This edition of MRM’s News Bites features Inspire Brands, Typsy, Flynn Restaurant Group, ezCater, QSR Automations, Cushman & Wakefield, Chew, Impossible Food, Ansira, Pizza Hut, CP Foods and SpotOn.
Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at email@example.com.
Inspire Completes Sonic Deal
Inspire Brands, Inc. completed its $2.3 billion acquisition of Sonic Corp. With the acquisition, Inspire now encompasses more than 8,300 restaurants and generates annual systemwide sales in excess of $12 billion, making it the fifth-largest restaurant company in the United States. In addition to Sonic, Inspire’s restaurant portfolio includes Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Rusty Taco.
“We are thrilled to officially welcome Sonic to the Inspire family,” said Paul Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Inspire Brands. “Sonic and its franchisees have created one of the most successful and distinctive brands in the restaurant industry. We look forward to helping further drive innovation and long-term growth at Sonic and across our growing family of brands.”
As recently announced, Claudia San Pedro will lead the Sonic brand as President. As of today, Cliff Hudson, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sonic, will serve as a Senior Advisor to Sonic until March 2019 to help ensure a smooth transition.
“This is an important and exciting milestone for Sonic,” said San Pedro. “Inspire’s commitment to strategic investments and culture of collaboration will significantly benefit our guests, team members, and franchisees. As part of the Inspire family of brands, Sonic is positioned for growth and to continue our 65-year track record of success.”
Typsy Opens US Office
Australia-based hospitality training and learning experience platform Typsy hit a slew of milestones including expansion into international markets, strategic C-level appointments, and strong growth figures.
The company is now present in more than 15 markets including the US, the UK, Australia, Switzerland, France, the UAE and Japan. Typsy is now servicing a number of new customers across its global markets, including Hyatt Hotels, Statler Hotel at Cornell University, Florida International University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, Solotel (including Matt Moran owned restaurants), Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group (parent company of Meat & Wine Co, Ribs & Burgers) and more.
These new enterprise customers join one of the world’s most prestigious hospitality management schools, Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL). EHL Executive dean Ines Blal said ‘Typsy’s extensive course library, along with our planned custom courses, provides our students with valuable practical knowledge in hospitality”. EHL has also invested in the company, making Typsy the first early stage EduTech investment the school has provided funding for, bringing Typsy’s total capital raised to over $10M AUD.
Typsy’s global customer base has contributed significantly to the company’s growth, with nearly 60 per cent of its business coming from outside Australia. The platform provides bite-sized hospitality training video lessons by the world’s best instructors to upskill people working in the hospitality sector. It’s content library hosts more than 450 video lessons in five languages (English,French, Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi) and more than 208,000 video sessions have been watched on the platform to date.
Typsy’s rapid growth and adoption by hospitality leaders across the world has seen the company attract key hires to the company, which include the likes of former Lynda.com executive and CCO at DeskYogi, Jon Robertson as COO, and Vanguard Australia and Airwallex financial professional Mark Willis, as CFO.
Robertson joins Typsy after holding several leadership positions and advisory roles in notable startups. Most notably he was instrumental in launching and developing the enterprise business division at Lynda.com, helping propel the company to a $100M+ business before being sold to LinkedIn Corporation for $1.5BN.
Commenting on his motivations for joining the company, Robertson said Typsy’s unique value proposition and market traction was impressive, and he looked forward to using his experience to accelerate the company in its the next phase of growth.
Two thirds of the global hospitality workforce is under the age of 25, meaning retention rates need to be improved to enable young people to excel in their careers, as well as attract experienced older people into the industry.
“Typsy is an exciting Australian business with an outstanding team of staff and advisors to drive its growth and vision. The company has developed a business model that can be scaled internationally and satisfy the needs of a highly lucrative market. Typsy’s recent growth and expansion into new countries has been a catalyst for me joining and I’m excited to work alongside a dynamic team committed to making this company an international success,” he said.
Typsy founder and CEO Jonathan Plowright said the platform had been exceptionally well received locally, as well as in global markets, as it works to solve the talent crisis impacting the hospitality industry.
“There are currently around 292 million jobs in the hospitality industry, with that number expected to jump by 88 million by 2027 to meet market demand. The state of the workforce is highly unlikely to meet that demand, unless we’re able to provide the tools to create more career pathways into the industry, and equip employers and staff with the skills they need to build successful careers,” he said.
“Statistics show two thirds of the global hospitality workforce is under the age of 25, meaning retention rates need to be improved to enable young people to excel in their careers, as well as attract experienced older people into the industry. Part of this process is changing the stigma that working in the hospitality industry is just a part time job. By enabling people to access knowledge across a range of faculties, from business and people management to specialist culinary skills, Typsy is on a mission to help people around the world pursue their passions and build rewarding hospitality careers quickly and easily.”
RB American Grows
RB American Group LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Flynn Restaurant Group LP, acquired 368 Arby’s® restaurants throughout the U.S. from United States Beef Corporation (US Beef). Flynn’s, whose portfolio includes Applebee’s®, Panera Bread® and Taco Bell®. RB American Group will be Flynn Restaurant Group’s fourth prominent restaurant brand.
With this acquisition, Flynn Restaurant Group will own and operate a combined total of 1,245 quick-service, fast casual and casual dining restaurants, generating $2.3 billion in sales and employing approximately 50,000 people in 33 states. Flynn Restaurant Group’s subsidiaries include Apple American Group LLC, the largest Applebee’s franchisee; Pan American Group LLC, the second largest Panera Bread franchisee; and Bell American Group, the third largest Taco Bell franchisee. The deal will add $400 million in sales to Flynn’s current $1.9 billion, and just as Flynn was the first franchise operator to exceed $1 billion in sales in 2012, it is now the first to exceed $2 billion in sales.
“We are extremely pleased to announce the addition of these Arby’s locations to our portfolio of restaurants,” said Greg Flynn, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Flynn Restaurant Group. “The Davis family and their team of great operators built a fantastic business over 50 years and we’re privileged to be the ones to shepherd the US Beef restaurants into their next phase. In addition, standing in a category of its own, the Arby’s brand aligns perfectly with our preference for brands that are truly differentiated and ‘best in breed’ in their segments. Benefiting from very strong leadership, the Arby’s brand has achieved great momentum these past few years and we are truly excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
US Beef Chairman, Jeff Davis, felt positive about passing the baton of his 50-year-old company to Flynn Restaurant Group, saying “When we decided to sell US Beef, it was critical for us to find a true restaurateur with a similar family culture who has a penchant for growth and offered opportunities for our people. Greg Flynn and his company have a stellar reputation for diversified expansion and they ideally fit our criteria for the brand’s growth.”
Get Ready for CaterUp!
ezCater announced CaterUp!, a first-of-its kind national conference for restaurant leaders focused on growing their share of the $61.5 billion U.S. catering market. CaterUp! takes place from April 29-May 1 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.
CaterUp! attendees will learn from dozens of their peers who have built thriving catering businesses and hear directly from valuable corporate customers who frequently purchase catering. The conference will cover the latest catering industry data and new strategies to drive revenue growth and operational efficiency. Content for CaterUp! was developed in partnership with restaurants brands and includes speakers from Corner Bakery, P.F. Chang’s, Red Robin, and many more.
“The best people to learn from are those who have done it before or are doing it now,” said Jim Rand, Catering Practice Leader at ezCater. “We’ve gathered experts with decades of experience in restaurant operations and catering to share how they’ve tackled the market and grown their businesses. CaterUp! will be an impactful conference for so many brands.” Rand, who built catering and off-premises businesses for Panera and P.F. Changs, joined ezCater earlier in 2018 and is leading content development for the conference.
Session topics will include the state of the catering industry, using technology to streamline business, building a catering brand, acquiring new customers, and driving demand. Attendees will also have the opportunity to network with fellow restaurant leaders and learn about the newest catering products and services directly from suppliers.
Registration for CaterUp! is now open with an early-bird rate of $399 available until January 25. Event passes include all sessions, keynotes, meals, welcome party, cocktail hour, and a discounted hotel rate. For sponsorship information or more details about CaterUp!, visit www.caterup2019.com.
QSR Teams with Google
QSR Automations has collaborated with Google to integrate DineTime, a reservation management platform, to Reserve with Google.
Reserve with Google allows Google users to discover and book services straight from Google Search and Google Maps. DineTime equipped restaurants will be able to use the booking button built by Google. The integration uses DineTime’s API to serve up restaurants real-time inventory to diners looking for a table. Google users can make a dining reservation directly through web and mobile versions of Google Search and Google Maps.
“Online search is driving businesses today. Google is a window for customers to view services and availability, so operators need to make sure their restaurants are being represented,” said Lee Leet, CEO and Founder of QSR Automations. “Our partnership with Google will connect restaurants to more customers. Reserve with Google puts DineTime restaurants out in front when search intent is high, increasing visibility, reservation bookings and generates more revenue.”
Here’s how customers will reserve a table at DineTime restaurant through Google Search:
- Google users will search for a restaurant
- Simply click on a restaurant within Google Maps or Search
- View the restaurant’s basic information, such as its rating, links to their website, hours of operations, address and more
- Available reservation times will be presented
- Users can confirm a reservation through DineTime without opening a separate application
“Together with Google, we’re making technology more approachable and easier for restaurants to use. We look forward to helping restaurants seamlessly connect with diners using Google as a platform,” continued Leet.
Reserve with Google is now available to DineTime restaurants and diners globally. The partnership will reach more customers with minimal effort and makes booking reservations simple. To learn more informati
Cushman Adds Colicchio Consulting
Phil Colicchio and Trip Schneck, co-founders and principals of Colicchio Consulting, have joined Cushman & Wakefield. The duo will lead the firm’s food, beverage and entertainment procurement — all consulting services and offerings previously provided by Colicchio Consulting are now available through Cushman & Wakefield’s Retail Services platform.
Colicchio and Schneck have long been regarded as leaders in creating elevated F&B and entertainment experiences for shopping center and mixed-use developers, sports and music venues, universities and hotel brands. The team is behind some of the largest luxury F&B projects and food halls to hit the market over the past decade and have collaborated with more than 75 world-class hotels and over 50 James Beard Foundation Award-winning chefs, restaurateurs, beverage professionals, service professionals, and restaurant designers.
In their new role with Cushman & Wakefield, the pair will guide clients in the strategic evaluation, selection and engagement of elevated food, beverage and entertainment options for projects ranging from food halls to signature restaurants and performance spaces. They will also assist hotel developers and operators in creating specialty concepts that improve and reposition unique properties.
“There’s no question about it: retail is evolving,” said Katie Mahon, Senior Managing Director and Strategy and Operations Lead, Americas Retail Services at Cushman & Wakefield. “Today’s consumers clearly favor curated, locals-only experiences, and Cushman & Wakefield’s acquisition of Phil and Trip’s unique credentials underscores our unwavering commitment to meet that growing demand.”
“In the era of newCommerce, we know that retail owners and developers must be nimble yet thoughtful,” said Todd Schwartz, President, Americas Platform and Services Delivery and Lead, Americas Retail Services at Cushman & Wakefield. “Phil and Trip are remarkable strategists with a demonstrated track record in creatingsuccessful elevated food, beverage and entertainment options for all types of assets. We’re confident they will be outstanding advisers to our clients as they develop exciting new concepts that respond to shifting consumer tastes.”
“In an evolving retail environment, experiential and specialty food, beverage and entertainment concepts are critical to success,” Colicchio said. Schneck adds, “We work as true strategists and partners with our clients and from food halls to intimate performance venues, our team understands the importance of authenticity and intelligent programming. We’re thrilled to help clients take advantage of the changing real estate landscape in powerful ways.”
Nursery Takes Over Pilotworks Brooklyn
Nursery, a new purpose-built food and beverage incubator by the team at Chew, announced today the planned reopening of the commercial cooking facility/consumer packaged goods incubator space at 630 Flushing Avenue, formerly known as Pilotworks Brooklyn.
All 190-plus former tenants, who were forced to leave the facility when Pilotworks Brooklyn abruptly ceased operations in October 2018, have been invited to return to their former workspaces.
Ahead of the busy holiday season, Nursery has prioritized the immediate restoration of kitchen operations as quickly as possible. Nursery plans to reopen kitchens later this week, pending final permit approvals.
The Nursery team has created more than 1,400 products in 25 different categories, generating billions of dollars in revenue for its clients and partners over the last five years.
“We feel so honored to open our doors to this wonderful and inspiring community of makers who are not only disrupting the food and beverage industry, but also helping to create the future of how and what we consume.” said Adam Melonas, Founder and CEO of Nursery and Chew. “Our priority is to ensure everyone feels the same excitement we feel in getting Nursery rebuilt the right way, in a sustainable and successful manner. We understand the abrupt closing of the facility by the previous owners has caused real hardship and pain for many, and we have been inspired by the community’s support of those impacted, as well as the resilience of everyone affected. We are dedicated to working closely to rebuild our tenants trust and good faith, and we are thrilled to begin building a new vibrant and dynamic community together. We are not here to simply become another de-facto landlord, or even worse, become the another “WeWork of Something”. We are here to add exponential value to this community and ensure we are working with wildly passionate entrepreneurs, and turning them into viable and impactful companies.”
New entrants to the consumer packaged goods industry face a daunting 85 percent failure rate. The new initiative not only provides smaller scale New York food and beverage operations with high quality physical space but seeks to build a collaborative community of like-minded innovators. Nursery will provide tenants with advice and counsel from industry leaders, help facilitate and cultivate their growth, and set tenants up to perform at the highest levels in a cut-throat food industry landscape.
In its 30,000 square feet of commercial work space, Nursery will provide tenants with access to a wide array of technology that is not normally accessible to start-up companies. In its complete revamp and overhaul of the space, Nursery will introduce new capabilities including: commercial freeze drying, spray drying, dehydration, extrusion, confectionary production, baking technology, and more.
Impossible Foods Wins Halal Certification
Impossible Foods received its halal certification from the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA.) The company’s flagship product, the Impossible Burger, top photo, is now halal certified by IFANCA under the Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) regulations.
“Securing halal certification is a significant milestone for us,” said David Lee, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Impossible Foods. “Our goal is to make plant-based meat available to everyone around the world—including to those who have religious dietary restrictions. We’re thrilled that the Impossible Burger can now be served in halal establishments.”
Earlier this year, Impossible Foods was certified kosher by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (the “Orthodox Union” or OU). In November, Impossible Foods received the highly regarded Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification as administered by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI).
Prior to receiving the certification, a halal auditor visited Impossible Foods’ 68,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Oakland, Calif. The auditor inspected the facilities, reviewed ingredients, and observed the complete production process, before confirming that the ingredients and the plant’s practices are halal-compliant and adhere to Islamic dietary laws, as defined in the Koran.
The Impossible Burger is now available in about 5,000 locations in the United States, Hong Kong and Macau — up from about 50 restaurants one year ago. The company has announced plans to launch in Singapore in 2019, with additional markets to come.
Ansira Partners with Adobe
Ansira Partners, Inc. is now a business-level partner in the Adobe Solution Partner Program, and will work with Adobe to serve clients in the quick serve restaurant (QSR) vertical. The partnership will support both current and prospective QSR clients to better leverage the Adobe Experience Cloud, enhancing customer experiences and delivering real-time personalization to measure impact and maximize marketing value. A marketing technology and services firm that exists to help brands orchestrate, personalize and contextualize customer engagements, Ansira’s client roster spans many verticals from QSR to auto, retail to insurance and many more.
“We look forward to the next phase of our partnership with Adobe,” said Kelly Jo Sands, chief CRM and MarTech officer at Ansira. “Enhanced collaboration with Adobe will help us take full advantage of their industry-leading platforms to further support our client solutions and orchestrate omni-channel personalization at scale.”
“Modernizing technology to provide optimal, personalized customer experiences remains a big challenge for companies in the QSR industry,” said Tony Sanders, senior director of Americas Partner Sales, Adobe. “Ansira has a strong understanding of the QSR industry, and we look forward to working with the team to drive more success for our customers in this vertical.”
Ansira is backed by Advent International, one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors, with deep expertise in the business and financial services sector.
Pizza Hut Acquires QuikOrder
Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc. entered into a definitive agreement to acquire QuikOrder, a leading online ordering software and service provider for the restaurant industry. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it marks one of Pizza Hut’s largest acquisitions to date.
By acquiring QuikOrder’s online ordering capabilities, Pizza Hut U.S. will improve its ability to deliver an easy and personalized online ordering experience and accelerate digital innovation across its base of more than 6,000 restaurants in the U.S. In 2018, approximately half of Pizza Hut U.S. sales were processed through QuikOrder’s platform. Founded in 1997, QuikOrder specializes in developing and maintaining internet-ordering systems used across the QSR industry. It has served Pizza Hut U.S. for nearly two decades. Over that time, it has built an expert team that fully understands and meets Pizza Hut’s specific needs. The acquisition will include: Pizza Hut’s current digital ordering platforms, systems and services and QuikOrder’s in-restaurant technology and ancillary services, as well as its future generation products and programming.
“We’re doubling down on our commitment to digital and this deal positions Pizza Hut perfectly for the future,” said Artie Starrs, President of Pizza Hut U.S. “We’re also gaining access to an immensely talented group of developers and digital innovators. Together we can more quickly provide breakthrough products and convenient services to our customers that will allow for better franchise economics over the long term.”
The proposed acquisition supports Pizza Hut’s strategic commitment to further expand its digital capabilities, by taking full advantage of the stable, highly customized platform that QuikOrder developed for Pizza Hut in a way that provides greater flexibility and efficiency. This builds on the strides Pizza Hut has made over the past year, since entering into its Transformation Agreement with its franchisees, focused on improving operations and accelerating technology enhancements and e-commerce capabilities. In this time, Pizza Hut has introduced a range of innovative online ordering tools and services, such as a delivery tracker with text alerts, easy order options through voice-enabled digital assistants and social, and Hut Rewards, the only national pizza loyalty program that rewards members for every dollar spent on food online.
Greg Creed, Yum! Brands Chief Executive Officer, stated, “Yum! is always looking for ways to make our brands more distinctive, relevant and easy for customers who want delicious food at an irresistible value. The acquisition strengthens the brand’s digital roadmap and innovation and aligns with the strategy we put in place to drive Pizza Hut’s growth. We’re excited by the opportunity this acquisition presents, and the future potential to scale QuikOrder’s technology across the Yum! family.”
“We’ve enjoyed a long and successful partnership with Pizza Hut and I couldn’t be more pleased by this next phase of our relationship,” said Jim Kargman, QuikOrder CEO. “Technology and innovation are the backbone of this business and I’m excited by what the future holds.”
Pizza Hut’s acquisition of QuikOrder is expected to close this month, subject to standard closing conditions.
Bellisio Acquires FSI
Bellisio Foods, Inc., part of the CP Foods worldwide family of companies entered into a definitive agreement with Swander Pace Capital to acquire Frozen Specialties, Inc. (FSI), a producer of frozen pizza and Pizza Bites® based in Perrysburg, Ohio. The acquisition closed last week and will be folded under Overhill Farms, Inc, a national leader in private label, co-manufacturing and foodservice products.
“This acquisition of FSI brings together our vibrant, growing companies who share an expertise in delivering delicious, exciting brands and private label products to retail customers that delight consumers,” said Ken Stickevers, President and CEO at Bellisio Foods, Inc.
FSI is a producer of private label and co-manufactured frozen Value Pizza and Pizza Bites and supports nearly every major retailer across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Through its production facility in Archbold, Ohio, FSI is an Organic Certified Manufacturer, and also offers products certified under the Gluten-Free Certification Organization.
“We’re excited by the innovation and national plant network we can now bring to our private label, co-manufacturing and foodservice customers. The complementary product portfolios and product expertise across our company will benefit our North American and Asian customers,” stated Terry O’Brien, President of Overhill Farms, Inc.
SpotOn merchants will soon be able to process transactions using cryptocurrency including Bitcoin, Stellar, Ripple and Ethereum through its new partnership with Vaultbank, a technology company that uses blockchain to create, issue and trade financial instruments.
“Today’s ever-evolving digital market demands that merchants need a payment service capable of accepting a wider diversity of currencies including virtual currencies,” said RJ Horsley, SpotOn President. “Our new technology will allow thousands of SpotOn merchants to accept cryptocurrency without having to onboard to another payment processor or manually convert cryptocurrency funds into fiat.”
The new feature will allow customers to pay in the currency of their choice, while the merchant can either convert the payment back to fiat currency or keep in cryptocurrency if desired. Additional features to be added in the future include the ability for merchants to have loyalty capabilities in cryptocurrency and the ability to buy/sell/trade cryptocurrency on the SpotOn platform.
SpotOn’s partnership with Vaultbank stemmed from investment in Vaultbank’s seed round of funding. Vaultbank is innovating the convergence of two worlds, traditional investments and cryptocurrencies. By creating a single platform for buying, selling, and spending crypto investments as well as tokenizing securities, Vaultbank is paving the future of financial services. Vaultbank intends to generate profits and distribute dividends to Vaultbank token holders, with each private security token representing a partial ownership stake in Vaultbank.
Aaron Travis, the COO of Vaultbank, said, “This partnership empowers the customer to pay in whatever digital currency they want, while the merchant gets paid in what they want, dollars.”
SpotOn was built on the premise of bringing valuable payment and software solutions to a wide array of customers. With the launch of SpotOn cryptocurrency, small business owners will now have another option to upgrade and grow their business with an all-in-one platform that helps simplify running their business.