israel, is the creative force and hard worker behind the scenes when it comes to The Friendship Cafés cuisine.

The Friendship Cafe intends to broaden its ability to employ more special needs adults as the restaurant becomes self-sustaining. Elizabeth Camp, the special needs program coordinator, has been actively training the special needs adults alongside the cafe's professional restaurant staff.

"We are so lucky to have found someone who has the skillset and personality to know what it takes to train special needs adults to integrate into the workforce. We are living miracles here," stated Bill Feinberg.  The organization is actively seeking individual volunteers and corporate partners that are passionate about helping those with special needs and to further the mission.

DSE Names Advisory Board

Digital Signage Expo (DSE), the world’s largest trade show and educational conference for digital display networks and interactive and emerging technologies, announced its Advisory Board for 2020. The Advisory Board is comprised of more than 60 professionals representing Advertising Agencies, Digital Out-of-Home Networks, Industry Consultants, Professional AV Integrators and a variety of end user verticals, including Corporate Communications, Higher Education, and Hotels, as well as many others. 

Those representing the retail sector for 2020 include:

American Eagle Outfitters      Joseph McQueen, Senior Manager, Network Services

Best Buy                                  Jessica Stevens, Senior IT Deployment Manager

Costco Wholesale                     Guy Silver, Communications Director                         

Eileen FIsher                           Josh Goodwin, Digital Media Specialist

The Kroger Company              Chris King, KTV Operations Manager


All DSE Advisory Board members and their organizations are actively involved in the areas of digital display networks and interactive and emerging technologies and represent a variety of professional expertise. In addition to aiding with the development and direction of DSE, they share their knowledge in the “Ask the DSE Advisory Board” feature that appears as a blog post on DigitalSignageConnection.com every week, a resource for those seeking specific industry perspectives on technical or business challenges related to the digital signage sector.