This Week In Foodservice

The editorial team aggregates key industry information and provides brief analysis to help foodservice professionals navigate the data.


This Restaurant Theme is a Big Hit, and More Foodservice News

Pickleball-themed restaurants gain popularity. AI tries its hand at menu making. Caribou Coffee goes big game hunting. Plus, a closer look at retail sales and how foodservice faired in May.

Pickleball’s popularity surged during the pandemic as people sought a way to be social and active. Just as a player might move quickly to spike the ball on the other side of the net with the hopes of scoring a point, several developers hope to score big by opening pickleball-themed operations.

For example, Chicago-based real estate developer Hubbard Street Group plans to pair pickleball and pizza when it opens Pickle Haus in November, the Sun Times reports. Located in Algonquin, Ill., Pickle Haus will feature 12 courts. Plus, Hubbard Street Group plans to open a total of five Pickle Haus locations.

In addition, a pickleball club is in the works for Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, Crain’s Chicago Business reports. Developers will soon meet with the city and neighborhood to discuss their plans and will eventually need to apply for permits to serve both alcohol and food. This venture targets a 42,000-square-foot space that was once the home of the now shuttered Treasure Island Grocery store. In 2020, Brooklyn Boulders opened a climbing gym in the same space but before long it fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This emerging foodservice section is not exclusive to Chicago. Later this month or in early July in Charlotte, N.C., for example, an urban food meets sports operation will open, Axios Charlotte reports. Rally will feature a full-service restaurant led by Top Chef alumni Cory Chunn serving as executive chef. The menu will draw inspiration from global street food and will include premium signature cocktails, plus twists on local and international classics. The facility will feature two cocktail bars, private and semi-private event spaces, plus lounge and spectator seating.

Given that more than 8.9 million people were playing pickleball by the end of 2022, per the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, expect to see more of these types of operations. In fact, many real estate developers see pairing pickleball with plates of food as a way to do away with the sour taste from underutilized assets like shopping malls that have major tenants, per a CNN report.

Foodservice News This Week

  • Another week and another application for ChatGPT emerges in the restaurant industry. In this instance, a Texas pizza restaurant is using the artificial intelligence app to develop interesting tasting pies, a local CBS affiliate reports. Depending on how well this pizza sells, the restaurant could consider adding a rotating AI-inspired menu item. While it’s impossible to know the long-term impact of AI on the foodservice industry, there’s no doubt it has the potential to b truly transformational, as Profitality’s Ignacio Goris writes here.
  • Caribou Coffee is ready to go big game hunting. The coffee shop chain has set its sights on more than doubling its footprint by 2030, per a Restaurant Dive Report. And the company seemingly is off to a good start with 300 units in its development pipeline. The company launched a franchising program which it feels will help spur this growth.
  • A total of 40 high schools from 24 states will receive $5,000 grants from the Rachael Ray Foundation to support the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) ProStart culinary arts and restaurant management programs. Since creating these awards, the Rachael Ray Foundation has provided 113 high school grants, totaling $950,000, per a release. The schools can use their Grow Grant funds to make classroom upgrades or purchase new equipment and resources. The NRAEF expects that the grants will benefit more than 3,500 students and 53 educators in the 2023-2024 school year. 
  • This week’s sign of the apocalypse comes to us from California, where a restaurant operator hired someone to pose as a priest to learn in what ways employees had sinned against the eatery, per a Restaurant Business report. The U.S. Department of Labor uncovered this scam when it was investigating the restaurant for other more, run of the mill infractions, one might expect like denying employees overtime after working more than 40 hours.

Economic News This Week

  • Inflation pressures eased a little as the Producer Price Index declined 0.3% in May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. This decline was more than economists projected and came after a 0.2% April increase and 0.4% March decline. The BLS attributes May’s decline to a 1.6% dip in prices for final demand goods. The index for final demand services increased 0.2%. Prices for final demand less food, energy, and trade services were unchanged in May after inching up 0.1 percent in April.
  • Initial unemployment claims totaled 262,000 for the week-ending June 10, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor reported. This is unchanged from the previous week. The 4-week moving average was 246,750, an increase of 9,250 from the previous week. This is the highest level for the 4-week average since November 20, 2021, when it was 249,250.
  • U.S. retail and foodservice sales increased 0.3% in May 2023 from the previous month, the U.S. Census Bureau announced. Sales were 1.6% greater than in May of 2022. Total sales for the March 2023 through May 2023 period were up 1.7% from the same period a year ago. In nominal terms, eating and drinking place sales increased 8.0% between May 2022 and May 2023. The National Restaurant Association attributes much of that growth to menu price increases. However, after adjusting for menu price increases, eating and drinking place sales declined 0.3% during the 12-month period.
  • Industrial production declined 0.2% in May following two consecutive months of increases, per the U.S. Federal Reserve. In May, the index for manufacturing ticked up 0.1%. At 103.0% of its 2017 average, total industrial production in May was 0.2% greater than its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization moved down to 79.6% in May, a rate that is 0.1% less than its long-run (1972–2022) average.