My family’s panini press sits right next to the toaster on the kitchen counter. It gets used every day — sometimes more than once. Paninis, including all manner of fillings and breads, make up the bulk of our after-school snacks, presports meals and weekend lunches.
Given our love for pressed Cheddar, turkey and apple slices on sourdough, we’ve clearly moved beyond the peanut butter and jelly staple of yesteryear, making us an ideal target for the growing number of better-sandwich purveyors that offer a range of more sophisticated taste combinations.
Beginning on page 3 and continuing in the Business Intel section, Nation’s Restaurant News checks in with some of the growing concepts taking a cue from the better-burger players and elevating the status of the familiar sandwich in much the same way. By offering quality ingredients and creative preparations at reasonable prices, operators like Mendocino Farms in Los Angeles and the Noble Pig in Austin, Texas, are taking the sandwich rulebook written by Subway and its peers and adding a few new pages of their own.
The food wars also are heating up in the quick-service segment, where Burger King and Wendy’s are racing to catch up to McDonald’s and its broad array of menu offerings. In this issue’s special report, we delve into the menu strategies recently laid out by the quick-service behemoths as they work to build business across dayparts and capture market share from each other.
Another race — this one for top talent — also is simmering throughout the industry and manifesting itself in higher rates of pay for many senior-level positions. According to the second HVS Executive Search-NRN salary study, compensation levels rose for 13 of 15 executive jobs since the inaugural survey was conducted in 2009. More detail and insight into what those findings mean about the state of the restaurant industry and its human capital can be found in the Operations section.
Although the HVS-NRN survey found that chief executives enjoyed the biggest pay hikes over the past two years, one top foodservice leader has said he is willing to work for essentially nothing. Brad Blum, in his bid to run the 138-unit Così sandwich chain, offered to draw a salary of $1 for the first year if given the opportunity to navigate the troubled brand. In the Community section we examine Blum’s efforts to win over the Così board, as well as a career that has included top stints at Olive Garden, Burger King and Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
We look at another type of bid — the credit bid — in Finance. Fueled by the lingering economic downturn, credit bids are gaining favor as a strategy in Chapter 11 reorganizations, according to experts. When Friendly Ice Cream Corp. hits the auction block in December, owner Sun Capital Partners Inc. will seek to maintain control of the 424-unit Friendly’s family-dining chain through use of the credit bid. Find out how in Finance.
Location-based social media has been a hot topic in recent years, and it’s expected to get even hotter in 2012, according to the Association of National Advertisers. In the Marketing section we explore the different ways some progressive operators are using platforms such as Foursquare and SCVNGR to drive sales.
While I’m not at this point one who is inclined to tout my whereabouts through location-based social media, who knows what the future holds. After all, I never expected that a pressed sandwich could squeeze PB&J from its place as a preferred lunchtime item, but the whole family has found a new favorite. Obviously, tastes can change.
Contact Robin Lee Allen at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter @RobinLeeAllen.