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NRN editors discuss CAVA, Applebee’s, IHOP, and that viral Wendy’s pricing comment

Plus, hear from Benson Lau, the founder and director of business development at Fluffy Fluffy


This week on the Extra Serving podcast, Nation’s Restaurant News editors Holly Petre, Alicia Kelso, and Joanna Fantozzi spoke about what feels like the longest earnings season ever.

CAVA reported early this week, and showed that it’s still possible to have double-digit traffic gains in this economic environment. The brand, which went public in June 2023, has now seen three straight quarters of same-store sales gains. CEO Brett Schulman admitted that it’s partly due to the “IPO halo effect,” as he called it, but that it’s also a testament to the fast-casual Mediterranean category’s popularity. CAVA remains the only Mediterranean concept with over 300 units.

On the full-service side, it’s a tale of two brands. Dine Brands, the parent to Applebee’s and IHOP, is leaning hard into marketing and loyalty apps while trying to grow once again. The chains have both introduced interesting new food items while embracing discounting. Cracker Barrel, which has been struggling for a few years, has just introduced its loyalty program and is looking for a way to modernize the “old-fashioned” brand.

Shifting away from earnings, there’s the story that made the most waves this week in consumer news. Wendy’s new CEO Kirk Tanner said during the company’s earnings call that the chain would be experimenting with dynamic pricing with their new digital menu boards. Consumer media picked up the story and called it surge pricing, alerting everyone, that the chain could be raising prices at peak times. Tanner had to release a statement saying that wasn’t what was happening.

This week’s interview is the founder and director of business development at Fluffy Fluffy, Benson Lau.


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