A buffet chain enters the fast-casual lane. Wendy’s will close the last of its Reef locations, while J.P. Morgan Chase gets into the hospitality game. These stores and more This Week in Foodservice.
Long known for its trademark buffet style restaurants serving a menu of classic comfort foods, Golden Corral will now look to round up diners with its new fast-casual concept Homeward Kitchen. The emerging concept also will offer some of the wholesome homestyle favorites found at Golden Corral restaurants as well as its own take on sandwiches, salads, and bowls, which represent typical fare for fast-casual restaurants.
“This will help us reach a new customer demographic while expanding another avenue for our longtime guests,” said Golden Corral CEO Lance Trenary in a release.
Homeward Kitchen locations will feature a small dining room with dine-in, take-out, and drive-thru ordering options. The first Homeward Kitchen unit will debut in Southern Pines, N.C., this fall.
Foodservice News This Week
- While it remains unclear what the future holds for virtual brands and ghost kitchens, food halls continue to withstand the tests of time. There are 321 food halls in the U.S. with another 145 in development, per a report from The Food Institute. Why are food halls maintaining their popularity? For starters, they check a lot of boxes for today’s consumer, including variety, convenience and more. They allow busy consumers to bridge the gap between fast-food and full-service restaurants, too. For more information on the latest food hall design trends, please check out this webcast from restaurant development + design.
- Beef-A-Roo is moving into Wisconsin with the help of the brand’s new modular container concept, rd+d reports. The quick-service chain plans to open new restaurants in Beloit, Janesville and Monroe.
- Wendy’s Reef growth plans have apparently run aground. During an earnings call, the quick-service restaurant chain said it will shutter its domestic Reef units this quarter, per a Restaurant Dive report. The announcement comes less than 2 years after Wendy’s said it would build 700 Reef units in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. A year after striking the deal, Wendy’s cut back on its projections, saying it would hit 100 to 150 units with Reef by 2025 as Wendy’s shifted back toward traditional development. Wendy’s opened 39 locations in the first quarter of 2023, including 24 in the U.S.
- International banking giant J.P. Morgan Chase is getting into the hospitality game. Chase opened its first domestic Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club at Boston Logan International Airport. This card member club features a locally inspired dining experience that includes menu items from Boston chef Douglass Williams (of Boston’s MIDA and APIZZA), a taproom offering local craft beer, and coffee from a local roaster. The space’s design highlights Boston culture. The 11,640-square-foot lounge includes a centerpiece bar featuring wine and cocktails, as well as made-to-order and ready-to-eat food options, which will be available for travelers at any time of day. In 2022 Chase opened a Sapphire Lounge in Hong Kong and plans to open other locations in Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport, New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and San Diego International Airport.
- Aramark opened its first Bean Sprouts location at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Bean Sprouts is a “hip and healthy national café chain with a unique and whimsical focus on children,” per a release. In addition to a full menu for adults - including sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and salads - Bean Sprouts’ signature Imaginibbles kids’ menu offers dishes to inspire children to eat wholesome foods. The Imaginibbles menu features options including “Crocamole,” an avocado crocodile that’s filled with hummus dip and carrot fangs, and “Spaceadilla,” a rocket-shaped chicken quesadilla that is described as “blasting off” with veggie flames.
Economic News This Week
- U.S. retail and foodservice sales increased 0.4% in April from the previous month and up 1.6% from April 2022, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Total sales for the February 2023 through April 2023 period increased 3.1% from the same period a year ago. Bringing things closer to home, eating and drinking places registered total sales of $88.1 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in April. Restaurants continued to regain a larger share of consumers’ wallets in April, as total spending in non-restaurant retail sectors rose 0.4%. April represented the 14th time in the last 15 months that restaurant sales growth outpaced gains in overall retail sales, per the National Restaurant Association.
- Consumer sentiment tumbled to a six-month low in May. The preliminary results for the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment came in at 57.7, down from 63.5 in April. Worth noting is that the study’s expectations index declined by more than 11 points for the month. The university points out that although “current incoming macroeconomic data show no sign of recession, consumers’ worries about the economy escalated in May alongside the proliferation of negative news about the economy, including the debt crisis standoff.”
- Initial jobless claims increased 22,000 for a total of 264,000 for the week-ending May 6, 2023, per the U.S. Department of Labor. This represents the highest level for initial claims since October 30, 2021, when it was 264,000. The 4-week moving average was 245,250, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week. This is the highest level for this average since November 20, 2021, when it was 249,250.
· The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.2% in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Final demand prices fell 0.4% in March and were unchanged in February. On an unadjusted basis, the index for final demand moved up 2.3 percent for the 12 months ended in April. This increase was less than what most economists had projected, per a CNBC report.
- The Consumer Price Index for increased 0.4% in April, per data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This comes after a 0.1% March increase. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index increased 4.9% before seasonal adjustment. The index for shelter was the largest contributor to the monthly all items increase, followed by increases in the index for used cars and trucks and the index for gasoline. Food at home prices declined 0.2%, while food away from home prices increased 0.4%. The food away from home index rose 0.4 percent in April. The index for full-service meals increased 0.1% over the month and the index for limited-service meals increased 0.6%. Over the past 12 months, food at home prices are up 7.1% compared to an 8.6% increase for the food away from home process.