This edition of MRM News Bites features TouchBistro, Kitchen United, Jame Beard Foundation, US Foods, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Deputy and Revel Systems, , Virtual Restaurant Consulting, RWS Facility Services and Paco Roncero.
TouchBistro Raises $158 Million
TouchBistro raised CDN$158 million in Series E funding. The round was led by OMERS Growth Equity with participation from Barclays Bank, RBC Ventures, BMO Capital Partners, and existing investors including OMERS Ventures, JPMorgan Chase, Napier Park Financial Partners, BDC IT Venture Fund, and Kensington Capital Partners. The funds will be used by TouchBistro to acquire complementary products that broaden the company’s capabilities, support the development of technology advancements, expand its presence in international markets, and increase the size of its team over the next year.
More than 16,000 restaurants in over 100 countries use the award-winning TouchBistro iPad POS and payments solution. TouchBistro processes more than US$11 billion annually and is used to streamline and simplify all aspects of running a restaurant – from order taking, payment processing, menu management, and accounting, to reporting, inventory management, staff scheduling, and customer loyalty.
“The global restaurant industry is undergoing a technology renaissance, and TouchBistro is leading the way in driving the industry forward,” says Alex Barrotti, CEO and founder of TouchBistro. “We have teamed up with some of the largest financial institutions in key markets around the world to provide our customers with enriched payment services and easier access to financial services. We are proud of these strong partnerships and plan to build on this model as we expand our global footprint.”
This quarter, TouchBistro announced partnerships with Barclaycard in the UK and EVO Payments in Mexico to provide integrated payment solutions that streamline processes for restaurants, drive operational efficiency, and reduce human errors associated with the bill-paying process. Last year, TouchBistro announced TouchBistro Payments powered by WePay, a JPMorgan Chase company, to streamline payment processing for restaurants in the US.
“We are particularly proud to be working with OMERS, a great partner for TouchBistro, because it has the unique ability to invest in companies at all stages of the growth lifecycle – from our earlier stage of development, through to the period of rapid growth we are entering, and beyond. The timing could not be better to invest even more aggressively in scaling our business,” said Barrotti. “We are at an inflection point with our annual growth rate accelerating close to 100 percent by gaining share of wallet per customer, going up market to more lucrative customers, and expanding into international markets. At least half of all new restaurants that open in Toronto use TouchBistro and we are confident we can achieve that level of success in other cities all over the world.”
“We invest in companies that we believe can grow to be the leaders in their sector. We are also passionate about growth, innovation, and making tomorrow better, three key areas that align with Alex Barrotti’s vision for TouchBistro,” said Mark Shulgan, Managing Director and Head of OMERS Growth Equity. “Alex and his team have built a high-growth and durable global software business that has led the restaurant industry’s platform shift from legacy POS to mobile and cloud.”
“Last year we led TouchBistro’s Series D round. Since then, the company has exceeded our performance expectations and we are increasing our commitment by investing in this funding round,” added Damien Steel, Managing Partner and Head of OMERS Ventures. “We invest in and partner with the best and brightest entrepreneurs in tech to build a prosperous future. Alex Barrotti and TouchBistro have proven to be a perfect fit in our portfolio.”
Kitchen United Closes $40M Funding
Kitchen United closed on its $40 million Series B funding round. The round was co-led by RXR Realty and GV, with participation by certain funds managed by Fidelity Investments Canada ULC, DivcoWest and G Squared. Existing investors and founders John Miller, Harry Tsao and others also participated in the round.
As part of its relationship with RXR Realty, Kitchen United will be entering the New York City market, with kitchen centers opening in RXR and other properties in the tristate area. The company continues to seek out attractive properties in its primary growth markets, which include New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston.
“We share Kitchen United’s vision for the future of the restaurant industry and believe the consumer shift toward off-premise dining is already having a huge impact on both residential and commercial real estate,” said Scott Rechler, Chairman & CEO of RXR Realty. “We are thrilled to be an early supporter of Kitchen United and look forward to working together to change how New Yorkers live, work, play, and stay.”
“In just over two years, we have only scratched the surface on the massive opportunity for brands to serve their guests where they want to be served, which is increasingly outside their traditional four wall space,” said Jim Collins, CEO of Kitchen United. “We’re incredibly appreciative of our investors who understand the opportunity we present as a strategic real estate partner, meeting the needs of the top restaurant brands in the country as they find new ways to serve their loyal customers.”
With locations open in Pasadena and Chicago, Kitchen United will soon open in Scottsdale and Austin, with additional sites under construction in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major markets.
JBF Regional Changes
The James Beard Foundation announced changes to the regional categories of its annual Restaurant & Chef Awards. The regional Best Chef awards, which previously consisted of 10 distinct geographic areas, will expand to 12, and certain states will be reconfigured into new regions to recognize changing population data, restaurant demographics, and culinary trends. These changes will go into effect in advance of the October 1, open recommendation period for the 2020 Awards.
Every few years the Foundation, along with its Restaurant and Chef Awards subcommittee, contracts with outside demographic consultants to analyze census data and the shifting restaurant landscape to strive for balance in regional representation at the Awards. Over the past year, population statistics per state were examined against restaurant data to form the 12 regions with the goal of being as evenly distributed and culturally distinct as possible. Based on the most recent study, the following changes will be made:
- California will be removed from the “West” region and become its own regional category
- The “West” and “Northwest” categories will be partially combined into a new “Northwest & Pacific” category which will now consist of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington
- The remaining states from the former “Northwest” category will join Colorado in the newly minted “Mountain” category, which will consist fully of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming
- Texas will become its own regional category
- The Southwest, having lost Texas and Colorado to the new redistricting, will now consist of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Nevada, the latter which joins from its previous “West” status
- “New York City,” the five boroughs which have been a standalone category since the inception of the Awards, will now be joined with the rest of New York State, formerly part of the “Northeast”, to form the “New York State” region, encompassing the city and the state in its entirety
- The remaining “Northeast” category remains the same minus New York, and now consists fully of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
Categories that remain unchanged are “Great Lakes,” “Midwest,” “Mid-Atlantic,” “South,” and “Southeast”
“The national restaurant scene and the populations that fuel it are constantly shifting,” said James Beard Foundation Chief Strategy Officer Mitchell Davis. “We understand that as a Foundation, we must continually adapt to serve our community as fairly as possible. Our regional Best Chef categories have undergone several geographic shifts in the past to account for demographic changes found in our research and our experience with the dynamic culinary communities around the country. The last changes were implemented in 2012. By increasing our regional awards from 10 to 12 we are recognizing the explosion of food and restaurant culture across the country, and we are pleased to share this news with the food and hospitality community and all those who follow our annual Awards.”
The regional category changes affect not only those considered for the Awards themselves, but also the governing bodies that oversee the Awards process. Changes to both the subcommittee that oversees the Restaurant and Chef awards, which has seats assigned to each region, and the voting body of judges have been made accordingly. The new regions will also affect the number of America’s Classics honorees: the Foundation has historically had five honorees per year, accounting for half of the regions across the U.S. and alternating every other year. The change from 10 to 12 regions means that there will be six America’s Classics honorees annually, but the process of selection and rotating regions bi-annually will remain the same.
Get the Scoop on Fall Scoop
US Foods Holding Corp. launched Fall Scoop 2019 (Fall Scoop), which focuses on “Global Discovery Made Easy” and showcases products with Latin American, Asian and Middle Eastern influences. With 54 percent of consumers saying they have gone out of their way to try a novel global food, today’s diners are hungry to explore new flavors from all over the world.
To help restaurant operators stay competitive and meet this growing demand, US Foods collaborated with nationally recognized chefs, Chef Diana Dávila, Chef Thai Dang and Chef Sameh Wadi to advise on many of the globally inspired products featured in the new Fall Scoop line up. Chef Dávila is the chef and owner of Mi Tocaya Antojería in Chicago; Chef Dang is the executive chef and owner of HaiSous, also in Chicago; and Chef Wadi is the executive chef and owner of World Street Kitchen in Minneapolis.
“Today’s diners are more adventurous, and they expect diverse, authentic food experiences,” said Stacey Kinkaid, vice president, product development and innovation, US Foods. “Chef Dávila, Chef Dang and Chef Wadi shared incredibly helpful insights and feedback on Scoop products with Latin American, Middle Eastern and Asian influences, such as al pastor, beef shawarma and bulgogi beef. By focusing our efforts on items our operators would normally not have the time, resources or experience to create on their own, we have delivered turnkey solutions they can add to their menus with confidence.”
Spicing Up the Menu with Latin American Flavors
US Foods partnered with Chef Dávila to bring the flavors of Latin America to Fall Scoop. She was a 2019 finalist for the coveted James Beard Award (Best Chef: Great Lakes) and a 2018 semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category. She is a recognized authority on Mexican cuisine and drew from her almost 20 years in the restaurant industry to advise on Scoop products such as the Chef’s Line All Natural* Al Pastor.
“Creating al pastor with US Foods was an exciting challenge because it’s typically a street food in Mexico that takes time and special equipment to prepare,” said Chef Dávila. “In staying true to the authentic dish, the Chef’s Line All Natural* Al Pastor was cooked on a spit, so the meat comes in shaved slices with charring. It’s a savory and delicious product that is already seasoned so it can quickly be prepared and added to any meal.”
Fall Scoop products made with the ingredients and flavors of Latin America include:
- Chef’s Line All Natural* Al Pastor: This all natural* whole muscle, boneless pork shoulder is hand-stacked on a vertical spit, fire-seared and sliced from the cone and seasoned with a Mexican-inspired blend, including annatto, onion powder, garlic powder, lime juice and apple cider vinegar. This item also complies with US Foods’ Unpronounceables List aimed at producing products with simple, more recognizable ingredients.
- Monarch Fire Roasted Corn and Poblano Peppers Blend with Onions: Fire-roasted with char marks, this time-saving, versatile dish is a blend of sweet corn, poblano peppers and yellow onions, and contains no oil or added seasonings.
- del Pasado Mini Chile Rellenos: Inspired by the popular Mexican entrée, this product features diced, roasted poblano peppers blended with mozzarella and Cotija cheeses and is battered with corn masa. It is easily paired with a variety of dipping sauces.
Helping Authentic Asian Cuisine Go Mainstream
Asian cuisine has become a staple in many people’s diets, with 54 percent of consumers eating foods influenced by Asian cuisine at least once per month.2 US Foods partnered with Chef Thai Dang, a two-times James Beard Award semifinalist (Best New Restaurant and Best Chef: Great Lakes), to advise on products with multiple culinary influences from Asia, including Korean, Vietnamese and Taiwanese. Chef Dang is known for his innovative and modern takes on classic Vietnamese dishes at HaiSous, which was recently recognized by Thrillist as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in America.
“I was excited to share my creativity with US Foods and adapt some of my favorite Asian flavors into the new Fall Scoop products,” said Chef Dang. “The Chef’s Line All Natural* Bulgogi Beef stands out for me because it can be served in so many ways, like in a stir fry, lettuce wrap or even as a bulgogi poutine. Operators can put their own spin on a product like this and turn it into a dish they know their diners will love.”
Highlights of Fall Scoop products made with Asian influences include:
- Patuxent Farms Red Curry Seasoned Popcorn Chicken: This whole muscle white meat chicken is fully cooked and lightly seasoned with Thai-style red curry. In fact, the use of red curry instead of the traditional yellow curry was a result of Chef Dang’s culinary influence. This popcorn chicken is a versatile and time-saving product with an on-trend flavor profile influenced by the popular Taiwanese street food.
- Chef’s Line All Natural* Bulgogi Beef: This Korean cuisine favorite is made from a whole muscle USDA Choice Beef and marinated in a Korean-style sauce that includes soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and onions. This item also complies with US Foods’ Unpronounceables List initiative.
- Pacific Jade Korean BBQ Style Spring Roll: This dish helps restaurant operators bring global flavor in a handheld format and includes flavors reminiscent of traditional Korean BBQ, including tender beef, vermicelli, gochujang, pear purée and mirin.
Bringing Layers of Middle Eastern Flavors
Diners are increasingly seeking out Middle Eastern food, with 51 percent of consumers preferring to eat Middle Eastern food at a restaurant rather than making it at home.3 US Foods partnered with Chef Sameh Wadi, a self-described “spice connoisseur” who is well known for his creative use of spices, to bring US Foods customers Middle Eastern products that remain true to their authentic flavors. Chef Wadi is also a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year and takes a contemporary approach to Middle Eastern cuisine.
“I think the reason so many people love Middle Eastern food is because it’s often made with darker spices and ingredients that have layers of flavor, and shawarma is a great example of that,” said Chef Wadi. “I’m really proud of how well the Chef’s Line All Natural* Beef Shawarma can translate for operators’ menus. We tried a few versions to get the seasoning just right, and through different tastings and iterations we created a delicious blend of spices that takes the product to the next level.”
Highlights of Fall Scoop products made with Middle Eastern culinary influences include:
- Chef’s Line All Natural* Beef Shawarma: This all natural* product is produced in an authentic process: marinated, hand-stacked and carved from cone and seasoned with authentic Middle Eastern-style spices, then flame-seared.
- Devonshire Premium Cheesecake Topped with Honey and Almonds: This decadent cheesecake offers Middle Eastern flavors and is made with mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, real honey and a cardamom-spiced graham cracker crust.
Southern Hospitality Made Easy
Fall Scoop was also enhanced with items featuring a Southern U.S. flair, which were created in collaboration with US Foods’ Southern region chefs. These foods include the Devonshire Croissant Beignet, a twist on the classic beignet made with croissant dough, and del Pasado Chile con Queso Dip, which features a cheddar cheese base and blend of peppers.
Del Mar Coming to Naples, Florida
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants recently leased a two-story building in Naples, Florida, and will spend the next several months transforming the space into Del Mar, a full-service restaurant, offering the best of coastal-inspired dishes and cocktails. The more than 9,000-square-foot space boasts two terraces overlooking Fifth Avenue.
With a menu similar to its sister restaurant in the Short North Arts District in Columbus, Ohio, Del Mar Naples also will offer more seafood options, an enhanced wine list and more. The restaurant will be fanatical about freshness and will offer only the highest quality fare from sea, garden and farm.
CMR also owns and operates Ocean Prime, located adjacent to the Inn on Fifth, 699 5th Ave. in Naples. Renowned for its prime seafood, steaks, handcrafted cocktails and genuine hospitality, Ocean Prime Naples opened in December 2016.
Cracker Barrel Celebrates Half Century
Fifty years ago , Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, top photo, made its debut in the small town of Lebanon, Tennessee.
In 1969, a Tennessee man named Dan Evins saw an unmet need. The Interstate was expanding –connecting people to new places – but people on the move couldn’t count on a consistent, quality place to stop along the way, stretch their legs, refuel and find a good meal at a fair price. Evins had a vision to build an old country store to meet their needs – a place that preserved the ingredients of country life to share with travelers on the road and families from nearby.
Before Evins knew it, the idea was much bigger than him. Built by hard work, a mission of Pleasing People, strong values, and genuine hospitality, the cooks, servers, operators and Evins’ Uncle Herschel McCartney – described as the “soul” of Cracker Barrel – created more than a refreshing stop along one’s journey. They set an iconic American table for generations to come.
Evins was passionate about recreating old country stores from his childhood while providing a place for friends and family to reconnect over a good meal. Fittingly, he selected the name Cracker Barrel to pay homage to one of America’s original gathering places. Crackers were delivered to those old country stores in barrels, and people would congregate around them to discuss the news of the day – the original water coolers.
Today, Cracker Barrel has 660 locations in 45 states across the nation, welcoming guests home to a simpler time and place, where they are treated like family, with warmth and care. To highlight some of the people and stories that have made Cracker Barrel a home-away-from-home, the company is encouraging guests to celebrate its golden anniversary by sharing their own #CrackerBarrelMoment on social media throughout the remainder of the year.
“Cracker Barrel has been one of America’s beloved home-away-from-homes for 50 years, serving as a familiar sign that greets travelers and local communities alike,” said Cracker Barrel President and Chief Executive Officer Sandra B. Cochran. “Our concept was built around a mission of Pleasing People, which is not just about setting a great meal in front of our guests, but serving them with warmth and kindness. What keeps people coming through our doors year after year is a sense of human connection and being treated like family.”
Cracker Barrel has celebrated several milestones along its 50-year journey – from becoming a publicly traded companyin 1981; creating the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Foundation in 1993 to support charitable programs including those that lift up America’s military families; forming Cracker Barrel Cares in 2005, which is an employee-funded nonprofit organization that helps Cracker Barrel employees in times of need; launching the fast casual concept Holler & Dash in 2016; and most recently expanding to the West Coast in 2018 – all while staying true to the brand’s roots of creating a unique experience filled with hospitality for every family in America.
During its 50th year, Cracker Barrel celebrated with guests in two big ways. In April, the company launched Southern Fried Chicken, making it one of the few casual-dining restaurants with national reach offering bone-in fried chicken to its guests. Beginning in July, Cracker Barrel has highlighted the contributions of women in country music by celebrating some of the industry’s most talented artists and shining a spotlight on the next generation through the “Five Decades, One Voice” program.
Deputy Integrates with Revel
Deputy launched a new integration with Revel Systems that syncs sales data information from the Revel POS with Deputy’s scheduling software to help business leaders appropriately schedule and manage employees based on sales volume and demand signals and save time on administrative tasks.
Key features of the integration include:
- Eliminating the need for dual employee entry. The combined Deputy and Revel solution removes the need for dual entry for employee data when onboarding new team members. Deputy and Revel now enable employee records to sync directly from one platform to the next.
- Faster payroll execution. Managers can approve and run payroll in a few easy steps by automatically syncing timesheet data from Revel to Deputy.
“We see too many managers laser-focused on low-level tasks that end up taking hours away from connecting with customers, their employees and other valuable activities,” said Ashik Ahmed, Deputy CEO and co-founder. “Our new partnership with Revel will save businesses and managers a significant amount of time, allowing easier coordination of their staff and payroll, all from their mobile device, all in one application.”
Deputy users can connect to teams regardless of device — including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Android, managing their workforce from any location.
“Both Revel and Deputy share a mission to make work life easier for business owners everywhere,” said Reggie Kimble, Revel vice president of product management. “Our combined offering helps businesses better care for employees and staff, while also making day-to-day processes more efficient. We’re excited to have Deputy as a valued member of the Revel Integrated program.”
Virtual Restaurant Consulting
Food delivery's fast growth, fueled by the proliferation of online order platforms and rapidly changing consumer habits, has massively disrupted the brick-and-mortar restaurant business, forcing many restaurateurs to re-evaluate their traditional business model.
Virtual Restaurant Consulting (VRC) created the Virtual Restaurant Builder™, an online program offering unparalleled insight critical to opening a profitable virtual restaurant— a delivery-only restaurant without a physical space for customers to dine in. Virtual restaurants operate out of an existing restaurant kitchen or out of a rented commercial kitchen space, sometimes called a cloud or ghost kitchen.
Alan Moore, senior partner at VRC explains the momentum and necessity behind the Virtual Restaurant Builder™: "With this seismic shift towards off-premise dining, the emergence of virtual restaurants and cloud kitchens is the biggest change I've witnessed in my 30 years in the hospitality business. To be honest, for many independent restaurateurs the traditional brick-and-mortar model is broken, and I am genuinely concerned that many restaurants will go the way of Blockbuster, Borders Books and Tower Records if they don't adapt. That is why we wanted to provide a modern solution at an accessible price point."
The Virtual Restaurant Builder™ is a digital online platform comprised of 44 instructional videos, templates, cheat seats, live Q & A calls, ongoing mentorship, and more. The entire course is available immediately upon enrollment and can be completed on an individual timeline.
The Builder™ is for all experience levels—existing restaurateurs who want to level the playing field with a relatively low investment to save or grow their business and create additional revenue streams in a short time—or for those who want to get into the restaurant business for substantially less cost and risk than opening a traditional brick-and-mortar location (including food truck operators, caterers, chefs, cooks, foodies, influencers, investors, and entrepreneurs).
"Opening a virtual restaurant is not about putting a menu online or just signing up with one of the third-party delivery apps," explains Moore. "We have seen dozens of independent owners and celebrity chefs fail by going it alone without the needed guidance and expertise…and that is why the Virtual Restaurant Builder™ is absolutely indispensable."
RWS Name Change
Recycling and Waste Solutions (RWS) announced today the company has changed its name to RWS Facility Services to reflect its expanded range of comprehensive facility services across North America. RWS customers include the nation’s largest companies in food service, retail, commercial, multifamily and manufacturing. The expanded services offered by RWS are designed to boost operational efficiency by providing a single point of contact, programs tailored to a specific industry and advanced technology that delivers real-time data for smart decision making and a positive return on investment.
In addition to continuing to design, implement and manage recycling and waste programs, the company’s additional services include a host of exterior and interior needs, such as plumbing and grease trap cleaning, parking lot repairs, HVAC repair and maintenance, landscaping and more. RWS Facility Services streamlines operations with its one call, one team approach for 24/7 full-service sustainable facility services.
“Changing our name to RWS Facility Services marks an exciting milestone for our company. Our customers were increasingly turning to us for additional services, so it made sense to offer one convenient stop for operational support and service that is responsive and adaptive to their needs,” said Anthony DiIenno, president and CEO of RWS. “Expanding our services brings value to companies seeking to increase the sustainability and efficiency of their operations with execution that reduces cost, saves time and improves the overall environment.”
The name change, effective immediately, also reflects the company’s entry into new industry verticals that resulted from RWS’ acquisition of Sustainable Solutions Group (SSG) in April.
The Magical World of Paco Roncero
A 100 percent multi-sensorial and mind-blowing dining experience will soon be arriving to Rocca Restaurant at Raffles Istanbul. This fall, Raffles Istanbul will take its culinary program to a theatrical new level with the addition of “The Magical World of Paco Roncero," a pop-up dining experience where guests will be taken on an enchanting culinary journey, skillfully curated by one of the leading representative of Spanish avant-garde cuisine, known both in Spain and around the world.
Influenced by his travels around the world and his work with Ferran Adria, the pioneer of molecular gastronomy, Paco Roncero is known for his creativity, sensibility, inquisitive mind and advanced cooking techniques, venturing beyond technical cuisine to present gastronomy as a singular sensorial experience. With ten restaurants across the globe, including Madrid’s Terraza del Casino, which holds two Michelin stars and two Duia Repsol suns, Chef Roncero’s most well-known restaurant is Sublimotion in Ibiza. The one-of-a-kind establishment combines food with art, music and technology, and the entire culinary art show concept is choreographed to awaken the senses one taste at a time.
Guests at Raffles Istanbul will have the opportunity to enjoy a unique interpretation of Roncero's colorful epicurean journey with an exclusive, limited-edition dining experience at Rocca Restaurant from September 27 to November 3. Chef Roncero will be present for select events and dates.
A Trio of Culinary Experiences at Rocca
For the special collaboration with Chef Roncero, Rocca Restaurant, Raffles Istanbul’s popular all-day dining restaurant, will enjoy a new perspective via three distinct concepts and menus in three different locations:
- Legendary tapas and delicacies at the Paco’s Bar & Lounge
- A six-course tasting menu in the Main Dining Room
- And a 360-degree multi-sensory dining experience for up to 14 guests with live projections in the Private Dining Room
Paco Roncero's special menus are accompanied by Moet’s Dom Pérignon Champagnes in all three locations. For the Private Dining experience, where a futuristic menu and digital show including 3D video mappings designed for every single dish, the tasting adventure will reach its peak, as a Dom Pérignon Vintage series produced from the same and single year grapes will be presented. For the first time in Turkey, the 17-year-old Dom Pérignon Plénitude 2, will be served at Raffles Istanbul along other vintage Champagnes including Dom Pérignon Vintage 2005, Dom Pérignon Rose 2006 and Dom Pérignon Vintage 2008.
"Culinary innovation and a commitment to bring the world's best to our guests are the reasons we are excited to collaborate with Chef Paco Roncero to introduce a unique, multi-sensory dining experience to Rocca Restaurant,” said Christian Hirt, General Manager at Raffles Istanbul. “Never before has something like this been offered to our affluent Turkish clientele and globe-trotting visitors."