Culver’s just turned 34. Its butter burgers, custard are ‘exporting Wisconsin’ nationwide.

636668377472612258-APC-CraigCulver-032918-01.JPG

PRAIRIE DU SAC – A hunk of fresh ground beef hits the hot flat-top grill in the test kitchen at Culver’s headquarters.

Craig Culver, 68, uses a large, perfectly polished metal spatula to press the beef into perfectly round patties, with the help of an equally well-polished round metal canister. That grill isn’t quite hot enough, by the way, he comments.

I’ve watched (maybe secretly wishing I was in) the Culver’s commercials with the restaurant’s co-founder surprising customers, offering to bring them into the kitchen as he cooks their burgers. That was a tricky shoot, Culver says, because they were doing it during lunch hours at a Culver’s in Tampa, Florida. Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Burger, Casual Dining, Dave Henkes, Fast Food, Menu, Press Release, Sales, Sales & Profits

For CEOs in crisis, Starbucks offers an ‘instructive playbook’

For CEOs in crisis, Starbucks offers an 'instructive playbook'

Sarah Whitten
© 2018 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved. A Division of NBCUniversal
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/18/for-ceos-in-crisis-starbucks-offers-an-instructive-playbook.html

  • Kevin Johnson’s response to the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks is an “instructive playbook” for other CEOs dealing with crisis.
  • Johnson flew out to Philadelphia on Monday to speak with the two men.
  • Starbucks will close 8,000 of the company’s U.S.-based locations to train 175,000 employees and address implicit bias, promote inclusion and help prevent discrimination.

Starbucks is just the latest brand to find itself under scrutiny in the public eye. However, the company’s response to a viral video of two black men being arrested in one of its cafes last week, is what sets it apart.

On Thursday, a woman posted the video online and said that staff at a Philadelphia Starbucks had called police because the men had not ordered anything while they waited for a friend to arrive.

On Monday, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson was on the ground in Pennsylvania meeting with them.

“That’s very rare,” Aaron Allen, founder and CEO of global restaurant consulting firm Aaron Allen and Associates, told CNBC. “And it sends a message not just externally, but a strong message internally.”

Allen said that for the majority of companies, the initial inclination is to “batten down the hatches” and stall for time to figure out a solution.

One sign of the success of its strategy is that Starbucks stock has remained relatively stable throughout the whole incident.

“I agree Starbucks and Kevin Johnson have done a good job in responding to this incident,” Denise Lee Yohn, a brand leadership consultant, told CNBC via email.

She noted how quickly Johnson took responsibility for the incident, committed to reviewing the company’s culture and practices, provided clear statements to employees and customers and flew out to meet with the two men who had been arrested.

“These steps provide an instructive playbook for other leaders facing crises like this,” Yohn said.

On Tuesday, Johnson went one step further. The company announced that it was closing all of its company-owned restaurants in the U.S. during the afternoon of May 29 to conduct a racial-bias education program.

Some 8,000 of the company’s U.S.-based locations will participate so that nearly 175,000 employees can attend the training program that will address implicit bias, promote inclusion and help prevent discrimination.

“The CEO was slow to address race, which remains a big stain on Starbucks’ brand trust,” Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management consultants, told CNBC via email. “But, the closing of Starbucks stores for racial-bias training is the single smartest move they can make. It shows through action, not talk that they get it and they value doing the right thing over earnings and customer cash.”

Starbucks isn’t the first restaurant brand to close stores in order to host a company-wide training session. Chipotle Mexican Grill shuttered its stores for an afternoon to conduct mandatory food safety training after a series of foodborne illness incidences tattered its reputation.

Still, some question how effective this racial-bias training session will be for the brand.

“For [Johnson] to decree implicit bias training is a start, but [it is] unclear if it will really be all that helpful,” Rosalind Chow, an associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, told CNBC via email. “The evidence on the effectiveness of such training is pretty poor.”

Chow suggested that it would be much better for Starbucks to institute new policies that are enforced across the board. For example, if the company says that people who do not make purchases must be asked to leave, then it doesn’t matter what the race of that person is, they will be asked to leave regardless.

“Large chains with tens of thousands of employees face this challenge every day,” David Henkes, principal at Technomic, told CNBC via email. “Front line workers are the face of your brand, and when they do something that gets negative press, especially when it goes viral, all the training and processes that are in place get put under a microscope, and the brand gets a black eye.”

“I’ve been impressed with Kevin Johnson and their communication strategy and think they’ve been doing what they can to be proactive,” Henkes said.

While experts have found Starbucks’ efforts exemplary, how customers view the brand is slightly different and, perhaps, a closer measure of how the cafe chain’s sales will be affected.

Over the weekend, Starbucks dropped to its lowest consumer perception level since November 2015, according to a report by YouGov Brand Index. The company’s “buzz” score — a measure of positive or negative sentiment around a brand — dropped from 13 on Friday to -8 on Tuesday. (Scores range from -100 to 100 and are gathered from people who have made Starbucks purchases in the last 30 days.)

The last time Starbucks saw a score this low was when it faced backlash for launching solid red cups for the holiday season, causing some customers to claim the brand has waged a “war on Christmas.”

While buzz slipped dramatically, other metrics that YouGov Brand Index monitors saw less of a dive. Purchase consideration, the percentage of customers who would consider making a purchase at a specific restaurant the next time they decided to buy food or a drink fell from 28 percent on Friday to 25 percent on Tuesday.

In addition, the company’s reputation score, how proud or embarrassed the respondent would be to work for the brand, dropped from 14 to 4 during the four-day period.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beverage, Coffee/Cafe, Future Plans and Announcements

Starbucks CEO sees Nestle deal as way to give $20 billion to shareholders over next three years

Starbucks_CEO_sees_Nestle_deal_as_way_to_give_$20_billion_to_shareholders_over_next_three_years

Sarah Whitten
© 2018 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved. A Division of NBCUniversal
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/07/starbucks-ceo-sees-nestle-deal-as-way-to-return-value-to-shareholders.html

  • The $7.15 billion deal with food giant Nestle will help Starbucks return value to its shareholders.
  • The deal gives Nestle the rights to sell Starbucks’ products, including single-serve coffees and teas as well as bagged beans, around the world.
  • Nestle has agreed to take on about 500 Starbucks employees who work in the consumer packaged goods segment as part of the deal.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said Monday that its $7.15 billion deal with food giant Nestle will help return value to its shareholders

“This will increase the $15 billion we have committed to [return to shareholders] … to $20 billion over the next three years, cash returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks,” Johnson said Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

When asked by CNBC’s Jim Cramer about why the coffee chain was not funneling the proceeds from the deal into growth initiatives rather than doing stock buybacks, Johnson highlighted the growth the company has seen.

“We have had great success over the five years or so with K-cups on the Keurig platform,” Johnson said. “This opportunity brings Starbucks coffee to the Nespresso platforms globally and there are more households in the install base of Dolce Gusto and Nespresso than Keurig.”

The deal gives Nestle the rights to sell Starbucks’ products, including single-serve coffees and teas as well as bagged beans, around the world. Nestle will continue to pay royalties to Starbucks after the initial fee.

“For Starbucks, the deal will help to drive brand recognition outside of its core North American and European markets as Nestle ramps up expansion using its distribution capacity,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, told CNBC via email.

Starbucks has struggled with slow sales in the U.S. for several quarters and relinquishing its retail business to another company allows it to focus more on its cafes.

In addition, Nestle has agreed to take on about 500 Starbucks employees who work in the consumer packaged goods segment as part of the deal.

“While Nestle’s coffee business is immense, its product line didn’t really align with the U.S. consumer market and Nestle lacked the star power that Starbucks brings,” David Henkes, principal at Technomic, told CNBC via email. “In my mind this is really about giving Nestle a much better foothold in the U.S. coffee market and creating a counterweight to JAB Holdings, which through its acquisition of Keurig/Green Mountain, Mondelez’s coffee business and others has come to be the primary coffee source for millions of consumers each day.”

JAB Holding, a privately held company and investment arm of the wealthy Reimann family, owns such brands as Keurig Green Mountain, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Peet’s Coffee & Tea. The company, which has been steadily building a coffee and breakfast empire over the last five years, scooped up Panera Bread for $7.5 billion last year.

Nestle has made plans to focus on higher-growth areas like pet care, infant nutrition and coffee. It sold its U.S. candy business to Italy’s Ferrero for about $2.8 billion in January.

“Look, we are excited about pet food, too,” Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestle, told CNBC. “This is one of the other growth categories we are very much involved in that market. So a lot of interesting things underway there.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Beverage, Coffee/Cafe, Financial, Financial Activity, Future Plans and Announcements, Growth

What’s Fresh at McDonald’s? The Beef in Some Burgers

What's_Fresh_at_McDonalds

Associated Press
https://www.snopes.com/ap/2018/03/06/whats-fresh-mcdonalds-beef-burgers/

McDonald’s said that it is serving Quarter Pounders with fresh beef rather than frozen patties at about a quarter of its U.S. restaurants.

NEW YORK (AP) — The Quarter Pounder is getting a fresh makeover.

McDonald’s said Tuesday that it is serving Quarter Pounders with fresh beef rather than frozen patties at about a quarter of its U.S. restaurants, a switch it first announced about a year ago as it works to appeal to customers who want fresher foods. It will roll out fresh beef Quarter Pounders to most of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants by May.

The fast-food giant, which has relied on frozen patties since the 1970s, said workers will cook up the fresh beef on a grill when the burger is ordered.

“The result is a hotter, juicier, great tasting burger,” said Chris Kempczinski, who oversees McDonald’s Corp.’s restaurants in the U.S.

Its pricier “Signature Crafted” burgers, stuffed with guacamole or bacon, will also be made with fresh beef since they use the same sized patty as the Quarter Pounder. The Big Mac and its other burgers, however, will still be made with frozen beef.

Fresh beef has always been used by rival Wendy’s, which aired a Super Bowl commercial last month criticizing the “flash frozen” beef at McDonald’s. A Wendy’s Co. representative gave a frosty response Tuesday, saying that “it’s awesome” that McDonald’s “is recommitting to using frozen beef on the majority of its hamburgers.”

McDonald’s, however, has signaled that it may use fresh beef in more burgers. Earlier this year, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company confirmed that it was testing a fresh beef burger that used a patty that was slightly smaller than the one in the Quarter Pounder, but larger than the one its hamburgers and cheeseburgers.

The change at McDonald’s is the latest as it seeks to shed its junk food image. It has removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, and made other tweaks, including replacing the apple juice in Happy Meals with one with less sugar.

“Fresh in the mind of the consumer really has a better-for-you connotation,” said David Henkes, a senior principal at Technomic, a food industry market research firm. “It certainly has a perception that it’s better than frozen.”

The company tested the fresh beef Quarter Pounder for about two years in Dallas and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Eight more cities are serving it now, including some restaurants in Atlanta, Miami and Salt Lake City. It’ll come to Denver, Houston and other cities over the next month before the nationwide rollout.

McDonald’s said the switch is a major change for the company, and has said the rollout takes time because employees need to be trained to safely handle fresh beef and to cook the patties only when ordered.

Leave a comment

Filed under Burger, Fast Food, Future Plans and Announcements, Menu, Menu Trends

Taco Bell overtakes Burger King as 4th-largest U.S. chain

Taco Bell Overtakes BK 4th-Largest U.S. Chain

Leslie Patton
Bloomberg
https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Taco-Bell-overtakes-Burger-King-as-4th-largest-12629994.php

Lovers of chalupas and crunch wraps have spoken: Taco Bell is now bigger than Burger King.

The Mexican-themed chain eclipsed its burger rival in U.S. sales last year, becoming the fourth-largest domestic restaurant brand, according to a preliminary report by research firm Technomic. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway Restaurants held on to the top three spots.

Taco Bell’s systemwide sales — the total sales of restaurants that carry the brand — jumped 5 percent in the U.S. to about $9.8 billion in 2017. The company, owned by Yum! Brands, has made inroads with indulgent fare, along with $1 items that appeal to budget-strapped millennials.

The ranking change also underscores the surging popularity of Mexican-inspired fare. Last year marked the first time that Taco Bell has overtaken Burger King, the data showed.

McDonald’s, Taco Bell, IHOP and other chain restaurants have hidden health gems in their menus

Though Burger King has fared better than many restaurants brands in recent years, it hasn’t kept pace with its biggest burger rivals — McDonald’s and Wendy’s Co. — or chains like Taco Bell. Its domestic sales rose just 1.5 percent in 2017, according to the Technomic report, which will be finalized in March.

Burger King faces a “resurgent McDonald’s,” David Henkes, senior principal at Technomic, said in an interview. Upscale burger chains, such as Shake Shack Inc., also are threatening its market share.

Taco Bell, meanwhile, has drawn customers with wacky new foods, including fried-chicken taco shells, and a marketing campaign dubbed “Live Mas.” In January, the chain introduced $1 nacho fries.

“They certainly continue to do pretty well, and bring out some interesting and new menu items,” Henkes said. “They’ve done a good job of connecting with the millennials and Gen Z.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Burger, Fast Food, Growth, Mexican, Sales, Tacos

What The Hell Just Happened To Diet Coke? 2018 Edition

What_happened_to_diet_coke_2018_edition

Vanessa Wong
BuzzFeed News Reporter
https://www.buzzfeed.com/venessawong/diet-coke-just-got-an-insane-candy-colored-makeover-to?utm_term=.psLPgVw0x#.kwMMXld8O 

With new flavors like “twisted mango,” “zesty blood orange,” “feisty cherry,” and “ginger lime,” as well as slimmed-down, candy-colored cans, the new Diet Coke is barely recognizable.

Diet Coke is in a rut. Sales have been falling and people are trading in their diet sodas for other zero-calorie beverages like LaCroix and waters both bubbly and still. So Coca-Cola is giving its 36-year-old brand a massive facelift, and it’s launching four new millennial-oriented Diet Coke flavors. “Twisted mango,” “zesty blood orange,” “feisty cherry” and “ginger lime” Diet Coke, as well as the classic Diet Coke flavor, will come in slim, candy-colored cans rather than the classic silver cylinder that’s been a marker of the brand for years.

The new products will be available in the US later this month and in Canada in February. The old-fashioned Diet Coke with lime and Diet Coke Cherry that are currently available will only be sold on Amazon hereafter.

“We love the essence of Diet Coke and we don’t want to throw it away — just modernize it so we can re-express it for a new generation of fans,” said Rafael Acevedo, Coca-Cola North America’s group director for Diet Coke, in an interview with BuzzFeed News. He compared it to how the James Bond franchise, which “had a winning formula,” needed an update and came up with a “rougher, more personable” Bond with Daniel Craig.

Sales of diet colas fell 3.5% last year; Acevedo said Diet Coke declined about that much as well. Still, annual sales of Diet Coke in the US exceed $2.1 billion and thousands of cans of Diet Coke are consumed every minute, he said — so despite some very real troubles, the brand still has a lot of fans.

David Henkes, senior principal at the food industry consultancy Technomic, said on Twitter, “Interesting facelift for an iconic brand. Still, soft drink sales are losing out to other types of beverages and getting young consumers back will be a challenge.”

What_happened_to_diet_coke_2018_edition_Henkes_tweet

Diet Coke’s primary challenge: millennials, of course. The product’s main customer base is made up of boomers — white boomers, to be exact.

“Eighty percent of Diet Coke consumption is Anglo,” said Acevedo. “We believe that to recruit a new generation, we have to appeal to them, and millennials are 40% multicultural.” Beverage marketers have taken note that young people — and Latinos — love flavors. So here we are, with mango- and zesty blood orange–flavored Diet Coke. The “feisty cherry,” Acevedo said, is a little spicier than the old cherry flavor.

The new slimmed-down cans have the same shape and silver color as Coca-Cola’s Dasani Sparkling, giving the revamped Diet Coke an appearance more similar to the zero-calorie sparking water than to the other Cokes and sodas. And fear not: The rebrand didn’t change the basic Diet Coke recipe, while the new design conveys a subtle cue to consumers who have increasingly switched to sparkling waters over caloric sodas and artificially sweetened diet beverages.

That, and Coca-Cola “wanted to make sure packages are Insta-ready,” said Acevedo.

Keenan Beasley, co-founder and managing partner at marketing agency BLKBOX, said any impact of the rebrand may be short-lived. “Millennials for years have rejected the idea of soda due to health concerns. This is the bigger issue for Diet Coke and the Coke franchise. They still have to face this issue head on.”

Diet Coke’s rebrand is the result of two years of work deciding among 30 original options based on feedback from 10,000 consumers. It will include a “significant investment” to promote the product, according to Coca-Cola, including advertising during the Winter Olympics, billboard ads, and free samples.

Coca-Cola in 2016 announced a “One Brand” approach to unite the marketing of its various Cokes. The company introduced a new look for Diet Coke in Mexico that did away with the iconic silver can, but at the time, it said that it would consider “how it will integrate Diet Coke into the ‘One Brand’ strategy” in the US. It looks now like Diet Coke is going its own way.

What_happened_to_diet_coke_2018_edition_poll.png

Leave a comment

Filed under Beverage, Financial Activity, Future Plans and Announcements, Innovation, Sales, Uncategorized

Restaurant killings changed business forever

Restaurant killings changed business forever

Bob Susnjara
Daily Herald
January 22, 2018
http://www.myjournalcourier.com/news/118445/restaurant-killings-changed-business-forever

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS (AP) — Since Jan. 8, 1993, Frank Portillo Jr.’s thoughts at this time of year have been with seven people.

Portillo was president of Brown’s Chicken and Pasta when franchisees Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt and employees Michael Castro, Guadalupe Maldonado, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen and Rico Solis were found dead in a now-former restaurant at Smith Street and Northwest Highway in Palatine.

Accompanied by another Brown’s executive, Portillo raced to the scene from his West suburban home early that morning 25 years ago after seeing a television newscast about what happened.

The sad memories of that day can surface for him at any time, but they have been a given on Jan. 8 each year.

“I’ve never experienced such emotion in my entire life,” said Portillo, 84. “And it is just something that will probably be with me until the day I die. I don’t cry anymore. It used to be for a long time, I’d think of it and tears would come into my eyes when I would talk about it. I just remember the victims’ families. That was just heartbreaking.”

Unsolved for nine years, the case was cracked open in 2002. Former restaurant worker Juan Luna and friend James Degorski were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Stressing that his problems will never compare to the tragedy that struck the victims’ families, Portillo found himself trying to cope with the murders while running a popular restaurant chain that suddenly found itself in a financial free fall. After the killings, the company saw two consecutive years of more than 30 percent sales declines.

Crisis communications experts and major vendors urged Portillo to change the eateries’ name in hopes of turning around the business, said his daughter, Toni.

He refused out of loyalty to John Brown, whose first fried chicken restaurant opened in Bridgeview in 1949. Portillo partnered with Brown to start franchising the eatery in 1965. Brown died about a month before the Palatine killings.

“He figured it was disrespectful,” said Toni Portillo, who became company president in 2006 and served in that capacity until an investment group bought Brown’s in a bankruptcy auction four years later. “If we had to do it all over again, we should have changed the name. And my dad and I talk about it a lot.”

The murders ended a 20-year period of growth for the chain. From the early 1970s until 1993, the chain expanded to about 300 locations in 13 states, Toni Portillo said.

But restaurants started to close amid eroding sales after Jan. 8, 1993, which the Portillos blamed in part on the stigma from what commonly has been called the “Brown’s Chicken massacre.” Customers voiced fears about visiting the restaurants at night.

Today, the chain is down to 23 restaurants, all in Illinois, according to its website.

The Portillos estimate at least 3,000 people were affected by the closures, a figure they base on a typical number of employees, franchisees and their families. Brown’s filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and it was scooped up by Pop-Grip LLC for $585,000 in 2010.

“It was a terrible tragedy,” Frank Portillo said, “and the business people that owned Brown’s (restaurants), they had nothing to do with the tragedy, but yet their investments got hurt pretty bad.”

Despite the company’s struggles, Brown’s remains in Palatine. Portillo said it was important to him and many customers to keep a location in the suburb, so another Brown’s opened in 1995 near Hicks Road and Northwest Highway.

Michael Halter and a partner bought the location in 1998. He said he’s asked every day whether his restaurant is the site of the killings.

“It’s still in people’s minds,” he said, adding that the restaurant has done well over the years, thanks to a loyal clientele.

David Henkes, senior principal at food-service research firm Technomic Inc., said Brown’s now is considered a “minor chain” in the restaurant industry. It ranked 831st among the 1,500 chains followed by Technomic in its latest report from 2016, and it has fallen from a $36 million business in 2001 to about $24.3 million in sales two years ago.

Chicago-based Technomic’s research shows Brown’s sales have declined by a half percent annually between 2013 to 2016, a time in which fried-chicken restaurant revenue has been rising overall.

“Listen, what’s done is done and they are where they are,” Henkes said. “That was 25 years ago, so there’s a lot of consumers who weren’t even born then. Look at a lot of the millennials and the Gen Y’s — that ‘93 is ancient history for a lot of them.”

Toni Portillo said she now believes it was for the best Brown’s was acquired by Pop-Grip, allowing her father to enjoy retirement with his wife of 66 years, Joan. Frank Portillo said the murders on Jan. 8, 1993, led him to become a good-government crusader who pushed for tougher gun laws.

“It made my dad a different person,” Toni Portillo said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bankruptcy, Chicken, Financial Activity, Sales, Uncategorized