Culinary Schools Ranked and Operation BBQ Relief Awarded

Panera increases restaurant technology capabilities, culinary schools are ranked and what is driving demand for greater food transparency. Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at Daily Bite Logo

Panera Bread Offers Voice-Activated Ordering

Panera Bread is offering the ability to order via voice for delivery and Rapid Pick-Up with the Google Assistant on their mobile devices.  My Panera members in St. Louis and Silicon Valley participating bakery-cafes can now place and pay for their orders using the Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant developed by Google.  Full rollout and implementation nationwide for all guests is anticipated by the end of the year.

 Approximately 30 percent of total company wide sales are digital.

Google Assistant users can say, “Ok Google, ask Panera for delivery” or “Ok Google, talk to Panera.”  The Panera app for the Google Assistant will show them the menu, suggest past menu items based off of history and walk the user through menu items.  Users will pay from their saved wallet information with proper authentication.  Panera’s voice-activated ordering integrates with MyPanera®, the restaurant industry’s largest loyalty program with more than 27 million members.  Voice-activated ordering will be available via the Google Assistant on eligible Android phones and iPhones. Approximately 30 percent of total company wide sales are digital. 

“With more than 1.3 Million digital orders placed a week at Panera, there is a clear demand for voice-activated ordering methods, and this integration with Google is a step towards an even better guest experience,” said Ron Shaich, Panera’s Founder, Chairman and CEO.  

Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president, said, “Voice-activated ordering powered by artificial intelligence is the future.  We know the industry is in its infancy.  While we know we still have a lot to learn, we’re proud to develop, test and refine this capability in partnership with Google.  In the long run, the ease and convenience will be meaningful to our guests.  In fact, placing a voice-activated order in many cases is more than 80% faster than a traditional app order.”

In addition to Panera’s Rapid Pick-Up service, Panera’s newest service, Panera Delivery, will be available for voice-activated ordering.  Panera Delivery provides lunch and dinner to offices, hospitals, campuses and homes, typically within an eight-minute drive of a Panera bakery-cafe. 

Red Hat Teams with Brinker

Brinker International, Inc. has deployed several Red Hat solutions to deliver a consistent digital guest experience. Built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Gluster Storage and supported by Red Hat Satellite and Red Hat Insights, Brinker is aiming to unify its digital platforms in a new, open source e-commerce environment.

The parent company of Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy, Brinker set out to update the digital platforms that supported its 900 corporate Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurants, including its mobile application, website, in-restaurant table kiosks and curbside dining.

“There is so much innovative development going on in open source communities today, and we knew we needed to tap into it to create the kind of environment we were after, but in the early stages we needed additional security expertise and support from a vendor partner,” said Nathan Huber, enterprise architect, Brinker International. “Red Hat has been invaluable in helping us develop a solution that supports our current business needs, as well as new technologies we want to bring to the industry.”

Brinker selected Red Hat as its technology partner to create an open source-based digital platform and deployed Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the foundation for its new e-commerce environment, citing its ability to provide the flexibility to deploy new solutions quickly and continually. The new e-commerce environment created with Red Hat software helps Brinker develop, test, and deploy new features and services faster with a continuous development and deployment (CI/CD) approach. This has helped the company to reduce provisioning time from weeks or months to hours or minutes.

In addition, Brinker deployed Red Hat Gluster Storage as the container based storage platform to aggregate customer feedback data and to support the development, testing, integration, and production of new features. The scalable data management and real-time customer support of Red Hat Gluster Storage enabled Brinker to implement container-based persistent data storage to more rapidly deliver innovative features, while maintaining a consistent user experience across multiple channels.

Brinker is also using the resource provisioning capabilities of Red Hat Satellite to enforce security protocols, enable updates, and enhance unique configurations across the Red Hat Gluster and Red Hat Enterprise Linux foundation. Brinker is using the predictive analytics capabilities of Red Hat Insights to increase visibility into system configuration and mitigate risks in real time.

Deploying the new environment to all corporate-owned Chili’s restaurants took less than a year and a half and, using the new platform, Brinker launched its new digital curbside service in less than eight weeks. The collaborative power of open source innovation, combined with Red Hat’s award-winning global support has given Brinker the capacity to test, deploy, and implement innovative services within its new e-commerce environment, with zero downtime. The company has had such positive results with the deployment of its new e-commerce environment that it is now expanding its online system to its 400 franchise restaurants, as well as its Maggiano’s restaurants.

Added Ranga Rangachari, vice president and general manager, Red Hat Storage, “Organizations are consistently looking for ways to modernize and scale their infrastructure, while providing flexibility, and many have found containers to be the answer. Forward thinking organizations, like Brinker understand that for modernization efforts and their container journey to be successful, a modern approach to storage is essential. Red Hat’s software-defined storage solutions deliver more secure and elastic persistent storage for containers that can help businesses accelerate their business by developing, implementing and supporting new, data centric services.”

Demand for Greater Food Transparency

As over 13,000 leading food and beverage retailers get set to recognize Non-GMO Month in October, industry expert David Carter explains what’s driving consumer demand for greater food transparency.

“Now, more than ever before, consumers want to know what’s in the food they eat,” said David Carter, CEO of FoodChain ID.  He notes three key forces driving this shift in consumer attitudes:

  1. The globalization of the food supply – our food and the ingredients in it are now sourced globally; one product can have ingredients from numerous locations,
  2. The passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is the most sweeping, comprehensive change in our nation’s food safety framework in the last 70 years, and
  3. Major shifts in consumer attitudes about their food; consumers want to know exactly what is in their food, which is why there is a trend towards “clean labeling” by food manufacturers.
David Carter
David Carter

According to Carter, consumers have trended significantly away from simply trusting that the food on their shelves must be safe. For example, as knowledge and understanding grows about the reality and the use of genetically modified ingredients and foods, consumers are actively demanding information.

“Consumers are not demanding that all food be non-GMO, and we don’t take the position that this is always necessary,” Carter explains. “But what consumers are clearly demanding, more than ever, is that food be thoroughly inspected and receive the proper certifications, and that this be done by qualified professionals who ensure accurate labeling to help consumers make fully informed purchase decisions.”

Passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, according to Carter, has helped drive this demand for information because it has made consumers aware of just how much of their food is sourced, prepared and packaged in various locations around the world.

“Information, properly presented, is always beneficial to consumers, and the more attention this issue gets, the more they realize they need to check labeling and certifications when they buy,” Carter said “The fact that food is now sourced globally makes it more important than ever for people to ask these questions, and for retailers and manufacturers to provide the answers.”

FoodChain ID is a division of Global ID Group, which provides integrated food safety and food quality solutions that address the challenges and opportunities in the rapidly evolving food industry. Serving more than 15,000 clients in over 100 countries with a market-leading portfolio of testing, inspection, certification and consulting services, the Global ID Group helps companies navigate an increasingly regulated global food economy demanding higher levels of transparency, accountability, safety and sustainability.

Operation BBQ Relief Wins CNN Hero Award

Operation BBQ Relief, a 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer organization that has served approximately 1.7 million meals in disaster regions, announced today that the organization has been honored with the prestigious CNN Hero Award. Operation BBQ Relief is profiled on the global networks of CNN and on, as part of a year-long initiative that honors everyday people for their selfless, creative efforts to help others.

Stan Hays CEO and Co-Founder Operation BBQ Relief

Stan Hays, Co-Founder of Operation BBQ Relief said, “It is a true honor to accept this CNN Hero Award on behalf of Operation BBQ Relief and our incredible volunteers. Six and a half years ago, a group of competitive BBQ cooks, judges, and locals set out to cook meals, in response to the devastation of tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri. Our goal was simple: we hoped to make at least one person’s life a little bit better with a hot BBQ meal. We had no visions of grandeur nor aspirations for awards. The experiences along the way and the meaningful relationships we’ve developed have been more than we could have ever dreamed of. We are honored to accept the CNN Hero Award, in celebration of the approximately 1.7 million meals served by our volunteers.”

In 2011, Operation BBQ Relief was founded in response to a need for relief efforts in tornado-stricken Joplin, Missouri. Volunteers of competition BBQ teams from eight states answered the need to help feed displaced families, Police, Fire, National Guard and emergency personnel. Operation BBQ Relief has grown to become a Disaster Response Team made up of over 4,000 volunteers and competition BBQ teams. The organization provides hot BBQ meals along with compassion, hope and friendship to those whose lives have been affected by disasters across the United States. Expertise in cooking large scale meals and an organizational structure that allows teams to quickly mobilize means that deployment teams can move into any area where nature disrupts.  

Since May of 2011, Operation BBQ Relief has served approximately 1.7 million hot BBQ meals in 23 states in response to 43 disasters. Funding comes from fundraisers, online merchandise sales and both individual and corporate donations.  More information can be found here.

The 30 Best Culinary Schools  published its ranking of “The 30 Best Culinary Schools.” For this list, examined the large number of culinary schools to help prospective students better understand their offerings and make informed decisions. This article provides a definitive ranking of the top 30 culinary schools in the US and directs students with an interest in the culinary arts toward the beginnings of a worthwhile career path in food preparation, wine stewarding, restaurant management, and more. selected schools based on the (1) quality of the program, (2) types of courses provided, (3) faculty strength, (4) school awards, (5) rankings, and (6) reputation. This is an updated ranking. While the ranking continues to weigh general culinary excellence, additional consideration is given for cost and degree offerings through the schools and/or their partnerships with other universities.

“Fantastic food is a joy, and those who know how to prepare it with skill never fail to garner our appreciation,” said Dan Edelen, director of marketing services for “By focusing attention on the top culinary arts programs in America, we’re providing students with a schooling alternative. A traditional college or university won’t be everyone’s preference, and by ranking the best culinary schools, we’re giving students needed options for their education and career.”

The 30 top culinary schools, listed alphabetically:

Anne Arundel Community College – Hotel, Culinary Arts, and Tourism Institute, Glen Burnie, Maryland
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Austin, Texas
Boston University Metropolitan College, Boston, Massachusetts
College of Southern Nevada, North Las Vegas, Nevada
Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, Hyde Park, New York
Culinary Studies Institute at Oakland Community College, Farmington Hills, Michigan
Delgado Community College, New Orleans, Louisiana
Drexel University Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, Michigan
Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn, Michigan
Hudson County Community College, Jersey City, New Jersey
Institute of Culinary Education, New York, New York
International Culinary Center, New York, New York
Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana
Johnson and Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island
Kendall College of Culinary Arts, Chicago, Illinois
Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
L’Academie de Cuisine, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Metropolitan Community College Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska
New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, Vermont
Pierpont Community and Technical College, Fairmont, West Virginia
Pulaski Technical College, North Little Rock, Arkansas
San Diego Culinary Institute, San Diego, California
Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
St. Louis Community College, Saint Louis, Missouri
Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality Studies, Louisville, Kentucky
The Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College, New Rochelle, New York
The French Pastry School at Kennedy-King College, Chicago, Illinois
The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Washington, Arlington, Virginia
The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania