This Week In Foodservice

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


Starbucks Tests New Prototype Design

Starbucks’ latest design to make stores more accessible and inclusive. RBI has a healthy growth appetite for growth. Consumer traffic at chains held steady in 2023. These stories and more This Week in Foodservice.

Starbucks is testing a prototype design to make its stores more accessible and inclusive for guests. The test location in Washington, D.C., features optimized acoustics and lighting for improved visual and audible communication for customers and accessible equipment designs for a better employee experience among other features.

As part of Starbucks' Inclusive Spaces Framework, the store designs will create a continuous, unobstructed pedestrian path to make it easier to enter and exit the store. The design includes open sightlines, and barrier-free pathways with more accessible wayfinding to accommodate varying heights, distances and iconography. Counters are lower with overhangs to accommodate wheelchair access and support better communication when picking up food and beverages.

Technology plays a prominent role in this design, too. For example, it features a point-of-sale system that uses voice recognition technology and is portable to enhance ease of use with customers. Customer order status boards will offer customers visual updates on where their order is in the process, and when it’s ready to be picked up – providing multiple ways of communicating. Where possible, these locations will include power doors to make it easier for customers to enter. The stores will use a coffee brewer with a larger dial and button that protrudes for a more accessible reach and visual and haptic confirmation, including a light to notify when brewing is complete.

Moving forward, all newly built and renovated Starbucks company-operated stores in the U.S. will begin to incorporate the framework.

Foodservice News This Week

  • Multiconcept operator Restaurant Brands International has a healthy appetite for growth. The parent company to such restaurant chains as Burger King, Popeye’s and Tim Horton’s set targets of 40,000 locations and $60 billion in revenue by 2028, per a company release. Yes, RBI plans to achieve these goals by opening new locations but it also will look to enhance existing operations. For example, its plans call for growing Tim Hortons afternoon sales through such menu items as bowls, wraps, savory pastries and even cold beverages. For Burger King, the company plans to drive incremental sales and get 85% to 90% of its locations into the chain’s modern image. Popeye’s will “accelerate its emphasis” on improving restaurant operations while Firehouse Subs will look to further develop its digital sales channels.
  • Could an initial public offering finally be on the menu for Inspire Brands? For years, industry observers have felt an IPO was likely a given due to the fact the company owns a collection of large chains, including Arby’s, Dunkin’, Buffalo Wild Wings and Jimmy John’s. A Restaurant Business story says Inspire Brands is in conversations with advisors about an IPO that could occur in late 2024 or early 2025. This comes at an interesting time for Roark Capital, which owns Inspire Brands and is trying to finalize a deal to acquire Subway,
  • American Express opened a Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. At nearly 26,000 square feet, it is the largest lounge in the Centurion Lounge American Express opened a Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.American Express opened a Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International It features a locally inspired menu from Atlanta-based Chef Deborah VanTrece, various seating options, outdoor terraces with views of the airfield, and The Reserve by American Express, a whiskey bar serving signature cocktails designed by Jim Meehan, Centurion Mixologist.
  • Despite facing serious headwinds, consumer traffic at chain restaurants remained relatively steady in 2023, per data from For the year, weekly visits to dining chains increased 2.1%. There were big winners in some categories. For example, Wingstop, Shake Shack, and Jersey Mike’s Subs did well in the fast-casual and QSR segments, with annual year-over-year visit growth ranging from 11.8% to 20.3%, partly fueled by the chains’ growing footprints.

Economic News

  • The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.3% in January, per data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. January’s results were more than the 0.1% increase economists had projected, per CNN. Further, it’s the highest monthly increase since August 2023. The BLS attributes the January increase to a 0.6% increase in prices for final demand services. In contrast, the index for final demand goods decreased 0.2%.
  • Consumer sentiment remained steady in February, per data from the University of Michigan. Its Index of Consumer Sentiment came in at 79.6 in the February preliminary reading, which is 0.6 better than January. Consumers’ perspectives on the current economic conditions remained relatively consistent from month to month, while consumer expectations improved slightly.
  • U.S. retail and foodservice sales declined 0.8% in January 2024 compared to the previous month, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This increase is greater than the 0.3% decline economists had projected, per CNBC and other published reports. Total sales for the November 2023 through January 2024 period increased 3.1% from the same period a year ago. Closer to home, sales at foodservice and drinking places increased 0.7% from December 2023 and 6.3% from January 2023.
  • Industrial production dipped 0.1% in January after recording no change in December, per data from the U.S. Federal Reserve. January manufacturing output declined 0.5%, with winter weather a contributing factor. The index for utilities jumped 6.0%. At 102.6% of its 2017 average, total industrial production in January was identical to its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector moved down 0.2% in January to 78.5%, a rate that is 1.1 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2023) average.
  • Initial jobless claims declined by 8,000 for a total of 212,000 for the week-ending February 10, 2024, per the U.S. Department of Labor. Forecasters polled by Reuters had projected 220,000 claims for the latest week. As one economist put it, "…not only are there not enough job losses to point to a recession, there are no significant job losses to see at all.” The 4-week moving average was 218,500, an increase of 5,750 from the previous week.
  • Privately‐owned housing starts declined 1.5% in January compared to the previous month, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau. January’s levels were 8.6% greater than the same month in 2023.