MUNCHIES Food Hall, First Drive-Thru Poke and Wicked Healthy World

MRM's News Bites features MUNCHIES and American Dream, Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Punchh and Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, Sodexo, Menufy and DoorDash, Upserve, KCETLink Media Group, Derek and Chad Sarno, Woody Harrelson and Tin Rocket Entertainment, KFC Hong Kong, McDonald's, Citi and Urbanspace, Soulman’s Bar-B-Que, Cintas Canada,  Ahipoki and  Cupcakin’ Bake Shop.

Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at

First MUNCHIES Food Hall
The world's first MUNCHIES Food Hall, top photo, will debut at American Dream, an approximately three-million-square-foot retail destination opening in 2019 at the Meadowlands complex in New Jersey. With over 38,000 square feet and 18 vendors, the food hall will be a platform for creative and diverse culinary talent, selected with MUNCHIES signature youth-driven perspective.

"The decision to create a MUNCHIES Food Hall was a no-brainer. We're always looking for opportunities to expand the MUNCHIES brand beyond digital media and to provide fun, offline experiences for our fans to taste, interact and learn, as well as tell our stories to new audiences. Food halls have always intrigued us, and we couldn't ask for more than partnering with a world-class operator like Triple Five. The American Dream property is like nothing we've ever seen before and we're beyond excited to have MUNCHIES be one of their partners," said John Martin, Publisher of MUNCHIES.

"In the true spirit of American Dream 'firsts,' we are thrilled to partner with MUNCHIES, a brand leader in food, culture and conversation," said Don Ghermezian, President, American Dream, on the debut of the world's first MUNCHIES Food Hall. "When we thought about the food hall experience and how to differentiate ourselves from other developers, MUNCHIES immediately came to mind. Instead of partnering with a celebrity chef, which is totally expected, we crossed three rivers and the island of Manhattan to find the ideal partner to collaborate on this first-of-its-kind food hall. The MUNCHIES Food Hall will curate tenant selection and global culinary experiences, while simultaneously creating events, activations and content not found anywhere else."

With plans to include spaces for filming MUNCHIES content, demos from visiting chefs and engaging activations, the MUNCHIES Food Hall will be an analog opportunity for fans and newcomers alike to be immersed in the vibrant digital community found on the MUNCHIES site.

"It's about creating a memorable environment where our customers will interact, learn and experience food like never before. Our restaurateur partners will be provided with attractive design and construction amenities to showcase and attract the best talent. Most importantly, you can score a great Martinez cocktail to wash down the Beef Marrow Cheeseburger and Eggplant Tempura," said Dimitri Lalagos, SVP Leasing, American Dream.

Emeril's Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen

The Emeril Lagasse Foundation launched Emeril's Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen, a national education initiative created to enrich the lives of elementary and middle school children through a fun, fresh perspective on food. The program fully integrates culinary gardens and teaching kitchens in schools as interactive learning environments.

Through a unique curriculum developed by a national task force of educators, culinary professionals and farm-to-school experts, schools are provided with grade-level standards for gardening and cooking classes that are not only integrated across all core subjects, but also aligned with national academic standards. The curriculum uses over 100 of Chef Emeril's recipes that have been modified for the classroom.

Emeril's Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen is the vision of Chef Emeril Lagasse and his wife, Alden. Since they established the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in 2002, the Foundation has granted more than $10 million to children's charities that provide culinary, nutrition and arts education. While those efforts will remain a cornerstone of the Foundation's mission, the creation of Emeril's Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen will allow the Foundation to broaden its reach and make a direct, lasting impact on youth in America.

"Since Alden and I started the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, we have seen great outcomes for youth, through supporting garden and cooking education programs," said Chef Emeril Lagasse. "It was because of these programs that Alden and I decided we wanted our family's philanthropic legacy to be a school-based garden and cooking program that would directly inspire children on a national level."

Emeril's Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen uses four key pillars to guide implementation. The program seeks to provide an appreciation for the source of food, understanding of nutrition and the importance of healthy eating habits, the development of life skills and development of culinary skills.

"We believe this program will pave the way for children from all walks of life to be healthier, to appreciate food and its role in culture, and to serve as ambassadors for healthy eating within their families and communities," said Brian Kish, president of Emeril Lagasse Foundation.

Many schools, particularly those in underserved communities, lack the resources to develop fully integrated programs that feature both gardens and kitchens. The program provides financial support for schools to enhance their existing gardens to become inspiring outdoor classrooms and to expand programming by building a teaching kitchen for hands-on instruction. The program also provides a K-8 garden and cooking curriculum, teacher training on how to integrate the curriculum with academic subjects, and other resources to run the program effectively.

"The breadth and scope of this program is unmatched," said Kish. "We're investing in each school's success by providing a five-year grant with capital support and ongoing technical assistance."

The program is currently being established at the first school in Florida, with other schools in California, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas and Washington, D.C. under consideration. The Foundation's goal is to have the program implemented and running in at least 10 schools by 2023.

"This program has been years in the making and represents a pivotal moment for the Foundation," said Chef Lagasse. "We want more kids to have positive memories and experiences learning through the world of food, because we believe that gardening and cooking education integrated with academics nurtures a child not only in the classroom, but in life."

Schools interested in applying for a grant to implement Emeril's Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen can learn more about the application process here. Corporations or individuals interested in supporting the program can learn more here.

Punchh Teams with Blaze

 Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza  enlisted Punchh's echnology for its new customer engagement and loyalty app. The Punchh-powered program will enable the company to provide guests with a more accessible mobile platform highlighted by a revamped loyalty program. As part of its "Blaze Instantly" initiative, the company is focused on becoming the most accessible fast casual pizza brand through online ordering, mobile ordering and delivery.

Blaze selected Punchh as their mobile engagement and loyalty program partner for the company's precise segmentation and targeting capabilities, as well as its ability to engage guests through dynamic messaging featuring detailed information about current and upcoming offerings. Via integration with Olo, the app will also offer online ordering and a new point-based reward structure that gives more guests the opportunity to cash in their flames for food and beverages. 

"Blaze is growing at an incredible pace, and we're elated to be a core part of their forward-looking strategy, entrusted with the responsibility of bringing in new guests and then turning them into loyalists who will spread the good word and further accelerate global expansion," said Punchh CEO Shyam Rao.

Said Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza CMO Shivram Vaideeswaran, "Blaze's success is based on serving amazing pizza and providing an even better guest experience. With a brand focused on cultivating fanatics, we're seizing every opportunity to give our fans more of what they love. Our new loyalty program with Punchh gives us the ability to truly understand our guests and develop exciting new innovation and messaging that speaks their language."

Sodexo Buyers Edge Platform

Sodexo announced a partnership between its affiliate entegra Procurement Services and Dining Alliance as part of the newly launched Buyers Edge Platform that reaches 45,000 operator locations and represents a dynamic and  growing GPO and multi-faceted service provider for the restaurant, lodging, and casino markets with over $7 billion in potential purchase volume.  

"Entegra looks forward to supporting the growth and value creation focus of the dynamic Buyers Edge Platform through the strength of our supplier portfolio of agreements, our commitment to collaboration with our clients and our industry knowledge as a leading Group Purchasing Organization in North America," explained Dana Johnston, entegra president.

"We had our choice of partners and did three years of due diligence. Entegra proved to be the most flexible, competitive and forward thinking and we're excited about the future of this partnership," shared John Davie, CEO, Dining Alliance and Buyers Edge Platform.

The entegra portfolio of supplier agreements will be paired with custom agreements negotiated by the Buyers Edge Platform team and the Sodexo purchasing team to further enhance the value created for the member companies and participants of the Buyers Edge Platform.

Menufy Teams with DoorDash

Menufy formed a strategic partnership with DoorDash to launch food delivery to restaurant customers in more than 1,000 cities in the United States. DoorDash’s last-mile logistics solution empowers Menufy's partner restaurants to grow their off-premise ordering business with on-demand delivery, analytics, and more efficient workflows.

The logistics integration with DoorDash enables Menufy customers to order delivery online and to continue paying with any major credit card, PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Bitcoin, or Bitcoin Cash. Customers who use delivery powered by DoorDash can expect a high-quality and reliable level of service for each delivery.

"With the growing demand for delivery, our restaurant partners have been increasingly turning to Menufy for opportunities to provide delivery services for their business. This partnership is a perfect fit thanks to the overlap in the markets that we serve, and DoorDash's commitment to the last mile," said Andy Lowder, Director of Business Development at Menufy. "We're excited to introduce DoorDash to our restaurant partners. Based on the initial market testing, we're confident that this partnership will be beneficial for both restaurants and their customers."

"DoorDash is revolutionizing the food delivery industry by connecting consumers with the restaurants they crave and the good service they deserve," said Christopher Payne, Chief Operating Officer at DoorDash. "By teaming with Menufy, we’re able to scale our platforms together to offer more customers the best selection and service in the industry."

Upserve's Restaurant Insider Podcast

Upserve launched a podcast through their online community, Restaurant Insider to allow restaurateurs to hear about restaurant news, trends, and insights from leaders in the industry on the go. By featuring prominent restaurant owners, operators, chefs and staff, the Restaurant Insider Podcast will provide listeners with an inside look at how they’re making it work like:

  • What’s the best strategy for staff training?
  • How do you plan a menu around both seasonality and a major tourist attraction?
  • What does a true farm-to-table concept really look like?
  • How does a restaurant establish itself as an essential part of the community?

In their first three episodes, they kicked off with a three-part series about the good, the bad and the down right dirty aspects of opening a new restaurant and interviewed different restaurateurs to get their take.

You can subscribe to the Restaurant Insider Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, StitcherPocket Casts, or streaming here. Additionally, restaurateurs can check out the new Restaurant Insider Radio playlists on Spotify.

Food Futures

KCETLink Media Group launched a new digital series called FOOD FUTURES in partnership with UCLA's Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) to debut seven new digital stories that explore current innovations and visions for ecological, equitable food systems. The series looks beyond both agribusiness and farm-to-table, and covers diverse possibilities for the future of sustainable food in our region drawing on long histories of cultivation and eating. Allison Carruth, faculty director of LENS and Associate Professor of English at UCLA, is spearheading the project in partnership with Juan Devis, KCET’s Chief Creative Officer. FOOD FUTURES launches on and

To expand the reach of the immersive reports, KCET has also partnered with Civil Eats. The first of seven stories, “Are Eaters the Key to Better Restaurant Wages and Working Conditions?” was posted on Aug.14 which explores how customers can improve workers’ wages and working conditions in restaurants. Civil Eats will also host the second article in the series entitled “After Prison, Working Toward a Healthier Food Future” starting today at

The seven articles will be available on and and are listed as follows:

  • “Are Eaters the Key to Better Restaurant Wages and Working Conditions?” – Looks closely at the policies restaurants can enforce and consumers can advocate for to ensure workers' wages and working conditions are fair and equitable.
  • “Wild Cuisines, Risky Futures: Reimagining What We Consider Edible Species” – Investigates new sustainability blueprints used by the experimental chef
  • “Tinkering with Heirloom Futures: The Journey of a Few Grains of Rice” – Tracing how the Filipino rice dishes cooked at RiceBar embody complex issues about modernity, climate change and the Anthropocene.
  • “Edible Insects: Chili-Lime Crickets and Mexican Culinary Traditions” – Offers a taste of the current appetite for alternative protein in the U.S. and the cultural barriers to eating edible insects.
  • “After Prison, Working Toward a Healthier Food Future” – Examines how L.A. Kitchen teaches culinary skills to those whose memories of eating "on the inside" remain fresh.
  • “Portable Cultures, Food Futures: How to Make Injera in Los Angeles” – Narrates the steps and challenges faced in making a sustainable, multicultural dish in a cosmopolitan city.
  • “The Global Potato: Food Futures of the Past”  – Addresses how the potato not only represented a hope for a different kind of food future in 1664 for England, but also how it made so many more individual futures possible, providing food where there otherwise would have been none.
Wicked Healthy World
Brothers and plant-based chefs, Derek and Chad Sarno, have teamed up with Executive Producer Woody Harrelson and Tin Rocket Entertainment to develop a new documentary series celebrating the forward thinkers, social entrepreneurs and rock star chefs on the front lines of the sustainable food movement.
The original series, Wicked Healthy World (wt), will follow the Sarnos on their quest to meet the amazing people who are blazing new trails for a healthier population and planet. Their journey will take them everywhere from the fascinating indoor mushroom farms of South Korea, to the organic rooftop farms of Tel Aviv.
"Chad and Derek are doing some incredible work. They are at the forefront of a plant-based movement that's been building for decades and is now becoming a tsunami," states Executive Producer Woody Harrelson in the foreword of the brothers' cookbook, Wicked Healthy, that was released worldwide in May.
With this series, the Sarnos will shine a light on all of the positive momentum surrounding sustainable food, and recognize the creative people making inroads in this area. "My brother and I are excited to meet other innovators who share our passion and who have developed solutions to bring about change." Chad Sarno says.
Wicked Healthy World (wt) will be produced by Tin Rocket Entertainment with Woody Harrelson, Jerry D'Alessandro, Lisa Tanzer and Ira Chute serving as executive producers.
No More Dine-In Straws and Lids 

KFC Hong Kong report all stores in Hong Kong and Macau will stop providing plastic lids and straws for drinks starting from August 23.

A trial program was carried out in nine stores including Maritime Square branch, Whampoa branch and Shun Tak Center branch. The trial was well received by the public, and most customers did not make a request for a plastic lid. In view of such positive response, KFC Hong Kong has announced that all outlets in Hong Kong and Macau will stop providing plastic lids and straws (except the designated special drinks and for takeaway drinks) in an effort to reduce single-use plastics and alleviate its environmental impact from August 23, 2018 onwards.

Janet Yuen, Chief Operating Officer of KFC Hong Kong and Macau, said: "We understand the significance of the impact of single-use plastics has brought to our environment, and thusly we want to do our part in striving for positive change. We believe that every little step counts, so we decided to engage our customers and make the effort by launching this 'no straws and lids' action in all of our stores."

Apart from the official announcement of the suspension of plastic straws and lids, KFC Hong Kong launched a smart hand washing machine as early as in 2014. These washing machines utilize the latest technology and help to reduce water usage in handwashing by 10.31 million liters since its launch.

KFC Hong Kong has also collaborated with NGOs such as Food Angel to promote waste reduction. Since last year, nearly 2,000 kilograms of food has been collected. The food has been transferred to Food Angel on an ongoing basis for processing, and then distributed to those in need. Also, KFC Hong Kong has for a long while adhered to the principles of waste recycling across various means. For example, the cooking oil used in restaurants is passed to qualified recyclers for it to be converted into biodiesel. Biodiesel has the potential to replace traditional gasoline and reduce air pollution.

McDonald's Youth Opportunity

McDonald's Corporation announced a new initiative called Youth Opportunity, with a global goal to reduce barriers to employment for two-million young people by 2025 through pre-employment job readiness training, employment opportunities and workplace development programs. As part of this goal, McDonald's is also joining the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, led by the International Labour Organization (ILO), to help accelerate global efforts to tackle the youth employment challenge.

Almost one in four young people across the world (21.8 per cent) are not in employment, education or training, which can dramatically impact their skills development, earning capacity, long-term employability and wellbeing. As a major employer of young people, McDonald's has the potential and the scale to help bridge this opportunity gap.

In partnership with local community organizations and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), which has over two decades experience in youth development around the world, McDonald's will offer a new pre-employment work-readiness and soft skills training program, designed to help young people develop the competencies employers are looking for in entry-level employees. McDonald's is piloting this initiative in Chicago in 2018, before rolling it out to participating global markets from 2019 through locally-relevant programs and partners.

Through the Youth Opportunity initiative, McDonald's and participating Franchisees will also continue to provide job opportunities that young people need to kick-start their career and to develop critical soft skills, such as teamwork, hospitality and decision making. Employees can go on to access training, education and development programs, including Hamburger University, which has prepared more than 360,000 students for leadership positions in the restaurant industry.

Citi Urbanspace Challenge

Citi and Urbanspace named the three finalists of the Citi Urbanspace Challenge, a competition designed to help discover culinary entrepreneurs of tomorrow and provide them a platform to develop their business and connect with the New York market scene by offering the chance to win a booth at Urbanspace’s permanent food hall located at 570 Lexington Ave. A call for entries for culinary entrepreneurs to submit a creative, fast-casual restaurant concept for the Citi Urbanspace Challenge was held from July 12 through July 23. The three finalists, who won the opportunity to operate their own booth at the Urbanspace Fall pop-up markets, courtesy of Citi, are:

Showcasing a diverse mix of cuisines from local chefs and makers, Urbanspace’s Fall 2018 pop-up markets feature some of New York’s best fast-casual restaurants. Following the conclusion of the Fall 2018 pop-up markets, the winner of the Citi Urbanspace Challenge will be awarded a fully customized, branded booth at Urbanspace at 570 Lex for three months beginning January 2019, courtesy of Citi.

“Supporting local businesses in New York is extremely important to us,” said Tina Davis, Managing Director of Global Sponsorships and Marketing, Citi. “The three Citi Urbanspace finalists are highly deserving of the spotlight we hope this program will provide them and their small businesses. We look forward to seeing each chef introduce their unique culinary offerings to patrons in the Urbanspace pop-up markets this fall.”

The Citi Urbanspace Challenge winner will be determined by a public vote hosted on Urbanspace’s website throughout the duration of the Fall 2018 pop-up markets and a panel of expert judges, including restaurateurs, culinary influencers and industry experts, judging using established criteria from Urbanspace. The eleven-member jury of experts includes:

“Through the Citi Urbanspace Challenge we are giving creative chefs the opportunity to bring dreams to reality and conduct business in the heart of NYC. We firmly believe unique concepts, individual enterprise, and performance art are essential ingredients to our markets, which grow organically from within the neighborhood,” said Eldon Scott, President of Urbanspace.

Soulman’s Bar-B-Que Begins Shipping

Bar-b-que lovers far and wide are now able to get their favorite meats shipped directly to their front doors with no shipping fees from Soulman’s Bar-B-Que.

“There is nothing quite like coming home to a fresh delivery of Soulman’s succulent bar-b-que at your front door,” says Brett Randle, CEO of Soulman’s Bar-B-Que.  “After launching e-commerce nationwide last year, we have shipped to more than half of the states in the continental U.S. To expand that successful delivery map to every state, we are offering free shipping of Soulman’s favorites for a limited time.” 

Named one of the  Top Bar-B-Que Chains in America (The Daily Meal 2018) and Top Bar-B-Que Restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth (Zagat 2017),  North Texas-based Soulman’s Bar-B-Que is the creator of one of the Best Bar-B-Que Dishes in Dallas-Fort Worth (Zagat 2016) and often offers some of the Most Inventive Fries in America (Men’s Journal 2016).

Shippable meats include Soulman’s St. Louis Style Pork Ribs, Smoked Sausage and the Hot Links that Zagat raved about. Each order includes a bottle of Soulman’s Signature Bar-B-Que Sauce.

Soulman’s currently owns and operates 20 North and East Texas locations in Addison, Allen, Cedar Hill, Forney, Garland, Greenville, Hurst, Hurst- Grapevine Highway, Lancaster, Lewisville, Mansfield,Mesquite, Quinlan, Rockwall I-30, Rockwall Goliad, Royse City, Southlake, Terrell, Van and Wylie.

Uniform White Paper

Cintas Canada, Ltd. published its latest white paper, “Food for Thought: Should I Rent or Purchase Foodservice Uniforms?” The white paper highlights features to look for in foodservice garments, the benefits of renting versus purchasing uniforms and factors affecting the total cost of ownership (TCO). It is available for free download at

“Uniforms are a valuable extension of a foodservice team, so it’s important to place a priority on workwear garments and how they will be supplied, laundered and managed over time,” said Candice Raynsford, Marketing Manager, Cintas Canada. “This white paper is an informative tool for busy foodservice managers who have a lot on their plate but want their staff looking and feeling their best.”

To help foodservice operations find a program that best matches their needs, the white paper highlights factors affecting TCO, such as turnover and soil loads, as well as laundering options. It also includes a list of questions that businesses can use when vetting potential uniform providers.

“A smart uniform program can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and the bottom line,” added Candice Raynsford. “With high-quality, comfortable garments for back-of-house and front-of-house employees, your operation maintains a professional and cohesive image that welcomes guests and makes employees proud to be part of the team.”

Poke Drive-Thru

Two years after opening their second Arizona location, Ahipoki Chandler opens their drive-thru making the company the first poke concept with a convenient drive-thru option that caters to health conscious, on-the-go eaters.

Ahipoki has seen tremendous growth over the last two years and was recently name by USA Today one of the Top 10 Places to Eat Poke in the country. Ahipoki has taken the restaurant scene by storm since opening the first poke restaurant in Arizona in early 2016 by adding new locations every two months.

With twenty-six total restaurants throughout California and Arizona, Ahipoki is now the largest and fastest growing corporately owned poke chain in America.

“Adding the drive-thru to our Chandler location has given that store an instant twenty percent increase in business in the few short weeks that we’ve had it open” explains Jason Jantzen, Managing Partner of Ahipoki. “The drive-thru has really helped us serve our busy lunch crowds faster and is especially convenient for our guests who don’t want to leave their car during our 100 degree+ summer month

Cupcakin' Bake Shop Expansion

Cupcakin’ Bake Shop will open two new locations and relocate its original location this fall. The first new site is in the historic Swan’s Market in Old Oakland, and the second is in the space of the former and much beloved Virginia Bakery in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Cupcakin’ is also relocating its original bake shop on Durant Avenue to a larger, more visible space on Telegraph Avenue.
Founded by Oakland native Lila Owens, the five-year-old Cupcakin’ Bake Shop serves supremely moist and delicious cupcakes and cakes made with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. From everyday treats or colorful birthday cupcakes, to a refined wedding cake for 100, Cupcakin’ serves a selection of cupcakes in more than a dozen rotating and seasonal flavors, with daily favorites Red Velvet, Double Chocolate, Vanilla and Salted Caramel, as well as gluten-free and vegan options.

Owens left a successful career in residential real estate to become a baker, combining her sweet tooth with her entrepreneurial spirit, and officially kicked off a cupcake catering company in 2010. By 2014, she had fund-raised her way to the opening of Cupcakin’ Bake Shop at 2435 Durant Avenue in Berkeley.

“I started baking my favorite food, cupcakes, for family and friends with the intention of building a home-based catering business. I took a ton of classes to better understand the baking process and to maximize my efficiency so that I would be ready to open my own bake shop. With the opening of my new commissary kitchen on Shattuck Avenue, I’m excited to expand my reach and represent minority- and women-owned businesses in the wider Bay Area food industry and beyond,” said Owens, who is African-American.
This September, the relocation of the original Cupcakin’ Bake Shop to a larger space at 2391 Telegraph Avenue will be the first phase of the brand’s expansion. By October, Cupcakin’ is slated to open at Swan’s Market (538 9th Street, Oakland), where it was chosen to replace Deep Roots and Hen House. This location will offer Oakland-specific cupcake flavors and themes like Maple Bourbon Bacon cupcakes, locally roasted coffee, and regular menu items from the original Berkeley location.

Later this fall, Cupcakin’ will open its third store and flagship location in the space formerly occupied by Virginia Bakery at 1690 Shattuck Avenue, which closed in April 2018 after 65 years. Virginia’s original owners, John and Anne Erdmann and their family, have generously shared some of their recipes, like the bakery’s popular sugar sprinkle cookie and other favorites with Owens, who plans to offer these specialty treats exclusively at the Shattuck location to honor the Erdmann family’s legacy. With its large kitchen space, Cupcakin’ on Shattuck will serve as the commissary kitchen for all three bake shops and the catering business. The space will also include a retail shop that sells celebratory items such as birthday cake candles, cake toppers, cards and more.