Plant-Based Popularity, Stop Food Waste Day and Mood Menus

This edition of MRM's Daily Bite features First Table, Cintas, Cooper's Meat Market, The P.J.W. Restaurant Group, Whitsons Culinary Group, Don Lee Farms, 110 Grill Restaurant Group, Sodexo, Elavon Becks Prime and Wolverine Packing.

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First Table Expands

First Table concept is expanding in London, Bristol and Bath. Diners receive 50 percent off their food bills (for 2-4 people) by booking tables through the company's current locations in Bristol, Bath and London.

"The great thing about First Table is that it makes it really affordable for people to try new restaurants," said Kate Loisel, London Director . "We all have favorite haunts, but more often than not we see diners trying somewhere new and becoming loyal patrons."

The concept helps restaurants solve the age-old problem of slow evening starts, First Table's in-house digital marketing team also then delivers effective marketing with targeted advertising and local 'brand amplification' for their partners. The catch for restaurants? None! The company does all the marketing for free.

In today's age of social media storms and online reputation fiascos, accessing this community presents a big win for restaurateurs.

"The cumulative results here are phenomenal. We're simply assisting restaurants who are already doing great work to get the recognition they deserve," Loisel empathised.

First Table has a community of nearly 200,000 diners, accessing over 700 restaurants in 35 major cities across New Zealand and Australia.

"Launching the UK is a huge milestone for us, and is key to our EMEA expansion," says First Table Founder, Mat Weir.

Racing past 150,000 bookings last year while keeping up with both public and industry demand – opening up shop in 12 new territories in as many months.

This Spring, they began curating a collection  London  restaurants. Advocates so far include Treves & Hyde, Tom's Kitchen, Snaps + Rye, Enoteca Rosso, Tonkotsu, The Perception at W London, Hood Streatham, Beach Blanket Babylon, Bó Drake and Mac & Wild, among others.

"The common ground that really makes our community tick is a simple passion for food and sharing the joys of a great dining experience," Loisel concluded. "We're thrilled to begin championing all that London has to offer, come join us."

Stop Food Waste Day

Approximately 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. annually is wasted and ends up in landfills. With Stop Food Waste Day on April 27, Cintas Corporation announced its support for Green Umbrella’s food waste reduction campaign. Green Umbrella, an alliance of for profit, non-profit and government organizations across 10 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, is aiming to cut landfill waste 33 percent by 2020 through awareness building and engaging corporations and households on key sustainability issues.

“Many organizations and households don’t truly understand the amount of food that they waste,” said Krista Jaeger, Manager of Sustainability, Cintas. “By educating businesses and their employees about the reality of this issue, we can minimize its occurrence in work and home environments. Cintas is excited to tackle food waste, not just in Cincinnati, but in the many communities we serve across the country.”

At Cintas, the food waste campaign is one part of a larger zero-waste-to-landfill certification process. Numerous Cintas distribution centers have been certified for waste reduction under the TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) system. By sharing sustainability strategies with its locations nationwide, Cintas aims to improve how waste streams are managed in the workplace and help its employee partners rethink waste generation at home.

Green Umbrella’s Waste Reduction Action Team (WRAT) is focusing on strategies for food waste prevention, like meal planning to purchase only necessary ingredients; recovery, such as donations of excess food to pantries and soup kitchens; and recycling, like composting or anaerobic digestion. For example, the WRAT is hosting lunch and learns, developing a food waste challenge for households and promoting share tables at schools and donations of leftover pre-packaged food at the end of lunch periods to support food insecure. Additionally, Green Umbrella is partnering with the Save the Food campaign, which provides resources for reducing food waste.

“In our region, about one in six households is food insecure while the average household of four throws away $1,500 of food annually,” said Lauren Campbell-Kong, Green Umbrella Waste Reduction Action Team Co-Chair. “By leveraging corporate partnerships and educating our region’s households, we have the capability to feed the hungry with the wholesome food that we are currently wasting, and to also greatly reduce costs and strain on our nation’s landfills.”

Cooper's Meat Market Opens
Cooper’s Meat Market, a custom cut meat shop and steakhouse, has opened its doors at Sylvan | Thirty. Michael Johnson, along with business partner Victoria Berezina, is expanding his family’s business to Dallas from San Antonio, where it’s been an Alamo Heights favorite for more than 20 years.
Chef Kenny Mills, who has stints at Chop House Burger, Capital Grille, Sullivan’s Steakhouse and Dallas Chop House, has been enlisted as Executive Chef over the 50-seat steakhouse, as well as Cooper’s wide variety of prepared foods. Selena Dodge, formerly with Bolsa, Bouchon 1314 and District 30 Craft Bar and Kitchen, runs Cooper’s wine and beer program.

“We can’t wait to give Dallas residents a taste of what my family has been perfecting since 1997,” said Michael Johnson, the second generation in the family business. “Additionally, as an Oak Cliff resident, I’m excited to be part of the great things happening in this whole area.”
Cooper’s Meat Market is located on the northern edge of Sylvan | Thirty, next to Cox Farms Market. While their specialty is high-quality beef, poultry, fish and other meats, Cooper’s carries a variety of appetizers, sides, casseroles, wine and beer, as well as popular YETI coolers and Game Guard gear.

“We pride ourselves on bringing food artisans and family-owned businesses to West Dallas and Oak Cliff. Cooper’s Meat Market successfully checks both boxes,” said Brent Jackson, President of Oaxaca Interests and developer of Sylvan | Thirty.
Designed by architect Monty Gaither and interior designer Ike Isenhour, the 3,100-square foot space feels both rustic and modern. A glass room allows customers to watch as their choice of meat is cut to order. In addition to their in-store sales, Cooper’s will offer catering services for up to 300 guests and delivery to customers in West Dallas, Oak Cliff, Uptown, Highland Park, University Park and Lakewood.

P.J. Whelihan’s in Lancaster

The P.J.W. Restaurant Group will open their 22nd restaurant, P.J. Whelihan’s in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in late spring 2018. The new P.J. Whelihan’s is the 17th of its kind and joins the group’s family of restaurant concepts including The Pour House (Westmont, NJ, North Wales, PA and Exton, PA), Treno Pizza Bar (Westmont, NJ) and The ChopHouse (Gibbsboro, NJ).

The Lancaster opening marks the group’s most westward location, a position last occupied by the P.J. Whelihan’s in Reading. The latest addition at the Shoppes at Belmont on Fruitville Pike, the new restaurant will bring 80 full and part time jobs to the area. The opening is highly anticipated as the 365,000-square-foot shopping center located on 95 acres, just opened in January 2018 and is already home to several popular retail anchors like Target, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom Rack. The approximately 6,000-square foot P.J. Whelihan’s restaurant and pub will include a 10-foot by 10-foot video wall, delivering on P.J.’s reputation as an iconic sport fan destination. The videowall can be used in its entirety to project larger than life games, matches or movies, or sectioned off into multiple smaller screens for the ultimate "picture in picture."

Designed by Stokes Architecture Design, the interiors will reflect the more recent incarnations of the restaurant concept featuring warm wood tones contrasted by sleek industrial greys, exposed ductwork and decorative beams to evoke a modern and comfortable sensibility. The new P.J.’s will be consistent with the P.J. Whelihan’s concept – geared to serve families, sports fans, happy hour patrons and those seeking night and weekend entertainment. The menu will mirror the classic P.J. Whelihan’s offerings including P.J.’s famous wings, fries, tater tots, burgers and more. P.J.W. Copper Lager, brewed exclusively for P.J. Whelihan’s by Victory Brewing Company, will be available alongside a full-bodied list of 36beers on tap, canned and bottled beer, wine and an extensive cocktail program. Additional seating will be available in warmer months on the outdoor patio.Fast on the heels of the opening of P.J. Whelihan’s in Newtown Square in early 2018, the P.J.W. Restaurant Group has several more openings in the works for 2018 and 2019. 

“We’ve been looking to come to Lancaster for a long time now and the Shoppes at Belmont opening this year created the perfect opportunity,” said Bob Platzer, President and CEO, P.J.W. Restaurant Group. “We’re greatly looking forward to becoming a part of this community and opening our doors in Lancaster.” 

Whitson's Launches Meatless Monday in Schools

Whitsons Culinary Group®, a provider of nutrition services for public schools throughout the Northeast, has announced the launch of the Meatless Monday health initiative in all school districts Whitsons services. Meatless Monday is a global campaign that encourages students to enjoy meat-free meals on Mondays. Studies have shown that increasing plant-based proteins in your diet may reduce the risk of chronic preventable conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Choosing to go plant-based, even one day a week, can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.

“Whitsons is proud to be a part of the Meatless Monday campaign. It perfectly complements our Simply Rooted™ philosophy of promoting healthy foods, a healthy environment, and balanced diets,” said Kelly Friend, Chief Operating Officer of Whitsons. “We are not taking away the option of meat on Mondays, we are simply making sure we are featuring and promoting a student-friendly vegetarian option. When students are looking for something hearty like a burger, we encourage them to try vegetarian burger options such as our classic garden or black bean burger. We prepare them just like we would a traditional burger and offer a variety of healthy toppings to keep it interesting,” said Friend. 

In recent customer surveys conducted by Whitsons, students expressed an interest in having more meatless, plant-based menu options such as vegetarian and vegan which has been a growing trend with Generation Z. More students prefer replacing animal products with plant-based alternatives. "Our collaboration with Whitsons School Nutrition will provide students and staff in over 95 school districts in the Northeast with delicious meatless options every Monday throughout the school year. We hope the implementation of Meatless Monday in schools with Whitsons dining services will inspire students to start each week taking small steps that can instill healthy habits for life," said Cherry Dumaual, Partnerships Director at The Monday Campaigns.  

Popular Plant-Based Product

Don Lee Farms has sold more than a million Organic Plant-Based Burgers in less than sixty days, becoming the fastest growing product in its category.

“Interest in our Organic Plant-Based Burger has just exploded,” said Donald Goodman, President, Don Lee Farms. “We are just keeping up with demand and are implementing plans to expand distribution every week.”

“The fact that our Organic Plant-Based Burger is made with plants and not with science has resonated with people. No one wants to eat a burger hidden with artificial or modified ingredients if they have the choice,” said Danny Goodman, Don Lee Farms. “They want natural. They want organic. They want real.”

The Don Lee Farms’ burger “bleeds” organic beet juice and sizzles on the grill from organic vegetable-based fats just like raw beef. It is the only burger in its category to qualify for the Organic Seal certified by USDA. The new burger launched to rave reviews. CookingLight Magazine proclaimed, “This burger was really delicious. I’d buy these again,” after tasting the top three leading brands.

“Having sold a million burgers this quickly has exceeded everyone’s expectations,” continued Donald. “The excitement around this burger has been overwhelming. We are now expanding availability in club stores and will be introducing the burger in restaurants and other retail markets in the upcoming months.”

Mood Menus

Guests staying at the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Rivera Maya can now order food geared to elicit specific moods. The available mood menus include Calming, Energy Boosting and Happiness. These special menus are available insuite for lunch and dinner or, additionally for lunch, at its oceanfront Bistro restaurant and Chaka restaurant with views of the flora and fauna of the Yucatan Jungle. The Mood Dining menus are included in the resort’s nightly rate by booking directly with one’s personal concierge.

The Calming menu features asparagus salad and penne pasta with fine herbs, mussels, and parfait of red fruits and Greek yogurt. Asparagus contains high levels of tryptophan which is the basis for the creation of serotonin as well as folic acid which promote happiness. The mussels are full of vitamin B12, zinc, iodine and selenium, all vital elements for the proper functioning of the thyroid, the regulator of the body’s mood. Greek yogurt contains high calcium content which activates the body to release neurotransmitters to feel good.

On the Energy Boosting menu is ginger and vegetable soup, fish fillet in a crust of walnuts in yellow curry and mashed cauliflower with roasted garlic, and chocolate fondant. Full of nutrients, ginger is one of the best natural stimulants and helps maintain a good mood and energy. Nuts are rich in tryptophan, which helps boost mood and energy levels. Bitter chocolate helps concentration and mood, improves blood flow in the brain and helps boost energy.

The Happiness menu includes a pollen salad of Swiss chard, spinach, cherry tomatoes and honey mustard vinaigrette; lamb rack with citrus crust, brown rice and blue mashed potatoes; and lemon and coconut macaroons stuffed with banana. Pollen provides great vitality, elevating mood and spirit. The lamb has high levels of CLA Conjugated Linoleic Acid, in addition to heme iron, which influences the state of mind positively related to memory and the perception of happiness. Citrus foods dislodge depression and whole grains fight the feeling of courage, produce serotonin and improve mood. Blue potatoes contain anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that fortifies the memory and reduces the inflammation that spoils the state of mind. It is also high in iodine that regulates the thyroid – the "master of mood regulation." The lemon-rich macaroon contains brain-protective flavonoids and is loaded with coconut that contains medium-chain fats that nourish the mood.

Executive Chef of Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mario Lopez, developed the Mood Dining foodie experience for the resort. The initiative is just one of many at the resort's specialty restaurants with food, creativity and presentation comparable to that of top restaurants in world capitals placing Velas Resorts in the vanguard of gastronomy.

110 Grill Opens 14th Location

110 Grill Restaurant Group continues expansion with the opening of its fourteenth location in the heart of downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, top photo. Located at 123 Front Street in Worcester, MA, adjacent to the  AC Hotel Worcester, the 6,200 square-foot, 240-seat restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining, featuring modern American cuisine with gluten-free and dietary restricted menus.

"We're thrilled to be joining the thriving neighborhood of downtown Worcester, and sharing our concept with the local community,” said Ryan Dion, 110 Grill’s Chief Operating Officer. “We look forward to serving the great patrons of this region and introducing our modern-American cuisine as the newest addition to the city’s established dining scene.”

Following the vision of Elliot Williams, Director of Culinary, 110 Grill Worcester brings his global culinary influence to the forefront with seasonally-inspired dishes. The menu is proficient in allergy awareness, offering the entire core lunch and dinner menu 100% gluten-free. Guests can enjoy seasonal favorites includingFirecracker Shrimp, tempura battered and lightly fried shrimp tossed in sweet chili sauce; Pulled Pork Sandwich with slow cooked, dry rubbed pulled pork, tossed in BBQ, served on a pretzel bun with coleslaw, pickles, cheddar and crispy onion strings; Cucumber & Avocado Tuna with sliced Cajun tuna, served rare, over jasmine rice with avocado, thinly sliced cucumber and honeydew melon, finished with a light soy ginger dressing; and Roasted Beet Salad with marinated and roasted purple and golden beets, tossed with arugula, pickled onions, candied walnuts and red wine vinaigrette, finished with crumbed goat cheese. Signature items on the menu include the Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich with lightly fried or grilled chicken topped with swiss, shaved ham, honey mustard, leaf lettuce and tomato, served on a pretzel bun; and Shrimp & Clam Linguini with sautéed shrimp tossed in an herbed clam sauce with roasted tomatoes and linguini, finished with basil and parmesan accompanied by grilled ciabatta bread.

Known for its signature horseshoe bar, 110 Grill offers guests a variety of beverage options to pair with their meals, including craft beer from both local and national brands, a diverse wine list and a selection of signature and seasonal cocktails. 110 Grill Worcester’s cocktails include Caribbean Margarita with Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila, house-made mango simple syrup, fresh lime juice and jalapeno infused agave nectar; Violet Juniper with Empress Gin, house-made honey simple syrup and lemonade finished with The Bitter Truth Elderflower Liqueur; Mango Smash with Hammer & Sickle Premium Vodka and Goslings Gold Rum, mixed with house-made mango syrup with muddled citrus; and Blueberry Pomegranate Sangria with merlot, Cold River Blueberry Vodka, Van Gogh Pomegranate Vodka, and pomegranate juice with house made blueberry simple syrup.

In addition to Worcester and the recent openings in Stratham, NH and Athol, MA, the 110 Grill team is projected to open new locations in New England soon, including Massachusetts locations in Holyoke, Wrentham and Woburn, as well as in Albany NY, and New Hampshire locations Manchester and West Lebanon. The next location opening is expected to be Manchester, New Hampshire in July with more New England locations opening in 2019.

Future Chefs Challenge

 Sodexo announced the five student semi-finalists in the 2018 Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge. This year, elementary school students from Sodexo-served school districts across the United States accepted the challenge to create healthy Asian-Inspired recipes that children or adults will enjoy. Through Sunday, April 29, the general public is invited to view student video submissions and vote for the winning recipe on or

Out of nearly 2,600 entries from students across the country, these five Sodexo Future Chefs competed to become 2018's Top 5 national semi-finalists:

  • Emmie Picchi, Crystal Lake District 47 (Illinois) [Recipe: Crunchy Wonton Cups]
  • Wyatt Stone, Northeast School Corporation (Indiana) [Recipe: Chicken Tikka Burritos]
  • Erica Sato, Newton PS (Massachusetts) [Recipe: Veggie Power Chirashi Sushi]
  • Julissa Rocha, Lawton PS (Oklahoma) [Recipe: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap & Tofu Caprese Skewers]
  • Evan Morgan, Lincoln County SD (Oregon) [Recipe: Thai Watermelon Salad]

Now in its eighth year, the Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge encourages healthy eating habits by actively involving students in good nutrition.  Sodexo is renowned for its work in advancing childhood nutrition, health and well-being and understands that engaging youth in the creation of nutritious meals is one of the best ways to improve health, fuel minds and improve academic outcomes.

Students participating in the program represent more than 1,300 Sodexo-served elementary schools in 256 school districts and 30 states. A panel of judges reviewed the recipes and evaluated them based on the originality, healthy attributes, ease of preparation, kid-friendliness and plate presentation. Programs like the Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge are part of Sodexo's commitment to health, well-being and support for the school districts and communities in which it serves and operates.

Elavon Partners with PPRO Group

Elavon, a global payments provider and PPRO Group, a cross-border e-payment specialist, today announced a partnership to offer international alternative payment methods (APMs) to Elavon’s customers across Europe to expand their global reach.

The partnership with PPRO strengthens Elavon’s existing European acquiring proposition, allowing its customers’ shoppers to choose their preferred local payment method when shopping online including direct debit, bank transfers, cash-based e-payments, and e-wallets. Elavon provides a single integration and customer service experience for both domestic and international payments processing. Elavon’s customers will now be able to add more than 50 preferred local and international payment methods to ensure they get the best transaction conversion rates.

Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2025, annual global cross-border eCommerce revenues could increase to between $250 billion and $350 billion—up from about $80 billion in 2014. PPRO Group’s recent research, conducted in cooperation with Edgar, Dunn and Company, reveals that in many markets 50 percent or more of existing online transactions use local payment methods, sometimes even unfamiliar to Western and global companies. In the UK, for example, consumers are very card centric with cards accounting for 52 percent of all eCommerce transactions in 2017, but this isn’t the case for e-commerce markets overseas. In Germany, card payments only account for 12 percent of eCommerce payments with 51 percent of consumers preferring bank transfers, whereas in China 49 percent of eCommerce payments are via e-wallets.

Hannah Fitzsimons, General Manager for Elavon Europe comments: “Global cross-border eCommerce revenues are increasing rapidly, and alternative payment methods are becoming a must have for retailers as they strive to compete. Taking local payment trends into account is vital for our customers as they need to ensure their shoppers can pay using their preferred local payment method to get the best payment conversion rates. We are excited to be partnering with PPRO, an expert in APMs, to provide the largest selection of payment options for our customers so their customers can shop seamlessly online across borders.”

Ronnie d’Arienzo, PPRO’s Chief Sales Officer comments: “Merchants must be aware of the local payment preferences in different countries to meet their customers’ needs and reap the rewards of cross border sales. There is life beyond credit cards. Customers want to use their preferred payment methods, otherwise they will simply shop elsewhere. We are really pleased to be in partnership with Elavon to help its customers provide local and international payment methods to their cross-border customers and ultimately become global retailers.”   

Becks Prime Debuts New Location

Becks Prime, Houston’s original, 33-year-old, cook-to-order, gourmet fast-casual restaurant is opening a new location in Katy, which opens April 23, 2018. The new restaurant is located at 210 West Grand Parkway South, Katy, Texas 77494 at the southwest corner of I-10 and TX 99.

“Katy has been the location most frequently requested by our customers,” Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Becks Prime, Mike Knapp explained. “It’s a great time to expand our concept into the growing Katy community.”

The new location features many new offerings, including a full bar, adult milkshakes, appetizers and more.

“We’re excited to introduce an expanded menu and reimagined furnishings and build-out that give this location a very comfortable, upscale feel,” said Molly Voorhees, President of Becks Prime.

You can still expect the same superior quality, fresh food and service that you experience at the other eleven Houston-area and single Dallas-area Becks Prime locations. The three original partners, Mike Knapp, Win Campbell, and John Storms are still very much involved in day-to-day operations.

Becks Prime has won scores of “Best Burger” awards and was named one of the “Ten Best Burgers in Texas” by Texas Monthly. Where The Locals Eat, the national dining guide, selected Becks Prime as the “Best” Burger in Houston, as well as one of the “10 Best Burger Restaurants” in America.

“We can’t wait to see what this new location has to offer. We know it’s going to be a crowd-pleaser for the entire Katy area,” Voorhees added. “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring what we do best: ground in-house Certified Angus Beef burgers, fresh salads with house-made dressings, and steaks to the Katy area.”

Wolverine Packing Breaks Ground

Wolverine Packing along with Tippmann Innovation (Ti) has broken ground on its fifth meat processing plant in Detroit's Eastern Market. Ti, a leading cold storage builder with headquarters in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, has started site work on the nearly 180,000 sq. ft. facility that is expected to bring approximately 150 new jobs to the city's east side.

Wolverine Packing Detroit, Michigan

Wolverine is among the nation's leaders in production of beef, poultry, and other meat products, including eight million burgers per week, filling almost any size order for both international and domestic customers. The company currently operates out of four facilities and employs over 500 people in the Eastern Market. A thriving business leader whose annual growth continues to bring life back into the city, Wolverine's new production facility will create 100 construction jobs and 50 full-time employees.

Development plans also include rehabilitation for Forest Park, which lies along the east side of the property. Preserving the park for Forest Park residents and Wolverine employees is a priority for company owners who have agreed to financially contribute to the park's renovation. Ti is excited to share in bringing vibrant life to the city's east side as the project creates new jobs and a revitalized park for city residents.

"It has been a privilege working with Detroit's largest meat processing company and with Jay and Jim Bonahoom," says Ti's Rob Adams. "Over the last 2 ½ years we've seen the project grow from a small facility and processing project into something much greater. At each phase of construction planning, Wolverine customers' needs continued to evolve. Because of our great working relationship with the management team at Wolverine, we were able to seamlessly make the adjustments necessary to deliver a fantastic facility."