Denny’s Mobile Relief and Promoting Plant-Based Research

This edition of MRM's News Bites features Denny’s, Fourth and CHOICE HR, Four Foods Group, PT’s Entertainment Group, US Foods, Consolidated Concepts, The Good Food Institute, Postmates, Carlo’s Bakery, Star Micronics and MunchEm, eTouchMenu and Shift4 Payments and Community Coffee.


Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at


Denny's Hits the Road to Help


Denny's revealed an all-new, completely-customized Mobile Relief Diner, a 53-foot traveling kitchen which will visit areas impacted by natural disasters to serve free, freshly-cooked pancake breakfasts during a time of critical need. Denny's will immediately deliver upon the Mobile Relief Diner's mission with direct deployment to assist those affected by Hurricane Florence, helping feed local residents, first responders, volunteers and others. 


The Mobile Relief Diner will head to the Carolinas this week following a recent test run in Northern California, where Denny's rolled-out the mobile kitchen to assist several communities affected by the record-breaking wildfires.

"At Denny's, our brand purpose is rooted in the fact that we love to feed people—and have ever since our company was founded in 1953," said John Dillon, @DillonJohnW, chief marketing officer for Denny's. "While we deliver on that brand purpose every day inside of our restaurants, the Mobile Relief Diner allows us do what we do best by going out into local communities to offer a hot and comforting meal during a time when they could really use it the most. And knowing the devastation that Hurricane Florence has created and will continue to create in the Southeast, it is very important for us to deploy the Mobile Relief Diner straight into those communities to help the displaced as they work to get back on their feet." 

denny's mobile relief

Built from the ground up, the Mobile Relief Diner is a fully-functional diner on wheels that was specifically designed by Denny's to travel to virtually anywhere in the U.S. during emergency situations to serve free, hot pancakes, along with bacon, coffee and drinks. With each deployment, the Mobile Relief Diner will work closely with local officials, disaster relief organizations, and local franchisees and store operators to identify the areas most in need. 

Denny's rolled out a previous version of the Mobile Relief Diner in 2017, which served as a temporary and immediate solution to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in Houstonand South Florida, respectively. 

"The initial concept of the Mobile Relief Diner was created to serve as a quick, but temporary solution that we could get on the road in a timely manner," added Dillon. "Over the course of two weeks, we were able to serve over 14,000 meals and seeing the impact that we had in those communities made us realize that the Mobile Relief Diner is the perfect embodiment of our brand. After retiring our truck last fall, we immediately began planning on how to make a better–and permanent– version of the Mobile Relief Diner to help as many people as we can."


Fourth Acquires CHOICE HR


Fourth acquired Choice HR, whose suite of solutions are currently used by 400+ organizations, including PDQ, Metro Diner, Beef o’ Brady’s, Ford’s Garage and World of Beer.
“This is not just one tech company acquiring another,” commented Ben Hood, CEO, Fourth. “This is about positively disrupting the way the U.S. currently manages its hospitality workforce. We have joined forces with Choice HR to eliminate the need for multiple systems, allowing for more effective staff management against a backdrop of onerous labor legislation. This combined tech will enable restaurant groups to thrive, rather than drown in legal complexities and admin. Together we will significantly reduce the risk of non-compliance and make it much easier to pay part-time and full-time shift-based employees correctly and on time.”
With the acquisition of Choice HR, Fourth will now allow for on-demand access to human resources professionals that are familiar with the nuances of the complex hospitality industry, giving managers the freedom to focus on the customer, rather than on tedious HR matters.
“Freeing managers from time-consuming administrative work is an important step toward perfecting the customer experience. We’re excited to welcome Choice HR and its talented people to the Fourth family, and look forward to serving the hospitality sector with indisputably the most complete workforce management solution in the United States,” added Hood.
Effective immediately, ChoiceHR will add over 400 new customers to Fourth’s roster, as well as bring the number of US-based Fourth employees to 80, with most serving as customer support and solutions experts. Fourth’s spacious new Tampa HQ—an expanded location to better support Fourth’s growing U.S. footprint—will be located at 9007 Brittany Way, Tampa Florida.
“We are very pleased to be joining Fourth and have long-admired their leadership in the hospitality sector,” commented Chris Cona, president, Choice HR. “Bringing Choice HR and Fourth literally and figuratively together under one roof will allow our collective clients to benefit from some of the most innovative leaders in our industry today.”
“Joining forces with Fourth is an important step in Choice HR’s history, making our payroll, HR Services and benefits solutions available to a broader customer base.” added Gene Cabrera, chief operating officer, Choice HR.
District Capital Partners and Willkie, Farr & Gallagher served as capital advisors for this acquisition.

Smith Named President at Four Foods Group

Four Foods Group (FFG) named Shauna K. Smith President of the company. In addition to co-founding FFG, Smith served as the company’s Chief Merchandising Officer for ten years.


“Over the past few years, Shauna’s influence and responsibilities have continued to increase at FFG. She is a leading force in driving company culture, which has been increasingly important as we’ve acquired a number of new restaurant brands,” said Four Foods Group CEO Andrew K. Smith. “Shauna’s tremendous talent will touch every aspect of the business as we grow. I am fortunate to have her as a strong and inspiring partner in both my personal and professional life.”

Shauna Smith

Since co-founding FFG in 2008, Shauna was directly involved with day-to-day operations of the company’s first Kneaders Bakery and Café restaurant. After operating in every capacity of the restaurant on a day-to-day basis for the first year, she began directing all of FFG’s buying and merchandising of the retail operations inside the company’s 50 Kneaders restaurants. As FFG broadened its scope through the acquisition of 71 Little Caesar’s restaurants in the Southeast, plus acquisitions of R&R Barbeque, Swig, Mo‘Bettahs and the Soda Shop brands, Shauna has played a pivotal role in welcoming new employees into the popular Four Foods Group culture.


“I am excited to bring my dedication and passion for this amazing organization into this new role and to maintain the incredible positive momentum we have rolling at Four Foods Group,” said. Smith. “Our best days are ahead of us, and I have every confidence that our team will continue representing incredible food and restaurant concepts by systematically creating great experiences for foodies and families all over the country.”

As president of Four Foods Group, Smith becomes one of the most influential food and beverage executives in the United States, as FFG was again listed #85 in the Top 200 Restaurant Operators in the nation. As a businesswoman in a male-dominated industry, she understands the opportunity and responsibility associated with this role.


“I couldn’t be happier for our company that Shauna is stepping into this expanded role,” said Four Foods Chief Operating Officer Josh Boshard. “She has a sharp business mind and has been brilliant in creating the atmosphere of our restaurants – something we believe has set us apart. As we continue to grow, Shauna’s steady hand will lead FFG into many new, up-and-coming restaurant brands.”


“With so many positive experiences in this business with intelligent, dedicated women, I would submit that there aren’t nearly enough women in leadership positions in our industry or business in general. With the conversation surrounding Indra Nooyi’s announcement of her retirement from Pepsi and a recent study that reveals that women in business leadership in our own state is dropping, I am proud that FFG is a company that champions women at all levels. More than 58 percent of our workforce and 47 percent of our company leadership are women. By adding my voice and position to this effort, I would hope to see these numbers grow.”


Shauna will lead a team of more than 5,500 FFG employees running 154 restaurants in locations across the United States. 


PT's Acquires T-Bird Lounge

PT’s Entertainment Group, a division of Golden Entertainment, Inc., acquired T-Bird Lounge & Restaurant (T-Bird’s), which has three locations in Las Vegas. 


The acquisition will be complete on Monday, Oct. 1, when PT’s Entertainment Group will assume operations of the three T Bird’s, located at: 6560 W. Warm Springs Rd., 9465 S. Eastern Ave. and 8780 W. Lindell Rd. “T-Bird’s has long been a staple in the Las Vegas community and we’re excited to welcome them to PT’s Entertainment Group,” said Blake L. Sartini II, senior vice president of distributed gaming for Golden Entertainment, Inc. 


“After 28 years in the bar and restaurant business, we have made the difficult decision to sell our businesses,” said Mary Alice, co-founder of T-Bird’s along with Butch Alice. “It’s been an incredible ride and we are so thankful to everyone who has supported T-Bird’s. It is with great pride that we pass the torch to PT’s.” 


PT’s Entertainment Group manages a portfolio of 60 taverns throughout the Las Vegas Valley and Nevada, including PT’s Pub, PT’s Gold, PT’s Ranch, PT’s Brewing Company, Sean Patrick’s, Sierra Gold and SG Bar.


The Newest CHEF’STORE and Top Vendors

US Foods Holding Corp.  is introducing CHEF’STORE, a new 50,000-square-foot wholesale shopping destination to support Charleston’s thriving culinary scene. This is the third CHEF’STORE in the Carolinas. Designed as a one-stop shop for restaurant operators and food industry professionals, the store features an assortment of more than 5,000 food products including fresh meat, seafood and produce, as well as restaurant-grade equipment and other supplies. The store is  located in the Upper Peninsula at 1510 Meeting Street and is open seven days a week with no membership required.


“After a delay in opening due to the storm, we’re excited to be opening our doors today to help expand the ways in which we can support restaurant operators and culinary professionals across Charleston,” said Gil Smith, US Foods area president, South Carolina. “At US Foods, we pride ourselves on bringing our ‘Great Food. Made Easy.’ strategy to independent restaurant operators, and we’re passionate about providing the right products, tools and resources they need to be successful.”

The new CHEF’STORE offers everything from fresh produce, seafood, meat, dairy and products for authentic lowcountry cooking to pantry staples and a wide array of disposables, cookware and US Foods Exclusive Brands. The store also features a 3,000-square-foot test kitchen area where restaurant operators have an opportunity to sample products, learn about new food trends and menu concepts and consult with US Foods culinary experts on how best to use products in a variety of applications.

“CHEF’STORE offers local restaurant operators and culinary professionals a new, easy-to-navigate and convenient way to shop,” said Josh Waters, US Foods vice president, CHEF’STORE. “With CHEF’STORE, we’ve developed a shopping experience specifically designed for food industry professionals to quickly and conveniently replenish ingredients at wholesale prices and walk out with innovative, on-trend menu inspiration.”

To support those impacted by Hurricane Florence, US Foods has also announced a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross to assist relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of the storm.

In other news, US Foods announced the winners of its 2018 Supplier of the Year Awards, the company’s annual vendor recognition program. Four companies were selected by US Foods out of more than 3,000 of its vendor partners to receive top honors during the company’s Fall Food Lovers Forum in Chicago. The winners were chosen based on their consistent, best-in-class service and shared commitment with US Foods to helping independent restaurateurs “Make It.”


“These exemplary vendor partners go above and beyond to help us provide the highest quality products and business solutions to our more than 250,000 customers across the U.S.,” said Andrew Iacobucci, chief merchandising officer, US Foods. “We’re proud to work with such outstanding organizations who share our customer focus, commitment to innovation and cultural beliefs. Congratulations to the winning companies for setting the standard for quality and excellence in our industry.”

In othere news, vendor companies were recognized for their superior performance in the following categories: Produce, Center-of-the-plate, Grocery and Non-Foods. Each category had five nominees that were selected based on their impressive partnerships with US Foods throughout the year. The nominees were rated on the following key criteria:

  • Great Food. How efficiently the vendor delivers on innovation, product quality and the potential for line expansions and growth.
  • Made Easy. The quality of the business relationship between the vendor and US Foods, including service levels, as well as field and seller support and collaboration.
  • We Help You Make It. How the vendor exemplifies the US Foods cultural beliefs and the importance of working together toward shared goals.
  • Winners were selected by the US Foods field leadership team, merchandising and sales employees who interact with these suppliers on a daily basis. The four companies that were honored were:
  • Produce Award: Mann Packing Company is a leader in innovation and continuously sustains a full pipeline of great products. They have supported US Foods in every aspect of the business, from on-the-ground support at the local level to strategic logistics solutions.
  • Center-of-the-plate Award: Trident Seafoods has been a valued partner to US Foods for decades and truly exemplifies what it means to be a leader in the protein industry. Their sustainability-driven mission is commendable and it’s complemented by their commitment to their partners’ success.
  • Grocery Award: Sugar Foods Corporation consistently delivers high quality products that play a significant role in an operator’s menu. They continuously deliver reliable service in this highly collaborative partnership. Sugar Foods raises the bar every year to provide a competitive and “Easy” advantage for our business.
  • Non-Foods: ProGuard Service and Solutions partners with US Foods throughout all areas of the organization to provide best-in-class cleaning and sanitizing products. They are always one step ahead in responding to the ever-changing needs of customers in this specialty area.

US Foods also recognized its Supplier of the Year, which is the highest rated award among all four category winners. This year, US Foods named Trident Seafoods as Supplier of the Year due to the company’s commitment to sustainability, collaboration on new items and initiatives and support from the field teams.


Consolidated Concepts Gets on Buyer's Edge


Consolidated Concepts, as of Oct. 1,  will be partnering with the newly-formed Buyers Edge Platform Source GPO to process all of its rebates and deviated (discounted) pricing. Consolidated Concepts is winding down its long-standing contract with Compass Group and Foodbuy Inc.


The Buyers Edge Platform and its new partner Entegra collectively leverage over $17 billion in purchasing volume, making it the largest restaurant-focused GPO in the world. This partnership will enable Consolidated Concepts to offer the most extensive and competitive portfolio of contracts to its more than 280 multi-unit chain clients. 


In addition to the new contracts and savings, Consolidated Concepts will have the industry’s most advanced technology tools to help its customers well beyond price and rebate savings. 

"This new partnership will further differentiate Consolidated Concepts from its competitors with a one-of-a-kind portfolio of contracts. This will drive the greatest invoice savings and largest rebate checks in the industry for chain operators,” said Mark Cimino, Consolidated Concepts’ SVP of Client Relations. "Consolidated Concepts understands that restaurant chains prefer lower into-unit deviated prices, rather than rebates. Our new contracts are focused on the items that matter most to restaurants, as opposed to other purchasing organizations whose portfolios are more geared toward cafeterias or other foodservice segments.”

Good Food Institute Pursues Plant-Based Research

The Good Food Institute has launched a $3 million competitive research grant program to encourage universities and others to pursue plant-based and clean meat research. This money will be awarded to projects led by scientists from around the world and from any sector to advance knowledge within the fields of plant-based and clean meat. 

Plant-based and clean meat have been attracting investments from the biggest names in tech and venture capital, from Bill Gates and Sergey Brin to DFJ, Kleiner Perkins, and Google Ventures. Even global meat giants Tyson, Cargill, and Maple Leaf have backed plant-based and clean meat startups.


Despite its potential to revolutionize the food system and allow researchers to solve some of the world’s biggest problems – from climate change to antibiotic resistance – the Good Food Institute (GFI) estimates that less than 0.3 percent of the world’s universities are currently engaged in plant-based meat (PBM) or clean meat (CM) research. 

To jump-start this research, the Good Food Institute (GFI) has identified the universities with the greatest potential to advance the important fields of plant-based and clean meat. These 24 global universities have been identified for their relevant technical expertise, research capabilities, and private-sector partnerships. They are (in alphabetical order):


Top 12 Global Universities for PBM

Top 12 Global Universities for CM

Cornell University (US)

Harvard University (US)

McGill University (Canada)

KU Leuven (Belgium)

Peking University (China)

Kyoto University (Japan)

Pennsylvania State University (US)

Lund University (Sweden)

Technical University of Munich (Germany)

National University of Singapore (Singapore)

Texas A&M (US)

Purdue University (US)

University of California, Davis (US)

Seoul National University (South Korea)

University of Minnesota (US)

Technion Israel Institute of Technology (Israel)

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (US)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (US)

University of Queensland (Australia)

University of Leeds (UK)

University of Tokyo (Japan)

University of Melbourne (Australia)

Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands)

University of Wisconsin-Madison (US)


“While most of these schools are not yet working in these fields, their potential to become leaders in plant-based and clean meat research is impressive,” notes GFI Scientific Foundations Liaison Dr. Erin Rees Clayton. “We would be thrilled to work with them to realize their potential to do cutting-edge science that will ultimately improve global health, food security, and environmental stewardship.”

There have already been examples of universities having a major impact in the space. USDA-funded research at the University of Missouri was key for the plant-based meat company Beyond Meat. Dr. Mark Post’s research at Maastricht University led to the first clean meat burger in 2013, followed by the formation of the clean meat company Mosa Meats. 


“There are so many interesting scientific questions to answer,” says Dr. David Welch, GFI’s Director of Science and Technology. “What are the best cell types and cell culture methods for clean meat production? Which crops produce the best plant-based meats and are best suited for growth in each region of the world? It’s a curious mind’s dream.“


Uma Valeti, MD, Co-founder of clean meat company Memphis Meats, made the move from medicine to meat to maximize his impact. “If I continued as a cardiologist, I might save maybe a few thousand lives over the next thirty years. But if I am successful in helping to change the way meat is made, I could positively impact billions of human lives and trillions of animal lives.”


Postmates Raises $300 Million

Postmates raised $300 million led by Tiger Global Management LLC. As part of this round, Tiger Capital's Scott Schleifer will join the Postmates board of directors. 

 As the creator of on-demand 'anything,' Postmates gives customers, across 400 U.S. cities and Mexico City, access to over 250,000 merchants with real time deliveries. By creating an alternative infrastructure for local and small businesses to compete against online e-commerce giants, Postmates' technologies boosted local brick and mortar retail sales by 4X1 in 2017. 

"The transformation of how commerce moves in cities demands that we build the most innovative tools for businesses to keep up and distribute their products to the modern consumer–efficiently and cost effectively," Postmates CEO and Co-Founder Bastian Lehmann said. "Postmates is proud to be the first and largest on-demand network that is enabling the growth of retail across the country, and today's investment accelerates our ability to pair technology with the vitality of our neighborhoods." 

In addition today's funding announcement, the company also announced: 

  • Gross profit growth averaged over 250 percent in the past four years while gross margins have improved dramatically to nearly 50 percent;
  • Postmates completes millions of deliveries a month, generating over a billion dollars in gross merchandise volume (GMV) annually and driving profitability in 90 percent of its markets.

Carlo’s To Open Fifth Lone Star State Location

Carlo's Bakery will celebrate the grand opening of a full-service bakery on Saturday, Oct. 20 in the new addition of La Plaza Mall in McAllen, Texas. 

The 1,899 square foot Carlo's Bakery will offer the brand's full menu of signature treats including the famous cannoli, lobster tail, cake by the slice and more. 

Cake Boss Buddy Valastro

The grand opening of Carlo's Bakery at La Plaza Mall will be celebrated on Saturday, October 20.

Star Micronics Teams with MunchEm

Star Micronics said  MunchEm has added support for its SP700 and TSP100III printers. . 

MunchEm offers customizable online ordering and content management software to allow restaurants to get ahead of their competition. Its order management platform has allowed restaurants to manage online pickup/delivery orders placed from web/mobile apps, and "skip the line" self-service kiosks. Restaurants can use OrderEm to assign delivery orders to drivers and allow both restaurants and customers to track drivers. 


"Our partnership with Star Micronics has provided our merchant partners tremendous value," says Ricky Rodrigues, Operations Manager of MunchEm. "The chaos that happens in a restaurant during peak hours can be the most hectic among many different industries. We can now ease some of that by having online orders print automatically in a kitchen."

eTouchMenu Partners with Shift4

eTouchMenu™is partnering with Shift4 Payments as their strategic provider of secure payment processing solutions for its restaurant, airport, hotel, retail stores, family entertainment operations and casino customers, worldwide. 

Shift4's complete payment solution is fully integrated and provides eTouchMenu users with everything they need to process payments and operate their property securely and efficiently. This includes a secure payment gateway, point-to-point encrypted EMV devices, merchant services and more. This all-in-one solution combines each piece of the payment process into a single, all-inclusive program for a superior payment experience for staff and guests alike.

"eTouchMenu provides more agnostic options for brands to select the right combination of equipment, integrations and payment flexibility than any other digital menu technology company in the market," said Jon C. Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer of eTouchMenu and House Advantage. "Shift4 Payments fits in with the eTouchMenu brand and culture and melds perfectly with our product philosophy of extending the value of existing system investments through new, innovative and fully integrated solutions such as Shift4's complete payment solution."

"Our suite of payment security technologies and merchant services are a perfect complement to the features and benefits that eTouchMenu users receive," said Jared Isaacman, CEO of Shift4 Payments. "Hospitality businesses can now have the industry's top EMV, tokenization and point-to-point encryption solutions to protect against the damaging effects of a data breach."

Community Coffee's Cold Brew

Community Coffee Company  introduced Community Cold Brew Concentrate for its Coffee Service Division (CSD). Made with 100 percent hand-selected Arabica coffee beans, this smooth and refreshing concentrate offers a premium cold brew that can be enjoyed in both iced and nitrogen-infused formats. 

“With cold brew beverages on the rise, we wanted to offer customers a delicious, high-quality cold brew option,” said John Deutschman, Vice President of the Coffee Service Division at Community Coffee Company. “Community Cold Brew Concentrate delivers a customizable coffee experience that meets the increasing demand for convenient gourmet coffee beverages.” 

Approximately, 59 percent of consumers have ordered iced coffee at least once in the past month from foodservice locations. (Source: Technomic Beverage Consumer Trend Report, 2016). Of those who have tried it, 67 percent of consumers say they like or love cold brew (Source: Flavor Tracker by Datassential, 2018).

Millennials make up 86 percent of the consumers who have tried and love cold brew (Source: Flavor Tracker by Datassential, 2018). Approximately, 22 percent of consumers would like to see cold brew coffee at restaurants. Among 34-and-under consumers, that number is 27 percent. (Source: Technomic Bev. Consumer Trend Report, 2016). 

Community Cold Brew 4:1 Concentrate is shelf-stable and available for purchase in a 32 oz jug.