With the rise in gluten-free dining across the U.S. some university dining facilities are now offering certified gluten-free offerings at cafes around the country, food-management.com reports. The University of Chicago, however, has gone a step further… a dedicated gluten-free station in a retrofitted Mongolian grill in its Cathey Dining Hall. The facility is fully certified through the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten-Free Food Service (GFFS) Accreditation Program, the station is the first of its kind. All staffers are trained by GFFS and all foods are prepared in pots and pans that are used exclusively for gluten-free offerings.The program joins the University’s kosher and halal services for students.
Olive Garden On Rebound
After two years of struggling, the Olive Garden is reporting a 2.2% increase in sales, the Associated Press reports. According to Darden, the chain’s parent, the modest increases are due to fewer discounts and more dessert and drink sales. Those results are not unique, the AP says, as restaurant sales are up about 2 to 3% at a number of fast and casual dining establishments. Darden's, meanwhile, says that Olive Garden will soon offer takeout orders to increase revenue.
Simplicity Of Apple Pay Exploited
While Apple Pay has been positioned as an easier way to pay, fraudsters like it too, since it is apparently easy to use. An estimated 6% of all purchases are made with stolen credit cards, about 60 times more than those made with plastic cards, according to The Washington Post. Security experts are critical of the Apple Pay system’s simplicity and they are suggesting that the security measures be tightened.
Private Equity Buys Lemon-X
Highlander Partners, a private equity firm, purchased Lemon-X, a New York manufacturer and supplier of 100% juices, juice blends, lemonades, teas, and cocktail mixes. Highlander plans to combines its new company with Juice Tyme to create a national entity with ties to broadliners, GPOs, nursing home chains, restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, casinos and other groups of customers, a company release states.
National Restaurant Chains Grow, But…
While national restaurant chains grew an average of .04% this past year, the big players lost market share to smaller, more nimble restaurants. McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, and Wendy's all struggled in 2014, including estimated declines of 3.3% for Subway and 1.1% for McDonald's, Technomics reports. Meanwhile, Fast-casual burger brands with smaller menus showed consistent unit and sales growth, including sales gains of more than 20% for chains like Wayback Burgers, Smashburger, and Shake Shack. Full service restaurants also grew, including Texas Roadhouse, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Fogo de Chao.
Heinz Merges With Kraft
H.J. Heinz Co. and Kraft Foods Group will merge to become The Kraft Heinz Co. It will be the third largest U.S. food and beverage company and the fifth largest such company globally. Heinz shareholders will own 51% of the company that will have estimated combined revenues of more than $28 billion a year.
Cumin Scandal: Check Your Kitchen
The recent international recall of cumin and cumin-based products is the end result of intentional fraud, Food Safety & Quality reports. Last year, investigators found the spice was tainted with peanuts and almonds in a bid to pass off these products of economic gain. About 700 different products have been recalled by more than 40 manufacturers and retailers in the U.S. alone since late last year. Cumin is used in a wide variety of products and is not always listed as an ingredient. When adulteration takes place and peanut powder is substituted, the tainted spice can become a killer to unaware consumers with peanut allergies.
Portsmouth, NH becoming A Diners’ Haven
Portsmouth, NH, has long groomed its reputation as a tourist mecca between Portland and Boston. Now the city by the sea is earning its chops for award winning dining as well. In the past few years, Portsmouth has had three chefs qualify as finalists for the prestigious Charles Beard Award based on their innovative cuisine, BostonGlobe.com reports. Combined with the lower cost of living and rising reputation of Portsmouth, the younger dining crowd and some top cooking talent are gravitating north.
Cost Of Chicken Wings Up
Chicken wings are popular. So popular, in fact, that their cost has increased some 63% from last year, SpenDifference reports. Cost per pound for bone in wing chicken is now up to $1.91 from $1.17 a year ago. Boneless wings, meanwhile, are considerably cheaper at $1.63 a pound. If your restaurant sells its share of wings, but you want to control costs, expand the menu to include boneless wings. And the next time prices drop on bone in wings, scoop them up and freeze them, SpenDifference advises.
Diet Sodas On The Wane
After dropping 20% in sales over these few years, diet sodas are projected to drop another 5% this year, The Washington Post reports. The drop in popularity is global as consumers are turning away from sodas and are especially worried about the impacts of artificial sweeteners on their health. Big players in the soda business are already hedging their bets by investing in new non-soda drinks.
Venue owner Palace Sports & Entertainment plans to install smart seats at Detroit's Palace of Auburn Hills arena, home of the Detroit Pistons at the cost of about $6 million. Once complete, patrons will be able to order food and refreshments from their seats, which will be paid for electronically and delivered right to the seat. The seat conversion will take up to two years, food-Management.com reports.
Sonic On A Roll
Thanks to an expanded menu and advanced technologies that speed up ordering, Sonic grew by 11.5%, a company release states. Continued investments by the company in electronic menus and ordering equipment are expected to further increase Sonic’s profitability this year.