MRM News Bites: Franchise Acquisition Fever, Cheesy Contest and Election Cookies on This Week’s Plate

Modern Restaurant Management magazine compiles restaurant industry headlines, new products, openings and personnel announcements in our weekly MRM News Bites. Send items of interest to Content Director Barbara Castiglia at

Acquisition Fever

A wholly-owned subsidiary of MTY Food Group Inc. signed an agreement to acquire all of the equity interest of BF Acquisition Holdings, LLC, which currently franchises and operates 162 Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and 23 La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill restaurants in the U.S., Dubai and Singapore. Of those 185 restaurants, 16 are corporately-owned and 169 are franchised. During 2015, the network generated more than $145 million in system sales. Total consideration for the transaction is estimated at $27 million in cash, to be financed using MTY’s existing credit facilities. 

“Following the addition of Kahala last month, MTY intends to continue and accelerate its growth throughout North America, leveraging both its US platforms and Canadian platforms to acquire profitable restaurant concepts,” said Stanley Ma, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of MTY. “The acquisition of Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill perfectly aligns with our growth strategy and is one more step towards building a bigger and better organization for the future.”

Following the transaction, BFAH’s head office will be moved in MTY’s office in Scottsdale, AR.

An affiliate of Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private equity firm that focuses on franchise and consumer brands, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a majority interest in Jimmy John’s Sandwiches. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.  Jimmy John’s  has more than 2,500 locations and $2 billion in system-wide sales.  Founded in 1983 by Jimmy John Liautaud,  the chain has opened more than 200 locations in each of the last five years, with a new-unit pipeline of more than 1,100 locations to be opened over the next several years.

There will not be any changes to management, as Liautaud will continue to help shape the company’s high-level strategic direction as Chairman of the Board of Directors and will remain the single largest individual shareholder, while James North will continue to lead the day-to-day operations of the business as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Champaign, Il-headquartered brand.

As part of the transaction, previous partners Weston Presidio will exit after holding a minority stake for 10 years. Upon completion of the transaction, Roark will have acquired 56 franchise/multi-unit brands which generate annual system revenues of approximately $23 billion through 25,000 locations that operate in 50 states and 75 countries. Dave Jacquin and his team from North Point Advisors served as exclusive financial advisor to Jimmy John’s.

Calling for Nominations

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) is now accepting nominations for its 2017 national recognition awards: Restaurant Neighbor Award, Faces of Diversity Award, and Ambassador of Hospitality Award. Applications and nomination forms are available online at until October 15.

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Logo (PRNewsFoto/National Restaurant Association)

The awards honor professionals who have enhanced the restaurant and foodservice industry through tireless work and remarkable leadership. The winners will be recognized at a gala awards dinner in Washington, D.C., during the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in March 2017.

“The restaurant industry is one of the most diverse industries in the nation, full of opportunity for individuals in different stages of life from different places,” said Rob Gifford, Executive Vice President, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “We are so proud to have the chance to honor individuals who embody the best qualities of our industry. Award nominees and winners exemplify the idea that hard work, determination, community involvement, and spirited leadership pay off, and remind us that the American Dream is very much alive. All of these merits not only represent the best of our industry, but honor the mission of the NRAEF.”

Now in its 18th year, the Restaurant Neighbor Award, founded in partnership with American Express, honors restaurants and restaurateurs for their philanthropic efforts and dedication to their communities. Each year, a small business, a mid-size restaurant company, and a large or national chain each receive $10,000 to support a charity or community project.

Founded in 2006, the Faces of Diversity Awards program was created to promote the importance of diversity and inclusion by highlighting model companies that have excelled in this area. The awards aim to raise awareness about the important role restaurants play in providing a ladder of opportunity for millions of Americans. In partnership with PepsiCo Foodservice, the Faces of Diversity Awards program honors individuals in the restaurant industry who have realized the American Dream through hard work, determination and enterprise, and now also work to help others do the same.

The Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award, sponsored by Ecolab, is the premiere award bestowed by NRAEF to an individual who has shown extraordinary achievement and leadership in the restaurant and hospitality industry. The award is named for Thad and Alice Eure who generously gave their time and resources to serve their community and the hospitality industry.

As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF exists to enhance the restaurant industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement and promotion of career opportunities. The NRAEF works to attract, develop and retain a career-oriented professional workforce for the restaurant industry. In 2016, the restaurant and foodservice industry is projected to provide a record 14.4 million jobs, making it the nation’s second largest private sector employer.

Avoiding Label Confusion

ESHA Research, the leading provider of nutrition analysis and labeling compliance solutions, published a new guide for understanding the FDA’s changes the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels, “Cutting Through Labeling Confusion | New FDA Nutrition Facts Label Changes Guide.” gi_66893_fda-2016-nfl-ebook-thumb

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released final regulations for the updated Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts panels for food and supplement products. The compliance date for the updated Nutrition Facts labels will be July 26, 2018, for companies with more than 10 million dollars in annual food sales or July 26, 2019, for companies with less than 10 million dollars in annual food sales.

These changes impact how food products will appear to consumers, and manufacturers will want to consider the changes closely as they decide whether to reformulate their products. 

“There have been many significant updates to label nutrients and daily values,” stated Craig Bennett, CEO at ESHA Research. “This eBook focuses on the key changes in nutrients and Daily Values that apply to both labels.”

Revel Teams with Punchh

Revel Systems, which provides an iPad Point of Sale management solution for brick-and-mortar retail, food businesses and more, is partnering with Punchh, a provider of Mobile Engagement, CRM and Marketing Automation technologies for enterprise restaurant chains.revel-systems-logo[1]

Bobby Marhamat, Chief Revenue Officer of Revel Systems said the deal enable the company to expand its reach into the enterprise market.

“With this partnership, we’re increasing customer loyalty through inventive mobile engagement strategies, which in turn allows our clients to gain valuable insight about their customers.”

Revel continues to build their iPad point of sale platform through strategic partnerships as they begin to break into the enterprise market. With the goal of going above and beyond to create a meaningful and enticing customer experience, Revel is seeking out companies like Punchh who share this same mission.

“Our partnership with Revel allows us to deliver a world-class technology solution which will greatly improve the experience for our customers and their guests,” added Shyam Rao, CEO & Co-Founder of Punchh. 

Chowly Partners with Granbury

Granbury Solutions, a point-of-sale to enterprise management company, finalized an incorporation with international point of sale integration company to deliver data from restaurant aggregators like Chowly

“Our partnership with Chowly makes it possible for our clients to have integrated online ordering from their branded website as well as from a wide variety of consumer facing sites – so they can manage orders efficiently no matter where they originate from,” said Granbury’s Vice President of Sales, Jon Decker. 

In partnering with Chowly, Granbury is looking to streamline the entire process and change the restaurant industry to be more efficient. 

“Chowly makes it simple to connect to the same process their branded website orders will use to send orders to the point-of-sale system, and right to the kitchen,” said Decker. 

Digital Growth

SUBWAY® restaurants acquired a digital technology team and assets from Avanti Commerce, a Vancouver-based online commerce solution provider and SUBWAY® restaurants partner since 2011. The 20-person team will remain and grow in Vancouver and be dedicated to the expansion and customization of unique e-commerce and omni-channel platforms for the sandwich chain. SUBWAY® restaurants will also continue to partner with Avanti’s Innovation Team to further extend the capabilities of their digital strategy. The teams are currently developing an in-restaurant kiosk program.

“This reinforces our commitment to attracting top technology and digital marketing talent,” said Carman Wenkoff, SUBWAY® restaurants CIO and Chief Digital Officer. “This will bring our commerce platform of enhancing engagement and building loyalty to the next level and will allow us to deliver value to the market quickly.”

SUBWAY® Digital is building the framework for a comprehensive digital strategy around the world. With the creation of SUBWAY® Digital, the newest division for SUBWAY® restaurants, the brand is looking to add at least 50 jobs this year, and up to 150 total over the next few years, including five on the new team in Vancouver.

New Products

Compeat, an end-to-end restaurant management software for the restaurant industry, launched Pay Assist managed services. Designed specifically for restaurant payroll, Pay Assist supports restaurant’s necessary filings, new hire reporting, federal and state weekly deposits and so much more for substantially less than other outsourced vendors.

“Restaurateurs either spend hours on payroll calculations, keeping up with changing tax regulations, deadlines and filings or pay an enormous amount to outsource payroll. Our customers needed a cost effective option for payroll assistance. Pay Assist was designed to meet this unmet need in the marketplace,” said Jeffrey Stone, CEO of Compeat.gI_62813_compeat-logo-orange-5in

Compeat customers drove the design of Pay Assist by sharing their frustrations with outsourced payroll vendors that do not understand the unique complications of restaurant payroll.

“Outsourced payroll companies require the business representative to do the bulk of the work and they provide the service of printing checks and paying payroll tax liabilities. I like to describe it as running a marathon where you run the first 26 miles and then hand it off to the outsourced payroll company to run the remaining .2 of a mile across the finish line, and at a tremendous cost. Compeat Payroll makes it easy to do your own payroll. It also interfaces seamlessly with Compeat Workforce. With a direct poll from your POS payroll data or from Compeat Workforce, a few minor adjustments, the setup of new employees, and a quick review, your payroll is done! A few more clicks and your payroll liabilities are processed as well. With all of the challenges and expenses we face in the restaurant industry, payroll processing should not be one of them,” Amy Witt, CFO of Johnny Garlic’s.

The turnkey solution can handle tip compliance reporting and computing the ways that tips affect minimum wage calculations as well as full reporting, POS polling, payroll check printing, and local and annual filings and allows restaurants to print W-2’s. 


San Francisco’s  fine casual Greek sandwich shop and wine bar, Souvla, will open its third location at 758 Valencia Street in the Mission. Souvla has taken over the space formerly occupied by Grub, and will open in early 2017.


The first Souvla opened its doors in April 2014 in Hayes Valley, and a little over two years later, Souvla opened on Divisadero Street, bringing the “Opa to NoPa.” The Valencia Souvla will open in early 2017 on the same block as Craftsman & Wolves, Dandelion Chocolate, and Tacolicious, and adjacent to the 18th Street corridor with Tartine Bakery, Bi-Rite Market, Delfina, and Namu Gaji.

“The size of Souvla Valencia is a sweet spot for us, somewhere between our Hayes and Divisadero locations, with high ceilings, lots of natural light and an opportunity for outdoor seating. We are thrilled to be part of such a dynamic neighborhood, and on a block is that is developing with such incredible brands and businesses.” said Charles Bililies, Souvla Founder & CEO.

Cheesy Sweepstakes

Burger 21®,  is getting its cheese on for National Cheeseburger Day by rewarding all guests who download its mobile app with a free Cheesy Burger offer. To further celebrate the holiday, which falls this year on Sunday, Sept. 18, Burger 21 will launch its first Secret Cheesy Sweepstakes, in which one lucky fan will be flown to Tampa, FL to meet with Corporate Chef Mike Remes. Together, the pair will invent a distinctive cheeseburger creation, which will be featured next year for a limited-time in all of Burger 21’s restaurants nationwide.

B21 Secret Cheesy Sweepstakes Graphic[1]

To spice things up, Chef Remes will be treating guests to a Secret Cheesy Burger on National Cheeseburger Day, handcrafted and inspired by the holiday. Those who are adventurous enough to try the Secret Cheesy recipe on Sept. 18 and scan their loyalty receipt on the app will be entered into a drawing in which one lucky fan will win a grand prize trip to the company’s headquarters in Tampa to create the brand’s new cheeseburger creation. The winner will be chosen at random on Sept. 19.

Through Burger 21’s mobile app, guests can earn a $5 reward for every seven visits and receive surprise rewards. There are 25 locations now open in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Texas, and approximately 16 in development in 12 states. 

Culinary Couple on the Cover

The Clever Root features a cover story on the husband-and-wife team behind  Asheville, N.C.’s  Cúrate and Nightbell.00001

The couple fell in love while working under José Andrés at Washington D.C.’s Café Atlántico, and under Ferran Adrià in the famed El Bulli restaurant in Roses, Spain, where Meana was born and raised.

“The story of Asheville’s modern renaissance cannot be told without Chef Button and Felix Meana,” says The Clever Root Founder and Publisher Meridith May. “This amazing couple has helped make it one of America’s most important food and wine cities in the world. And their love and support of Albariño is having a similar broad-reaching affect here in America: The wine is influencing menus and inspiring chefs from coast to coast as we speak.”

Casting the Cookie Vote

Three Brothers Bakery is preparing for the upcoming presidential election by offering customers a delicious way to vote for their favorite candidate. Guests can cast their vote by purchasing cookies decorated with an image of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or the bakery’s third party candidate, Gingy, the  scratch made gingerbread man. Each image was custom designed for Three Brothers Bakery by Rocco Mastroianni.PresidentialCookie

Each location will tally the number of votes cast for the candidates, and the election results will be updated weekly via the bakery’s social media channels. The election cookies will be available for purchase at all three Houston area Three Brothers Bakery locations; Braeswood, Memorial and Washington Avenue through Election Day, November 8.

Geri Wolff Scholarship

The Digital Signage Federation® (DSF), the only independent not-for-profit trade organization serving the digital signage industry has issued the call for applications for the 2016-17 Geri Wolff Scholarship.

The DSF’s Geri Wolff Scholarship is designed to raise the awareness of digital signage as a career choice among qualified young women who are committed to a professional career in computer sciences and related fields. This award is also intended to help broaden employment diversity, by encouraging employers to hire qualified women in a variety of IT capacities.

Applications are due on or before Friday, December 2, 2016. Recipients will be notified in early February 2017. For more information, or to apply online go to:

Taking it Personnely

The Plamondon Companies, the umbrella organization whose holdings include six franchised hotels and the operator and franchisor of more than 50 Roy Rogers restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, appointed Martin J. “MJ” Worsham Corporate Network Manager and Kevin Demeritt Director of Procurement. 

Martin J. “MJ” Worsham

Worsham joins The Plamondon Companies from NCR, where his responsibilities included helping new Roy Rogers implement the NCR systems deployed in its restaurants. Reporting to Chief Financial Officer Ed Prensky, he will now be responsible for managing and maintaining computer networks for the company’s restaurant and hotel divisions. 

Kevin Demeritt

Demeritt most recently worked at Sodexo, where he managed supply management procurement programs for equipment and smallwares. He also has hotel experience in purchasing food and beverages for BF Saul Company and Hilton Hotels. At The Plamondon Companies, he will report to Director of Restaurant Operations Greg Seymoure and will be responsible for managing procurement functions for all company-owned and franchisee-owned Roy Rogers Restaurants.

Roy Rogers is enjoying resurgence in many East Coast markets. Time after time, loyal fans and new customers alike have been responding enthusiastically to the news that a new Roy Rogers restaurant is opening in their area. So far in 2016, those areas have included Edison, Brick, and Flemington, N.J., Aspen Hill, Md., and Gainesville, Va. The next Roy Rogers restaurant will open in Pasadena, Md., . The company is seeking franchisees to develop select markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

“We are on a steady pace of regrowth with our company-owned and franchised restaurants and are opening new locations on the hotel side as well,” said Jim Plamondon, co-president of The Plamondon Companies. “In September we’ll not only add our sixth new Roy Rogers restaurant this year in Pasadena, Md., but also will open a new hotel in Grovetown, Ga., marking our seventh hotel property and first under our franchise development agreement with Hilton. As we continue our expansion and look to deliver more value especially to our franchisees and our guests, we are committed to hiring and retaining exceptional personnel to fortify our corporate infrastructure. Both MJ and Kevin will be great resources to our organization in this regard.”


The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee has named Joshua Rogers Executive Chef.

Joshua Rogers

“I believe that simplicity can be very satisfying and successful, and I’m thrilled to create a new culinary vision for The Iron Horse Hotel,” said Rogers. “From each ingredient to every plated dish and all the steps in between, I aspire to lead by example to show my team that I am with them every step of the way.”

Prior to joining Smyth at The Iron Horse Hotel, Rogers held the role of sous chef at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, where he honed his culinary expertise under nationally acclaimed, James Beard nominated Chef Dean James Max. Rogers later joined The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco as chef de cuisine, where he mastered his skills at engineering each menu and developing recipes. He also excelled in the role as chef de cuisine at the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China. In 2014, Rogers moved back to the States, where he accepted the position as executive sous chef at Nantucket Island Resorts in Massachusetts.

The Iron Horse Hotel, managed by Aparium Hotel Group, is the transformation of a 100-year-old warehouse into a one-of-a-kind hotel that delivers an authentic Milwaukee experience.  Aparium Hotel Group properties include: The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, WI; The Charmant Hotel in La Crosse, WI; and Hotel Covington in Covington, KY.

Hospitality and restaurant technology provider Restaurant Magic filled a new position in business development by bringing on veteran hospitality publisher, Lenore O’Meara as Director of Channel Sales.  In this new position for the company, O’Meara will be responsible for enhancing strategic development of referral and partner business.   

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Lenore O’Meara

 “Lenore is a great strategic fit for Restaurant Magic as we continue to grow and enhance our products and business,” said Drew Peloubet, chairman and CEO at Restaurant Magic.  “Her long tenure in hospitality and tech publishing is critical in this new role.”

With more than 17 years of experience in the hospitality technology industry, O’Meara has built extensive relationships in key growth areas.  Additionally, she has led key strategic initiatives and developed new growth offerings across multiple platforms in the publishing industry for decades.  

“I’m passionate about hospitality services and technology, so this was a natural next step in my career,” said O’Meara.  “Restaurant Magic has great products, opportunity and culture.  The company is set up to stay on the leading edge of this ever-changing industry, and that’s exciting to me.”

O’Meara previously was Publisher of Hospitality Technology at Stagnito/Edgell Communications where she had overall responsibility for publishing, as well the development and execution of industry-leading networking events like MURTEC and Restaurant Executive Summit.