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Restaurant Rewind

Restaurant Rewind

By Winsight Media
The industry’s past is packed with tales of scoundrels and heroes, big thinkers and pinheads, colossal successes and dismal failures, breakthrough moves and self-inflicted destruction. Few soap operas pack as much color and drama. Yet those yellowed snapshots provide insights relevant to the challenges of today. Join Peter Romeo, a 41-year veteran of the business with a penchant for restaurant history, as he explores those pivotal moments from the past.
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When chains go from sizzle to fizzle
One of the downsides of being a public company is the fickleness of Wall Street. If investors so much as suspect a holding will fall short of expectations, they’ll mercilessly hammer down the value of a high-flying issue, even if the business fundamentals remain largely unchanged. They can fall in and out of love as easily as a teenager. A case in point: Dutch Bros, the drive-thru coffee chain that lost 37% of its stock value in a single trading day because of a decline in comparable store sales for the first quarter. In this week’s edition of Restaurant Rewind, the RB podcast that delves into the industry’s past for a deeper understanding of what’s happening today, host and RB Editor-at-Large Peter Romeo looks at two past instances of an investment darling going from sizzle to fizzle in a flash. The familiarity of those brands is a testament that restaurants are a business of peaks and valleys. But see for yourself by giving a listen.
May 17, 2022
When Wendy’s and McDonald’s went chain shopping
The restaurant industry has seen more pendulum swings than some clock stores. Right now, the business is in a shrink-the-menu mode, a place it’s been about every 10 or 11 years. Give it a bit, and the trend is likely to swing back to expanding bills of fare in hopes of sporting at least one item for everybody. The same pendulum effect is visible in the portfolio strategies of the industry’s largest players. Chili’s parent Brinker International has pared back its holdings to two brands after operating many times that number in the past.  In little more than four years, Arby’s franchisor has grown to include seven franchise chains encompassing 30,000 restaurants. It's a to-and-fro Wendy’s and McDonald’s know well, having gone from one brand to a broad collection and then back down a lone operation in less than a decade.  Few remember today that McDonald’s owned a coffee chain called Aroma, and was once the parent of Chipotle. Wendy’s owned part of a chef-driven pasta chain and a European-style bistro concept. In this week’s edition of Restaurant Rewind, RB’s retrospective podcast, Editor-At-Large Peter Romeo looks back at those expansion binges and the concerns that powered them. The broadcast also examines why the two giants decided ultimately to abandon the approach.
May 03, 2022
Chick-fil-A’s cow campaign was no BS
Chick-fil-A emerged long ago as one of the highest-volume players in fast food. Now it’s leaving many full-service chains in the dust with average annual sales of $8.1 million per free-standing store. It might have never gotten there if it hadn’t been for one of the more memorable marketing efforts in restaurant history, the iconic Eat Mor Chikin campaign. For 20 years, consumers were urged by a group of rascally cows to spare the herd by having a Chick-fil-A chicken  sandwich instead of a hamburger. In this week’s edition of Restaurant Business’ Restaurant Rewind podcast, Editor At Large Peter Romeo looks back at that standout marketing effort from truly a field-level perspective. Part of the recollection is an interview with a onetime Chick-fil-A employee (and current RB staff member) whose early communications work included dressing up as one of the cows. You may never look at Senior Editor Joe Guszkowski’s articles in the same way again.
April 26, 2022
Cutting-edge technology is nothing new for Sonic
After seven decades in business, Sonic finds itself once again in alignment with the lifestyles of the times, President Claudia San Pedro commented while being honored last week as the 2022 Restaurant Leader of the Year. In honor of her selection, this week’s edition of RB’s Restaurant Rewind podcast looks back at how Sonic, one of the industry’s older quick-service chains, got its start. Technology played a key role in that birth, and continues to drive the brand’s evolution today, San Pedro said during her appearance at the Restaurant Leadership Conference. And let us not forget the contribution of 1950s teen idol Frankie Avalon. So wheel your way into a parking slot, tune in that carside intercom, and give a listen as RB Editor-at-Large Peter Romeo takes you through a quick history of the brand.
April 19, 2022
Why restaurants are a retirement option of choice for MLBers
Baseball has always had a unique connection to America’s other favored pastime, dining out. The restaurant industry has routinely provided a second career for the pros after they hang up their spikes. Just this week, two-time World Series champion and former Blue Jay Todd Stottlemyer revealed that he intends to open two units of the poke chain Koibito Poke. With the new MLB season underway, this week’s edition of Restaurant Rewind looks at that well-worn path between baseball and restaurants. We take a look at how some of the biggest names ever to play the game have put to use what they learned while dining out every night on the road.
April 12, 2022
This highlight reel of restaurant fights would make Mike Tyson wince
A corporate raider who once muscled companies into all sorts of major changes is resuming his old activist ways, this time with McDonald’s as his target. Carl Icahn’s demand that the burger giant deliver on promised shifts in its purchasing policies is a flashback to the bruising proxy battles that have cost  many a big-name director their seat on a public restaurant company’s board. This week’s edition of Restaurant Business’ Restaurant Rewind podcast looks at three of highest-profile past melees between investors, directors and corporate management. If you’ve ever wondered why Applebee’s and IHOP are part of the same company, or why CEOs are such sticklers about when the corporate jet can be used, this installment is for you. Ditto if you’re a fan of mixed martial arts.
March 29, 2022
Restaurants are in the dark about daylight savings
Republicans and Democrats can’t seem to agree on what time of day it is, much less a proposal that would affect every American household. Yet an equally split U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill last week to adopt daylight savings time nationwide for all 12 months. The measure is likely to fly through the House of Representatives and almost certainly be signed into law by President Biden. And why not? The benefits sound as wholesome as parenthood and apple pie—a way to provide America’s hard-working families with a few more hours of sunlight together. But as this week’s edition of Restaurant Rewind reports, there’s a dark side to the situation for restaurants.
March 22, 2022
War seldom makes sense for restaurants and the Ukraine invasion is no exception
As if the world needed more tension, a restaurant group in Europe is trying to calm the hotheads who mistakenly read its name—House of Poutine—as a tribute to the warmongering president of Russia, proving once again that truth is war’s first casualty. But as this week’s edition of Restaurant Rewind attests, this is hardly the only time wartime emotions have driven restaurant patrons a little insane. Conflicts on the battlefield have often spilled onto menus, leading to such craziness as the demonization of French toast. The necessities of war have also changed what’s on American plates—or, in the case of World War II GIs, on what they dubbed a shingle (we’d use the name given to the other main ingredient, but let’s just call it chipped beef here). Learn how wartime has affected America’s menus and eating habits by downloading this week’s Restaurant Rewind wherever you get your podcasts.
March 15, 2022
Long before virtual concepts, restaurants had another way of cracking new segments
In those long-ago days before the pandemic, the term “virtual concept” was as foreign to most U.S. restaurateurs as a selection from “101 Rare Latvian Curses.” Yet today, operations sporting that label are scrambling the industry’s traditional lines of competition. A burger joint inks a deal with one of the many upstart brands with “wings” in its name, and it’s instantly in the chicken delivery business. A brick-and-mortar operation without a hint of beef on its menu is suddenly slinging a lot of red meat courtesy of MrBeast Burger. Virtual brands can now provide established operators with a way to snag fans of everything from quesadillas to cookies, grilled-cheese sandwiches and pancakes. But the dynamic isn’t new, as the inaugural episode of RB’s newest podcast, "Restaurant Rewind," spells out.
March 08, 2022