Changing of the Yum! Guard and Tony Roma’s Retail Brand Expansion

This edition of MRM’s News Bites features Yum! Brands, Corto Olive, L.P.  and Gemsa Enterprises, Taco Mac, Choice Market, Romacorp, Schuman Cheese, REGO Restaurant Group, Kevin Tien, Sumo Sushi & Bento​ and LoyaltyPlant, KonekTV and Parts Town.

Change at the Yum! Top

Yum! Brand's Board of Directors has unanimously elected David Gibbs as Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1, 2020, and appointed him to the Company’s Board, effective November 1, 2019. Gibbs, 55, who currently serves as Yum! Brands President and Chief Operating Officer and oversees the global KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell divisions, will succeed Greg Creed, 62, who has announced his decision to retire at the end of 2019 after a successful 25-year career with the company.

Pictured, left to right: Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed with President and Chief Operating Officer David Gibbs.

“I’ve had the privilege of partnering with our franchisees to grow the three iconic brands within the Yum! Brands portfolio for over 30 years and am honored to follow in Greg’s footsteps,” Gibbs said. “It’s thanks to Greg’s terrific leadership and innovative brand building during some of the most pivotal moments in our history that Yum! Brands has emerged as a vibrant and industry-leading growth company. I’m grateful that Greg and I have had the good fortune to build on the legacy of our co-founder David Novak—a strong foundation of three iconic brands and the positive recognition culture he established after our company’s spinoff from PepsiCo in 1997.”

Creed has served as Yum! Brands CEO since January 2015. As CEO, Creed  executed the 2016 spinoff of Yum China, led Yum! Brands’ transformation to become more focused, franchised and efficient, and helped the Company deliver strong and consistent financial performance to shareholders. Since 2017, Yum! Brands has transformed its business model to over 98 percent franchised, while increasing G&A efficiency and significantly reducing capital expenditures. Before his time as Yum! Brands CEO, Creed led the global Taco Bell Division as its Chief Executive Officer and was responsible for transforming the brand into the iconic and innovative industry leader it is today.

“It has been an incredible journey at Yum! Brands during the past 25 years and my absolute privilege to serve as CEO during such an exciting time for our company,” said Creed. “No other retailer in the world is like Yum! Brands, with our iconic global brands, category leadership, massive scale and uniquely diversified portfolio. I’m proud of how we’re emerging from our multi-year transformation as a more focused, franchised and efficient growth company. The best of Yum! is still to come and I’m delighted we have an exceptional leader like David who will drive the next wave of growth for our company.”

Creed remains CEO through the end of 2019 to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. He will serve as a part-time advisor next year and also remain on the Yum! Brands Board of Directors.

“Greg Creed is one of the most talented and passionate brand builders in the restaurant industry today,” said Brian Cornell, Non-Executive Chairman of the Yum! Brands Board of Directors and Chairman and CEO of Target Corporation. “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to sincerely thank Greg for his focus on building great brands, strengthening franchise capabilities, expanding the company’s global footprint and leveraging Yum! Brands’ world-class culture and talent to fuel results.”

Cornell continued, “The Board and I are confident that David Gibbs is the ideal leader to drive the next chapter of global growth for the company. He has played a central role in all that Yum! Brands has accomplished over the past several years and understands the need to put customers, employees, franchisees and shareholders at the center of everything. David will build on the company’s position of strength to ensure it is well equipped for the future.”

Of Gibbs, Creed said, “David is an outstanding commercial leader with a passion for Yum! Brands’ global business, brands and people. He has been an invaluable strategic partner to me during our transformation and instrumental in shaping our global strategy, accelerating the pace of global new unit development, executing our transformation goals and laying a strong foundation for future growth. Importantly, David lives and breathes our people-first culture and is determined to take it to the next level. I look forward to cheering on David and everyone at Yum! Brands as a friend, loyal customer and shareholder.”

“I am excited to accept this new role as we conclude the third and final year of our company’s strategic transformation,” Gibbs said. “Because of our journey to become more focused, franchised and efficient, we’re now in the best position we’ve ever been in to accelerate growth and improve franchise unit economics, but we still have more to achieve. Everywhere we operate, we need to continue elevating and investing in a world-class customer experience, with unrivaled talent, modern assets, the best operations and innovative technology. This effort is only achievable through a strong partnership with our more than 2,000 franchisees who run 98 percent of our restaurants globally and employ more than 1.5 million restaurant team members who work for our brands around the world. When we are at our best, we’ll continue to deliver long-term value for all our stakeholders.”

Since joining in 1989, Gibbs has held a variety of leadership roles in all three of YUM’s brands including global strategy, finance, general management, operations and real estate. Earlier this year, he was promoted to an expanded role as President and Chief Operating Officer, assuming operating leadership of the global KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell divisions.

Before this role, he served as Yum! Brands President and Chief Financial Officer and was the chief architect of Yum! Brands’ financial, refranchising and restaurant development strategy to transform the company into a capital-light, pure-play franchisor. Previously, he was CEO of the global Pizza Hut Division, and President and CFO of Yum! Restaurants International, responsible for growing KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell outside the U.S. and China, along with having general management responsibility for several international markets. Gibbs also served as Yum! Chief Strategy Officer during which time he revamped Yum! Brands’ global restaurant operations model, as Pizza Hut U.S. CFO and in various real estate and restaurant development leadership roles in KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Oil Producers Settle

Corto Olive, L.P. and Gemsa Enterprises, LLC announced the favorable settlement of Corto Olive’s lawsuit against Gemsa Oils for allegedly infringing Corto Olive’s 51-49® registered trademark and the distinctive packaging for its brand of blended oil. 

In the lawsuit, Corto Olive alleged that Gemsa Oils, a direct competitor, used packaging that was virtually indistinguishable from Corto Olive’s. Gemsa Oils denied Corto Olive’s claims. As part of the settlement, however, Gemsa Oils agreed to cease all use of the allegedly infringing packaging, to recall unsold inventory in the old packaging, to destroy all of the old packaging and marketing materials, and to create new packaging designs, which Corto Olive has approved. Corto Olive has dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice. 

“Corto is committed to protecting its intellectual property and to protecting our customers, including the restaurateurs and foodservice distributors nationwide, who count on our products as the standard-bearer for premium olive oils,” said Tom Cortopassi, Senior Managing Partner of Corto Olive. “This agreement achieves that objective.” 

“Gemsa Oils has now taken steps to differentiate our packaging from that of Corto Olive,” said Emilio Viscomi, founder and co-owner of Gemsa Oils. He added, “We are glad to put this dispute behind us so that we can focus on our commitment to providing high quality blended oils to consumers.” 

Corto Olive, L.P. is a California-based manufacturer of premium olive oils for restaurateurs, including brands such as 51-49®, TRULY® Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and La Padella®. Corto Olive was founded by the Cortopassi family, a farming family from Lucca, Italy, with a multi-generational reputation as producers of high-quality foods. Corto Olive’s 51-49® brand is used in dressing salads, finishing warm entrees, light sautéing, and signature sauces and is marketed to restaurateurs through foodservice distributors. 

Gemsa Enterprises, LLC is a family-owned and operated, Southern California based, producer of extra virgin olive oil and an importer of premium edible oils. Serving the restaurant, food service and food manufacturing sectors of the industry, Gemsa Oils not only seeks the satisfaction of their customers, but also strives to collaborate with its competitors and peers for the advancement of the industry. 

Taco Mac Gives Back

Taco Mac’s philanthropic efforts and generosity continue to grow. In July, the company presented Camp Twin Lakes with an annual fundraising check for $75,846, which included money raised during its 40th Anniversary reunion party and from a portion of kids meal sales throughout the year, top photo.



Taco Mac employees also manned the telephones for 680 The Fan’s 2019 Radiothon benefitting Camp Twin Lakes and donated lunch to fellow Radiothon volunteers on July 13. Camp Twin Lakes is Taco Mac’s long-time charity partner renowned for providing life-changing camp experiences for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other challenges.

Choice Goes Mini

Choice Market has combined quick service, fresh quality food from local vendors and the latest technology to create an innovative new vending program – Choice Mini-Mart.


The small format grocer and restaurant just opened its first two Choice Mini-Marts in Denver’s newest music venue, the Mission Ballroom. Each vending machine is kept at the perfect temperature and is stocked with fresh, local snacks, fruit, sandwiches, salads, jerky and more. Prices range from $3-$6 for snacks and drinks and $7-$11 for meal solutions.

“Choice Mini-Mart is a natural extension of our omnichannel strategy and fully aligns with our mission to make good food accessible and convenient,” said Choice Market Founder & CEO Mike Fogarty. “These vending machines are a perfect fit for airports, hospitals, breweries, offices and other institutions that are looking to provide their time-constrained customers and employees with fresh and delicious food.”

Roma's Hot on Retail

Romacorp, Inc., parent company of Tony Roma’s®,inked a new licensing agreement with Golden Nest, Inc. that will continue expanding its U.S. and international retail presence. This agreement, brokered by Broad Street Licensing Group, is for shelf-stable, jerky-style meat snacks cooked in the same signature sauces behind Tony Roma’s world-famous ribs and BBQ meats. It is the latest in a string of strategic licensing deals for Tony Roma’s retail program that has seen the brand continue its expansion around the world. 

“This is another significant step for us in strengthening our brand presence in the retail space,” said Bob Gallagher, Sr. Vice President of Culinary & Beverage of Tony Roma’s. “We are excited to work with Golden Nest to meet the strong demand for the Tony Roma’s sauced meat snacks and offer fans a taste of the same quality food they’ve come to love at our restaurants.”

The jerky-style snacks include Tony Roma’s Original Sauce Pork Bites, Carolina Honeys Sauce Pork Bites, and Spicy Buffalo Sauce Chicken Bites. 

“We are excited to extend the Tony Roma’s world-famous BBQ brand into unique ‘saucy’, on-the-go meat snacks,” said Jemmy Pranyoto, President and Chief Executive Officer of Golden Nest, Inc. “People love having the restaurant-eating experience anytime, and we look forward to the opportunity to work with the Tony Roma’s team and the Broad Street Licensing Group on growth plans for the retail market.”

Schuman Cheese Adds to Trophy Shelf

Classic recipes tuned to perfection and innovative specialty varieties alike earned Schuman Cheese the attention of judges at contests this summer, adding 17 new awards to the artisan cheesemaker’s already heavy trophy shelf. Schuman Cheese’s award-winning showing spanned the International Cheese and Dairy Awards (ICDA), American Cheese Society Judging & Competition (ACS) and Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Contest (WI Fair).


Cello Organic Copper Kettle led the Open Hard Cheeses category at this year’s WI Fair, with Cello Romano taking second and Cello Copper Kettle finishing third. Organic Copper Kettle went on to nab a silver medal in the Best Organic Cheese – Hard Pressed category (open to non-United Kingdom producers only) at ICDA. Just days later, Organic Copper Kettle shared third place honors with the original Copper Kettle in the Grating Types category at ACS. 

The headliner of Cello’s lineup, Cello Copper Kettle is a one-of-a-kind cheese with an exclusive recipe that’s cooked in copper vats and aged for 16 months. This imparts a unique flavor and distinctive, slightly pinkish tone.  Cello Romano – a cow’s milk version of the famous sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano – is sharper and more piquant, but with a cleaner finish than typical U.S. varieties.

2019 ACS Awards

The Yellow Door Creamery Alpine Collection showed prominently in ICDA’s Best USA Cheese – Washed Rind category; Altu earned a silver medal, while Monteau earned bronze. Altu is a Gruyere-style cheese with notes of fruit followed by an earthy and nutty finish. Monteau features fruity flavors with hints of butter and hazelnut that call to mind the Haute Savoie region’s famous Abondance cheese. Altu and Monteau also earned second and third place awards, respectively, in the Smear Ripened Cheeses category at the WI Fair.

At ACS, Altu finished second in the Open Category for Washed Rind Cheeses, while Redhead took a second place finish in the Soft-Ripened Washed Rind category. Redhead is an approachable take on Reblochon, with an earthy and herbal aroma, complemented by a fruity and nutty flavor. 

Yellow Door Creamery Hand-Rubbed Fontinas were also big winners. Mayan Cocoa & Coffee earned first place in the ACS Rubbed-Rind Cheese category, while newcomer Creamy Dill rounded out the category with a third place finish. At the WI Fair, Dijon & Herb took first place in the Flavored Semi-Soft Cheese category.

Aileen Kacvinsky, Director and Technical Advisor of Cheese Product Development

Mayan Cocoa is an earthy and exotic blend of sweet, spicy Mayan spices combined with real cocoa and coffee. Creamy Dill pairs the smooth, nutty and milk flavor of cow’s milk with a fresh, vibrant blend of dill and fragrant summer herbs. Dijon & Herb is a balanced blend of yellow and brown mustard seed and aromatic spices provides this creamy fontina with a mild and nutty flavor.

Tuscan earned a silver medal in the category for ICDA’s Cheese with Savory Additives (soft cheeses produced outside the United Kingdom), and a bronze medal in ICDA’s Best USA Cheese – Any Cheese with Additives category. Tuscan is a classic blend of Italian herbs and spices pairs perfectly with the rich and nutty fontina flavor.

For four generations, Schumans have been enamored by incredible cheeses, like the King of Parmesan they’ve partnered with the Zanettis to deliver since 1945 and the latest addition, a sensational Gruyère from Margot Fromages in Switzerland. Decades of access to the world’s finest cheeses even inspired the family to assemble a team of skilled cheesemakers to craft their own world-class cheeses in Wisconsin.

REGO Choses Coca-Cola

REGO Restaurant Group, which includes the Quiznos and Taco Del Mar brands, signed a multi-year agreement with The Coca-Cola Company to be the new strategic beverage partner for both brands going forward.

“Coca-Cola’s extensive portfolio of beverage brands will complement the varied cuisine – from tacos and burritos to salads and sandwiches – offered across our growing brand portfolio,” said Eric Grundmeier, Chief Supply Officer of REGO Restaurant Group. “Additionally, Coca-Cola’s seasoned foodservice presence supports our ‘centers of excellence’ strategy – a critical aspect of our brands’ transformations.”

“We are excited to form our partnership with Quiznos and the brands within REGO Restaurant Group’s portfolio,” said Susan Sheng, Vice President of National Sales for Coca-Cola North America. “We welcome the opportunity to leverage our joint marketing capabilities to grow their business, and to utilize our broad portfolio of beverages to complement the diverse foods across each brand’s unique menu.”

Tien's New Venture

Chef Kevin Tien will soon be opening a new restaurant, Emilie’s, in the heart of Capitol Hill. The new 5,175-square-foot restaurant is scheduled to open in September 2019. Chef Tien will be leaving Himitsu later this month to focus on Emilie’s opening.

Chef Kevin Tien

“I can’t thank our loyal guests and the Himitsu family enough for making Himitsu the incredible success that it is today,” remarked Tien. “While this was a very difficult decision to make, I’m looking forward to writing the next chapter and sharing my passion with the community on a larger scale and a different service style.”

Chef Tien’s final service at Himitsu will be September 15th.  Himitsu will subsequently continue to operate under current co-owner Carlie Steiner.  Chef Amanda Moll, former executive sous chef of Doi Moi, will be taking over as Himitsu’s new executive chef.

“I am confident that Himitsu will continue to deliver the exceptional experience that our guests have enjoyed over the last 2 ½ years,” said Tien. “While everyone will always have a table at Emilie’s, I would love to see all our guests at Himitsu for one last service prepared by me before my departure.”

Chef Tien’s new concept, Emilie’s, will focus on seasonally inspired and local ingredients and will feature large family-style plates and a small a la carte menu. Guests can anticipate their dining experiences to be further elevated by small plates circulating the room on carts. The idea behind this style of “tableside” dining is to facilitate Tien’s mission of promoting and supporting the local community of producers, farmers, and ranchers. In addition, the circulating carts will give guests the opportunity to sample a variety of dishes as Tien’s team demonstrates their creativity in the kitchen.

The restaurant plans to initially provide dinner service and later expand into lunch and brunch soon after its opening. Emilie’s will seat approximately 100 guests in the main dining room and at the bar.

Loyalty Winners

Sumo Sushi & Bento​ – a Dubai based Japanese food restaurant chain partnered with ​LoyaltyPlant global mobile solutions developer to win the international ​Loyalty360 Award​ in Customer Loyalty Strategy Category. 

Thus in order to stand out, ​Sumo Sushi & Bento​ decided to rethink their entire customer loyalty strategy. The new strategy focused on building emotional connections with their customers by taking a personalized “mobile-first” approach that was built around a ​mobile app and engagement platform​ provided by LoyaltyPlant (the U.S. based SAAS company). 

Darami Coulter​, Chief Marketing Officer Manager Sumo Sushi & Bento said, “​Having our own branded mobile app allowed us to directly communicate, customize, and measure the effectiveness of specific campaigns and incentives within our target demographic. To have in-app ordering directly connected to loyalty has allowed us to engage directly to the individual buyer. We are able to better measure the results of loyalty connecting to the incentives and the engagement with each buyer”. 

The results that Sumo Sushi & Bento achieved were:​ 5.16 percent YoY​ ​average revenue growth​ and ​8.5 percent Heavy users share increase​ (the share of guests who visit the restaurant three-plus times a month). 

Opening the Sports Book

KonekTV introduced its technology that enables sports bars to create a sports book-like atmosphere by bringing stats, analytics and odds to fans on the screens of their favorite local venues. Through its patent-pending technology, KonekTV Sports Book becomes the world's premier in-venue interface for sports betting fans and fantasy sports participants. KonekTV's three channels at launch are Sports Book, Pay-Per-View and Live Sports, and Esports.

“Our platform allows sports bars and other places where sports fans gather to stream Pay-Per-Views as a cheaper alternative to cable or satellite systems, and now we bring real-time sports betting analytics to their venues,” added Schorr. “KonekTV becomes an enhanced second-screen experience for customers at their favorite sports venue, particularly for those following a sporting event with a vested interest.”

Beginning today, independent and regional sports bars will be able to activate KonekTV Sports Book in time for the football season, featuring real-time stats, advanced analytics and live odds in their favorite sports venue. Partnerships with well-known sports books allow guests to get special bonuses to sign up and play in states that allow online sports gambling.

KonekTV is partnering with Joe Hand Promotions (JHP) to distribute its streaming sports platform to locations throughout the United States. KonekTV allows operators to choose from a selection of sporting events, live streams, betting lines, stats, and analytics… all of which engage the modern, mobile sports and Esports fan. A bar owner can use the KonekTV app on their smartphone to select content for all of the TVs in either one location or across a chain of venues.

Parts Town Partners with YORK

Parts Town is partnering with YORK. As part of this partnership, Parts Town will distribute genuine OEM replacement parts for YORK’s commercial rooftop HVAC systems to a variety of National Accounts customers in and outside of the foodservice industry.

“Many of our customers service both commercial HVAC and foodservice equipment, so we see expansion into this sector as a means to support our existing customers, attract new ones and expand OEM parts market share in the HVAC industry,” said Steve Snower, Chief Enthusiasm Officer, a.k.a. CEO, of Parts Town. “This partnership is one more step we are taking to ensure we are the one-stop shop for genuine OEM parts when our customers need them most.”

Similar to those of commercial foodservice equipment, genuine OEM parts for YORK equipment are built based on the original specifications of the manufacturer to ensure safety, performance and efficiency. Parts Town’s latest partnership provides YORK National Accounts customers with a fast and easy experience for buying the right parts for their HVAC systems to save energy, protect equipment warranties and maximize equipment lifespan.

“We partnered with Parts Town because we were looking for a single touchpoint for our National Accounts customers to leverage when shopping for genuine OEM parts,” said Chris Ware, YORK General Manager for Ducted System Parts. “Parts Town’s exceptional customer experience, innovative shopping tools and shipping capabilities allow us to offer our National Accounts customers, a more streamlined and consistent way to purchase parts across the country. Ensuring our customers have access to genuine OEM replacement parts is extremely important to us. Our shared focus on driving genuine OEM parts usage made Parts Town the best choice.”