MRM Franchise Feed: Domino’s Digital Dominance and Black Bear’s Major Expansion

Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine’s Franchise Feed offers a glimpse at what’s new in the restaurant franchise environment.

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AI Dominos

Domino’s Pizza is accelerating its quest for digital dominance in the restaurant industry and continuing its investment in developing platforms using artificial intelligence (AI) by launching a voice recognition application to take telephone orders coming into its stores.

The brand was the first to introduce a voice recognition app that conducted a retail transaction when it launched its virtual ordering assistant, DOM, in 2014. Today, Domino’s conducts more than 65 percent of its sales in the U.S. via numerous digital platforms.

“DOM was a key milestone not only for us, but for voice recognition technology in general,” said J. Patrick Doyle, CEO and president of Domino’s. “DOM was also the public face of our initial investment in artificial intelligence. Voice is a more natural way for people to interact with technology and that’s why we have been investing in AI for more than half a decade.

“We believe natural voice recognition is the future, as seen by the rise in virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. More importantly, artificial intelligence provides great learning platforms that will enable us to do more to deliver convenience for our customers and better job experiences for our team members,” Doyle added. “With DOM on the phones, our AnyWare ordering technology and plans we have for future in-store technology, our goal is to one day be 100 percent digital.”

DOM Voice Recognition Taking Telephone Orders

DOM is currently being tested on the phones in 20 stores across the U.S. and Domino’s plans to expand the platform to more stores in the coming months.

“While many of our orders come via digital platforms, there are still millions of customers who like to call in their orders directly to their local stores,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer. “DOM can now take those orders, freeing up our store team members to focus on preparing orders and serving customers already in the lobby.”

Domino’s first tested DOM for phoned-in carryout orders in a few of its company-owned stores. Initial response from customers and team members was positive.

“Store team members like DOM,” said Nicole Prokopczyk, Domino’s manager of corporate operations in Virginia. “They are focusing on providing better service to in-store customers while our pizza makers are concentrating on what they do best – making great-tasting pizzas.”

DOM can also help customers determine where their orders are in the process.

“Some calls to the stores are from customers who have already ordered,” said Maloney. “Based on the phone number, this system will automatically determine if this is a new call or a follow-up. If it’s a follow-up call, DOM will act as a version of Domino’s Tracker and provide customers with the information they’re looking for.”

For the Love of Pretzels

In honor of its 30th birthday, Auntie Anne’s®, the world’s largest hand-rolled soft pretzel franchise, has partnered with six artists to create a bold, graphic design-inspired line of clothing and accessories. The eclectic “For the Love of Pretzels” Collection is debuting just in time for National Pretzel Day on April 26.

All profits from the “For the Love of Pretzels” Collection will be donated to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), Auntie Anne’s national charitable partner. ALSF’s mission is to change the lives of children with cancer through funding impactful research, raising awareness, supporting families, and empowering everyone to help cure childhood cancer. Since establishing a partnership with ALSF in September 2011, Auntie Anne’s has raised more than $3.7 million to fund childhood cancer research.

“Over the last 30 years, we’ve established deep connections with our loyal fans worldwide,” said Heather Neary, president of Auntie Anne’s. “Now, for the first time, those fans can showcase their love for Auntie Anne’s by wearing our clothing while also contributing to the fight against childhood cancer. This is going to be a ton of fun for a great cause.”

Fans can visit to purchase items from the “For the Love of Pretzels” Collection. The e-store is hosted by Threadless, an online creative community helping art unknowns become art totally-knowns. The collection features men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, as well as shoes from Bucketfeet and a variety of lifestyle accessories including phone cases, water bottles, mugs, shower and bath gear, and more. The “For the Love of Pretzels” Collection starts at $13.

Auntie Anne’s teamed up with the following designers to create the “For the Love of Pretzels” Collection:

  • Mike Perry Studio: Mike created the hand-painted “Auntie Packs” (fanny packs) which are only available via social media giveaway. Mike is an illustrator in Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Huebucket: Bangkok-based Chalermphol Harnchakkham designed the collection of Pretzel Pug Yoga items. Chalermphol is a self-taught illustrator whose unique work is inspired by pugs, French bulldogs and his dreams.
  • Rick Crane: Rick made the Pretzel Heaven products and is inspired by nature and minimalist designs.
  • Daniel Allen Stevens: Daniel, a graphic designer and illustrator, produced the print for A Twisted Day.
  • Luis Romero: Luis, creator of the Pretzels Forever design, is inspired by his childhood in Panamaand his adulthood in Chicago.
  • Shawnimals: Shawn designed the Pretzels for Everyone print and has also created a number of public art displays in his hometown of Chicago and around the world.
Black Bear Diner Expands

Black Bear Diner announced twelve new restaurants in California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. The comes on the heels of Black Bear Diner’s entrance into Oklahoma and Texas earlier this year, and marks the brand’s first restaurants in Missouri. Black Bear Diner opened its newest location in Katy, Texas last month.

Details of the new units are as follows:

  • California: Black Bear Diner has signed a multi-unit franchise agreement to open six restaurants around the Inland Empire area over the next six years, working with a highly experienced, multi-brand operator.
  • Missouri: Black Bear Diner has signed an area development agreement to introduce the brand to Missouri, beginning in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties. The agreement calls for three new units to be opened over the next three years, with the first location to be opened this year.
  • Oklahoma: Black Bear Diner plans to open at least two new company units in Oklahoma, in Tulsa and Quail Springs. The Quail Springs restaurant is located at 3015 W. Memorial Road and scheduled to open on April 23. Black Bear Diner’s new Tulsa restaurant is located at 9026 E. 71st St. and will open in August.
  • Texas: Located at 9510 FM 1960 Bypass in Humble, this company owned unit will be Black Bear Diner’s second location in Texas. The restaurant is scheduled to open this summer.

“Our entrances into Oklahoma and Texas couldn’t have been more successful, and we are so grateful for the warm welcomes we have received in both states,” said Black Bear Diner Co-Founder and CEO Bruce Dean. “We love bringing our home-styled comfort classics to new and regular guests alike, and more importantly, becoming a true partner to our local communities. We look forward to bringing the Black Bear Diner style of hospitality and food to more guests as we continue to execute our growth plan.”

Black Bear Diner now operates in 10 states, and the company’s strategic plans call for further expansion east of the Rocky Mountains. Black Bear Diner opened 21 units in 2017.

Biser Named EVP at Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers Restaurants  appointed Jeremy Biser executive vice president. Based in the company’s headquarters in Frederick, Maryland., he will report to Co-President Jim Plamondon and oversee all aspects of the Roy Rogers brand.

Jeremy Biser

Biser joins Roy Rogers from Dunkin Brands Group, Inc., where he most recently was Vice President, International Operating Systems, Learning, Food Safety and Equipment. In that role, he covered an international group of more than 8,000 locations around the world. Earlier in his career, he held various leadership positions within both the Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks organizations. In his new position, he will concentrate on optimizing performance of existing company and franchise locations, while also positioning the brand to grow throughout the Mid-Atlantic United States.

“We’re delighted to have Jeremy join our organization,” said Plamondon. “With his arrival, we are better equipped than ever before to strengthen our existing system, increase our sales and profitability, grow within our existing markets and expand into new ones.”

Biser says Roy Rogers has enjoyed great popularity for its menu and atmosphere over the past 50 years – the company is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary with a campaign featuring baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. – and he will look for ways to enhance brand differentiation, customer loyalty and relevance with current and future generations of guests. Biser will be responsible for advancing the concept to a new standard for image, offering and operations.

“Roy Rogers differentiates itself through its values as an organization and its promise to deliver good food and fast, friendly service to every guest, every time,” he added. “There is a great team in place and a lot of passion for the brand in the organization and among our guests. I look forward to drawing on these strengths to help make the brand even more successful today and long into the future.”

Roy Rogers is currently enjoying a resurgence in the Mid-Atlantic United States. It opened 10 new locations in the past three years, bringing its crowd-pleasing menu of USDA choice top round roast beef, hand-breaded, fresh fried chicken and great-tasting burgers to guests in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

“This year, we are celebrating 50 years of bringing quality, variety and choice to our guests,” Plamondon said. “We look forward to celebrating many more decades of success, and we’re excited to have Jeremy on board to lead the team into the future.”

The company is now seeking to develop select markets in the Mid-Atlantic and bring additional communities the legendary Roy Rogers experience. 

Pizza Hut Elaborates on NFL Partnership

With Pizza Hut’s newly acquired partnership as the “Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL,” the company is kicking things off in a big way during the NFL Draft, giving fans the chance to win a trip to an NFL game through its Doorbell Dance challenge, top photo. Pizza Hut enlisted Steelers star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for the campaign, where he demonstrates how he celebrates when the doorbell rings, meaning Pizza Hut pizza has arrived. In the video, JuJu challenges fans to submit their best doorbell dance during the NFL Draft (April 26-28) for the chance to win a trip to an NFL regular season game of their choice.

In addition to the Doorbell Dance, Pizza Hut is pulling out all the stops for the first activation as an NFL sponsor, including:

  • The “Pi Pick”: Pizza Hut is doing something no sponsor has ever done by inserting the brand in the live NFL Draft broadcast and creating an ownable equity in the first-ever “Pi Pick,” which will be the 78th overall selection (Round 3, Pick 14…or 3.14). As soon as the selection is made, Pizza Hut will ink a deal with the lucky draftee, who will receive an unlimited supply of Pizza Hut pies for one year and an invitation to a gigantic pizza party in the hometown of the team who selects him.
  • Draft Deal: pizza lovers everywhere can get in on the Draft action as all restaurants will be offering a “NFL Draft Box” featuring two medium pizzas, order of wings and breadsticks starting at $19.99 during the NFL Draft
  • Draft Experience: Onsite at the Draft in Dallas, Pizza Hut will be hosting an experience right outside the stadium where fans can showcase and record their doorbell dance moves, compete in a delivery obstacle course, hang in the Pizza Hut lounge and enjoy a few slices of free Pizza Hut pizza.

“The NFL Draft is a moment of hope and anticipation for players and fans alike, and our mission at Pizza Hut during the Draft is to help fans celebrate the start,” said Zipporah Allen, Chief Marketing Officer, Pizza Hut, U.S. “From inviting fans to show off their best doorbell dance for a chance to win some great prizes to recognizing the Pi Pick draftee, we want Pizza Hut to help feed the passion and excitement fans have for their teams.”

“One of the things we love about Pizza Hut is that as a new partner, they are committed to bringing even more excitement and entertainment to the NFL Draft, one of the marquee events on the NFL calendar,” said Renie Anderson, Senior Vice President, NFL Partnerships, Sponsorship and Consumer Products. “Pizza Hut wants to leverage the Draft as a national platform to bring more value to the home watching experience, and we are thrilled to see them activating in new and unique ways.”

Pizza Hut recently signed a multi-year agreement with the NFL that allows a vast array of exclusive marketing rights, benefits and designations. The sponsorship will connect the brand with the NFL and its teams, players, events, partners, properties and the many NFL experiences that capture the passion of consumers and football fans from all over the world. The Pizza Hut partnership with the NFL includes collective use of all 32 team marks and involves the NFL working closely with Pizza Hut to facilitate local, exclusive team partnerships. Pizza Hut has the opportunity to leverage game tickets and unique fan experiences to all NFL games in marketing and promotional campaigns throughout each year.

Wendy’s Smart Family of Designs

As part of its efforts to grow and differentiate the brand while keeping energy stewardship at the forefront, Wendy’s® recently unveiled a new “Smart Family of Designs,” providing a portfolio of development options to franchisees, including buildings that fit into smaller footprints. These designs provide more access to real estate, the ability to customize needs for specific trade areas and reduces the development investment for franchisees looking to build new restaurants.  

“We continue to look for ways to make the economics better for new development in high potential markets,” said Abigail Pringle, chief development officer for The Wendy’s Company. “Additionally, our new restaurant designs enhance our commitments to reduce energy usage across the Wendy’s system. Energy conservation makes good business sense and it reflects the responsibility we have to be a good neighbor.”

Wendy’s recently introduced the Smart 2.0 design, which reduces environmental impact with an even smaller footprint and features that promote energy efficiency, while targeting an additional $150,000of savings in development costs.  This next generation of Wendy’s Smart designs, which were first introduced in 2017, complements the company’s commitment to reduce the amount of energy used in company-owned and operated restaurants by 20 percent by 2025, as part of its participation in the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings® Challenge.

The Smart design prototype features outdoor patio furniture made from recycled materials and exterior and interior LED lighting that provides better quality lighting while lowering energy use. In fact, LED lights and fixtures account for a 70% drop in energy usage versus using the traditional florescent tube lighting. Kitchens are outfitted with ENERGY STAR ™ certified equipment, including fryers and high efficiency HVAC systems with options for refrigerators, ice cube compressors, and other equipment. Combined, these items cut down on restaurant energy consumption and CO2 emissions. A kiosk-centric ordering process also eliminates the need for interior menu boards.

As part of this announcement, The Wendy’s Company also shared important progress toward other sustainability goals and initiatives in a report that can be found here. Highlights include:

Better Buildings® Challenge

One of the ways Wendy’s has demonstrated leadership in energy stewardship is participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge. Wendy’s is proud to be among the first restaurant companies to join the Challenge, and the first restaurant company to have its franchisees participate in the program. The company pledged to reduce energy consumption in its U.S. company-owned restaurants by 20 percent by 2025. The company continues to report progress toward this goal with a 12 percent reduction in energy per transaction in 2017. Furthermore, 70 – more than 20 percent of its company-owned restaurants — exceeded the overall 20 percent reduction goal in 2017, eight years ahead of schedule.

The company also reports that at its Restaurant Support Center, it has reduced energy usage by 28 percent, thereby lowering greenhouse gas emissions by more than 27 percent, against a 2013 base year.

Papa Murphy’s Refranchising in Colorado

Papa Murphy’s Holdings, Inc. announced the refranchising of company-­owned stores in Colorado to Fresh Take, LLC, an entity owned by existing franchise owners Ryan McCallister, Tyler Ross and Brad Seymore.

Following the transaction, Fresh Take, LLC will operate a total of 28 Papa Murphy’s stores across the state of Colorado. Papa Murphy’s remains focused on refranchising the majority of Company-owned stores and expects to operate around 60 Company-owned stores by the end of 2018. The cash flow generated from refranchising is expected to be used for debt paydown.

“Combined, Ryan, Tyler and Brad have been successful Papa Murphy’s franchise owners for 22 years. Their passion for the brand makes them the ideal franchise owners to grow with,” said Mark Hutchens, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Papa Murphy’s. “We look forward to completing similar refranchising transactions in the coming months as we move towards our goal of returning to a 95 percent franchise mix by 2020.”

“We’re looking forward to growing our Papa Murphy’s portfolio,” said Ryan McCallister, of Fresh Take, LLC. “We’re excited to serve even more Papa Murphy’s customers, empowering them to make delicious, home-baked meals.” 

“We believe in the strength of the Papa Murphy’s brand and are proud of our unique and high quality product,” said Tyler Ross of Fresh Take, LLC. “As we expand our reach, we remain committed to providing our customers with an exceptional Papa Murphy’s experience.”

Hutchens continued, “We are confident that as we execute on our refranchising strategy and focus on our asset-light franchise business model, we will improve the capital efficiency of our company and, in-turn, grow shareholder value. The financial commitment our existing franchise owners are making as they grow through refranchising demonstrates the strong economic opportunity of Papa Murphy’s.” 

Del Taco Expands in Atlanta

Del Taco Restaurants, Inc.  is continuing its expansion in and around Atlanta. Led by franchise veteran Mac Kamara, MK Energy, LLC, which operates brands such as BP, Circle K and Subway, has signed on to develop seven locations across the south central area of Atlanta.

“Our group’s operations are based in the Atlanta market with additional locations in Southern California. I’ve seen firsthand how Del Taco’s winning combination of freshly-prepared food served at a tremendous value creates fans and drives traffic,” said Kamara. “Del Taco, an iconic California brand, truly delivers what consumers today want, and I’m excited to be one of the brand’s franchise partners to escalate its growth across the Atlanta area.”

Del Taco’s accelerated growth plans for the Atlanta area come on the heels of another banner year for the company, which included the fifth consecutive year of same store sales growth as well as opening a number of restaurants in key markets throughout California, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia, Oklahoma and Michigan.

There are now more than 560 locations across 14 states.

“Along with Kamara’s group, we’re working with other multi-unit operators and our corporate team to continue our expansion across Atlanta and the Southeast,” said Laura Tanaka, Director of Franchise Development with Del Taco. “We see tremendous potential in the Atlanta market and invite multi-unit operators to connect with us regarding franchise opportunities with Del Taco.”

Famous Dave’s Changes Up Menu

Famous Dave’s announced a strategic plan to elevate its franchise offering with 23 new menu items, all individually curated by founder and BBQ Hall of Famer, “Famous Dave” Anderson. This announcement comes on the heels of the introduction of a new smaller restaurant footprint, as well as investments in new technology including online ordering and third party delivery.

Founder Famous Dave is leading the charge in culinary innovation, focused on modernizing the menu offerings while staying true to the concept he founded nearly 25 years ago. Behind him is the new leadership team, with CEO Jeff Crivello at the helm, all focused on bringing the right franchisees into the system and positioning them for success.

“Barbeque is a labor-intensive undertaking, especially since we commit to using smokers in each of the restaurants and give each menu item the attention it needs to be truly Famous,” said Anderson “When I founded the concept decades ago, I was on a mission to deliver on the best barbeque in town. Because our franchisees are so committed to delivering on that same great taste, they’re always open to innovative offerings to deliver to their loyal guests.”

The new menu includes items like the Hillbilly Hubcaps, Cajun-seasoned fried jalapeño slices served with rémoulade sauce and Burnt Buttz, a smoked pork that is flash-fried and griddled in blackberry barbeque sauce. Famous Dave’s also launched a new value menu, featuring a mix of both barbeque and non-barbeque items served with smaller portion sizes at lower price points. In addition, Famous Dave’s is encouraging franchisees to customize menus to their region, with the option to select from various designs intended to provide more localization to the brand identity.

“We introduced flexibility in menu printing and design because we want them to be able to showcase different flavors that are specific to each of their regions in addition to the delicious and cravable core offerings we have” said Famous Dave’s CEO Jeff Crivello. “As we develop as a brand it’s critical that we continuously roll out innovative ideas that will keep us ahead of the curve in the industry and allow us to offer something new and exciting to our guests.”

In January of 2018, Famous Dave’s unveiled a smaller footprint restaurant design in El Paso, Texas, marking the first opening of the year. The new restaurant boasts a tighter and more efficient back-of-house kitchen with a contemporary front-of-house design.

To meet ever-changing customer preferences, Famous Dave’s also launched third-party delivery in August of 2017 at all corporate locations, with plans to roll out to franchise locations next, bringing the brand’s wide variety of barbeque offerings directly to the doors of its loyal customers. The launch of delivery allowed for a shift in customers and Famous Dave’s was able to tap into a younger demographic. Given the success of delivery and catering Famous Dave’s is now exploring a delivery only models. This new concept, which fits in just 500 to 800 square feet, compared to the 5,000 square feet of the traditional model, is designed for food preparation and quick delivery of the same fan-favorite tastes offered at full-service locations.

“As we move forward, we are focused on laying the groundwork for the future by constantly looking for ways to revamp our offerings to both our guests and franchisees,” said COO Geovannie Concepcion. “We are a nimble and active company, and we are prepared to get things to the market as quickly as possible to stay relevant in the space. With the help of our dedicated franchisees, our strong brand and culture, and our commitment to staying true to our roots, we’re excited to see what the future holds. Pairing the delivery and online ordering option with the new menu and store design will allow us to differentiate in the segment and attract new Famous Dave’s fans and franchise partners.”

Tropical Smoothie Gives Back

Tropical Smoothie Cafe announced  the reopening of its Rockport, Texas cafe owned by franchisee Pam Farley. The location was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, but Farley and her team are grateful for the overwhelming support of the community. 

Like much of the Rockport community, Farley was personally impacted by the storms but focused on supporting the rebuilding efforts of the community. Before rebuilding the cafe, Farley partnered with neighboring business owners to organize a drive to distribute necessities to people in the community. As part of her reopening efforts, Farley will continue to provide support to Hurricane Harvey victims by accepting donations for hurricane relief at the cafe. 

“There are no words to describe how meaningful this reopening is to me,” said Farley. “To see how our community has rallied together is nothing short of inspiring. Just a few months ago, Rockport was virtually unrecognizable but through perseverance and hard work, we have rebuilt our city. I’m excited to start serving my community again and am so grateful for Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s endless support.”

In addition to reopening the Rockport location, Tropical Smoothie Cafe is continued its growth in Texas by signing the brand’s 100th agreement in the state. First-time Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchisee, Shahrukh Noormohammed, is a Houston native. Noormohammed began his career in engineering before transitioning into the sales industry. His unique experience will bring a different perspective to the brand as he develops three new cafes throughout the Houston market. 

“It’s inspiring to see the progress this community has made since Hurricane Harvey and we are proud to continue expanding in a market that has such compassion for local businesses and the residents they serve,” said Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, LLC. “The ongoing success of our existing cafes and resiliency of the business community keep Texas a prime market for development. With 30 franchised cafes open across the state and an additional 15 slated to open this year, we’re eager to continue our expansion efforts and make our better-for-you food and smoothie offerings accessible to more residents throughout Texas.”

Wayback Opens in Pakistan

Wayback Burgers opened its newest restaurant in Johar Town, Lahore, Pakistan on April 14, 2018.    This is Wayback Burgers’ first location in Pakistan and in areas surrounding Lahore.

The newest Wayback Burgers restaurant, owned by Ejaz Chaudhry, Imran Zahoor, Kamran Zahoor and Imtiaz Chaudhry, is located at 56-GCP Housing Society, Opposite Shoukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, Johar Town, Lahore, Pakistan. After managing and owning several concepts for a number of years, including a Wayback Burgers restaurant in Washington state, Ejaz, Imran, Kamran and Imtiaz bought master franchise rights for Pakistan.  The business partners expect to have two Wayback Burgers restaurants operating in Lahore by the end of 2019 and expect to open 2-3 more annually in the coming years.

Ejaz says Wayback Burgers was the perfect fit for him because he loves the company’s “throwback” culture and community first values.

“We saw an opportunity to bring a brand to Pakistan that offers better quality burgers and shakes,” said Ejaz.  “After opening our first Wayback Burgers restaurants in the USA, which obviously included trying the food and seeing the operations, it was an easy decision to bring the brand to Pakistan.  We will serve excellent food that fulfills our guest’s needs quickly, courteously, and in a cleaner environment than our competitors.”

Wayback Burgers Director of International Development, Jason Murawski, is impressed with Ejaz, Imran, Kamran and Imtiaz’s success to date and believes the company’s fast casual burger concept is a perfect fit for Lahore, Pakistan and surrounding communities.

“We are thrilled Ejaz, Imran, Kamran and Imtiaz are bringing Wayback Burgers to Lahore, Pakistan” said Murawski.  “Working in the food industry for a combined 80+ years, this team possesses the perfect skill set to be successful as Wayback Burgers master franchisees.   Plus, they are deeply committed to their community and support countless local organizations.   After traveling to Lahore for the opening and seeing the response of the consumers, I know we have a winner. We expect Ejaz, Imran, Kamran and Imtiaz to flourish with Wayback Burgers and we look forward to helping them develop new locations throughout Pakistan.”

Chicken Salad Chick Expands in Louisiana

 Chicken Salad Chick will be expanding in Louisiana with its newest location in Monroe, marking the brand’s sixth location in the state and 86th nationwide.

Chicken Salad Chick concept

The Monroe restaurant is owned and operated by sisters Ashley Keever and Krista Rhymes, along with their business partner, Matthew Miller of 2 Chicks and a Magnet, Inc. Krista had her first taste of Chicken Salad Chick while visiting Auburn nearly five years ago and was immediately hooked by the brand’s unique culinary offerings and family-friendly atmosphere. Eager to follow in their father’s footsteps and run a successful restaurant of their own, Krista and Ashley teamed up with Matthew to become a Chicken Salad Chick franchise. Together, the team formed 2 Chicks and a Magnet, Inc. and will open their first restaurant in their hometown of Monroe. In addition to Chicken Salad Chick, Krista and Ashley also operate The Muffin Tin and The Trenton House, which are successful bridal registry and gift shops in the local area. 

“From the moment my family and I were introduced to Chicken Salad Chick, we knew it was something special,” said Ashley Keever. “We’re thrilled to be part of the brand’s extended family and can’t wait for the residents of Monroe to experience the best chicken salad and genuine hospitality at Chicken Salad Chick.”

Fresh Twist by Pretzelmaker

Pretzelmaker®  is adding a unique twist to the brand – the new Fresh Twist by Pretzelmaker® concept. Fresh Twist by Pretzelmaker® takes the brand’s fresh hand-rolled Pretzels, Pretzel Bites, and Pretzel Dogs and adds breakfast and late-night menu options allowing it to be competitive in both traditional and non-traditional venues across the country. The menu will offer breakfast sandwiches on pretzel buns, Cinnamon Toast Pretzel Sticks, Pretzel Flatbread Pizzas and Pepperoni Pretzel Rolls in addition to its all-natural lemonades and smoothies.

Fresh Twist can operate in a space as little as 250 square feet and is scalable to fit the needs of most venues. The concept features premium pricing with competitive food costs, ongoing training and support from Global Franchise Group (the franchisor of Pretzelmaker) and is a simple operation with Pretzelmaker’s signature “fresh theater action” for customers. Potential franchisees can also take advantage of a streamlined equipment package.

“Pretzelmaker is known for our product innovation and putting a unique spin on traditional pretzel products. Fresh Twist by Pretzelmaker® demonstrates just how versatile our best in class pretzel dough can be,” said Allison Lauenstein, Executive Vice President of Pretzelmaker. “We know customers are snacking more and are always looking for a portable way to grab a meal on the go. In fact, soft pretzels were named the second most popular dish of 2017 by GrubHub with a 221% rise in popularity. Fresh Twist was designed with that in mind. The concept is ideal for travel centers, universities and airports.”

Global Franchise Group® (GFG), the franchisor of Pretzelmaker, is offering special construction incentives for the first Fresh Twist franchise agreement. It is also working with higher education development firm OnCampus Brands to market and connect Fresh Twist by Pretzelmaker® to colleges and university dining programs and auxiliary services across the U.S. 

Dunkin’ Donuts Expands Franchise Relationship

Dunkin’ Donuts signed a multi-unit store development agreement with existing franchisees Lagunita Franchise Operations, LLC (LFO). Over the next several years the franchisee group is planning to open seven new Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants throughout Montgomery, Alabama. The first two locations are scheduled to open in 2019, with additional restaurants scheduled to open over the next several years.

The franchisee group is led by Damon Dunn. LFO has been franchising with Dunkin’ Donuts since October 2016 and currently operates seven restaurants in the Mobile, Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast regions. This new development agreement will allow them to further penetrate neighboring markets.

“My partners and I are thrilled about the opportunity to further expand the Dunkin’ Donuts brand throughout Montgomery, Alabama,” said Damon Dunn, Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee. “Our team is passionate about the brand and we look forward to bringing Dunkin’ Donuts’ premium products and high-quality service to the local community.”

There are currently 37 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants located throughout Alabama, and the brand is continuing to recruit franchisees in surrounding areas including Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. To help fuel additional growth in the market, special development incentives are available.

“We are pleased to continue our expansion in Alabama with existing franchisees as we work towards our long-term goal of developing more than 18,000 Dunkin’ Donuts locations throughout the U.S.,” said Grant Benson, CFE, Senior Vice President of franchising and development, Dunkin’ Brands. “Our hard-working and dedicated franchisees bring our brand, products and promotions to life each and every day and have been essential to our growth for years, which has solidified our position as a leading brand in the quick service restaurant industry.”

In an effort to keep the brand fresh and competitive, Dunkin’ Donuts offers flexible concepts for any real estate format including free-standing restaurants, end caps, in-line sites, gas and convenience, travel plazas, and universities, as well as other retail environments. Additionally, multi-brand restaurants that combine Dunkin’ Donuts with Baskin-Robbins under one roof offer even more opportunity to drive traffic during various day parts — from early morning breakfast and coffee all the way to after-dinner ice cream treats.

The Hummus & Pita Co.’s Bicoastal Expansion

The Hummus & Pita Co. announced a bicoastal, nationwide expansion into Los Angeles. The five-unit franchise deal was signed with known Southern California multi-concept operator, Dan Markel, who has established an aggressive development timeline for the Los Angeles locations. Markel has sights set on opening three of the five Hummus & Pita Co. shops before the end of 2018, with the following two stores slated to open in 2019. Potential locations are currently being scouted in Hollywood, Burbank, Santa Monica, Toluca Lake, and Mission Hills.

Markel is an experienced franchise operator whose portfolio boasts one of the top revenue-producing stores in the country for Jersey Mike’s.

“As someone who has a extensive experience opening franchised restaurants, I can confidently say that The Hummus & Pita Co.’s operational and franchisee support is some of the best I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Markel. “Excellent business practices aside, I fully expect The Hummus & Pita Co.’s healthy cuisine and innovative brand to resonate with Los Angeles, and I look forward to growing the concept throughout all of Southern California.”

The Hummus & Pita Co. currently operates three stores in New York City, which average impressive unit economics of $1,200 in sales per square foot. The high sales volume, coupled with high consumer demand, proves the brand is well-poised for its coast-to-coast expansion, which includes additional openings this Spring and Summer in Denver, CO; Brookfield, CT; Bellworks, NJ; and Detroit, MI.

Hummus & Pita Co. is partnered with Fransmart, the industry-leading franchise development company behind the explosive growth of brands like Five Guys Burgers and Fries, The Halal Guys, and Qdoba Mexican Grill, as their exclusive franchise development partner to grow the brand. They are currently looking for experienced multi-unit foodservice operators to develop franchise territories in major markets.

sweetFrog Transfers Ownership

sweetFrog Frozen Yogurt  recently transferred ownership at five  locations – one in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and four more in Forest, Lynchburg, Danville and Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The man expanding his sweetFrog portfolio with these locations is proven multi-unit franchisee, Josh Gibson.   After building a reputation as a Subway multi-unit franchisee, Gibson has worked with his partners, Adam Balestino and Matt Stopp, to build their company, Frozen Ventures, LLC, into a frozen yogurt empire comprised of seven sweetFrog stores. 

Gibson believes the five locations he’s investing in via resales fit his individual growth goals perfectly.  He’s excited to grow his footprint with sweetFrog Frozen Yogurt, the nation’s leading frozen yogurt chain, in a new partnership with his wife, Cayla. They launched Gibson Development, LLC as the ownership group for these five new locations, including:

  • North Myrtle Beach – 254 Highway 17 North, North Myrtle Beach, SC 
  • Forest – 14805 Forest Road, Suite 222, Forest, VA 
  • Lynchburg – 4018 Wards Road, Lynchburg, VA 
  • Harrisonburg – 37 Burgess Road, Harrisonburg, VA 
  • Danville – 165 Holt Garrison Parkway, Suite 590A, Danville, VA

Gibson says sweetFrog fits him and his wife perfectly because they love the company’s community first values and believe in how much the concept resonates with kids.   

“I have a lot of respect for sweetFrog and the team in Richmond,” Gibson said. “We have the same end-goal: to be successful in yogurt, and the franchisor, in this case, is exceptional.   My wife and I are proud to be sweetFrog franchise owners because we believe in the brand’s mission and think its growth potential is unlimited.”

“We are thrilled Josh and his wife are assuming ownership of these sweetFrog locations in South Carolina and Virginia,” said sweetFrog’s CEO, Patrick Galleher.  “After working in the franchise business for 14 years, it’s clear Josh knows what it takes to run successful sweetFrog locations.   Plus, he and his wife are deeply committed to these communities and will support countless local organizations, including schools, churches, and businesses, via various sweetFrog FUNdraising events and education programs.   We expect them to flourish as multi-unit sweetFrog owners.”

Twin Peaks Continues Growth Path

Twin Peaks CEO Joe Hummel said the company executed an Area Development Agreement with Permian Entertainment, LLC, to bring four Twin Peaks locations to Lubbock, Abilene, Amarillo, and Wichita Falls. The agreement anticipates that all of the new restaurants will be open within about three years.

“We were already fans of Twin Peaks, so when we spoke with Todd Peterson and his team about the brand’s franchising opportunities and explored all of its potential, we knew that this was where we were meant to be,” said Herb Graham, Founder & Owner of Permian Entertainment, LLC. “Twin Peaks is so much more than the typical sports bar. The polished mountain lodge setting, scratch menu, Twin Peaks Girls, and the brand’s universal promise of serving its draft beer at 29-degrees, offers a unique experience unlike anything else in the industry. We are excited to join the Twin Peaks team and we look forward to introducing the one-of-a-kind concept to everyone in these four new cities.”

Permian Entertainment, LLC – an entity created by Graham Brothers Entertainment – consists of three partners – Graham, President Roger Gearhart, and longtime investor Jim Milson. Graham Brothers Entertainment was founded in the 1960s and opened its first nightclub in 1968. Since then, the group has owned and operated more than 40 bars and nightclubs throughout the southwest and currently owns and operates a multi-day multi-venue country music festival as well as a country music artists management firm based in Nashville, Tenn.

“We have been wanting to expand into West Texas ever since we started franchising, and we feel very fortunate to have this triple threat leading the way there,” said Hummel “We look forward to working with these talented business men and their team as they scout locations and share our made-from-scratch food and ice cold brews with communities across West Texas.”

Twin Peaks welcomes every guest with primetime matchups and barrel-aged whiskey. The entire menu is prepared in-house, to order and in generous portions to satisfy every appetite. The hearty made-from-scratch comfort food pairs perfectly with a frosty draft beer or a classic whiskey cocktail.

Old Chicago Grows Footprint

Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom signed a franchise development agreement with a new franchise partner, KMG Hotels, to open ten new restaurants growing Old Chicago’s footprint in Missouri. 

“We’re thrilled to be continuing nationwide expansion with franchise partners who have been committed to accelerating the growth and success of Old Chicago,” said Mark A. Belanger, CFE, Vice President of Global Franchise Operations and Development for CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc., operating company of Old Chicago. “We’re continuing to make significant investments into our company that reinforce Old Chicago’s growth potential and position our franchisees for success, so that they ultimately want to expand their portfolio and introduce Old Chicago to new markets. These agreements are a testament to the strength of our evolving business model and exceptional offerings, and we look forward to developing new Old Chicago locations across the country.”

Sanjay and Jay Koshiya, Owners of KMG Hotels, signed a ten unit agreement in April 2018.  They plan to bring Old Chicago locations to Kansas City and St. Louis; with their first location being in a Hilton Garden near the Kansas City airport in Kansas City, MO.  “We are very excited to be partnering with such a great franchise that like us, believes in serving our local communities.  We researched several other franchises and we felt Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom far surpassed the others in their operations, loyalty program, marketing and local crafted feel.  Partnering with a brand like OC adds value to our investment and to our guests by having a great brand on our hotel property.” states Sanjay Koshiya, Co-Owner of KMG Hotels.

Old Chicago opened eight new locations in 2017 growing their presence in Tennessee, Wyoming, Kansas, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Colorado.  2018 adds an additional ten restaurants including locations in Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Nevada, Georgia, Montana, Missouri, and Utah.  “We are thrilled to announce that we continuing to sign new unit development agreements this year.  We are excited for our future growth in 2018 and beyond” states Belanger.  

Cauliflower Crust Earns Pie Five Position

Guests have spoken and Pie Five Pizza has listened. Your boring healthy options just got a whole lot more exciting because cauliflower crust is now a permanent menu item at all of the brand’s locations nationwide.

The popular craft pizza restaurant launched its innovative, lower-carb Cauliflower Crust in January, planning to only offer it for a limited time. But that plan quickly changed after the crust was selling out at Pie Five restaurants across the country. Guests simply couldn’t get enough of it.

The handcrafted cauliflower crust is gluten-free, vegetarian, and only has 40 net carbs. That’s less than half of the net carbs in any other Pie Five crust. The specialty crust also has less than half of the sodium found in other crusts and only two grams of sugar. Load some fresh veggies onto the customizable pizza and you’re all set!

“Cauliflower is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, health-promoted phytochemicals and anti-inflammatory compounds. It is also an excellent source of natural antioxidants and helps improve digestion and detoxification. It’s a great pizza alternative for those looking to cut back carbs,” said Dr. Jeffrey Whitlow, Founder of Nutritional Information Services.

“The crust is what makes any great pizza, so it’s important that our crust options are crafted using quality ingredients that taste delicious; our Cauliflower Crust definitely fits the bill,” said Christina Coy, Vice President of Marketing for Pie Five Pizza. “Our Cauliflower Crust has great flavor and amazing health benefits. Load it up with all of your favorite toppings – for no extra charge – and its booming popularity makes a lot of sense. We are thrilled with the response that it has received from our loyal guests and even more excited to make it a permanent option on our menu.”

The new crust will be added to Pie Five’s three existing made-from-scratch crust options – crispy thin, classic pan, traditional Italian along with gluten-free. So, health conscious pizza lovers rejoice – you don’t have to cut pizza out of your diet!

The cauliflower crust, new 14″ large, shareable pizzas, wings and sandwiches, delivery and online ordering initiatives are part of the Pie Five concept refinement process and tests driven by Rave Restaurant Group, Inc. CEO Scott Crane. Crane recently introduced a new Pie Five prototype that includes a revamped interior, logo and menu.

Taco Bell Sunflower Seeds

BIGS® Sunflower Seeds will introduce a new flavor of Taco Bell-inspired sunflower seeds, BIGS Taco Bell Taco Supreme. The seeds will combine BIGS fire-roasted, USA-grown sunflower seeds with the spicy taco flavor and signature crunch associated with the nation’s leading Mexican-inspired quick service restaurant.

“Both BIGS Sunflower Seeds and Taco Bell are synonymous with bold flavors,” said Greg O’Neal, VP of Marketing for BIGS Sunflower Seeds. “We’re excited to introduce these sunflower seeds to fans of both BIGS and Taco Bell. We anticipate taco lovers around the country are going to love them.”

With 7,000 restaurants across the country, Taco Bell’s menu includes the signature Taco Supreme – an iconic flavor that has inspired the new BIGS Sunflower Seeds. 

The new BIGS Taco Bell Taco Supreme Seeds will be available in a 5.35 ounce size, with an MSRP of $1.99.

Jamba Juice Selects SICOM 

Jamba Juice  selected SICOM as its exclusive provider of digital display solutions. As part of Jamba Juice’s new store design and growth strategy, SICOM will provide Indoor Digital Menu Boards as well as additional digital displays for an Inspiration and Marketing unit in the front of the store.

“SICOM is the perfect partner for our digital displays,” said Josh Nicosia, General Counsel and Vice President of Development for Jamba Juice. “We have a big vision for the future of the Jamba brand, and the solutions and services from SICOM are well aligned with our new initiatives and goals for future growth.”

With vivid, video-based graphics and white-glove content management, SICOM’s Indoor and Outdoor Digital Menu Boards provide seamless integration with point of sale systems, enabling simultaneous updates of LTOs, promotions, and pricing to achieve consistency and grow sales.  

“SICOM is thrilled to partner with Jamba Juice and their franchise owners in support of their exciting new initiatives,” said Jim Flynn, CEO of SICOM. “Jamba Juice is a great brand with a bright future, and we look forward to helping them move their business forward.”

Chicken Express Chooses Revention
Chicken Express, with over 250 locations in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, has selected Revention as a preferred point of sale provider.  Chicken Express was established in 1988 by Richard and Nancy Stuart’s Stuart Group Inc. 
The first restaurant opened in 1988 in Benbrook, Texas. Revention began working with Chicken Express in October 2015 when they implemented the point of sale at the Chicken Express in College Station, TX. As additional franchisees came on board with Revention, Chicken Express corporate began to take notice. 
“We were extremely impressed with how quickly Revention was able to address our custom solutions needs of our brand.  Gift card integration was something we are very pleased with and Revention made it easy to implement. Revention also created a drive through vehicle identifier feature allowing us to quickly service our customers in the drive through. Revention has been a great partner and we look forward to expanding our relationship,” stated the Stuart’s.
“Chicken Express is a fantastic brand with an excellent product,” said Laura Gaudin, Director of Product Management with Revention. “We look forward to expanding with Chicken Express and providing additional solutions to increase their revenue and lower costs.”
Firehouse Subs Foundations Supports First Responders

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation® said more than $1.9 million in equipment and resources were awarded to 123 first responder and public safety organizations at the organization’s quarterly March board of directors meeting. Many of the grant awards include needed equipment to help protect first responders, increasing their life-saving capabilities and allowing them to continue protecting the communities they serve.

Often overlooked, first responders face an array of health hazards in the line of duty. Cancer-causing chemicals, carbon monoxide and other dangerous toxins are among the dangers many first responders are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. According to studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), firefighters face a nine percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths compared to the general population.

“These brave men and women dedicate their lives to protecting ours. They are our heroes, and we want to be sure they are protected in every way possible,” said Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Executive Director Robin Peters. “Our Foundation is always learning and responding to different requests from first responders. While on the job, we want them to serve their community with the best equipment the industry has to offer. We also want them to return home to their families safely.”

Seeing a need to better protect first responders, the Foundation approved a variety of protective equipment grant awards, including particulate blocking hoods and personal protective gear, which provide protection against contact with carcinogenic chemicals. Respiratory fit testers and self-contained breathing apparatuses were also on the list, helping prevent first responders from breathing in dangerous toxins, as well as, chemical extracting washers and dryers to remove any harmful toxic byproducts that may have absorbed into protective gear.

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was founded in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Firehouse Subs Founders, Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen traveled to Mississippiwhere they provided food to first responders and survivors. As they traveled back to Florida, they knew they could do more and Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was born with the mission of providing funding, life-saving equipment and educational opportunities to first responders and public safety organizations. Since its inception, the non-profit organization has granted more than $33 million to hometown heroes in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Grant allocations are made possible thanks to the overwhelming support of Firehouse Subs restaurants and generous donors. Each restaurant recycles leftover, five-gallon buckets, available to guests for a $2 donation to the Foundation. Donation canisters on register counters collect spare change, while the Round Up Program allows guests to “round up” their bill to the nearest dollar. The Foundation is also the beneficiary of a Charitable Sales Promotion where Firehouse of America (FOA) will donate to the Foundation a sum equivalent to 0.13% of all gross sales with a minimum donation of $1 million through December 31, 2018. To donate online and support Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, visit

Jersey Mike’s Annual Day of Giving

Jersey Mike’s Subs,  joined with its generous customers this March during the 8th Annual “Month of Giving” to raise a record amount of over $6 million to help charities nationwide. The campaign culminated on March 28, Day of Giving, when 1,360 Jersey Mike’s restaurants donated 100 percent of sales, not just profits, to more than 170 different charities across the nation.

Jersey Mike’s Founder & CEO Peter Cancro (kneeling, left) celebrated the company’s 8th Annual Day of Giving with Callyn Stanley (front center) and Area Director Mike Spiegel at the Olathe, Kansas, restaurant. They were joined by (back row, from left) Shelia Montgomery, Deliece Hofen, founder of local charity partner Braden’s Hope, Taylor Stanley, Tatiana Voevodina Cancro, and Kim Stanley.

“I would like to thank our extraordinary customers, franchise owners, team members and charity partners who helped us raise the most ever during Jersey Mike’s 8th Annual Month of Giving in March,” said Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike’s founder and CEO.  “Our mission statement has always been focused on making a difference in people’s lives, and the over $6 million raised this March will go a long way toward supporting the good work of our local partner charities.”

Cancro, who bought his first sub shop at age 17, credits two local businessmen in Point Pleasant Beach where he grew up – Jack Baker of Baker’s Lobster Shannty and Bob Hoffman of Hoffman’s Ice Cream – with showing him the importance of giving unconditionally to the community. From the beginning this philosophy has been central to Jersey Mike’s mission.

During the month of March, customers were invited to come in to their local Jersey Mike’s restaurant and make a donation to a local designated charity partner. Then, on Jersey Mike’s “Day of Giving,” 100 percent of the day’s sales were donated to each local charity partner. The charity recipients included schools, hospitals, youth organizations, food banks and more.

“Giving . . . making a difference in someone’s life” has been the mission of Jersey Mike’s from the beginning. Since 2010, Jersey Mike’s locations throughout the country have raised more than $28 million for worthy local charities and have distributed more than 2 million free sub sandwiches to help numerous causes.