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Chain Restaurants Still Fighting Ethanol

Commodity prices may be easing, but that isn’t stopping chain restaurants from continuing their fight against ethanol. The National Council of Chain Restaurants intensified its fight against the renewable fuel standard today, saying that it plans to lobby Congress hard to eliminate a standard it believes has increased food costs.

Sun Shines On Johnny Rockets

If it seems like Sun Capital buys U.S. restaurants every three years, it’s because it does. The Florida-based private equity firm, which last bought a restaurant company in 2010, and before that 2007, has reached a deal recently to buy the California burger chain Johnny Rockets from RedZone Capital.

The Great, Shrinking Burrito Chain

Guess not all burrito concepts are alike, after all. Qdoba, the Denver-based chain that said yesterday it plans to close more than 10 percent of its restaurants, has proven again that it is Burger King to Chipotle’s McDonald’s: always struggling to compare to the market leader’s ultra-strong numbers.

Noodles & Company Sets Its IPO Terms

Want to buy a piece of Noodles and Company? It’ll likely cost you at least $13 per share. The Broomfield, Colorado-based pasta purveyor set the terms for its initial public offering this week as it seeks to follow in the footsteps of Panera Bread and Chipotle to be the next big fast-casual chain on Wall Street.

NPC International Branches Out Again

Since selling two brands it operated in the late 1990s, NPC International grew into the largest restaurant franchisee in the country by focusing on one brand: Pizza Hut. But now Overland Park, Kansas operator is branching out again, with a Thursday announcement of plans to acquire 24 Wendy’s restaurants near Kansas City.

Cosi's Leadership Experiment Doesn't Last

Well, that plan didn’t work. Deerfield, Illinois-based bakery/café chain Cosi said this week that its CEO, Carin Stutz, has resigned just 18 months into her tenure at the struggling chain. The company quickly announced that its executive chairman, Stephen Edwards, would take her place.

Activists Sniffing Around DineEquity

DineEquity should be an investor’s dream right now, shouldn’t it? The owner of IHOP and Applebee’s is fully franchised, so it generates high returns with little capital. Yet this year its stock is up just 11 percent, and now activists are sniffing around, pushing the company to make changes.

RMH Gets The High Bid For AppleIllinois

RMH Holdings, a 40-unit Applebee’s franchisee based in Nebraska, is getting 15 more locations in Illinois, but it’ll have to pay a bit more than it thought. The operator agreed to pay nearly $8.6 million for the locations in a bankruptcy court auction of the 33-unit AppleIllinois last week.

Casual Dining Outperforms On Wall Street

This has been a good year on Wall Street. The S&P 500 index is up 15.2 percent in 2013. And the restaurant industry has performed even better: restaurant stocks are up 25.7 percent this year. That’s not surprising. But this is: the restaurants leading the way are casual dining.

So-So Job Growth Means So-So Restaurant Growth

For all the talk about competition and too many tips and rising prices, the one thing that restaurants need to boost growth is jobs, and today they got another dose of news that could only be described as mediocre: 175,000 jobs added in May, and an unemployment rate that rose to 7.6 percent.

Grocers, Convenience Stores Make Play For Restaurant Diners

We attended the NRA Show last month and, while there, spoke with a vendor selling brick ovens imported from Italy. The ovens make pizzas in less than two minutes, which is helping to fuel the boom in fast-casual pizza restaurants. So we were a bit taken aback when we were told about one of the company’s best customers: Whole Foods.

The Recession Really Hurt Dinner Visits

It’s going to take a while for restaurants to regain the business they lost at dinnertime during the recession. That’s one takeaway from the latest report by the Chicago-based market research firm NPD Group, which said today that suppertime visits to restaurants declined by 650 million, or 3.3 percent, since 2006.

Food Fight! Hardee's Takes A Shot At McDonald's

We love us a good food fight. And we’re getting one from Andrew Puzder. The CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. owner CKE Restaurants is taking a direct shot at the market leader with a series of ads poking McDonald’s for replacing its Angus third-pound burger with quarter-pound beef patties.

Cracker Barrel Stock Keeps Going Up

As if its stock needed another boost, Cracker Barrel this morning reported another strong financial quarter. Comp sales were up in its fiscal third quarter, retail sales were up, and the company raised its earnings guidance and increased its dividend. The result: The company’s stock hit yet another all-time high.

Restaurant Owners Are Feeling All Giddy

Restaurant owners sure are feeling more confident all of a sudden. Now that they’ve survived the wintertime same-store-sales cliff, commodity prices appear to be easing and the stock and housing markets are flourishing again, operators are feeling pretty good. Good enough, perhaps, to raise more prices. But that could be a risk.