Gamification Menu in Vegas and JBF Angel Award Winners

The #TantalizingTuesday edition of MRM’s Daily Bite features ThinkFoodEntertainment, a division of chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, and Allied Esports, The James Beard Foundation (JBF), Taco John’s, Newk’s Eatery and Morton Salt.

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First Esports-Inspired F&B Program

ThinkFoodEntertainment, a division of chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, and Allied Esports will partner to develop the first esports-inspired food and beverage program. Esports Arena Las Vegas, the Strip’s first esports venue, will debut the one-of-a-kind menu when it opens at MGM Resorts International’s Luxor Hotel and Casino in early 2018.

Jose Andres
Photo by Ryan Forbes

Andrés and the ThinkFoodEntertainment team will create a unique and highly researched culinary program designed for gaming enthusiasts and visitors from around the world who will take part in the arena’s cutting-edge, interactive entertainment offerings. The menu will reflect innovative items catered to gamers, with portions crafted with efficiency in mind.  

“Like the rest of Esports Arena Las Vegas, the food and beverage offering will be unlike anything seen across the industry, and José and his team are the perfect fit for that kind of culinary inspiration,” said Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports International. “Whether you are a regular gamer or a first-time visitor, you will leave Esports Arena Las Vegas wanting more, and the unique food experience will be a major part of that sentiment.”

Logo Allied Esports

Andrés noted, “I happen to be an avid gamer myself, so I was excited to have the opportunity to create an experience for the esports guest – whether they are playing or just enjoying the show! My team and I are working to create a menu that is delicious, but also practical for the gaming environment. The development process has been a lot of fun as we determine what gamers will want to enjoy while playing!”

This partnership marks the fifth concept for Andrés in Las Vegas. His other restaurants include Jaleo Las Vegas, é by José Andrés, China Poblano and Bazaar Meat by José Andrés. Andrés also opened Fish by José Andrés at MGM National Harbor in December 2016.

Earlier this year, Allied Esports announced plans with Luxor for the creation of Esports Arena Las Vegas, which will be the flagship location of the company’s growing global network of esports properties spanning North America, Europeand China. Allied Esports and Esports Arena are working with Luxor to transform the 30,000-square-foot space into a multi-level arena with a competition stage, LED video wall, telescopic seating, daily gaming stations, and state-of-the-art streaming and television-quality production studios. The arena will provide a ready-to-go championship destination for tournaments, leagues and high stakes match-ups in a setting designed to deliver an unparalleled fan experience.

JBF Angel Award Winners

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) named Chris and Meredith Powell as the recipients of its 2017 Angel Award, which is granted annually to an individual or group that has demonstrated significant financial support for its programs. As founders of the community-focused kitchen, supper club, and catering company, Orange Door Hospitality, the Powells are being honored with the Angel Award for their extraordinary contributions to JBF, as well as to the food world at large.

James Beard Foundation (JBF) executive vice president Mitchell Davis, JBF president Susan Ungaro, 2017 Angel Award recipients Chris and Meredith Powell, and JBF vice president Kris Moon at the Chariman’s Circle reception at Eleven Madison Park.
Photo by Clay Williams / Courtesy of the James Beard Foundation)

Since 2013, the Powells have supported a range of JBF Impact Programs, such as the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, and helped the Foundation to bring together chefs, farmers, food companies, and others in the culinary community to dissect issues and facilitate participation around the biggest challenges facing today’s society, including food waste, sustainable agriculture, and labor equity.

“We are delighted to recognize Chris and Meredith Powell of the Osprey Foundation for their generous support towards our Chefs Boot Camps and broader Impact Programs,” said Kris Moon, vice president of the James Beard Foundation. “Chris and Meredith’s work within the food industry is truly remarkable, and their contributions to the James Beard Foundation have aided us in addressing the issue of sustainability within today’s culinary world. Having one or both of them in attendance at almost every Chefs Boot Camp we’ve hosted since 2013 has provided a valuable connection and resource for chefs who are just beginning to work in more traditional, philanthropic settings.”

In addition to Orange Door Hospitality and their involvement with JBF, the Powells both serve as trustees for the Osprey Foundation—whose goal it is to empower individuals and communities through education, health, economic opportunity, and human rights in a sustainable way. Through the leveraging of strategic grants and partnerships, the Powells have spearheaded the Osprey Foundation’s Good Food Advocacy Movement, aimed at securing easy access to good food for all Americans.

“The James Beard Foundation’s Impact Programs have, in many ways, become the cornerstone of our philanthropic efforts to improve America’s food system,” said Chris Powell. “Whether it is training chefs to be advocates at their Chefs Boot Camps for Policy and Change, convening thought leaders at their annual Food Summit, or the myriad other Impact Programs, the James Beard Foundation’s spirit of innovation and their ability to execute make them the organization to watch in the next decade when it comes to food systems change.”

With the generous support of the Powells and the Osprey Foundation, among others, JBF’s Chefs Boot Camp has been able invite more than 150 chefs to participate in the program since its launch in 2012. Chefs who have participated have gone on to become powerful advocates on issues they deeply connect with, both personally and professionally. For more information about the Chefs Boot Camp, click here.

Chris and Meredith Powell are the 20th recipients of the JBF’s Angel Award, which is traditionally bestowed as part of JBF’s Chairman’s Circle event celebrating partnership and support of its higher-level members. First presented in 1994, past honorees of the Angel Award include: Barbara Kafka, Arthur Abelman, Fritz Maytag, Michael Ginor, Diane Kern, Jean-Louis Palladin, Zov Karamardian, Peter Cameron, Don Pritchard, Saori Kawano, Fred Carl, Jr. of Viking Range Corporation, John Washko, George Sape, Tracy McSorley, Victoria Mastrobuono, Michael Phillips, Anne Quatrano, Steven and Joshua Elkes, and Grace Communications Foundation. For additional information regarding the Angel Award and JBF supporters, click here.

100 Store Deal Brings Taco John’s to the Carolinas

Taco John’s announced the largest development deal in company history with at least 100 new locations planned for North and South Carolina along with Georgia.

“Taco John’s has an incredible following and history of success – we continue to be impressed by the brand,” said Caleb McMillen, chief operating officer for American Development Partners.  “We can’t wait to introduce these markets to the iconic, quality food of Taco John’s. We have aggressive development plans for the next 24 to 36 months.”

Taco John’s franchisee, Superior Taco, has partnered with American Development Partners (ADP) to develop restaurants in areas including Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Greenville, Spartanburg, Augusta, Columbia and Savannah. Superior Taco is led by Ivan Lenoir an experienced multi-unit operator in the World of Beer franchise system who also has a legal background in commercial real estate, finance, transactions, and franchise law. American Development Partners is experienced with national brands and currently has partnerships to develop other nationally known concepts including Dog Haus, Church’s Chicken, Captain D’s and Checkers.

“The ADP team is great at using their extensive knowledge of the restaurant industry to develop very successful locations,” said Van Ingram, Vice President of Development for Taco John’s. “We appreciate their partnership and look forward to watching them bring our bold and fresh flavors to a whole new market.”

Taco John’s operates and franchises nearly 400 quick-service restaurants in 23 states. Privately owned, the business opened its first restaurant in 1969 in Cheyenne, WY. 

Newk’s Eatery Franchisees Expand Development Agreements

Four existing franchisees of fast casual restaurant brand Newk’s Eatery will expand their franchise agreements. Citing confidence in the brand’s continued growth and the strength of its offering, the franchisees will open new locations in Florida, Tennessee and Georgia, all booming markets for the brand. 

Newk’s saw double-digit revenue growth this year and expanded into the West and Midwest. This success, combined with strong training and operational support, has fueled franchise development, according to Newk’s Chief Development Officer Chris Cheek.

Opening of the Newks Vicksburg location.

“Newk’s continues to outperform the industry, with average unit volumes exceeding $2 million and an ever-increasing loyal customer base,” said Cheek. “We will close out 2017 with a positive outlook for growth, with both new and existing franchisees.” 

The franchisees with expanded franchise agreements are:

  • Paul Williams, an Atlanta-based franchisee who opened his first Newk’s this month in Smyrna, Georgia. He expanded his territory to include Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tennessee. He plans to open a total of six locations in northern Atlanta and four in Tennessee.
  • NELA Dining, led by Rebecca Fuller, which currently owns and operates three Newk’s eateries in Monroe and Ruston, Louisiana. The company has committed to open four locations in Naples, Florida, a new market for Newk’s.
  • Jay Medley, who committed to open four additional locations in Greater Atlanta. He currently owns and operates two area locations, with a third opening this month in Canton. 
  • Missy Moon, who is also expanding in Greater Atlanta. She currently owns and operates two restaurants and now plans to open two additional restaurants.

In addition to strong financials, Newk’s credits innovation for the surge in franchise growth. In 2017, the brand rolled out a new construction process that saves franchisees up to $100,000 on new builds. In 2018, it will expand its to-go menu, with a new “Newk’s Express Market” to support increasing demand for off-premise dining.

“When we founded Newk’s in 2004, we committed to a rate of growth that allowed us to maintain our high standards for food, service quality and thoughtful development,” said Newk’s CEO and co-founder Chris Newcomb. “The Newk’s Eatery concept has been developed and refined to meet the needs of consumers and franchise operators alike, truly carving out a unique point of difference.”

In 2017, Newk’s expanded into 10 new markets and added over 50 new franchise unit commitments. It will end the year with more than 120 restaurants.

Getting Salty About Food Waste

Approximately 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. goes to waste. Morton Salt wants to make food waste disappear with its new “Erase Food Waste” campaign developed to help educate consumers about the issue and create opportunities for broad-scale change. The  campaign kicks off with a thought-provoking video series produced in collaboration with Oscar-nominated director Bryan Buckley. The videos will run on digital and social platforms during the holiday season, when significantly more food waste occurs.

“We want to change the way people think about food because Morton Salt believes food should be treasured, not trashed,” said Denise Lauer, Chief Marketing Officer, Morton Salt, Inc. “The social, economic and environmental impact of food waste makes us salty, and our journey to reduce it starts today.”

“Erase Food Waste” is an integrated campaign that includes film, digital and social media, out-of-home advertising, chef and influencer partnerships, and educational tools.

At the center of the campaign is the “Questions” video series, which unwraps the reality of the food waste epidemic through biting social commentary. The goal of the series is to challenge viewers to change the conversation about food and question the behaviors that lead to food waste at home, dining out or when shopping. The videos feature tongue-in-cheek scenarios that pivot to a powerful ending and invite viewers to join the movement to #EraseFoodWaste.

The “Erase Food Waste” campaign will be bolstered with online and social activations featuring Chicago-based chef, restauranteur and “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef” winner Stephanie Izard.

Izard joined forces with Morton Salt to create recipes and simple tips that every home cook can adopt to do their part to erase food waste. Her quick and easy every day tips will appear in social media and on

“We need to take the issue of food waste seriously, which has always been a passion of mine as a chef and business owner,” said Izard. “A few small changes can significantly reduce the amount of food we toss out, from planning out meals, to reimagining leftovers, to using every part of an ingredient.”

“Erase Food Waste” is the latest campaign for “Walk Her Walk,” Morton Salt’s brand promise to make a real, tangible difference in the world. “Walk Her Walk” is inspired by the Morton Salt Girl, whose iconic image and unstoppable spirit will be harnessed to help spread the “Erase Food Waste” movement.

To launch its long-term commitment to reduce food waste, the salt trail that has poured from the Morton Salt Girl’s canister over the past century will symbolically disappear temporarily in digital and social media for the start of the campaign, including out-of-home advertising in Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco.

In addition, Morton aims to eliminate food waste at its offices and operations by 2030. This target will be driven by a variety of strategies and initiatives including efficiencies that reduce waste salt in Morton Salt’s production processes, investments in infrastructure at the company’s facilities, and reuse/recycle efforts throughout the organization.

Morton will also work with consumers, communities, business partners, trade associations, non-profit organizations and other engaged stakeholders to identify ways to create collective action to fight food waste in an effort to address hunger in our communities and protect our planet. In 2017, Morton Salt donated more than 500,000 pounds of food grade products to Feeding America and other reuse organizations as part of its commitment.