White Castle’s Impossible Adventure and the First Full-Service Cannabis Kitchen

This edition of MRM's News Bites features Wendy's and Yext, Chili’s® Grill & Bar, Concorde Entertainment Group and Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality, Naf NafWhite Castle and Impossible Foods, Razzoo’s Cajun Café and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, The Mint DispensaryAmalfi Pizza, HMSHost and QikServe, Fieldcraft, Alliance for Aseptic Foodservice,  Deputy and Lightspeed POS Inc., TAO Group,  Ice-O-Matic, Bypass and 7shifts and QSR Automations.

Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.

Wendy’s Says 'Yes'  to Yext 

Yext, Inc. was selected by Wendy’s to give the company control of the information available about Wendy’s across the web. Wendy’s will use the Yext Knowledge Engine to manage information such as restaurant location, menu items, nutritional information, hours of operation, and more for 6,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, leveraging Yext Pages, Yext Listings, and Yext’s restaurant-specific offering, Yext for Food.

“We are constantly innovating to provide the best possible service to our customers, and that includes providing a great brand experience before they even walk through our doors,” said Jason Seeley, senior director of customer activation for Wendy's. “We’re investing in best-in-class technology across the board, and chose Yext for Digital Knowledge Management to provide the best possible brand information throughout the digital world.”

“Wendy’s has long invested in new technology to reach customers everywhere they are. As AI-powered services change the way we search for businesses every day, this is only becoming more important,” said Wendi Sturgis, Chief Customer Officer of Yext. “We’re thrilled to work with Wendy’s to put them in control of their brand information across the search engines, voice assistants, maps, and apps their customers use to find them.”

With Yext, Wendy’s has gained better control over brand information, as well as comprehensive performance analytics, regardless of where customers might interact with the Wendy’s brand online, from search engines like Google and voice assistants like Siri, to Wendy’s own local restaurant pages. Wendy’s will use Yext Pages to drive delivery orders, app downloads, and convert high-intent customers. In addition, Wendy’s will be able to easily update menu data across geographies and services from one central platform, the Yext Knowledge Engine.

Valade Moves to TDn2K

Chili’s® Grill & Bar Kelli Valade is leaving her leadership role with Chili’s® Grill & Bar to join TDn2K™, parent company of People Report™, Black Box Intelligence™ and White Box Social Intelligence™, as president and CEO. In the interim, Wyman Roberts will once again step in as president of Chili’s.

Kelli Valade

Prior to Valade, Roberts served as president of Chili’s for more than seven years. His extensive experience running both the Maggiano’s and Chili’s brands coupled with the strong leadership team in place at Chili’s ensures the brand will continue to deliver notable results.

“I’m not sure I can find the words to express how extremely proud I am of Kelli and all that she’s accomplished,” said Wyman Roberts, president and CEO of Brinker International, Inc. “I’ve seen firsthand the impact she’s made at Brinker and Chili’s and now she will help impact the entire industry.”

In her 22 years with Brinker, Valade’s leadership helped shift the culture, initiate the Women Take the Lead program and impact positive results for Chili’s.

“This was an incredibly tough decision to leave a brand that I absolutely love and taught me the power of making people feel special,” said Kelli Valade. “I’ve been honored to be a part of the amazing momentum the ChiliHeads have created and can’t wait to see what’s next for the team.”

Concorde and O&B Partner

Concorde Entertainment Group and Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality (O&B) forged a strategic partnership, combining  more than 3,000 employees and 60 operating restaurants and event venues across Canada. The two companies will continue to run as separate entities with their respective executive and management teams. 

O&B  focuses on independent restaurant and event groups, founded in 1993 by Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini. With locations in Toronto, Montreal, Saskatoon, and Calgary, the company’s diverse portfolio of unique concept restaurants includes Canoe, Leña, Bar George and The Guild, as well as several strategic partnerships with brands such as IQ Food Co. and Pizzeria Libretto.

“As Canada’s restaurant landscape grows, this strategic partnership with Concorde Entertainment Group allows us to continue developing unique restaurant concepts, while achieving operational efficiencies usually only attainable by large-scale chain operators,” said Andrew Oliver, President and CEO, Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality. “Our shared infrastructure will help support the development of creative culinary talent and contribute to Canada’s ever-evolving restaurant culture.” 

Based in Calgary, Concorde Entertainment Group has 19 establishments under its current banner. Founded by hospitality veteran Victor Choy, Concorde’s impressive portfolio of successful restaurants includes award-winning concepts Model Milk, Pigeonhole, Bridgette Bar and National Beer Hall. Since its establishment in 1987, Concorde Group has focused on creating exciting destinations known for great food and drink, entertainment and design.

“Oliver & Bonacini have grown their company much like we have.  We’ve brought some of the city’s most dynamic concepts to life by supplementing extreme talent and passion with our corporate experience in branding and design, human resources, finance and connection to community.  This new partnership with O&B positions us favourably to accelerate growth in Canada,” said Victor Choy, President and CEO, Concorde Entertainment Group.

 O&B has plans to open several new restaurant concepts in Edmonton’s Ice District in 2019, while Concorde will continue to open independent restaurants and focus on expanding its National Beer Hall brand across the country.  Details on new collaborations are expected to be announced later this year.

Tom’s Urban Appoints Shannon McNiel as President and COO

Tom's Urban , an eater-tainment concept and modern casual dining restaurant, appointed Shannon McNiel as President and Chief Operating Officer. Leveraging over 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, McNiel will focus on overseeing, developing, and setting the direction for Tom’s Urban’s operational activities.

Shannon McNiel

“Shannon has a tremendous track record of delivering results in this industry and we couldn’t have hired a better person to help drive the anticipated growth of our brand,” says Tom Ryan, Executive Chairman of Tom’s Urban. “He is an accomplished and passionate leader whose expertise will continue to build Tom’s Urban as the premiere eater-tainment destination for guests looking for a dynamic sports, music and entertainment experience, all while enjoying delicious food and great drinks.”

McNiel was most recently a Market Partner with Texas Roadhouse. Prior to that, he held an executive leadership role with Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen. During his tenure with Darden Restaurants, McNiel held operational roles at Red Lobster and Longhorn Steakhouse where he was the three-time recipient of the Endeavor Award, which is awarded to the #1 Director of Operations. Mr. McNiel studied political science at Howard Payne University and criminal justice at Weatherford College. He is also involved in numerous volunteer endeavors including contributions to the Houston Food Bank and Houston Police Foundation. 

Tom’s Urban is owned by Black Shamrock Partners, formerly Consumer Concept Group, a Denver-based investment and operating company, focused on launching, operating and investing in Experience Based Lifestyle Economy brands in the consumer, lifestyle and event sectors. Tom’s Urban has locations currently at LA Live in Los Angeles, Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, NYNY Hotel in Las Vegas and Ilani Casino in Portland.

Naf Naf Delivers

Naf Naf is bringing its Middle Eastern food directly to consumers with the launch of delivery service. Now, Naf fans can enjoy traditional shawarma, fresh falafel and handmade pillowy-pita from the comfort of their own homes or offices by placing orders for delivery via the Naf Perks app or online at nafnafgrill.com. To celebrate, Naf fans can enjoy free delivery for a limited time through these channels.

The introduction of delivery service marks the next phase of Naf Naf’s digital ordering strategy following the launch of their mobile app in January. Over the past year, Naf Naf made fundamental changes to ensure a seamless guest experience by implementing new to-go order areas in each restaurant and evolving back of house operations.

“Our guests are at the center of everything we do,” said Paul Damico, CEO of Naf Naf, “and we know it’s important to them to have choices and flexibility when dining with us. Now, with the option to order Naf for delivery, we’re able to give them a new way to enjoy our food on their own terms.”

To celebrate the launch of delivery, the Chicago-based Middle Eastern brand is giving back to its home town by delivering lunch to local service workers at police stations, fire departments and hospital emergency rooms. Damico will visit several service stations in the area including the University of Chicago Hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and local Chicago Police and Chicago Fire Department stations to personally thank the teams for their service.

Naf is also asking their Instagram fans (@nafnafgrill) to showcase gratitude for a person in their life who has ‘delivered’ for them. Fans are encouraged to share their story for the opportunity to be randomly chosen to enjoy free Naf for a year for them and the person they nominated. Refer to the Instagram post next week for additional details.

Delivery is available from participating Naf restaurants within DoorDash's delivery areas during normal operating hours applicable to each restaurant. $15 minimum purchase is required when ordering through the Naf Perks app or website.

White Castle Goes All Impossible

The plant-based burger from Impossible Foods is now available at all White Castle restaurants nationwide for $1.99. The Impossible Slider debuted in April at 140 White Castle locations in New York, New Jersey and Chicago. Based on the overwhelming success of the pilot program, White Castle – largely credited for inventing the slider- is expanding availability of the Impossible Slider starting today to all 377 of its restaurants in 13 states — from New York to St. Louis.

"Our Cravers definitely developed a hunger for the Impossible Slider," said CEO Lisa Ingram, whose family has led White Castle for four generations. "Sales easily exceeded our expectations. The Impossible Slider is a hit with both loyal 'Cravers' and customers brand new to White Castle who are seeking out this buzz-worthy slider."

For the past six months, Impossible Foods' scientists have been working with White Castle to ensure that the Impossible Slider works great with the kitchen system of White Castle locations. More than 60,000 fans have signed an online petition for other fast-food chains to follow suit. Sales have remained above expectations for the past six months.

"White Castle is teaching us how to popularize plant-based meat and become a mainstream, mass market menu item and cultural icon," said Impossible Foods' Founder and CEO Dr. Patrick O. Brown. "This partnership is a big win for for consumers, with the partnership of White Castle and Impossible Foods."

The Impossible Slider is topped with smoked cheddar cheese, pickles, and onions and is served on a signature bun available individually for $1.99.

Razzoo’s Cajun Café and Tito’s Raise Funds for CORE

This summer, the team at Razzoo’s Cajun Café partnered with Tito’s Handmade Vodka in a cocktail promotion designed to raise funds for  CORE, Children of Restaurant Employees.  Razzoo’s offered $1 for the sale of each of the specialty cocktails, while Tito’s Handmade Vodka agreed to match that donation, up to $5,000.

On September 6, Razzoo’s was able to present an overall donation of $12,093, which represented $7,093 from Razzoo’s and an additional $5,000 from Tito’s.

CORE grants support to children of food and beverage service navigating life-altering circumstances. In times of extreme strain brought on by family death, injury or diagnosed medical condition, loss of home, or other sudden or extreme circumstances, food and beverage families can become overwhelmed financially and emotionally. CORE is the nationally recognized community of support for all food and beverage service families in need by ensuring they feel cared for and valued.

Since 2004, CORE has raised more than $3 million and granted support to more than 350 families from across the industry and the country. Contributions from our COREporate Members and individual donors allows CORE to provide grants that keep our families safe, healthy, and happy.

Mint Dispensary's Cannabis Kitchen

The Mint Dispensary is launching the country’s first full-service cannabis kitchen in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday, Oct. 5. Patients seeking relief through medicinal cannabis can now access freshly prepared, cannabis-infused meals created by a professional chef at the dispensary’s 12,000-square-foot Tempe location.

First Choice Kitchen

As part of the Tempe dispensary’s recent $2 million renovation, The Mint Dispensary’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner options, in addition to snacks. While pre-packaged, shelf-stable food items have been available at dispensaries, this is the first time that patients will have access to fresh foods that are prepared on-site with a customized dose of cannabis.

“Our industry continues to evolve at an exponential pace,” said Eivan Shahara, CEO of The Mint Dispensary. “We saw a large unmet need from patients who were regularly visiting our dispensary; they were looking to access fresh and healthy cannabis-infused foods. We know that the right kinds of healthy foods can help people to battle a variety of illnesses, from cancer and epilepsy to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. We’re using our knowledge about food and nutrition to help patients in their search for fresh, healthy snacks and infused meals.”

The new kitchen will offer a complete menu of artisan burgers, pastas, pizza, and other delicious cannabis-infused meals that patients can order to go. The new kitchen will also have a barista, a juice bar, gelato, and a wide assortment of pastries. Chef Carylann Principal, a classically trained chef and cancer survivor, created all of the recipes for the dispensary. She joined The Mint Dispensary’s team as executive chef to share her food and nutrition knowledge with other people who are facing similar battles.

“Our kitchen is one of a kind,” said Chef Principal. “It’s a place where art meets science. In addition to understanding the variety of flavors that different cannabis strains can add to any dish, we’re also carefully calculating customized cannabis doses. We’re not only delivering delicious and fresh foods, but we’re also meeting the often-complex nutritional needs of patients who are living with a wide range of illnesses.”

Available in customized doses ranging incrementally from 10 mg and up, the breakfast/snack menu includes Blueberry Muffins, Apple Fritters, Donut Holes, Raspberry Linzer Bars, Scones and Banana Bread, which are all available individually or in combination with coffee. For lunch and dinner, patients can choose from Artisan Burgers, Hatch Chile Macaroni & Cheese, Street Tacos, Fries and Pizza. A full menu will be available when the kitchen officially opens.

Chef Principal and her five-member team will prepare a steady stream of foods during the dispensary’s regular operating hours – from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Catering services for large medicated events, as well as occasions such as weddings, birthdays and funerals, will be offered starting in mid-November. The Mint Dispensary will also introduce home delivery and offer specially made holiday meals for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve/Day. In all instances, medicinal cannabis cards will be needed for the number of people who will be served.

The Mint Dispensary kitchen will also hold free cooking classes on Sunday mornings, starting around the holidays. Patients with a medicinal cannabis card must register ahead of time to attend a cooking class, as space is limited to 15 people.

Complementing the innovative kitchen concept, The Mint Dispensary and its 70 employees will continue to deliver upon its well-established reputation for providing high-quality products and personalized services, with more than 10,000 items in-store, including the widest selection of vape cartridges, flower/buds, edibles and concentrates. Additionally, patients – from the well-meducated to those who need more help navigating the wide variety of medicinal cannabis options – will have a chance to tap the expertise of 25 budtenders, who are among the best and most knowledgeable dispensary experts in Arizona.

Amalfi Has a Big Heart

Amalfi Pizza welcomes Hurricane Florence evacuees by inviting individuals and families to come and enjoy a meal for whatever they feel they can pay on the food portion of their bill (excludes alcoholic beverages). This offer is valid to anyone in town from mandatory evacuation zones. Guests only need to ask for a manager and show a valid ID from one of the areas affected. 

“Our family here at Amalfi understands the struggles that our evacuee friends and families are experiencing,” said founding partner Stephen de Haan. “It is our way of welcoming evacuees to our city and the Amalfi family with a warm meal to make them feel at home.” 

Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner in downtown Atlanta, Amalfi Pizza is a traditional Neapolitan pizzeria centered around two 6000 pound wood-burning brick ovens imported from Italy. The 170 seat dining room has large semicircular booths, custom wrought iron chandeliers along with Juliet balconies overlooking an Italian-inspired entryway. It features an authentic Italian menu that includes Neapolitan-style pizzas as well as original appetizers, fresh salads, delicious pasta dishes and traditional desserts. Originating in and the true pizza of Naples in the 1600s, Vera Pizza Napoletana is 12 inches or less in size, made from simple fresh quality ingredients from the Campania region of Italy and cooked at temperatures in excess of 900 degrees in approximately 60 seconds. In addition to traveling to Naples and throughout the entire region to find the best ingredients, owners Stephen de Haan and Greg Grant staged with the Italian Pizzaiolo Maestros at Pizzeria Mattozzi, established in 1830, and Pizzeria Da Attilo. This apprenticeship, along with studying in the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, have allowed their passion for food to develop into the skills necessary to bring this historic, simple, and beautifully executed street food to Atlanta. 

HMSHost Expands QSR Kiosks

HMSHost expanded service format options, offering self-order kiosks in quick service restaurants it operates in airports and highway travel plazas across North America. This modern ordering and payment amenity is now available across a variety of HMSHost quick service restaurants in over 50 airports and travel plazas and will be deployed in approximately 100 locations by the end of 2019. The innovative kiosk solution utilizes the QikServe self-service platform and is integrated with HMSHost’s point-of-sale system.

International Departtures Terminal Business Travel Transportation Flight Concept

Kiosk ordering in these restaurants serves travelers using QikServe’s enterprise platform, allowing guests to browse the menu and make selections, order, and pay via an intuitive digital interface. The ordering process also includes a range of cross-selling and up-selling options that offer guests more options to add to their meal. The kiosks have already demonstrated a typical increase in average transaction value of around 20 percent.

A woman orders food in the touch screen terminal in the electronic menu in the restaurant

“Since deploying the QikServe kiosk solution, we have seen a significant improvement in overall guest satisfaction,” said James Schmitz, Vice President of Innovation at HMSHost. “We are confident that technology solutions like kiosk ordering are transforming the food industry. By introducing these innovations in travel venues, HMSHost is exposing people from all over the world to the technology-driven future of dining out.”

Self-order kiosks improve the guest experience for travelers by helping combat long lines and providing more flexible levels of interaction when placing an order. Guests have more time to browse the menu with kiosk ordering, often leading to the discovery of new favorites and greater sales. The platform also helps during times of high customer volume, common in travel venues.

“We are thrilled to be working with a world leader like HMSHost to revolutionize the ordering process at its restaurants across North America,” said Daniel Rodgers, Founder & CEO, QikServe. “I am delighted that we are delivering value for HMSHost while also bringing convenience to the traveler experience. This is a fantastic demonstration of how our integrated platform provides the flexibility to deliver a wide range of digital self-service experiences across the hospitality industry.”

Fieldcraft Ramps Up

After launching the marketplace in July, suppliers who signed up on Fieldcraft have now posted 1,000 ingredients on the platform. The Austin-based startup is connecting commercial buyers, suppliers and producers in food and beverage production. The online platform makes it easier for buyers to discover and transact with suppliers directly, and features plant ingredients ranging from whole crops to specialty flours and proteins.

For many food and beverage companies, more than 50 percent of current revenue comes from products that have been introduced within the last five years. "We found that buyers were having a hard time finding the right suppliers and ingredients or were unaware of available options." said Michael Chapman, Fieldcraft CEO. "The value chain from food grade producer to end user is fragmented. With more effective tools to improve discovery and transacting, buyers and suppliers achieve greater convenience and cost savings."

On Fieldcraft, buyers can filter their supplier search by crop, processing option and certification, and review detailed product specifications. Buyers request samples or quotes directly from suppliers. If they don't find everything they're looking for, they can submit a request and Fieldcraft's team finds suppliers and ingredients at no charge.

"Our platform makes these time-sensitive connections possible and more direct," said Chapman, who grew up in a farming community and served in the US Army, the CIA and the White House Situation Room.

"We're building a community of innovators and a transparent supply chain that is more affordable and accessible for businesses of all sizes," Chapman said. "We believe Fieldcraft will expand opportunities and choice for buyers, suppliers, producers and consumers alike, and we're excited to see these connections being made so quickly."

Alliance for Aseptic Foodservice Formed

International Dispensing Corporation (IDC) (IDND) formed the Alliance for Aseptic Foodservice™ (AAF™). The AAF™ aims to target the foodservice market that current aseptic packaging does not adequately address, uniting industry leaders under a single sales and marketing umbrella to promote a turn-key solution for large-format (3 to 20 liter) aseptic packaging.

Consumption away from home is approaching 50 percent of global food and beverage expenditures; however, in the $60 billion aseptic packaging industry less than 10% is utilized in foodservice. Size and structural limitations inherent in aseptic cartons and bottles account for this under-representation. Once an aseptic package – ranging from 60ml to 2 liters – is opened, the contents must be refrigerated and consumed. From the standpoint of efficiency, cost, and product and packaging waste, purchasing lots of smaller size packages is not ideal for institutional foodservice. The AAF™ combines aseptic technologies to offer an end-to-end packaging solution that remains ambient at all stages – packing, shipping, storage, and dispensing. No other solution in the world has the ability to deliver these efficiencies.

IDC has created the world’s only aseptic dispensing tap, The Answer®, which safely dispenses ultra-high-temperature (UHT) liquid food products from a large-format flexible package, while keeping the remaining contents shelf-stable for an extended period (weeks/months) without the need of refrigeration or preservatives. IDC has also trademarked BID™ (Bag-in-Dispenser) which it expects to supplant BIB as the innovative industry acronym for aseptic foodservice.

By creating the Alliance for Aseptic Foodservice™, IDC brings together outstanding charter members: Alfa Laval, maker of the world’s fastest and most compact aseptic BIB filling machine; Aran Packaging and Goglio, two leading aseptic bag manufacturers with a global reach; and Boxxle, creator of the world’s most ingenious dispensing unit for aseptic bags.

“By forming the AAF™ we are making a significant statement,” said IDC Chairman Greg Abbott. “Leading industry players with a shared vision, who believe in each other, are uniting for the purpose of promoting a definitive aseptic foodservice solution, one that is economical, environmentally friendly, visually appealing, and lends itself to a myriad of applications. Instead of only selling our products separately, we are channeling our efforts into a common purpose that will make us all stronger and build a robust category. This collective turn-key initiative should simplify customer decision-making and provide aseptic brand owners all over the world a streamlined means of expanding their brands into new areas of distribution.”

Deputy and Lightspeed Team

Deputy and Lightspeed POS Inc. enabling Deputy’s roughly 3,000 restaurant clients can now leverage their Lightspeed sales data to schedule employees more efficiently with Deputy’s demand-planning and auto-scheduling functionalities.

“Sales data can be used to predict demand and scheduling needs based on employee cost and other criteria,” said Darren Clarke, Global Head of Strategic Partnerships, Deputy. "The Lightspeed POS and Deputy integration allows for more cost-effective and impactful scheduling, essential tasks in bettering any restaurant’s bottom line.”

For Lightspeed users, Deputy enables the seamless import of employee information and sales data in one place to easily manage across systems. Employee management is made easier and more impactful to the bottom line by accurately forecasting shift requirements through revenue versus shift cost analysis. Both companies are certified Apple Mobility Partners.

“Our ecosystem offerings positively impact our customer’s business success, and we work with innovative partners to facilitate and support our customers’ evolving needs,” said Joost Brugmans, Director of Partnerships at Lightspeed. “Deputy and Lightspeed enable seamless employee scheduling for our customers’ restaurants.”

Deputy’s all-in-one mobile app for employee scheduling, time-tracking, communication, tasking and performance management offers flexibility to one of the largest industries for hourly employment — restaurants and food service organizations. New and existing Deputy customers will be offered a special introductory rate. Current restaurant clients of Deputy include McDonald’s, Burger King and Moe’s Southwestern Grill.

TAO Chicago Set to Open

TAO Group brings its renowned dining and nightlife experience to the Midwest with TAO Chicago, opening Monday, September 17. Following the transformation of the historic 1892 landmark, which was originally home to the Chicago Historical Society, TAO’s takeover of the 34,000 square foot space is sure to make its mark in the River North neighborhood.

“We’re thrilled to bring TAO to Chicago after many years of searching for the perfect location,” says TAO co-founder Rich Wolf. “The city’s incredible culinary and entertainment scene is a perfect fit for our ever-growing concept and we think that Chicagoans and visitors alike will love the unique experience that TAO has to offer.”

TAO Group founders Rich Wolf, Marc Packer, Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss have nurtured the TAO brand through openings in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles since 2000. TAO Chicago, only the fifth iteration of the brand in eighteen years, will incorporate the city’s elevated-but-approachable mentality into its dual concept: a distinctive culinary destination and a supercharged nightclub.


TAO Chicago’s restaurant combines an intimate, yet lively ambiance with elevated Pan-Asian fare for a unique “vibe dining” experience. Diners enter the 275-seat space through a dramatic grand staircase that leads to the subterranean main dining floor. A 16-foot-tall Quan Yin statue overlooks guests as they dine on offerings from the sea, sky and land, featuring signature dishes like the Satay of Chilean Sea BassLobster WontonsPeking Duck, Crispy Snapper in “Sand” and highly-lauded Tuna Sashimi Pringle. The kitchen is helmed by TAO Group Partner and Chef Ralph Scamardella and Chicago’s Executive Chef Michael Armstrong. Both chefs have immersed themselves into Chicago’s dining landscape and have worked to incorporate new steak and omakase sushi dishes onto TAO Chicago’s menu. TAO Chicago’s beverage program caters to Asian tastes with creative, approachable craft cocktails, such as the Phuket  with whisky, aperol, plum nectar, lemon and a hint of Chinese 5-spice, along with the Tokyo Rose made with a tequila and mescal blend, fresh cucumber juice, aloe vera liqueur, cold pressed lime, and finished with a togarashi rim.

“Chicagoans know great food and have plenty of choices, so for us, it’s about bringing together our top chefs and exceeding guest expectations,” says TAO Chicago Executive Chef Michael Armstrong. “A lot of thought went into every dish we’ve created new for the Chicago menu, from our carefully-crafted sushi and omakase to bold meat-centric offerings. And we were sure to add all the TAO classics from each existing city to Chicago’s menu.”

Upstairs houses the second half of the TAO concept: the 7,000-square-foot nightclub. Late-night guests enter the club through 100-year-old, massive Chinese doors and down a lantern-lit exterior alley. Inside, club-goers can enjoy cocktails, bottle service and a spectacular scene within the intimate front nightclub space or the expansive rear space underneath a massive 10-foot bell and disco ball. The two nightclubs are separated by an operable wall that transforms the space into a one-room venue. The club draws upon TAO Group’s extensive background in nightlife and connections to top-tier artists and DJs.

TAO Chicago restaurant and nightclub were designed in collaboration with Rockwell Group, which has worked with TAO Group on 14 previous projects. Rockwell Group celebrated the architectural significance of the Romanesque building and its striking design, preserving the exposed brick walls, soaring ceilings, arched windows and special geometry and sightlines. The material palette combines raw and industrial details with rich, luxurious Asian influenced elements, including murals by the notorious artist Hush.

“Rockwell Group is thrilled to take our collaboration with TAO Group to Chicago and offer a distinctive dining and nightlife experience in one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks,” said Shawn Sullivan, Partner, Rockwell Group. “Maintaining the building’s iconic Romanesque Revival façade, we are completely transforming the interior with an exciting set of spaces that contrast old and new. The new restaurant and nightclub weave through multiple levels, infusing TAO’s Asian-influenced sensibility within the historic envelope.”

TAO Chicago is located at 632 North Dearborn Street.

Mick Named President at Ice-O-Matic

Gary Mick has been named President of Ice-O-Matic, an Ali Group Company, effective September 10, according to Filippo Berti, Chief Executive Officer of the Ali Group.

In this new role, he will be responsible for the day-to-day management of Ice-O-Matic.

Mick’s extensive background in the commercial foodservice industry spans more than two decades. He has held various management positions, including President of Blodgett, a division of The Middleby Corporation. Most recently, Gary served as a Group President of The Middleby Corporation, where he managed multiple foodservice business units in the U.S. and Denmark.

Founded in 1963 by Luciano Berti, the Ali Group is an Italian corporation with headquarters located in Milan, Italy and North American operations based in Chicago, Illinois. The company, through its subsidiaries, designs, manufactures, markets and services a broad line of commercial and institutional foodservice equipment used by major restaurant and hotel chains, independent restaurants, hospitals, schools, airports, correctional institutions and canteens. The Ali Group and its 76 global brands employs over 10,000 people in 30 countries and, in terms of sales, is one of the world’s largest groups in this industry. It has 57 manufacturing facilities in 15 countries and sales and service subsidiaries throughout Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Ice-O-Matic is a Denver, Colorado-based manufacturer and established global supplier of ice machines and the world’s largest producer of ice evaporators. 

Bypass Teams with 7shifts

Bypass and 7shifts are teaming up to provide greater controls to restaurant managers while offering flexibility to operators. The partnership will begin at multiple Yogurtland locations with planned deployment at Yogurtland stores across the United States, and as an offering to multi-location restaurants.

 "We're excited to offer our franchisees and operators the industry-leading restaurant management platform provided by Bypass and 7shifts.” said John Carlson, VP Marketing, Development & Operations at Yogurtland. “By providing a unified point of sale and scheduling solution, we are empowering our operators to make proactive labor management decisions to boost profitability while continuing to provide a great guest service experience."

Bypass, an enterprise point-of-sale (POS) solution used at hundreds of locations in sports, entertainment and the restaurant industry across over 18,000 terminals, will seamlessly integrate with 7shifts, an employee scheduling software that helps managers and operators reduce wasted time and streamline communication.

“With our new relationship with Yogurtland, we sought out a partner for labor and scheduling, but wanted to go beyond a simple data integration,” said Geoff Johnson, Chief Innovation Officer & Vice President of Product for Bypass. “7shifts not only satisfied the needs of the customer, but we’ve now crafted a powerful partnership that offers the market a truly integrated solution.”

Johnson added, “With our partnership approach, we’re looking to closely partner with best-in-class organizations that complement our core product rather than lock people into a one-size-fits-most solution.” With the integration, when an operator clocks into a Bypass terminal, it opens up the 7shifts application with its full capabilities instead of passing data over from one application to another. The integration gives the operator full freedom and the manager tight control over variable factors like grace period and break times.

Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7shifts said, "We are excited to partner with the team at Bypass Mobile to help bring a holistic scheduling and labor management solution to enterprise-level restaurants. We believe that restaurateurs of all types win when they have access to powerful, integrated tools which address their individual operators' labor needs. Our team is proud that our shared missions of accelerating restaurant efficiency have brought us together to create a best of breed solution."

QSR Automations Team Wins WebAwards

QSR Automations celebrates two category award wins, Technology Standard of Excellence for Website and Technology Standard of Excellence for Blog, at the 18th annual WebAwards.

QSR Automation’s website and blog were recognized for above industry standards in web development and innovation in the technology category. QSR’s entries competed head-to-head against more than 1,500 entries. Entries were judged in terms of design, copywriting, innovation, content, interactivity, navigation, and the use of technology in website development.

“Last year, our marketing department worked tirelessly to rebuild and redesign our website and launch a new blog. We wanted the website and blog to not only focus on design and web development but also provide an excellent user experience, so our target audiences could easily find information and learn about our products, in a clear, concise manner,” said Amber Mullaney, director of marketing and communications at QSR Automations. “We are thrilled to be receiving these awards. This achievement reinforces and highlights our delivery of best practices in terms of both website development and marketing.”

Produced by the Web Marketing Association, the WebAward competition is the longest running annual website award competition dedicated to naming the best Websites across 96 different industries.