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Restaurants Had A Tough First Quarter

Thank goodness that first quarter is out of the way now. The first three months of 2013 were brutal for the restaurant industry, and though the environment improved in March, the market was still a tough one, at least based on the latest sales report from Black Box Intelligence and People Report.

Restaurant CFO To CEO: A Mixed Bag

This morning, Miami-based Burger King shuffled the chairs of its executive ranks amid news that its CEO Bernardo Hees, will soon jump ship to Heinz. His successor will, eventually, be the wunderkind Daniel Schwartz, who is all of 32. But age is not the reason to be concerned about the hire. This is: He’s the CFO.

Yum Brands Has A New China Problem

Just when Yum Brands thought it was out of the woods in China, something else comes along to muck things up. This time, it’s the bird flu, which is already generating fears that the slump bedeviling the company’s big KFC brand in China might continue for another few months yet.

Goebel Gives Pie Five A Big Boost

Dave Goebel may have left Applebee’s, but he certainly hasn’t left the restaurant business. The casual dining chain’s former CEO, who currently operates Goodcents Fresh Deli, among other things, is now getting into Pie Five. Goebel has agreed to open 10 units of the fast-casual pizza chain in the Kansas City area.

Caribou Shutting Stores, Converting Others

UPDATED (With confirmation from the company and more commentary)—Joh. A. Benckiser spent $340 million on Caribou Coffee last year. It spent $1 billion on Peet’s Coffee earlier that year. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out which chain is going to be the conglomerate’s major focus from here on—and indeed, Caribou will be a much smaller chain in a week.

A Sale May Be The Only Way Out For Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel may not be able to fend off Sardar Biglari without a sale of the company. According to the San Antonio Express News, the chairman of Biglari Holdings indicated that he won’t go away anytime soon, suggesting there will be more proxy fights to come. How many? You be the judge.

KFC To Finally Go Boneless

KFC finally appears to be getting out from under the shadow of its famous founder. The venerable Louisville-based chicken chain today said it plans to offer a new line of boneless chicken, a move that could arguably be the chain’s biggest product introduction since Extra Crispy.

Upgrades Give Panera A Big Boost

Analysts have recently come to believe that the restaurant industry is headed for a better spring, and the chain that may be benefitting the most from that epiphany is Panera Bread, the recipient of a pair of upgrades that took the chain’s stock to an all-time high today—over $175 a share.

Restaurant Sales Appear To Be Stabilizing

OK, so remember how restaurant sales started weakening late last year, then turned starkly south in January and February, sparking fears of another economic slowdown as restaurateurs and even some economists likened the situation to 2008? Yeah, about that. Never mind.

Will Pizza Put Chili's Over The Top?

Dallas-based casual dining chain Chili’s is getting ready to roll out its new pizza nationwide this month, the company’s first test of new ovens that give the chain the ability to make just about anything. The pizzas could open the chain to new demographics with an item that is more profitable than its typical fare.

Yup, Restaurants Had A Bad February

News flash: traffic was down last month. According to the latest Restaurant Performance Index from the National Restaurant Association, the industry’s sales and traffic fell last month, taking the index into contraction territory for the fourth time in the past five months.

Sbarro Replaces Its Chief Executive

We’ve seen Jim Greco at several conferences over the past year, and each time he confidently declared that one day Sbarro would become the premier fast-casual Italian chain in the country. So we were surprised today to find out that Sbarro replaced Greco as its CEO just 14 months after he took the job.

Marty Kotis And The Spurned Wife Billboard

Those of you who use the Internet might have come across a photo of a North Carolina billboard recently in which a woman named Jennifer told off her cheating husband. As it turns out, said billboard, followed by other billboards and a video, was all a marketing ploy—for a billboard company owned by none other than one Marty Kotis.

Another Private Equity Group Gets Into Franchising

Among the biggest trends we’ve seen in recent years has been the eager investment by private equity groups into the franchise sector. Here’s another one: Acon Investments, a Washington D.C.-based private equity group that recently bought 40 Applebee’s units in the Midwest and hopes to do more.

Daily Juice Takes Its Smoothies Mainstream

The second location of the Austin juice and smoothie concept Daily Juice was in the basement of an old house that was converted for business use. And yet it still sold a lot of smoothies. So the concept should be really popular with a little refinement, right? John Martin thinks it will.