New equipment means new menu items for Denny’s. Airline food prepares for takeoff — again. A closer look at boneless chicken wings. Krispy Kreme exits the snack aisle, plus lots and lots and lots of economic news.
Will pizza vending machines hit the jackpot on the Las Vegas Strip?
Celebrity chef Buddy Valastro is betting they will. Valastro, who gained popularity as part of the television series “Cake Boss” partnered with a robotics company to launch a hot-food vending operation serving the bakery-style pizza available at his Boss Café, which is has a location on the strip.
Valastro also has installed the machines at the Linq, one of his other Las Vegas locations. This is not Valastro’s initial bet on the vending machine game, though. He also has a series of temperature-controlled vending machines that sell slices of his cakes.
This Week in Foodservice
- An updated equipment package has led to an updated menu for Denny’s. The chain added some new ovens to its back of the house, which led to offering such menu items as baked macaroni and cheese, lasagna and more, per a Restaurant Business Positive benefits of this change include less food waste and less time on the grill for some menu items.
- Is airline food poised for takeoff? Some airlines are hoping a renewed focus on food will help enhance customer satisfaction, per a story by The Food Institute. Delta, for example, has partnered with a trio of James Beard Award-winning chefs to offer more vegetarian options. Southwest has expanded its coffee offerings and airlines such as Spirit and American are getting into canned cocktails.
- Krispy Kreme is refocusing on its restaurant business. The company will get out of the grocery store snack aisle by exiting the consumer-packaged goods business by May, per a Restaurant Dive Report. Krispy Kreme also plans to close its North Carolina facility that makes these items. With the factory closure, 102 jobs will be lost.
- McDonald’s turned to a former Chipotle executive to help manage the fast-food giant’s accelerated restaurant opening plan, per a Crain’s Chicago Business report. Tabassum Zalotrawala will become McDonald’s senior vice president and chief development officer effective April 24. As part of its growth plan named “Accelerating the Arches 2.0” the Chicago-based burger chain hopes to open 1,900 restaurants worldwide this year. The news of Zalotrawala’s hiring comes at a time when McDonald’s is facing a period of franchisee unrest due to rising costs and more, per a Bloomberg report. Franchisees are concerned about a variety of items, including new operating standards, stepped up inspections, and changes in ownership approvals, per Restaurant Business.
- Shakespeare once asked: “What’s in a name?” Well, when it comes to chicken wings, apparently plenty. A Chicago man is suing Buffalo Wild Wings after coming to the realization that the casual dining chain’s boneless chicken wings are not, in fact, deboned chicken wings but rather chicken breasts sliced and fried like chicken wings often are, per a report from local television station WGN. When the local television station asked for a comment, Buffalo Wild Wings offered a very tongue-in-cheek response via Twitter: “It’s true. Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken. Our hamburgers contain no ham. Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.”
- Growth Chains: Black Bear Diner opened its second San Antonio location. This unit is also the seventh restaurant Black Bear Diner has opened with franchise-partner TravelCenters of America. Chip City Cookies opened a location in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, its 13th in the Big Apple. The gourmet cookie chain has set a goal of having 40 units open by the end of 2023. Multiconcept operator FAT Brands inked a development deal to open 10 co-branded Great American Cookies and Marble Slab Creamery locations in Puerto Rico over the next 5 years. The first two units are on schedule to open in 2024. The Habit Burger opened a location in Bloomfield, N.J. Velvet Taco opened a location in East Nashville, Tenn. It’s the chain’s 38th unit system-wide.
Economic News This Week
- Initial jobless claims declined by 20,000 for the week ending March 11, per the U.S. Department of Labor. The 192,000 claims was 13,000 less than what economists had projected for the week, per Reuters. The 4-week moving average for initial claims totaled 196,500, a decrease of 750 from the previous week. Further, the jobs market continues to show its strength despite big technical companies continuing to slash positions. For example, Facebook parent company Meta announced plans to slash 10,000 positions.
- February building permits issued for privately owned housing units increased 13.8% compared to January, per the U.S. Census Bureau. While the month over month growth is encouraging, it’s important to note this is 17.9% less than February 2022. February permits for single‐family homes were 7.6% greater than January. February multiunit housing permits increased 9.8% compared to January. February housing starts increased 9.8% compared to January but are at 18.4% less than February of 2022.
- The Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% in February, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI increased 0.5% in January. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index increased 6.0%. The index for shelter was the largest contributor to the monthly all-items increase, accounting for more than 70% of the increase, with the indexes for food, recreation, and household furnishings and operations also contributing. The food index increased 0.4% over the month with the food at home index rising 0.3%. The energy index decreased 0.6% due to declines in the natural gas and fuel oil indexes. What does this all mean for foodservice? For 2023 the USDA projects food-at-home prices will increase 8.6% while food-away-from-home prices will increase 8.3%.
- After bolting out of the gate to start the year, the pace of U.S. retail and foodservices sales moderated in February. The U.S. Census Bureau reports February 2023 retail sales declined 0.4% compared to January but increased 5.4% compared to February 2022. Total retail sales for December 2022 through February 2023 period were up 6.4% (±0.4%) from the same period a year ago. Sales at foodservice and drinking places increased 15.3% (±2.6%) from February 2022, while general merchandise stores were up 10.5% (±0.2%) from last year.
- The Producer Price Index decreased 0.1% in February, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The PPI has been bouncing back and forth a little in recent months, increasing 0.3% in January and dipping 0.2% in December 2022. On an unadjusted basis, the final demand index rose 4.6% for the 12 months ended in February. In February, the decline in the final demand index was led by prices for final demand goods, which fell 0.2%. The index for final demand services edged down 0.1%. The index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services increased 0.2% in February after rising 0.5% in January.
- A cadre of economic factors continue to weigh down small business owners’ outlook. The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index increased 0.6 points in February to 90.9 but remains at less than its 49-year average of 98. Specifically, 28% of owners report inflation as their single most important business problem, up two points from last month. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next 6 months deteriorated two points from January to a net negative 47%. To nobody’s surprise, labor remains a key challenge for small business owners, with 47% telling NFIB job openings that were hard to fill, remaining historically very high. In addition, 38% of small business owners reported raising average selling prices in February.