The Wall Street Journal explores changes in restaurants in 2018. Restaurants added staff in December. Wendy’s re-images with new restaurant design. JAB Holdings looks to buy coffee chains. These stories and a whole lot more This Week in Foodservice.

The Wall Street Journal looked at dining out trends this year. In effect, the article says the trends that hit other restaurant segments before have made their way up the line to fine dining. Restaurant operators now stay open more hours and provide different menu items for different meal periods. Some operations are simplifying their menus and adding lower priced items.

The article noted that casual decor, like slouchy leather couches, continue to replace fancy banquets and walnut tables to make restaurants more comfortable and inviting for guests. While not new, the idea of customers wanting to eat what they want when they want now applies to fine dining, too. This means takeout and delivery service will continue to rise in popularity for this segment.

One owner believes restaurants must appeal to a wider audience because “people don’t come back again and again to the same place for dinner as often as they used to.”

Economic News This Week

Foodservice News This Week

  • Foodservice operators added 25,100 new jobs in December. This represents 17.1 percent of all the new hires in the private sector last month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates restaurants and drinking places total employment is 11,797.5 million.
  • Wendy’s continues to roll out re-imaged restaurants. The new design includes a fireplace, flat screen TVs, and digital menu boards. Some existing units get some, but not all the updates. The design is called the “Contemporary Image Activation.”
  • JAB remains on the acquisition trail. The privately held German investment company, which owns Panera Bread Company, Krispy Kreme, Brugger’s Bagels, Einstein Bagels, Peet’s Coffee and Caribou Coffee among other restaurant concepts, hopes to build its portfolio.
  • Corporate Stirrings: Casey’s General Store, a chain of c-stores, received a letter from three investors urging management to sell because the stock is undervalued. The 3 shareholders, who together own about 1.0 percent of Casey’s stock, claim the chain has missed financial goals because of “decelerating same-store sales and bloated operational expenses.”
  • Growth Chains: Fat Brands plans to open 10 to 15 restaurants in Canada this year. Tropical Smoothie Café will open 22 locations in the Dallas – Ft. Worth area this year.  Also, Tropical Smoothie Café will open 4 locations in Savannah this year.
  • Comparable Store Reports: Bad Daddy’s Hamburgers up 0.7 percent, Good Times Burgers up 5.9 percent, Jack in the Box (System down 1.0 percent, company owned down 2.0 percent and franchised down 0.7 percent) and Sonic (System down 1.7 percent, company owned down 3.2 percent and franchised down 1.6 percent.

For details and same-store sales of other chains, please click here for the Green Sheet.