This Week In Foodservice

Jerry Stiegler aggregates key industry information and provides brief analysis to help foodservice professionals navigate the data.


Starbucks Updates Leadership Plans, and More Foodservice News

Plus, a pizza restaurant adds a robot. So long Howard Johnson restaurants. These stories and more This Week in Foodservice.

Can a restaurant help consumers decide what to order simply by their appearance? Wahlburgers is banking on exactly that thanks to a new artificial intelligence ordering platform it will implement, per a report in Bon Appetite magazine. The system could potentially show completely different menus to customers based on appearance and other factors.

For example, the system could highlight salads for one customer and burgers for another customer, the story points out. Regardless, this represents the latest in a long line of steps taken by restaurants to personalize the guest experience.

Some chains try to entice regular guests to visit more frequently by offering specials through their apps. And McDonald’s once promised to update its digital drive-thru menus by daypart to ensure better guest experiences.

Indeed, restaurants will continue to tinker with technology to help hone their edge over the competition and make their operations more effective and efficient.

Economic News This Week

  • The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index beat expectations in May by rising to 60.3. The April reading had fallen to 56.4 and the consensus forecast based on a survey by the Wall Street Journal was 55.9.
  • Initial jobless claims declined by 11,000 for a total of 200,000 for the week ending May 28, per the U.S. Department of Labor. The 4-week moving average hit 206,500, a decline of 500 claims.
  • Private sector employment increased by 128,000 jobs in May, per the ADP National Employment Report. Many observers consider this growth to be low. Large firms (those with 500 or more employees) added 122,000 people. Medium-sized companies (50 to 499 employees) added 97,000 jobs. Employment at small companies declined by 91,000.
  • Overall employment increased by 390,000 in May in the U.S., reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While not outstanding growth it was in line with the majority of forecasts. The Bureau also reported unemployment remained unchanged at 3.6%.
  • Manufacturing activity in the U.S. increased in May, per the Institute for Supply Management. This represents the 24th consecutive month of manufacturing growth. The manufacturing index rose 0.7%. The new orders index increased 1.6%. The production index increased 0.6%. The backlog of orders index increased by 2.7%. The employment index did fall by 1.3%. Of the 16 manufacturing industries surveyed in May, only 1 had decreased activity.
  • Service businesses also grew in May, registering a score of 55.9, per the Institute for Supply Management. This, too, represents 24 consecutive months of growth for this sector. The new orders index grew 3.0%. And the employment index increased by 0.7%. Of the 17 service industries surveyed on May, 14 reported growth, including accommodations and foodservices.
  • The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell slightly in May. This comes after a modest rise in April. The index declined from 108.6 in April to 106.4 in May. The May present situation index dropped from 152.9 in April to 149.6 in May solely as a perceived softening in the labor market. The expectations index went from 77.5 in April to 79.0 in May.

Foodservice News This Week

  • Foodservices and drinking places increased their employment by 46,100 in May, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Punch Bowl Social founder Robert Thompson plans to introduce a new eatertainment brand named Jaguar Bolera, per published reports. The menu will feature food from the American South and Mexico, areas traditionally inhabited by jaguars. The second part of the name, bolero, is Spanish for bowling alley. Thompson plans to open the first Jaguar Bolera restaurant in Raleigh, N.C., and the second in New Orleans. After being dealt a significant blow by the pandemic, perhaps eatertainment concepts are ready to rebound.
  • Two Chick-fil-A restaurants in Florida are using self-driving robots to make deliveries, per published reports. The robots operate on the bike paths or travel on the side of the road. Some estimate a delivery by a robot has 90% fewer carbon emissions and 80% less energy consumption than traditional means. Chick-fil-A revealed last year the chain was testing a robotic system in Santa Monica, Calif. Meanwhile, Domino’s is testing an autonomous delivery vehicle in Houston.
  • Ledo Pizza rolled out a robot at a West Springfield, Va., restaurant, the company reports. The robot runs carry-out orders directly to the counter, allowing Ledo Pizza team members to focus more on serving guests. Ledo Pizza has more than 100 locally-owned locations spanning 7 states with multiple new restaurants in the pipeline, per a company release.
  • Schlotzsky’s introduced a smaller prototype with no seating but two drive-thru lanes, per a story in restaurant development + design. Schlotzsky’s management points out that most of its orders are to go and it is difficult to find help. So, this can save the chain the step of staffing up for occasional table service.
  • Howard Schultz will remain as interim CEO for Starbucks into the first quarter of 2023, the company announced. The Seattle-based coffee giant intends to name a new CEO in the coming months. The new CEO will “undergo full immersion into the company, collaborating with Schultz directly.” Since assuming the interim CEO role earlier this spring when Kevin Johnson retired, Schultz has had his hands full dealing with some stores voting on whether to unionize and working with the leadership team to develop a strategic plan for the future of a reimagined Starbucks Coffee Company. In addition, Starbucks also made the decision to pull out of Russia in late May.
  • The last Howard Johnson restaurant has closed, per published reports. Affectionately known as Hojo, this was once the largest and most popular chain in the U.S. with 1,000 locations. Kids loved them. Consumers who were nervous about eating out would plan trips around eating three meals a day at Howard Johnson’s. Jackie Gleason did a show that had Ralph Kramden buying a restaurant only to discover that the structure being built across the street is a Howard Johnson’s.
  • Growth Chains: The Slutty Vegan, a plant-based food chain, intends to use the $25 million raised in a recent funding round that Included an investment from Danny Meyers to open 10 restaurants this year and 10 in 2023. Huey Magoo’s opened a location in Englewood, Ohio. It’s the chain’s first franchised location in the Buckeye State. Huey Magoo’s has 27 units system-wide spanning 6 states. Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ opened a location in Pflugerville, Texas.
  • Comparable Store Sales Reports: Jack in The Box (company-owned units up 17%, franchised units down 1.1% and systemwide sales down 0.8%) and Texas Roadhouse (company-owned units up 16.0% and franchised units up 20.4%)

For comparable store sales of other chains, please click here for the latest Green Sheet.