This Week In Foodservice

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


Consumers Have an Insatiable Appetite for Pizza, Right?

The Infinite Kitchen lands in a new spot. Innovation is ringing again on Taco Bell’s menu. New formats for c-stores. Restaurant sales remain strong. These stories and more This Week in Foodservice.

Editor’s note: This is the last edition of This Week in Foodservice for 2023. The blog will return on Wednesday, January 10, 2024. Thank you for reading. And we wish you happy and healthy holidays.

Consumers have an insatiable appetite for pizza, right? Not so fast.

“Pizza sales have dipped slightly across the foodservice industry over the past year to 18 months. Both price and a bit of pizza fatigue have had an effect,” said Wade Hanson, senior principal at Technomic. “But that fatigue shouldn’t be completely unexpected as many consumers’ frequency of ordering pizza had really spiked during the pandemic years. Consumer affinity for pizza is still very real, however, and Technomic has forecasted growth rates to begin climbing again as soon as 2024.”

Foodservice News This Week

  • Sweetgreen opened a second automated restaurant, per a Restaurant Business report. The Huntington Beach, Calif., location uses Sweetgreen’s Infinite Kitchen, which includes an automated make line to prepare each dish. Staff members apply the finishing touches at the end. The fast-casual chain plans to open seven to nine Infinite Kitchen locations in 2024. The first such unit opened in the Chicago area earlier this year. Sweetgreen acquired the Infinite Kitchen platform when it purchased Spyce back in 2021.
  • Multiconcept operator CEC Entertainment may be for sale, per a Restaurant Dive story. The parent company of Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza partnered with Goldman Sachs on an auction that may attract private equity firms and other eatertainment companies like Dave & Buster’s.
  • Golden Corral’s Homeward Kitchen concept may be close to hitting a home run. Three years in the making, the fast-casual concept is on track to surpass the company’s financial projections, per a Restaurant Business story. One reason for its success is the restaurant’s ability to facilitate off-premises orders. Features supporting off-premises sales include a drive-thru window, a mobile menu accessible via QR code, delivery service and a walk-up counter.
  • Taco Bell’s continues to look for ways to evolve its menu. The quick-service restaurant chain is testing frozen coffee drinks and shakes in Mission Viejo, Calif., per a Nation’s Restaurant News story. This is the latest in a series of menu items Taco Bell has tested of late. Other test items include a grilled cheese dipping taco and gelato.
  • Convenience stores continue to tinker with new formats that are often food centric. Earlier this month, for example, Rusty Lantern Markets opened the first of three planned stores with a new design that focuses on the kitchen area, per C-Store Dive. Prior to that, Family Express had rolled out a new prototype with a greater focus on foodservice.
  • Growth Chains: Frozen Yogurt chain 16 handles inked a development deal to open a restaurant in each of the following Texas cities: Magnolia, Frisco, Missouri City, Austin and Richmond. A co-branded restaurant featuring BurgerFi and Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza opened in Kissimmee, Fla. The new location is owned and operated by franchisee NDM Hospitality, one of the original franchisees for BurgerFi and the first franchisee of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. Fazoli’s opened a location in Mesa, Ariz. The Habit Burger Grill opened its second location in Garden Grove, Calif. This location features the chain’s first mobile pickup lane to serve both guests and third-party delivery drivers. Island Fin Poké Co. opened its 25th location. This Venice, Fla., restaurant features the chain’s first-ever pickup window, exclusively for orders placed online or via the chain’s app. Round Table Pizza opened a location in Richmond, Texas, its first in the Houston market. Rreal Tacos opened its sixth location in Atlanta. The company acquired and opened this space in approximately 60 days, per a release. The fast-growing chain has opened three units in one year. Scooter’s Coffee opened a location in Frisco, Texas. It represents the drive-thru coffee chain’s 750th unit system-wide. Scooter’s also expanded its Illinois presence by opening a location in Lisle. In 2024 Twin Peaks plans to continue its expansion in Mexico by opening a location in Guadalajara and three more in Mexico City.

Economic News This Week

  • U.S. retail and foodservice sales increased 0.3% in November 2023 compared to the previous month, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The overall increase was surprising as some economists had projected sales would decline, according to this Yahoo! Finance story. Sales in November 2023 were up 4.1% compared to the same period in 2022. Total sales for September 2023 through November 2023 period were up 3.4% from the same period a year ago. Sales at foodservice and drinking places increased 1.6% from October 2023 and 11.3% from November 2022. In total during the last 9 months, eating and drinking place sales increased 8.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis. That was 5 times stronger than the 1.7% sales gain in non-restaurant retail sectors during the same period, per analysis from the National Restaurant Association.
  • The Producer Price Index for final demand was unchanged in November, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Final demand prices decreased 0.4% in October and rose 0.4% in September. On an unadjusted basis, the index for final demand increased 0.9% for the 12 months ended in November.
  • Could the era of rising interest rates come to an end in 2024? That’s certainly the indication the U.S. Federal Reserve gave last week. During its regularly scheduled meeting the Fed voted to hold interest rates in place and tentatively planned for three interest rate cuts for 2024, as this CNBC story notes. If this comes to fruition, it would end a cycle of 11 rate hikes that has pushed interest rates to their highest levels in 22 years.
  • Initial jobless claims declined by 19,000 for the week ending December 9, 2023, per data from the U.S. Department of Labor. The total number of claims for the week was 202,000. The 4-week moving average was 213,250, a decrease of 7,750 from the previous week.
  • Privately‐owned housing starts decreased by 2.5% in November compared to the previous month, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Still, this represents a 4.1% increase compared to November 2022. Permits for single‐family homes increased 0.7% in November compared to October.