MRM Franchise Feed: McDonald’s Environmental Efforts and Wendy’s Smart 55 Design Debuts

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

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McDonald’s: First to Set Approved Science-Based Target to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

McDonald’s will partner with franchisees and suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to McDonald’s restaurants and offices by:

  • 36 percent by 2030 from a 2015 base year in a new strategy to address global climate change.
  • Committing to a 31 percent reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across its supply chain by 2030 from 2015 levels.
  • This combined target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Through these actions, McDonald’s expects to prevent 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2030. This is the equivalent of:

  • Taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year
  • Planting 3.8 billion trees and growing them for 10 years

In collaboration with thousands of franchisees, suppliers and producers, McDonald’s will prioritize action on the largest segments of its carbon footprint. These segments combined account for approximately 64 percent of McDonald’s global emissions:

  • Beef production
  • Restaurant energy usage and sourcing
  • Packaging and waste
Taco Bell Provides Education Support

Taco Bell is partnering with Guild Education to provide education support for all 210,000 team members in its system of 7,000 restaurants in the U.S. As one of Guild's largest partners to offer education benefits across its entire system, Taco Bell team members will have access to personalized college advisors and tuition discounts for thousands of classes, certificates and degrees from day one of their career at Taco Bell.  

"When we surveyed our employees, education support was one of the top three things they asked for," said Frank Tucker, Global Chief People Officer at Taco Bell. "The barriers to achieving their education goals were time, money and support. Our partnership with Guild delivers on all of these needs for our employees through access to online classes, financial aid guidance, tuition assistance and a personal counselor to support each student in real time."

All Taco Bell corporate and franchise employees will have access to Guild's academic and financial aid coaches and discounts to Guild's education partners – a network of 80 online non-profit universities and learning providers, offering Bachelor's and Master's degrees, programs such as high school completion and English-as-a-second-language and a wide selection of certificates. Taco Bell corporate employees, along with employees of participating franchisees, will also have access to up to $5,250 per calendar year in tuition assistance including books and supplies, paid up front so that employees don't have any out of pocket costs. Additionally, all employees can get college credit for on-the-job restaurant training, which could save an employee up to an additional $5,000, bringing their potential total savings to more than $10,000.  

Taco Bell piloted its partnership with Guild in 2017 in about 700 corporate-owned restaurants, and more than 2,000 employees have since worked with a Guild coach to go back to school. Those who enrolled in a course, program or degree through Guild had a 98 percent retention rate over six months, a 34 percent increase over employees not enrolled. This added benefit will support Taco Bell's plans to create 100,000 new jobs in the U.S. as part of the company's 2022 growth goals. In 2018 alone, Taco Bell plans to open more than 250 new restaurants in the U.S., creating thousands of new jobs and increasing the company's need to attract and retain top talent.

"Taco Bell's emphasis on employee development made them an ideal partner for us," said Guild Education CEO Rachel Carlson. "Taco Bell's 'Start With Us, Stay With Us' philosophy aligns perfectly with Guild's value of giving employees education pathways to advance their careers – both at Taco Bell and beyond in future roles. We're delighted to help each Taco Bell employee find the right university or program to pursue their education, and our team at Guild will be with them every step of the way as they pursue their academic and career goals."

Taco Bell doesn't require employees to put in any time before signing up for these new Guild benefits, so employees can take advantage of the education benefits on day one. The Guild partnership joins existing education offerings such as the Live Más Scholarship and GED programs, that provide employees support no matter where they are in their education journey. All of these programs are part of Taco Bell's "Start With Us, Stay With Us" platform, which encourages employees to leverage the career-building and education programs that Taco Bell offers no matter how long they've been with, or plan to stay with, the company.

Taco Bell employees can learn more about the partnership and services available to them at

Bennigan’s Signs Multi-Location Agreement To Expand into Pakistan

On St. Patrick’s Day, Bennigan’s – the largest Irish-themed casual dining brand in the U.S. – executed a Master Franchise Agreement with Baila Group of Companies to open four locations in all the major cities of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The first of these locations is expected to open within a year’s time in Punjab, Pakistan.

The current plan is to expand into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but the Baila Group of Companies is also looking into the growth and demand of bringing Bennigan’s into other central Asian markets.

“We are confident that Bennigan’s will be enthusiastically embraced in Pakistan,” said Junaid Parvez, Deputy Managing Director of Baila Group of Companies. “We chose to franchise with Bennigan’s for a variety of reasons. Bennigan’s has an impressive history of success internationally thanks to its distinct atmosphere, architecture, and the food is truly phenomenal. The brand has a very compelling ROI and offers a world class level of support and training. Possibly the biggest reason for why we chose Bennigan’s was because of the heartwarming memories that I cherish from frequently visiting Bennigan’s when I was a child. We want to share those memorable experiences with everyone in Pakistan.”

The Baila Group of Companies is based in Sialkot, Pakistan. Its main business includes agriculture, rice processing and export, and ceremonial halls. The owners of the Baila Group also have a prominent presence in the construction industry of the state of Qatar.

“The Pakistani market is limitless,” said Parvez Iqbal, Managing Director of Baila Group of Companies. “And all of us Pakistani’s that are oversees have an obligation to show the Pakistani people what the world has to offer.”

The menu in the new restaurants will be strict to Pakistani culture and religion. The entire menu will be Halal; pork and alcohol will not be offered.

“We simply couldn’t ask for a better franchise partner than Junaid to introduce our brand to Pakistan,” said Paul Mangiamele, Bennigan's President & CEO. “Bennigan’s is one of the few American brands that is just as popular overseas as it is at home. That’s because of extraordinary franchisees like Junaid who have a passion for ‘bleeding green’ and understands the importance of delivering memorable dining experiences to every guest, every meal, every day.”

Since the end of 2012, the company has opened new franchise locations in Clarksburg and Frederick, Maryland.; Sacramento, California.; Melbourne, Florida., Lexington, Kentucky.; Veracruz, Mexico; Larnaca, Cyprus; Obarrio, Panama; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, UAE; and a corporate location in Panama City, Florida. Additional restaurants are planned for Florida, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina; and internationally in Mexico, Central America, Bahrain, Australia and India.

New Wendy's Smart 55 Design Debuts

With revitalized decor, comfortable seating and other amenities, top photo, customers will enjoy a new Wendy's® experience when they visit the new restaurant at 877 London Blvd., Portsmouth, Virginia for its grand opening on March 22.

The restaurant was built using an innovative interior and exterior design, which is part of an ongoing effort to provide an enhanced customer experience — from the enhanced menu to the restaurant environment.

"This restaurant has bold curb appeal and features a modern design—inside and out," said Andrew Krumholz, Managing Partner of Wendy's franchise organization Delight Restaurant Group. "It has a fresh look and feel that matches Wendy's high quality food." 

The new restaurant model, named the Smart 55, is designed with a smaller footprint than a traditional Wendy's restaurant and is energy efficient, including high efficiency HVAC units, LED lighting, and use of ENERGY STAR® kitchen equipment. Delight Restaurant Group joined the Department of Energy's Better Building Challenge in 2017 and made a commitment to reduce their energy use by 20 percent over a 10-year period.

The interior showcases open, bright dining areas with multiple seating options, including private booths, cozy lounge seating and a Wi-Fi bar. A Coca-Cola® Freestyle® beverage dispenser that allows customers to customize their drink choices is also available. The touch screen, self-serve fountains offer over 100 regular and low-calorie beverages, including a variety of branded waters, sports drinks, lemonades and sparkling beverages.

Rich Krumholz, Managing Partner of Delight Restaurant Group explained, "Our ultimate goal is for our customers to have the best dining experience, and we think they will really enjoy this state of the art Wendy's design. We are very excited to open this new restaurant, which will be our 4th Wendy's in Portsmouth and 30th in the Hampton Roads."

Based in Norfolk, Virginia, Delight Restaurant Group is a growth oriented franchisee of Wendy's restaurants with a total of 30 locations and approximately $50 million in gross annual revenue.  The company was founded in 2016 by Managing Partners Andrew and Richard Krumholz.

Salem's Gyro Rebrand

Schifino Lee Advertising + Branding, a national full-service advertising agency, has launched a rebrand of local quick-service restaurant franchise Salem’s Gyros & More.

To honor their 30th anniversary, Salem’s Gyros & More is refreshing its look and messaging to better reflect the company’s offering. The rebrand showcases its wide variety of family recipes and fresh, cooked-to-order meals — from premium shrimp to mouthwatering wings and scrumptious desserts. Essentially, Salem’s offers the quality and variety of a sit-down restaurant in a fast-casual environment.

“We wanted our brand to reflect both the quality and variety of the food we serve,” said Salem’s Marketing Manager Randy Ahmad. “We feel the new look and messaging does that perfectly, and we’re really excited to continue watching our franchise grow as a result.”

The rebranding features a new logo, interior and exterior building design, packaging, point-of-sale materials, and franchise collateral. In addition, the restaurant introduced a refined descriptor, changing Salem’s Gyros & More to Salem’s Fresh Eats.

“Salem’s offers so much more than gyros,” said Account Director Amanda Koenn at Schifino Lee. “Changing Salem’s Gyros & More to Salem’s Fresh Eats broadens the understanding of their offerings and highlights their high-quality, cooked-to-order philosophy without pigeonholing them as just a gyro joint.”

The rebrand is supported by an integrated outreach program that includes TV, radio, outdoor, digital and promotions.

Dwyane Wade Joins 800° Woodfired Kitchen Team

800° Woodfired Kitchen is partnering with NBA Champion Dwyane Wade, joining forces to continue to propel the fast-growing brand’s expansion nationally and globally. Wade has committed to becoming a partner of 800° Woodfired Kitchen on a brand level internationally, and locally, as a franchise partner.

“I am both humbled and excited that Dwyane has chosen to partner with 800° Woodfired Kitchen,” said Anthony Carron, founder of 800° Woodfired Kitchen. “Dwyane and I connected instantly over our shared love for fresh and thoughtfully prepared food, which is what this concept is all about. I admire Dwyane’s commitment to aligning himself with brands he is passionate about, and know with our joint vision and enthusiasm, 800° Woodfired Kitchen will continue to be made accessible to communities around the world.”

Wade has joined forces with longtime friend and Miami HEAT teammate Udonis Haslem, applying their on-the-court synergy to another shared passion: great tasting and high quality food. The duo has launched Forty-Three, a joint company named after the HEAT champions’ respective jersey numbers, kicking off their first venture to bring Chef Anthony Carron’s woodfired concept to South Florida.

“When I first discovered 800° Woodfired Kitchen I was impressed by the inviting atmosphere and the fact that its menu offered something for everyone,” said Wade. “As a professional athlete, I understand the importance of eating well. 800° Woodfired Kitchen raises the culinary bar by offering guests a unique dining experience with high-quality ingredients and delicious food in a relaxed setting. I’m excited to partner with a growing company as they continue to expand with new locations around the world and introduce this concept to wider audiences.”

As part his ongoing partnership, Wade will focus on building 800° Woodfired Kitchen’s brand awareness globally.

Chili's Launches Loyalty Effort

Chili’s® Grill & Bar, just made things a whole lot simpler for guests participating in its loyalty program, My Chili’s Rewards where they don’t need to solve equations to know what they are getting as a My Chili’s Rewards Guest.  My Chili’s Rewards Guests will get their choice of chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage during every visit to Chili’s.

“It’s raining chips, hallelujah, it’s raining chips!” sang Steve Provost, chief marketing and innovation officer of Chili's. “Well, and free non-alcoholic beverages!”

They listened to guests feedback loud and clear that loyalty programs feel too complicated so what would keep them coming back is to make things simple. They tested it in a few markets starting in August 2017 and approximately 50 percent of My Chili’s Rewards members opt for free chips and salsa and the other 50 percent choose a non-alcoholic beverage.

“The reality is a loyalty program is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to our Guests for being one of their top dining options and we weren’t doing a good job of that until now,” added Steve Provost.

Del Taco Continues Expansion

Del Taco Restaurants, Inc.  is continuing its upper Midwest expansion thanks to the brand’s partnership with leading multi-unit franchisee, Team Schostak Family Restaurants, which currently owns and operates five Del Taco locations with a sixth under development. This new agreement is for an additional 12 stores across the Detroit, MI area, bringing the total number of Del Taco locations Team Schostak Family Restaurants has open and in the pipeline to 18.

The development agreement for the 12 new Del Taco restaurants covers Macomb and parts of Wayne County, Michigan. Along with multiple Del Taco locations, Team Schostak Family Restaurants operates various other casual dining and fast casual brands, including more than 65 Applebee’s restaurants across Michigan.

“We value our partnership with Del Taco and see tremendous white space for the concept across Michigan,” said Mark Schostak, Executive Chairman of Team Schostak Family Restaurants. “Del Taco provides what consumers today are looking for, a winning combination of fresh food served at an unbeatable value. It’s a brand that we look forward to continue growing across the region.”

Del Taco now has more than 550 locations across 14 states.

“Team Schostak Family Restaurants is one of the most accomplished franchise groups in the country, and it speaks volumes that they continue to expand their company’s holdings with the Del Taco brand,” said Laura Tanaka, Del Taco’s Director of Franchise Development. “Our leadership team understands that franchisee profitability is the driver of our brand’s growth, and we invite those multi-unit operators looking for opportunities to connect with us to explore possible synergy with Del Taco.”

Long John Silver Flagship Opens

Long John Silver’s celebrated the opening of its newest location in Louisville, Kentucky  on the corner of Westport Road and Goose Creek Road. James O’Reilly, the company’s CEO was joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and members of the LJS executive team as they rang the ship’s bell to officially open the restaurant for business.

“This grand opening marks an exciting turning point for our brand,” said O’Reilly. “A new era of growth for LJS begins with our new flagship restaurant and will continue as we upgrade existing restaurants and open new units.”

The flagship restaurant debuts Long John Silver’s True North Design, which showcases a new façade with sleek lines, new logo and signage and an overall contemporary look. The updated theme is the third major redesign in the brand’s history and will, over the course of the next few years, replace the traditional Cape Cod style design that is original to the brand’s beginning in 1969. The restaurant features the brand’s new grilled seafood line, which includes shrimp and wild caught Alaskan salmon and several new dessert offerings.

The innovation continues outside of the restaurant as the flagship also boasts the brand’s drive-thru of the future. Long John Silver’s is the first quick service restaurant company to install this system, featuring three 55-inch high definition digital video screens backed by cutting edge DT audio and driven by a computer operated ordering and display system. The restaurants already featuring the technology have experienced double digit sale growth and increased order accuracy. Drive-thru customers will also be able to see a custom mural painted by Louisville’s Bryan Patrick Todd, whose work is featured on buildings across the city.

To commemorate the celebration, Long John Silver’s is donating the first $500 of sales to the American Cancer Society.

Black Bear Diner Continues to Expand East with First Texas Restaurant

Black Bear Diner announced its first restaurant in Texas. 

The new 5,400-square-foot, 150-seat diner is located at 24600 Katy Freeway, Suite 900, and will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant is corporately owned by Black Bear Diner and will create approximately 80 new jobs for local residents.

“We are thrilled to not only open our first diner in Katy, but introduce the entire Lone Star State to Black Bear Diner, as well,” said Black Bear Diner Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Dean. “This new restaurant is an important step in our eastward expansion, and we are eager to bring our home-styled comfort classics – and our trademarks bears – to local residents and visitors. More importantly, we look forward to serving as a good partner to Katy and other local communities across Texas as we expand.”

The Katy opening follows news of a franchise agreement with an existing franchise partner to bring Black Bear Diner to the San Antonio and Austin markets in the coming years. The company intends to open another Houston-area corporate unit this year.

With Texas, 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 last year.

The restaurant will also present a $10,000 check to Katy High School to help with beautification efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

El Pollo Loco Continues Expansion

 El Pollo Loco, Inc. opened its first location in Louisiana. This restaurant marks the company’s expansion and presence to six states – California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Arizona and now Louisiana. Owned and operated by first-time El Pollo Loco franchise partner Listo Way Group LLC, this new restaurant is located at 3808 Johnston Street in the city of Lafayette.

“With its distinctive culture, rich history and incredible culinary scene, Louisiana was a natural next step as we expand the El Pollo Loco brand. We believe Lafayette is the ideal place to lay down our roots, and we couldn’t be more excited to do so with Jason and his team,” said Gus Siade, Senior Vice President of Operations for El Pollo Loco. “As the heart and soul of Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole Country, Lafayette is a vibrant community that loves and respects bold favors and authentic cuisine. We’re thrilled to introduce our fresh and flavorful Mexican-inspired offerings to this great city and state and are confident that guests will love our signature citrus-marinated fire-grilled chicken and other delicious combinations.”

The company said 100 percent of all proceeds from grand opening day will be donated to the Boys & Girls Club of Acadiana.

“We’re honored to have the opportunity to bring El Pollo Loco’s concept and famous fire-grilled chicken to our home state of Louisiana,” said Jason Trotter, CEO of Listo Way Group LLC. “Like Lafayette, El Pollo Loco has a rich heritage and strong focus on authenticity – both of which are sure to resonate with this amazing community.”

The 2,660 square foot restaurant has indoor and patio seating for 60 guests and incorporates the brand’s new ‘Vision Design,’ which highlights an authentic, Mexican-inspired atmosphere and encompasses El Pollo Loco’s menu and brand identity. The new design features warm textures, rustic elements and a focus on the company’s signature open kitchen layout which allows for guests to view El Pollo Loco’s chicken as it is fire-grilled.

The chain unveiled a new corporate logo, marking the most significant change in its visual identity since 1980.

Featuring a new, more modernized chicken graphic at its core and a sophisticated red and black color scheme, the new logo is inspired by El Pollo Loco’s vibrant Los Angeles roots and its commitment to offering fresh, authentic Mexican-inspired flavors. The design pays homage to the Company’s legacy by incorporating El Pollo Loco’s original, well-known typeface, but also emphasizes the brand’s continued evolution and strength as it embraces a contemporary shape with clean, bold colors.

"Our new logo underscores the heart and soul of our brand – our signature citrus-marinated, fire-grilled chicken – and more cohesively aligns with the distinctiveness of the new ‘Vision Design’ restaurants, which showcase our quality, authenticity and QSR-plus leadership,” said Ed Valle, Chief Marketing Officer of El Pollo Loco. “This update is another milestone in the Company’s ongoing transformation and reinforces our promise to continually innovate, as we aim to not only provide our guests with the freshest, most delicious flavors, but also a great experience.”

Designed by On the Edge, the new logo is part of El Pollo Loco’s continual brand evolution that originated with the launch of its ‘Vision Design’ concept in December 2016. Earlier this month, the Company began a gradual rollout of the new logo to all restaurants, including packaging and uniforms, as well as to all branding communications and digital experiences. 

The chain also now offers delivery from more than 280 of its restaurants. Powered by DoorDash, El Pollo Loco’s delivery capability allows customers in participating markets to order directly from the Company’s website or by using the new El Pollo Loco app.

“Delivery has been a major focus for us as we continue to better connect with our customers and provide them with a high-quality, convenient and differentiated dining experience,” said Ed Valle, Chief Marketing Officer at El Pollo Loco. “We strive to fulfill our customers’ cravings for great flavors whenever and wherever they may be – and are thrilled that our fans can now get El Pollo Loco’s fresh, citrus-marinated, fire-grilled chicken and authentic Mexican-inspired menu items delivered directly to their doorsteps.”

El Pollo Loco chose DoorDash as its exclusive partner in September 2017. After a successful pilot program in Las Vegas, Nevada and Orange County, California, El Pollo Loco has expanded its delivery feature to its system across the Los Angeles Market and 6 others.

“The combination of DoorDash’s superior service and El Pollo Loco’s freshly prepared food provides busy, health conscious consumers with a delivery option they can feel good about,” said Ed Valle.

Papa Murphy’s Debuts New Company Website and Digital Ordering Platform

Papa Murphy’s Holdings launched its newly redesigned website and digital ordering platform. The updated and easy-to-navigate was developed in partnership with Fuzz LLC—a digital creative agency—and features a simpler, cleaner design that better reflects Papa Murphy’s brand offering. The website highlights the freshness of the company’s scratch-made dough, freshly shredded cheese, hand chopped veggies and high-quality toppings. The rollout of the new ecommerce platform by Olo, the leading provider of online and mobile ordering capabilities, marks the company’s first phase of its digital evolution.

“We’re thrilled that our new website showcases the uniqueness of the Papa Murphy’s brand and better educates visitors on the unmatched quality of our pizza,” said Weldon Spangler, CEO of Papa Murphy's Holdings. “In addition to revamping our website, we are working to address the changing needs of customers with our new online ordering system powered by Olo. It is now easier than ever for Papa Murphy’s customers to customize their order, find promotions and value deals, and save their order for easy, future ordering.”

The new ordering platform improves the online and mobile ordering experience, sends customers a text when their order is ready for pick-up, and soon will allow customers the ability to order a “half-and-half” pizza that combines two of their favorite pizzas in one. In addition to enhanced customer convenience, Papa Murphy’s franchisees now have access to a streamlined payment system with added payment options in participating stores, and franchisees may notice improved sales conversion rates for promotional menu items due to the ability to highlight promotional products. The newly designed allows franchisees to receive augmented local hiring support through an easier application process for in-store opportunities.

“We’re proud to partner with Papa Murphy’s to help take the company’s digital experience to the next level,” said Noah Glass, Founder and CEO of Olo. “With its focus on fresh ingredients and hand-crafted, personalized tastes, Papa Murphy’s is tapped into what today’s consumers really want. Utilization of the Olo platform sets up Papa Murphy’s for exploring additional options to expand convenience, such as delivery, to continue making this incredible bake-at-home pizza more accessible than ever.”

Denny's Launches Amazon Alexa Voice Ordering 

Denny's Corporation teamed up with Amazon to further expand its digital ordering network, called Denny’s on Demand, with the addition of an Amazon Alexa voice ordering skill.  The introduction of the skill for Amazon Alexa voice ordering at Denny’s is among the first from a family dining brand, as the Company embraces its role as a restaurant “omnichannel” innovator.

The Denny’s skill for Amazon Alexa voice ordering is now live, allowing Denny’s guests to place their order directly via Amazon Alexa from the comfort of their own home. After enabling the skill in the Alexa app and linking their Denny’s account and payment information, customers can simply speak command prompts that will activate Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa. The skill also allows guests to re-order recent menu items and provide estimated pick-up times. From there, the order will be sent directly to their nearby Denny’s restaurant, whether for pickup or delivery (at participating restaurants). 

“Since our launch of Denny’s on Demand last May, we have seen a clear and growing demand for greater convenience from our guests,” said John Dillon, chief marketing officer for Denny’s.  “Our digital ordering sales are continuing to grow, and we are seeing the benefit that digital ordering technology is bringing to both our restaurants and our guests.  We are pleased to continue building on our momentum, offering more and more of our guests a taste of Denny’s available at their fingertips with the introduction of ordering by Alexa.”

Since its inception, Denny’s on Demand has been delivering guests the convenience they crave along with the diner classics they love, whenever and wherever they want it – to the tune of more than 1.3 million orders to date. The platform continues to offer guests an entirely new approach to online ordering, enabling users to fully customize and place an order of any breakfast, lunch, dinner or late-night dish from Denny’s extensive diner menu, any time of day or night, all from the convenience of their smartphone, tablet or Amazon Alexa.

Denny’s on Demand is powered by Olo, with voice ordering through Alexa powered by Conversable. 

Pokéworks Fast Tracks Expansion

Pokéworks plans to bring more than 100 new franchise locations to markets across the country over the next two years. 

With locations  in Manhattan, Boston, Houston and Chicago, Pokéworks will further expand its brand presence with recently signed multi-unit franchise deals bringing the brand to San Francisco, Phoenix, Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Austin and other major cities.

"Our commitment to providing a healthier alternative to traditional fast food, coupled with the ability to meet demands for a reduced carbon footprint and naturally sustainable food, places us in a prime position for future growth," said Kevin Hsu, co-founder of Pokéworks. "As our brand continues to develop, we are dedicated to seeking passionate franchise partners to elevate the Pokéworks concept, while providing customers with a fresh take on Hawaiian-inspired poké."

Founded in 2015 in Midtown Manhattan, Pokéworks was created by brothers, Michael Wu and Peter Yang, and college buddies Kevin Hsu and Kasper Hsu, who all shared a vision of bringing quality and affordable flavorful food to the masses. After many trips to Hawaii filled with lots of poké, they began to incorporate household snacks for added flavor and texture, which was how the brand's "Poké Your Way" motto was born. The founders decided to bring this island favorite back to the Mainland for all to enjoy.

Pokéworks is the nation's largest and fastest growing poké brand, with nearly 20 locations open across the United States and Canada, and more than 100 restaurants anticipated to be open by 2020. Pokéworks is seeking experienced multi-unit franchisees in Texas, Florida and California, among other states.  The initial franchise fee for Pokéworks is $35,000 with the total single-unit investment ranging from $250,000 to $850,000.  

Fazoli's Rewards App

Fazoli's launched of its first app-based loyalty program with mobile ordering capabilities for all Morehead and Maysville, Kentucky guests. Fans in Morehead and Maysville who download and sign up for Fazoli's Rewards will get a free Baked Spaghetti and will receive a $5 coupon for every 50 points earned, with one point earned for each dollar spent. In addition, users can conveniently place and pay for an online order for pick up in-restaurant.

"We are thrilled to announce the launch of our mobile loyalty app to provide our guests with even greater convenience and value when eating out," said Dan Markwell, Fazoli's franchisee. "At Fazoli's, we understand that time and value are important for our guests, so we are always looking for ways to improve our experience of offering freshly prepared delicious Italian cuisine for families."

The launch of the app-based loyalty program allows Fazoli's to shape personalized offers that attract and engage more meaningfully with loyal guests. The Fazoli's app is available for iOS and Android users and can be downloaded on the Apple Store and Google Play store.

Saladworks Focuses on Dallas

Fast casual salad concept Saladworks is focusing its expansion efforts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Guests have embraced the Irving, Texas location since it opened two years ago, influencing corporate's continued development in larger cities throughout the state.

"Dallas-Fort Worth is an economically prosperous, high-growth city that presents a unique opportunity for development. As a younger demographic continues to migrate to the city for work, Saladworks is well-positioned to meet this demand and offer a chef-inspired, customizable entrée salad that is rich with flavorful ingredients and aligns with the lifestyle of these residents," said Saladworks President & CEO Patrick Sugrue.

And the number of residents is rapidly growing. From 2015 to 2016, Dallas-Fort Worth added 140,000 people – awarding it the title of the fastest growing metropolitan area in the U.S, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, population growth is only one reason why the brand wants to expand into the city. To gain further insight, Saladworks used Forum Analytics, a CBRE company that specializes in market research, data science and business analytics to draw conclusions on focus growth markets. Similar to Atlanta, Forum Analytics found that Dallas-Fort Worth presents a diverse demographic that offers huge opportunity for growth to the fresh-tossed salad concept.

"For more than 30 years, we've been committed to high-quality ingredients and customization. Guests can choose from more than 60 ingredients and craft a salad based on their specific preferences or choose from one of our signature or seasonal salads," said Sugrue. "We're excited to bring Saladworks to the city and offer Texans a healthful option."

With nearly 100 locations throughout the U.S. and abroad, the franchise system boasts satisfying entree-sized salads. The Dallas-Fort Worth market will be an early adopter of the concept's new menu featuring more vegetarian and vegan centered dishes, grain bowls and aguas frescas beverages that will compliment a new line of salads. Committed to its forward-thinking strategy, Saladworks has revamped its logo and restaurant interior to provide for a more comfortable atmosphere complete with charging stations inviting guests to stay a while.

Saladworks has plans to open the first location in Gateway Plaza in Southlake in Summer of 2018 and the second location later in the year in the new Citadel development in Fort Worth. The brand is on pace to open two to three locations in the region within the next 12 months, adding 40 new jobs to the market. Finding the right real estate with high foot traffic is an important part of the process, and the brand is focusing on Frisco, Downtown Dallas, North Dallas and the Dallas Medical District for possible sites. The entire Dallas-Fort Worth market can hold 20 to 30 locations, and Saladworks aims to open the majority of these restaurants in the next five years.

"There's limitless potential to develop Saladworks throughout the region in the coming years. Corporate development will be augmented by bringing on qualified multi unit operators as we continue to expand our nationwide footprint. Dallas-Fort Worth is a key market for growth and we're excited to bring our flavorful and plentiful food to more Texans as we continue to bring qualified partners into our successful franchise system to open new locations," said Sugrue.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh Celebrates 10 Years

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is turning 10 and celebrating by giving away a 10-day VIP Mediterranean experience of a lifetime.

Throughout the month of March, stop by Garbanzo to indulge in the fresh taste of the Mediterranean and receive a scratch card for a chance to instantly win free food or the ultimate Mediterranean VIP trip to the birthplace of the nutrient-filled food that has powered Garbanzo fans for 10 years.

“We have been delivering a simple, fresh, delicious and nutritious experience for a decade and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our loyal customers,” said Garbanzo CEO James Park. “We want to take this opportunity to say thank you by giving two lucky guests an unforgettable trip to the Mediterranean. All of our locations will also be giving away tons of food prizes, so join us in celebrating! What better reason do you need to come in more often or to try out our simple, unaltered, and delicious dishes, than for your chance to win fresh free food and an adventure of a lifetime?!”

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is headquartered in Colorado with 25 locations nationwide

Yext Teams with Arooga's

 Yext, Inc. forged a new relationship with Arooga's Grille House & Sports Bar  to give Arooga's more control of the facts about its brand across the services consumers use to find businesses every day.

"The rise of intelligence is changing the game for restaurants everywhere, as customers armed with AI-powered services like Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa, can simply say 'sports bar' or 'tater tots' and immediately get back a direct answer," said Lee Zucker, Head of Industry, Food Services at Yext. "In this new environment, forward-thinking food businesses like Arooga's that take control of their digital knowledge now are going to have a crucial advantage. We're proud to work with Arooga's to put perfect information about their restaurants everywhere."

Using the Yext Knowledge Engine, Arooga's can now manage its digital information for all of its restaurants from a central platform. Yext's restaurant customers include brands of all sizes, from large brands like Denny's, Arby's, and Qdoba to single-location restaurants.

"We recognize the importance of maintaining our brand profile in this digital age where everything lives online," said Gary Huether, Jr., President and Co-Founder of Arooga's Grille House & Sports Bar.  "Yext allows us the capability to control our brand across online platforms, which is important as we continue to grow so that we control our messaging, and also so our guests can easily find answers about Arooga's online."

Marco's and FoodTec Team

Marco’s Franchising LLC and FoodTec Solutions, Inc. are expanding relationship for technology including point-of-sale, delivery, back office, on-line ordering, mobile apps, and various other applications.

The new agreement between Marco’s Franchising LLC and FoodTec provides Marco’s Pizza franchisees, as well as company-owned restaurants, a single technology platform that competes very effectively in the market to drive revenue, control operations, and reduce costs. The FoodTec platform provides Marco’s with cloud-based solutions as well as a resilient POS solution at store level. With the integration of FoodTec’s Target Market, On-Line Ordering, Customer Apps, and Delivery IQ solutions, Marco’s will have a single integrated solution across its entire enterprise of approximately 1000 stores and growing rapidly.

“Over the past several years, FoodTec has demonstrated its commitment to Marco’s Pizza in several hundred stores. After extensive due diligence, we have determined that their latest technology will generate significant benefits to all our operators,” said Jack Butorac, Chairman and CEO of Marco’s Franchising LLC.

“This technology initiative will enable Marco’s Pizza to implement new and constantly changing marketing initiatives as we grow to 1500 plus stores and beyond. Our goal was to find the “best fit” solution for our stores that would also enable the company to centralize our marketing efforts. We believe that the benefits of a FoodTec’s single-platform and totally integrated solution far exceeded the challenges of a multi-vendor technology approach,” stated Rick Stanbridge, VP/Chief Information Officer of Marco’s Franchising LLC.

“By leveraging a total technology solution from a single vendor, Marco’s can focus on their customer service, brand, operations, and marketing strategy," stated Andrew Bounas, CEO of FoodTec Solutions. “We have been committed to Marco’s Pizza and very proud to be selected as the exclusive technology partner for our suite of integrated solutions designed specifically for the pizza and delivery industry. Many of our new innovative solutions that are being released now, and in the future, will enable Marco’s and their franchisees to compete very effectively moving forward.”

Corner Bakery Switches to MONKEY

Bakery Cafe recently completed a system-wide update to its catering platform, with all cafes shifting from in-house managed software, to MONKEY, the cloud platform for takeout, delivery and catering.

"Catering is key to our business strategy, which is why the move to MONKEY was so necessary," said Frank Paci, CEO of Corner Bakery Cafe. "We outgrew our previous systems and we needed a more modern, cloud-based platform that could scale, be inline with our operational requirements, and serve our customers in a digital world. We needed to better connect our operations to our customers.”

With a growing network of over 8,000 restaurants in North America, MONKEY centralizes web and mobile ordering, allowing all cafe locations to access real time transaction data to expedite in-store and phone ordering, billing, payments, customer insights, production and delivery.

"We already had a substantial catering business that made up 25-30 percent of our sales revenue, so moving all our catering operations into the cloud was like working with a moving freight train,” said Paul Hicks, SVP Operations Services & Brand Development for Corner Bakery Cafe. “It was critical for us to maintain continuity of service for all our locations throughout the implementation for all our stores and franchise partners. Nobody understood the nature of the challenge more than the team at MonkeyMedia Software."

In addition to handling the order process and production management, MONKEY provided Corner Bakery Cafe key integrations with in-house systems.

"Moving to MONKEY is a big leap forward in terms of gaining quicker visibility of our catering data that we need to share with our stakeholders," said Minh Le, SVP of Technology for Corner Bakery Cafe. "In addition to having the industry’s top cloud solution for catering, Monkey Group brings the strategy and culture of catering success through training and support from The Catering Institute. This holistic approach to off-premise showed us this was the right solution and partner for Corner Bakery Cafe.”

Following an initial pilot in August 2017, Corner Bakery Cafe brought 20-30 locations online weekly with MONKEY, through the end of the year, culminating in system-wide training.

"Corner Bakery brought key elements to this process — dedicated leadership, a differentiated menu, and full awareness of what was happening in the marketplace and at all their locations," said Erle Dardick, CEO of Monkey Group and founder of MonkeyMedia Software, The Catering Institute and Catering Insights. "Their catering sales were humming, and by investing in the right technology platform to optimize their catering operations, Corner Bakery is now the gold standard for catering operations for multi-unit restaurants in our industry."

“This project was very special for our organization,” said Mo Asgari, President of Monkey Group and MonkeyMedia Software. “There are few brands in the world that are as sophisticated at restaurant catering as Corner Bakery Cafe. I am proud that MONKEY was selected by this world-class organization for supporting the next generation of their off premise service channels, and we’re all very pleased with the success of their rollout and implementation.”

Fazoli's Nelson to Retire

After a long and illustrious restaurant industry career spanning forty-three years – including the past twenty four years with Fazoli’s – Vice President of Franchise Sales Sam Nelson will retire effective March 21.

His affiliation with Fazoli’s dates all the way back to 1985 when the concept was originally conceived by parent company Jerrico, Inc. He was an integral part of the team that opened the first five Fazoli’s in Lexington, Kentucky before leaving Jerrico to purchase The Coach House Restaurant – at the time the only Mobil Five-Star restaurant in the State of Kentucky. In 1992 Sam was inducted into the Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame.

Nelso rejoined Fazoli’s in 1994 and served as the Company’s first-ever Franchise Business Consultant. After several promotions including Director and Group Chairman of Franchise Operations, Sam was selected in 1998 to lead the Franchise Department as Vice President, Franchise Operations and Sales. That same year, Sam was presented with Fazoli’s “Servant Leadership Award”, the only recipient of this award in the Company’s history.

In the ensuing years that followed under Nelson’s leadership, the company’s franchise community doubled in size, easily exceeding the number of company-owned units.

In recent years, he has focused once again on growing Fazoli’s franchise system. After a period of stagnant growth during and immediately following The Great Recession, Sam re-ignited Fazoli’s franchise sales and has been instrumental in driving resurgence in the growth of the brand.

“Fazoli’s has been fortunate to have someone of Sam’s talents and abilities at the helm of our franchise system for the past 24 years” said CEO Carl Howard. “I thank Sam for his many contributions over the years and am grateful for his efforts in growing our franchise system and building a pipeline of future Fazoli’s franchisees.”

“I’ve had an incredible career in the restaurant industry generally, and with Fazoli’s, specifically” said Nelson. I will miss the many friends and colleagues I’ve come to know so well through the years and will continue to wish everyone associated with this brand nothing but success and prosperity in the future.”

Dunkin' on Google

Dunkin' Donuts continues to introduce faster and easier choices for running on Dunkin', announcing that On-the-Go Mobile Ordering is now available through the Google Assistant, on iPhones and Android phones. Though this new integration, DD Perks® Rewards members can use the Google Assistant, Google's voice assistant technology, on their iPhones and Android phones to place a mobile order for Dunkin' Donuts coffee, beverages, baked goods and breakfast sandwiches, and then speed past the line in store for pick-up. The new integration is powered by Conversable, a leading AI-powered conversational intelligence platform.

Guests who have a DD Perks account and a Google account can link both, with all ordering and payments happening within Dunkin' Donuts' mobile platform. When a guest places and submits an order through the Google Assistant, the distance and estimated time to reach the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant will be identified by Google Maps, and the order will be sent to the restaurant to be ready at that time. Guests can order from saved Favorites and items previously ordered via the Dunkin' Mobile® App.

"We are focused on leveraging the most innovative, relevant technologies to make accessing our mobile ordering platform as easy as possible," says Sherrill Kaplan, Vice President of Digital Innovation at Dunkin' Brands. "Our new integration with the Google Assistant is yet another exciting example of our commitment to enhancing speed, convenience and our overall brand experience for our loyal guests."

DD Perks Rewards members can get even more perks this month with No Wait Wednesdays. Every Wednesday throughout March, guests who place an order using On-the-Go Mobile Ordering will earn double the points.

White Castle Royal Weddings

White Castle held the first Royal Wedding at the Las Vegas White Castle on Sunday, March 11, following a national contest that was as hot as a steam-grilled slider patty. After judging thousands of entries, the Grand Prize winners, Adam and Whitney, were chosen for White Castle’s significance in their relationship.

Adam and Whitney, of Fort Worth, Texas, first connected while working for a musician prior to a concert in College Station, Texas. Adam, a native of Queens, NY, had a deeply engrained love for White Castle after growing up near a restaurant and serving as a regular customer. Whitney grew up in Dallas, TX, where she was introduced to White Castle’s retail offerings at her local grocery store. As the relationship developed, Adam knew it was time to share with Whitney the White Castle restaurant experience while visiting his family in New York.

“We visited a Castle in my hometown that is near and dear to me for Whitney’s first White Castle trip,” said Adam. “I decided to skip my regular order for this special occasion and ordered a little bit of everything for her to try. Right away, it was clear she would share the same Cravings for White Castle, and she immediately fell for the Chicken Rings.”

In July 2017, Adam proposed to Whitney while the couple was in Nashville, TN. After she said ‘yes,’ they drove around the city in search of a venue to celebrate the engagement and happened upon the perfect fit: none other than a White Castle restaurant. While Adam ordered, Whitney saw a sign promoting the national Royal Wedding Contest and submitted the couple’s entry, knowing the idea would meet her fiancé’s Craving. As the couple celebrated their lifetime commitment to one another with a meal at White Castle, they began a journey that led them to the royal wedding other couples can only dream about.

As Grand Prize winners, the White Castle Royal Couple was treated to a “Royal Wedding” experience in Las Vegas complete with a rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, reception, décor, and of course White Castle cuisine based on many of the couple’s favorite items. Partnering with local businesses, White Castle pulled out all the stops for the Craver couple with music selected by the bride and groom, floral arrangements, photographs by Jenna Bryant Photography and a custom wedding cake, all coordinated by Symphony Weddings & Events. As a first act as husband and wife, Adam and Whitney will be sent on a five-night honeymoon in Belgium, including roundtrip airfare, ground transportation, four nights’ hotel accommodation, White Castle gift cards, White Castle coupons and even a one-night stay in a real Belgian castle. The honeymoon is generously sponsored by Unique Belgique, the official supplier of White Castle’s real Belgian waffles offered at restaurants across the country.

The couple was joined by more than 25 of their closest family and friends for the intimate experience. The Royal Wedding was the finale of a Crave Case packed weekend full of fun events including surprise visits to local establishments announcing the wedding event with White Castle’s official royal court announcer, the White Castle Town Crier.

“The White Castle Royal Wedding was a chance for our most BOLD and loyal Cravers to celebrate their wedding in a new, different and exciting way,” said Kim Bartley, Chief Marketing Officer for White Castle. “Adam and Whitney did a fantastic job of showing us how much White Castle means to their relationship, and in return we were happy to provide such a memorable experience for them.”

Two more winning couples were also selected to receive the Royal Wedding Contest first prize package of White Castle menu items and non-alcoholic refreshments for up to 200 people at their wedding reception or party held anywhere in the continental United States.