Robotic Customized Pizza, Shake Your Future and The Steak Doctor

This edition of MRM News Bites features Picnic, TouchBistro, Mood Media, WKS Restaurant Group, Olo,  Marriott Bonvoy, Hakkasan Group  Preoday and Kafoodle,  7Shifts,  Bacardi, James Beard Foundation, Culinary Agents, Applova,  Willie Degel,  Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, and Modern Restaurant Management. 

High-Volume Customized Pizza 

Seattle-based Picnic™, unveiled the first-of-its-kind intelligent end-to-end automated assembly platform for the food service and hospitality industries.  The compact, freestanding system integrates Picnic’s issued U.S. patent and other U.S. and international patent-pending modular, configurable equipment, with its software, cloud and deep learning technology, and is available to customers with no upfront costs. The platform will initially focus on the production of high-volume, customizable pizzas, made with any kind of ingredients, consistently and sequentially, at a rate of up to 180 18” or 300 12” pizzas per hour.  


The company also revealed two of its first customers, Centerplate and Washington-based restaurant Zaucer Pizza. Centerplate is applying the new technology at T-Mobile Park, home of the Seattle Mariners.

“We are defining the new standard for food preparation and offer the only pizza automation platform supporting mass customization,” said Picnic CEO Clayton Wood. “Picnic enables food service operators to eliminate many current pain points and address evolving consumer tastes.”

“We always seek to be on the cutting edge, when it comes to AI, robotics and identifying new technological solutions that enable us to provide a better experience for our fans,” said Adrian Dishington, Senior Vice President, Centerplate. “We are happy to roll out a pilot of the Picnic pizza-making technology in our kitchens, as we look to enhance our quality and speed of service. Technology that enables employees to be more successful will influence the guest experience at ballgames, concerts and all types of events moving forward.”


Picnic’s technology, solutions and business model are designed to make it effortless for operators to take advantage of the company’s offerings and capabilities. The platform only requires a small footprint and the modular, configurable equipment makes it flexible to slip into a wide array of stationary and mobile kitchen formats.

“There’s no need to install oversized industrial robotic arms requiring specially modified environments or retrofitting, and workers can work alongside with no safety concerns,” added Wood.

Picnic will deliver, install and maintain the system, and provide platform and software updates for a monthly fee with no money upfront. The company can also provide custom design software solutions for operators to integrate with existing point-of-sale and ordering systems.

“The assembly system is extremely flexible and painless to set up. It’s safe to work around, takes little space to operate and only minimal training is required,” said Aaron Roberts, Co-CEO of Zaucer Pizza.  “Their technology’s secret sauce will make our pizza production process more efficient and business more competitive. Having Picnic’s capabilities in our kitchens makes me confident we can navigate future market dynamics and better manage our resources.”

 “Consistency of product is a food operator’s biggest indicator for re-occurring business,” added Kati Fritz-Jung, former VP of Research, Development and Quality Assurance at Little Caesars. “Picnic’s breakthrough pizza platform will ensure ongoing convenience and consistency of food quality for consumers.  Operators will exponentially increase the ability to attract new customers and keep them coming back for more.”

Kurt Dammeier, founder of Sugar Mountain  sees Picnic’s qualities attracting attention and eventually applied across several food segments. “Food service operators are now better equipped to easily offer economical and tailored food to their customers, as well as, improve workflow, scheduling and kitchen conditions for employees,” said Dammeier. “I have witnessed Picnic’s system in action. No other food preparation or automation system compares. I can imagine countless types of dishes being produced and food service operators, across all segments, putting in their rush order to obtain Picnic’s platform. We are happy to see Picnic join the Food Revolution.”

Enhancing Guest Experience

 TouchBistro launched TouchBistro Reservations, a complete reservation and guest management platform designed to help restaurateurs enhance every guest experience. TouchBistro Reservations is fully integrated with TouchBistro POS and provides restaurants with automatic deep insights about their customers’ behavior that were not previously available to them, such as spend and dining history, drink preferences, and other details that will enable restaurants to better serve their customers.

Earlier this year, TouchBistro acquired Bookenda, Reso and the assets of YP Dine. These products are being re-launched today as TouchBistro Reservations and TouchBistro Dine (, a richer reservation and guest management feature set that fully integrates into TouchBistro’s award-winning point of sale (POS) solution.

“There has never been a real-time connection between a front-of-house reservations system and back- of-house POS. While TouchBistro Reservations can be used as a standalone app, when integrated with TouchBistro POS, there is seamless communication and updates are made in real-time, making it possible for restaurants to deliver an entirely new level of service,” says Alex Barrotti, CEO and founder of TouchBistro.

Alex Barrotti

With the TouchBistro Reservations and POS integration, when waiters send orders to the kitchen, food is served and bills are closed out, table status is automatically updated and can be seen by front-of-house staff, ensuring more accurate wait times. Customer spend is also automatically recorded and updated so the restaurant can better serve its regular and VIP patrons with personalized services, such as allergy restrictions, preferential reservation time and seating location, or suggestions on meals or wines based on previous orders to help restaurants turn a first-time guest into a regular.

Restaurants that subscribe to TouchBistro Reservations can accept reservations online through their own website, Google Search and Maps, or via the new TB Dine web site or mobile app. The platform can be used to optimize floor plans and track guest status, enabling restaurants to turn more tables. Integrated two-way SMS communication connects restaurants with guests in real time, enabling them to confirm or cancel a booking, or message if they are going to be late. SMS and email reservation reminders and confirmations are also sent automatically to guests to help reduce no shows.

TouchBistro Reservations subscribers are automatically published on the TB Dine restaurant discovery app used by diners to find the best restaurants in their area. This provides restaurants using TouchBistro with an additional channel to promote their venues without any additional reservation fees. 

“There are a lot of solutions for restaurants with limited interoperability. Managing multiple vendors with different platforms and hardware requirements or dealing with double-entry because one system doesn’t talk to the other is a manual burden for restaurateurs who are trying to use automation to increase efficiency in their venues,” added Barrotti. “TouchBistro is breaking through this challenge by seamlessly integrating the essential functions and operational data restaurateurs need in an easy-to-use platform, as we have done with TouchBistro Reservations.”

“Bookenda, Reso, and YP Dine customers are already benefiting from all the advantages of the integration with the TouchBistro POS as they have migrated to the TouchBistro Reservations platform,” says Patrick Poirier, Director of Development, Reservations at TouchBistro. “We have received incredibly positive feedback to date from our customers that have gone through the transition as the new platform puts a wealth of customer information right at their finger-tips, which helps enhance the customer relationships that are so important to them.”

At Wynona, which was named one of Toronto’s best new restaurants in 2019 by Toronto Life, reservations are made by 80 to 90 percent of their patrons. Cathy Flynn, General Manager and Sommelier at Wynona, wants to make sure every single one of their patrons has an exceptional dining experience.  Flynn has used several reservation systems at restaurants where she previously worked, and she finds Wynona can provide a much more personalized service thanks to the guest information instantly available with the TouchBistro Reservation and POS integration.

“With the integration, we’re now really using the order history. With the ability to track certain regulars and see what they’re having, we can go into a conversation with them about their previous orders and make recommendations. From a hospitality standpoint, we love to remember our guests , and having that information available to us is invaluable,” says Flynn. “We have a wonderful couple who are regulars and who like to sit at one particular table at a particular time slot. Because we have that booking history, we are able to consistently offer them their personalized reservation every month. And what’s great is that information is in the system, so even if I am not here tomorrow, all of that information is available for other staff to use.”

The platform has also helped Wynona increase their table turns by 33 percent each night. Flynn explains, “It allows us to spread out the booking times in 15-minute intervals and offer guests more options to choose from. This has increased our table turns as we always have a time available and you can spread it out instead of taking all of your volume at once, like everyone coming in to be seated at 7:00 pm. This also helps us deliver better service as it evens out the flow on the kitchen, allowing dishes to be perfectly prepared.”

To eliminate no-shows on reservations, Wynona sends out automatic confirmation requests from TouchBistro Reservations the evening before. “When we see who hasn’t confirmed, I can send a message through TouchBistro Reservations or call to confirm. Or if the guest is running late for their reservation, I can send them a message to see if they’re still coming. It’s very easy to use,” says Flynn.

Introducing Harmony

Mood Media unveiled Harmony, its new all-in-one multimedia Brand Experience Platform. This proprietary technology platform enables brands to connect and manage all of their in-store content – including music, messaging, visuals and interactive components – through one singular content management system (CMS). With Harmony, brands are now able to control and run all of their in-store experiences off one easy-to-use digital dashboard, ensuring all media elements are running in harmony with one another.  Mood Harmony allows brands to shift away from using different devices and platforms, instead providing one cohesive system that simplifies and streamlines their ability to create and execute the entire in-store experience. 

“Our new Harmony platform alleviates major pain points that many retailers and other consumer-facing businesses deal with due to having to use multiple vendors and systems,” said David Hoodis, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mood Media. “With our new end-to-end offering, brands gain the unprecedented ability to manage all of their tech-powered in-store experiences in one place, via an easy-to-use dashboard.” 

Additionally, Mood Media is introducing the Harmony A/V Media Player, one of the newest offerings available within Mood’s Harmony platform. This new compact multimedia device gives brands the ability to play and support robust HD content from a single player – including music, HD video, HTML5, RSS feeds, live streaming and more – all powering the in-store customer experience from start to finish. Other features include: 

  • Unmatched music control – users have access to a multitude of professionally-designed music programming options, which are all backed by the world’s largest library of fully-licensed music for business
  • Easy visual content management – users can instantly manage and schedule Digital Signage solutions across multiple locations 
  • Easy installation through its simple plug and play installation with built-in mounting ports 
  • Active monitoring of updates, email player status alerts and system logs
  • Expandable storage ranging from 16 to 256GB, which allows users to store a wealth of Music, Messaging and Digital Signage Content
  • Energy efficiency, using under 10W of power no matter what content it’s playing

“This device is the newest hardware option within our Harmony platform, which gives our clients – including those in retail, QSR, automotive, healthcare and hospitality industries – a true one-stop-shop where they can operate all of their in-store solutions from a single multimedia platform, significantly reducing IT headaches and interoperability costs,” said Trey Courtney, Global Chief Product & Partnership Officer of Mood Media. “With these latest innovations, businesses can now have a complete all-in-one solution to execute their branded in-store experiences. And, they can rest assured that their customers are enjoying an interactive shopping experience that is truly cohesive and complementary to their brand.”

WKS Acquires Denny's Portfolio

WKS Restaurant Group acquired 94 Denny’s locations previously owned by QK Holdings, LLC, making WKS the largest franchisee in the Denny’s system with 127 locations across 10 states.

In addition to QK Holdings’ 94 Denny’s locations, WKS also purchased both support centers located in Arizona, and each of its 4,500 employees across its system are welcomed into the WKS family. Founded by Roland Spongberg in 1987, WKS Restaurant Group began with one El Pollo Loco location and 25 team members in Long Beach, Calif. Today, WKS employs over 10,000 people with 4,500 coming from the recent acquisition. 

“We are excited to welcome our friends from QK into the WKS family. Denny’s is an iconic brand with a great heritage, and we are looking forward to building upon QK’s success,” said WKS Founder and Chief Executive Officer Roland Spongberg. “This is a great business and opportunity, and we are fortunate to be gaining so many great people with this merger, because it’s the people that make all the difference in creating a momentous experience in the restaurant industry.” 

Brand Direct Food Ordering 

Olo is working together with Google to enable customers to order directly from restaurant brands across Google Search, Maps and the Google Assistant. The integration allows Olo’s network of more than 70,000 restaurant brand locations to be enabled on Google’s platforms so that consumers can order directly on Google from Search and Maps. Users can also use their voice and ask the Google Assistant for help. On Android and iOS phones, users can say, “Hey Google, order food from [restaurant],” or “Hey Google, order food again from [restaurant].”

Rails, Olo’s platform that enables restaurants to efficiently process orders originating from third-party destinations, is now integrated across Search, Maps and the Google Assistant, transferring each order directly into the restaurant’s point of sale and ordering stream to improve operations efficiency and guest experience.

Brands working with Olo and Google enjoy efficiencies of a two-way integration, benefiting from accurate pricing, menu, and product availability, while inbound orders are automatically placed into existing point-of-sale (POS) systems. Rails makes it easy for restaurant operators to list menu items on third-party marketplaces and drive incremental sales without the need to manage multiple tablets on the restaurant counter and disparate order flows. This integration reduces lag, increases order success rates, and enables faster and more accurate ordering experiences. 

“Search is increasingly becoming the path to purchase in the restaurant space and we are thrilled to team up with Google to make ordering easy while allowing restaurants to own the digital relationship with their guests,” said Noah Glass, Founder & CEO of Olo. “Any consumer searching for a restaurant brand should have easy options to order from the restaurant directly with as few clicks as possible, which is what this integration enables.”

Noah Glass

The integration is one of the latest tools to help restaurant brands receive online orders. Portillo’s Hot Dogs and Checkers & Rally’s were the first Olo brands to pioneer this integration with Google, providing enablement to their high-volume locations for customers. 

“Olo continues to be an integral technology partner as Checkers & Rally’s seeks to engage more customers through e-commerce channels,” said Jason Carrigan, VP of Digital and Guest Experience at Checkers & Rally’s. “The latest integration with Google enables the brand to conveniently serve guests that are already searching for a Checkers or Rally’s near them, and provide a frictionless ordering and pickup experience. We view this as a major growth opportunity for Checkers & Rally’s and we are proud to be one of the first restaurant brands to partner with Olo to make food ordering easier across Google’s platforms.”

“Portillo’s Hot Dogs is thrilled to be one of the first restaurant brands to seamlessly integrate digital ordering into Google’s search results pages,” said Nick Scarpino, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Off-Premise Dining at Portillo’s Hot Dogs. “Our team takes great pride in making the ordering process as seamless as possible, and this integration enables guests to place a direct digital order more quickly than ever. We are proud to partner with Olo to continue improving our guests’ digital ordering experience across Google’s platforms.” 

Eat Around Town

Marriott Bonvoy, launched Eat Around Town by Marriott Bonvoy, a delicious new way to earn points when dining in the United States. Members can redeem Marriott Bonvoy points earned at over 11,000 restaurants participating in Eat Around Town towards free nights at more than 7,000 participating properties in 132 countries and territories and amazing experiences through Marriott Bonvoy Moments.

Marriott Bonvoy members who have enrolled in the program will earn points faster both when they dine at participating Eat Around Town restaurants while traveling and in their daily lives. Beginning today through November 11, 2019, Marriott Bonvoy members will receive eight points for every dollar spent at participating restaurants as part of an introductory offer. Thereafter, Marriott Bonvoy Elite members will earn six points per dollar spent and members four points per dollar spent. As always, members can earn more points when they charge their dining to their Marriott Bonvoy U.S. credit cards from Chase and American Express.

Brought to life in collaboration with Rewards Network, this  points offer can be leveraged at a wide selection of restaurants across the United States, ranging from local hot spots to tried-and-true favorites. Participating restaurants, searchable by location, can be viewed here

“Our members are passionate about food and dining which go hand in hand with travel. We are excited to let our members earn points when they dine at over 11,000 restaurants with Eat Around Town by Marriott Bonvoy,” said David Flueck, Senior Vice President, Global Loyalty at Marriott International. “Sharing an amazing meal with family, friends or colleagues will now be more rewarding as members can earn a significant number of points to enjoy the benefits of Marriott Bonvoy, even when they are not staying with us.” 

Members who are U.S. residents can start earning by simply visiting, creating a dining profile, and linking a credit or debit card. From there, their points will automatically be tracked when they dine at participating restaurants, allowing them to earn every time they use their linked card.

“Marriott Bonvoy is an iconic travel program known throughout the world, and we are delighted to provide our network of restaurants with this incredible opportunity to serve such an active and loyal member base,” said Ed Eger, CEO of Rewards Network. “Marriott Bonvoy boosts awareness for our restaurants, and we are excited to give their members a new way to earn points while dining.”

Hakkasan Group's Mexican Growth Strategy

Hakkasan Group today  plans to open ten new venues throughout Mexico as part of a new partnership with Dinar, a premier hospitality and development company in Mexico. This partnership evidences Hakkasan Group’s continued aggressive growth strategy in Mexico and beyond following multiple openings in 2018 including Los Cabos, Mexico and overseas in Bali, Indonesia.

The two hospitality leaders will open ten restaurants across the country between 2020 and 2026 in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. The multimillion-dollar developments will bring Hakkasan Group’s lauded culinary concepts to Mexico and deliver a significant economic impact to the country with the creation of up to 1,000 new job positions spanning across construction, preopening and on-going venue operations.

The partnership will commence with the opening of Hakkasan Group’s restaurant brand, Ling Ling in Mexico City in the latter part of 2020. Ling Ling is a Cantonese dining concept with a world-class cocktail program inspired by izakayas, where shared small plates are paired with craft beverages. The cuisine is bolstered by chic interiors and an eclectic soundtrack that create a seductive atmosphere perfect for shared dining. Ling Ling Mexico City will be situated in the top floor of Chapultepec Uno, a mixed-use, 58-story skyscraper that will be Mexico City’s third-tallest building upon completion. Located steps away from popular landmarks such as Diana the Huntress Fountain and the Angel of Independence, the restaurant sits in the heart of the historic Reforma neighborhood and features 360-degree views of Mexico City.

“We have had great success with our openings in Los Cabos and have been eager to continue the momentum throughout the country,” said Michael Ryan-Southern, chief financial officer of Hakkasan Group. “As an international hub that attracts epicurean and discerning travelers, Mexico City has been on Hakkasan Group’s radar for quite a while. We’re thrilled to be working with the visionaries at Dinar to bring Ling Ling to the city next year and introduce further restaurants in the coming years.”

Javier Romo, managing partner and owner of Dinar said, “We are very excited about our partnership with Hakkasan Group. The first restaurant will open in Mexico City, on Reforma Avenue at the top of the new sky rise where the first Ritz-Carlton in the city will be located. Residing in the heart of the city’s dining and entertainment district, Ling Ling will be alongside some of the best commercial and retail tenants in Mexico City.”

Preoday and Kafoodle Team Up

Digital ordering company, Preoday has formed a technology partnership with Kafoodle that gives clients access to its pre-order and pay functionality alongside allergy information, stock management and promotion software designed to increase customer footfall. 


Kafoodle simplifies the catering of personalised or restricted diets. Wherever food is being served, be that in an educational establishment, care home or medical facility, offices or within a restaurant, its technology streamlines and enhances kitchen processes. As well as collecting customer ordering data with each purchase, the kitchen can use the combined technology to manage compliance and view meal-plan costs, helping them stay within budget.

The integration creates a seamless connection between the kitchen, front of house and customers. Within the white-labelled platform, customers will be able to search and filter menus based on their dietary requirements before placing orders and paying. By displaying the allergens and nutritional information associated with each menu item the stress of choosing a meal when eating out is removed and the safety of those with special dietary requirements is ensured.

Due to the customer data collected via the platform, customers can additionally benefit from personalised marketing and promotions, based around their previous food choices. Unique to this integration is an additional level of functionality allowing design agencies and third-party developers to build-out their own user experience, including venue/outlet selection, menu displays and item selection, for example. Post-checkout, orders travel back into the Preoday system for completion. 

Tarryn Gorre, CEO & Co-Founder, Kafoodle, comments: “The Kafoodle and Preoday teams are a natural fit, we reflect each other’s attitudes and aspirations with complementary work ethics. Importantly, we both want to help our clients achieve greater customer footfall and retention as well as an enhanced service experience. Preoday’s platform is partner-friendly, enabling our technologies to easily integrate and perform to expectations. We look forward to providing our combined solutions to new and existing clients, and seeing the results that yields.”

Nick Hucker, CEO of Preoday comments: “Working together, customers of Preoday and Kafoodle are able to face down the biggest challenges restaurants and caterers face in 2019, service speed and efficiency, allergen compliance and, of course, customer experience. Kafoodle’s allergen management software is extremely important for caterers at a time when greater scrutiny is, rightly, being placed on food suppliers with regards ingredients. Bringing our technologies together, we hope to empower both the operator and the customer, helping them feel confident and secure throughout the ordering process.”

7shifts Raises Funds

7shifts raised an additional $6 million (USD) in growth equity funding led by existing investor, Napier Park Financial Partners, with participation from returning investor Relay Ventures and new investor Conexus Credit Union. This latest funding comes only nine months after 7shifts completed its Series A in January 2019, bringing the total capital raised to $17.4 million in the year to-date.

“By keeping laser-focused on solving the pain points restaurants face managing, motivating, and retaining their teams, we have transformed our learnings into compelling products that are having a significant and immediate impact on the market,” said 7shifts CEO, Jordan Boesch. “We are growing fast, but this is only the beginning. We appreciate the additional capital from our partners at Napier Park and Relay Ventures, and welcome our new local partner, Conexus Credit Union, to the 7shifts family.”

Since closing the Series A round in January, 7shifts has more than doubled the number of restaurants signing up each month, and doubled the size of their team; with plans to accelerate this growth even further in the next 12 months. Today, 7shifts schedules over 7 million shifts per month, which translates to significant savings for restaurants and managers; thousands of hours saved on schedule administration and $12 million per month in labor cost savings.

This additional capital has helped accelerate the hiring of key team members, including the recent addition of VP Partnerships, James Moncarz, formerly VP Partnerships at Ceridian and Docebo, along with Preston Junger, former VP Global Partnerships at Yelp. Both of whom were attracted to 7shifts’ vision of becoming the leading labor management partner for restaurants.

The funding proceeds will help accelerate the development of 7shifts’ partner integration network, which has recently added 10 new partners, including a recent debut in the ADP Marketplace and a full integration with Revel POS. This is in addition to doubling-down on the compliance functionality that restaurants need to ensure proactive Fair Workweek and Predictive Scheduling compliance.

“We are impressed by the accelerated traction that Jordan and the 7shifts team have achieved in such a short period of time,” said Dan Kittredge, Partner of Napier Park. “We are excited to contribute more capital to help fuel 7shifts’ growth and continued innovation of new solutions that help restaurants succeed.”

“Conexus launched our Venture Capital fund to support entrepreneurs like Jordan and the team at 7shifts, who are showing the world that high-growth, globally competitive companies can be built in Saskatchewan,” said Sean O’Connor, Venture Capital Fund Manager at Conexus Credit Union. “Our entire team is thrilled to be joining the journey of such an ambitious company that is scaling fast and helping to put our tech ecosystem on the map.”

Shake Your Future

Bacardi announced the European launch of its initiative to help tackle youth unemployment. Shake Your Future is the company’s bartending and mixology training program that aims to secure the futures of young people within the hospitality industry.


After a successful pilot in 2018, the initiative will run in Italy, France and Spain over the coming months, rolling out to 12 major cities globally over the next three years, bringing this opportunity to thousands of young adults around the world.

Developed in partnership with the European Bartender School, Bacardi launched Shake Your Future as a pilot in 2018 to help address the youth unemployment crisis on the doorstep of its French office based in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Ouen. With youth unemployment at an all-time high (15% across the European Union) and an industry-wide shortage of skilled bartenders, the program aims to address both challenges.

Participants in the 10-week program will be trained in the art of bartending and mixology, as well as gaining invaluable work experience in some of the industry’s leading bars and restaurants. Graduates will receive an internationally recognised diploma and access to permanent employment opportunities within the sector, empowering them to transform their lives and build a brighter future.

The program will run annually in each of the cities where it is launched, with an ever-growing number of bar and restaurant partners pledging their support to Shake Your Future and to giving the trainees the all-important experience they need for a fresh start.

“This is only the beginning,” said Francis Debeuckelaere, Europe Regional President for Bacardi. “Shake Your Future will change the lives of potentially thousands of young adults around the world. Across Europe, our teams have witnessed first-hand the scale of unemployment among young adults and we are committed to making a difference. Through no fault of their own some people just don’t get the break they deserve. We want to give them that break. The skills participants will learn through the Shake Your Future program go far beyond just shaking and stirring cocktails; they will take away key transferable skills that will equip them for success, even if their future career paths lie outside the hospitality industry. With youth unemployment at an all-time high, we built Shake Your Future to empower and inspire all those who take part so that they can fulfil their true potential.”

JBF Free Early Entries

The James Beard Foundation will again make the first two weeks of entry—October 1, 2019 through October 14, 2019—free for the Book, Broadcast Media, and Design Awards in order to remove any financial barrier to entry. For work published or released after the window closes, (i.e. between October 15, 2019 and December 31, 2019), the Foundation will allow individuals to write in for exception before the free entry period ends. The committees will review these exception requests on a case-by-case basis. Entrants and publishers may submit up to five books during the free period, but can submit additional titles for consideration after the 14th at the normal entry rate. To ensure the Journalism awards attract new voices, the entry fee for first-time entrants will be waived for the entire entry period (October 1, 2019, through December 16, 2019). Individual journalists who have never submitted work and who have never had their work submitted on their behalf by a media company are eligible for free entry.

The Foundation recently announced changes to regional restaurant and chef awards for 2020. The regional Best Chef awards, which previously consisted of 10 distinct geographic areas, will expand to 12, and certain states will be reconfigured into new regions to recognize changing population data, restaurant demographics, and culinary trends. These changes are now in effect for the current recommendation period for the 2020 Awards.

The Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists will be announced on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Nominees for all award categories will be revealed on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

The 2020 James Beard Awards presented by Capital One, the official credit card and banking partner of the Foundation, will mark the 30th anniversary of the Awards; the first medallions were handed out in 1991. The celebrations will begin in New York City on Friday, April 24, 2020 at the James Beard Foundation Media Awards, an exclusive event honoring the nation's top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists that will take place at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers.

The events then move to Chicago with the Leadership Awards Dinner taking place on Sunday, May 3, 2020, where honorees will be recognized for their work in creating a more healthful, sustainable, and just food world. The James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 4, 2020 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. During the event, which is open to the public, awards for the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories will be handed out, along with special achievement awards Lifetime Achievement, Design Icon, and America’s Classics. A gala reception will immediately follow, featuring top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country. Capital One cardholders will have special access to the 2020 James Beard Awards; details to be announced next year.

Branding Solutions

Culinary Agents  released a suite of employer branding solutions making it easier for talent to discover employers, opportunities and relevant career-related information. 

The record number of restaurants and dining establishments opening, coupled with low unemployment rates in the U.S. has resulted in a power shift from businesses to talent across all positions in the hospitality industry. While talent seemingly have the upper hand, the lack of credible information available often leads to a frustrating job search experience or can result in a journey down the wrong path of employment entirely. 

"Years of listening, understanding and observing industry trends related to hospitality jobs made it apparent that workforce behavior was evolving, but the available tools and technology were nonexistent. Resources weren't readily available for job seekers to find decision-making information and what was found, rarely pointed to career development, skills or longevity. Craigslist drove much of this nonchalant behavior prohibiting professionalism for both talent and businesses," says CEO and Founder, Alice Cheng.

Now, after seven years of supporting the industry, incorporating feedback and anticipating needs, Culinary Agents offers exclusive, community-powered features aimed at simplifying how businesses and talent connect. 

"By allowing talent to search for companies and jobs based on what matters most to them, we strive to improve their overall experience while also offering each business the opportunity to put its best foot forward." 

Most recently added to the Culinary Agents toolbox is Employee Recommendations, giving talent the ability to share from experience where employers excel, providing valuable and trusted insights for potential candidates. In addition, the "I Want To Work Here" feature allows talent to proactively drop off their digital resumes, enabling them to get in front of hiring teams even if no jobs are currently posted for a business. This complimentary feature also gives businesses the benefit of keeping an open candidate pipeline for future consideration.

"The industry trusts us to incorporate their feedback and to act with a sense of urgency. We are proud that Culinary Agents is able to step in to make more industry information transparent and accessible," Cheng concludes.

Apptizer Changes Name to Applova

Apptizer Inc. has changed its name to Applova, Inc. 

“Our rebranding is the result of a firm wide review of our current business, in consultation with our stakeholders, and keeping in mind our reputation in the marketplace for responsiveness and innovation”, said Dinesh Saparamadu, Applova CEO and founder. 

As a provider of innovative restaurant and retail technology, Applova helps businesses of all sizes modernize operations, open new revenue streams, and deliver exceptional customer
experiences. “With a growing family of customers, partners, and stakeholders, we needed a new identity that could represent the larger vision of who we are and where we want to go. 

This new identity will satisfy all of the existing expectations of the brand, while simultaneously moving the brand forward to acknowledge the maturity, accessibility, and simplicity of our product and services,” said Saparamadu. 

The Steak Doctor Live

Food Network star Willie ‘Steak Doctor’ Degel is going live with a new YouTube Channel , top video. The show will give viewers an inside look of what it takes to be a successful CEO of a major restaurant brand like Uncle Jack’s.  

Each episode will have a theme such as cooking, designing, managing, investing, building, home life, etc. where Willie will walk viewers through current issues and pain points in the industry and educate viewers how to overcome and be successful.

CMR Recognizes Staff

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) recently recognized several managers, chefs, associates and restaurants for their outstanding performance in 2019. The awards were presented at the company’s annual Leadership Conference, which was held earlier this month in Chicago, Illinois. 

As we celebrate 26 years in business, we are proud to recognize the extraordinary talent and commitment of our team members,” said David Miller, CMR president and chief operating officer. “Our team prides itself on delivering genuine hospitality to our guests and the leaders being honored often go above and beyond to create a culture at CMR that is fun, emphasizes quality and rewards our associates for their hard work. It is nice to have the opportunity to express our recognition and gratitude for their dedication.”

Awards were presented to the associates who work at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants specialty concepts as well as the Ocean Prime brand.

2019 Cameron Mitchell Restaurants Specialty Awards

Restaurant of the Year: Hudson 29 in New Albany, Ohio is this year’s recipient of the Restaurant of the Year award. The restaurant is led by General Manager Natalie Muehlfeld and Executive Chef Wayne Schumaker. Hudson 29 redefines American cuisine through simple preparation that allows expertly sourced ingredients to shine. Its welcoming atmosphere makes it the perfect gathering place for family and friends to share life deliciously. 

General Manager of the Year: Kristen Luff of Powell, Ohio, is the 2019 General Manager of the Year. She is the general manager of The Avenue Steak Tavern in Dublin, Ohio. Luff began her career in guest services after joining the CMR family in 1999 and has gained experience in a variety of positions throughout the years. Because of her extensive knowledge of the restaurant industry, she leads through example and takes great pride in her daily work.

Executive Chef of the Year: Todd Kessler of Hilliard, Ohio, is the executive chef at Cap City Fine Diner & Bar in Dublin, Ohio. Kessler has been named CMR’s Executive Chef of the Year. He joined the CMR family in 2012 where he started as a sous chef at Cap City. His experience working in every position within the kitchen led him to his current role. Kessler has proven to be an integral leader at multiple Cap City locations.

Cameron Mitchell Award: This year’s Cameron Mitchell Award was presented to Mark Weiss, Ocean Prime’s senior director of operations. Weiss has been an esteemed member of the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants family for nearly two decades. He knows the hospitality industry inside and out, beginning his CMR career as an hourly associate and working his way up through various positions within the company. Weiss served as general manager at four different concepts before being promoted to director of operations at Ocean Prime and was most recently promoted to senior director of operations for Ocean Prime.

2019 Ocean Prime Awards

Restaurant of the Year: Ocean Prime Naples is this year’s recipient of the Restaurant of the Year award. The Naples location, led by General Manager Rick Giannasi and Executive Chef Vladimir Trivunovic, brings award-winning culinary experiences to guests in the heart of Old Naples’ celebrated entertainment, dining and shopping district. Stunning settings, a vibrant energy, an impressive menu of seafood and prime cuts of steak, signature cocktails, a Wine Spectator-honored wine list and truly genuine hospitality make Ocean Prime Naples an ideal place to socialize, talk business, celebrate and indulge.

General Manager of the Year: Kal Harris, of Tampa, Florida, received the General Manager of the Year award for Ocean Prime. With more than a decade of experience in high-end restaurants, his appreciation for genuine hospitality and mission to enhance the guests’ experience make his work as general manager of Ocean Prime Tampa greatly appreciated by fellow team members.

Executive Chef of the Year: Adam Polisei is this year’s recipient of Ocean Prime’s Executive Chef of the Year award. Polisei started with Ocean Prime as a sous chef in 2006 at the Tampa location before taking on the executive chef position at Ocean Prime Troy. He has since returned to Ocean Prime Tampa as executive chef and has proven to be an integral part of the Ocean Prime brand.  

Don't Let Your Career Flame Out

Modern Restaurant Management Executive Editor recently authored a guest post for QSR Automation’s blog on burnout. Check it out here.