Restaurant News Bites: KFC, McDonald’s, Saladworks

Restaurant News Bites: KFC, McDonald's, SaladworksYum! Brands has announced they are targeting Africa for expansion of the KFC brand.  The company said the African content is an emerging market for the fried chicken restaurant.  There are currently more than 600 restaurants in South Africa and the company plans to use the country as a stepping-stone to enter other African nations.  More than $500 million in investments from franchisees are expected to be contributed to the company’s African expansion plans by 2014.  The African expansion is part of the company’s larger growth strategy for KFC, which has been extremely popular in China, India and other international locations.

McDonald’s has continued to thrive in a struggling global economy.  On Wednesday, the company announced that systemwide sales had increased by 4.7% during November.  U.S. comparable sales increased by 4.9%, European sales increased by 4.9%, and the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region saw sales increase by 2.4%.  In the U.S., growth was driven by the return of the iconic McRib, while premium menu items such as McWraps drove growth in Europe.  Though growth for November was positive, current currency rates will likely negatively influence fourth quarter earnings by $0.01 to $0.02 per share.

Saladworks continues to add to their menu offerings of healthy meal options.  The company recently introduced a new Panini line to the menu, which features Buffalo Chicken, Turkey Melt, Chicken Mozzarella, and Caprese Panini sandwiches.  Panini’s are the latest addition to a menu that has undergone considerable change during the year with new salad ingredients and soups having been added to the menu previously.

Technomic is predicting a comeback for alcohol sales in 2011.  The food and beverage-consulting agency is predicting that alcohol purchases in bars and restaurants will increase by 1.9% during 2011 when compared to 2010 sales.  The company said that while the projected uptick in sales is good for business, the industry still has a long way to go to return to pre-recession sales levels.  Spirit-based drinks are expected to lead the resurgence with Technomic predicting a 2.3% increase in sales.

Johnny Rockets has announced the hiring of four new executives.  Chris Pangan has been brought in as the executive director of development, Alan Greengard will join the company as director of real estate, Burt Wright becomes the director of training and development, and Larry Litton joins Johnny Rockets as the regional director of operations.  The four men have been hired for their expertise in their respective fields as Johnny Rockets continues to implement an aggressive growth strategy as it moves forward.

Elevation Burger is giving guests more control over their dietary needs.  The company introduced the new Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage machine in its Falls Church, Virginia location recently.  The machine will allow guests to select from more than 106 beverage options.  Selections range from traditional Coca-Cola products to low-calorie, low-caffeine drink options.  Elevation Burger is known for their organic and healthy meal options.  AOL Small Business has called elevation Burger the “Next Big Chain”.

Pizza Inn is continuing along their aggressive growth plan as the year comes to an end.  The company recently opened a new company-owned location in Lewisville, Texas, the latest location to feature the company’s new design that has generated a renewed interest in the company from consumers and investor alike.  The new design features full-service menus, pizza buffets, and salad bars, along with delivery and carryout options.  The new Pizza Inn concept is based around a “hometown concept” and features walls adorned with locally themed items.

A new Truffles restaurant location has recently opened across from the Lenox Square Mall.  The restaurant, already a favorite in Hilton Head and Bluffton, South Carolina, will offer guests a diverse menu of specialty dishes.  Menu prices at the restaurant range from $5 to $29 and will feature entrees, soups, salads, and sandwiches.  The restaurant also offers private dining for six to 100 guests for events, meetings, and special occasions.

Chuck E. Cheese’s will offer a little bit extra to shoppers purchasing gift cards to the restaurant this year.  Beginning December 2 and running through January 3, 2011 each $25 gift card purchase will be accompanied by 20 tokens that can be used in the restaurants games and activities areas.  Tokens and gift cards can be combined with any other discount coupon at participating Chuck E. Cheese’s.

A firm representing Benihana’s late founder Rocky Aoki has filed suit against Benihana of Miami and its subsidiary Noodle Time.  The lawsuit alleges that Benihana of Miami attempted to register the Benihana trademark in countries including Iran, Iceland, Monaco, and the Ukraine.  A 1995 agreement between Benihana of Tokyo and Benihana of Miami allows the Miami company to open restaurants and franchises in the U.S., Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.  Benihana of Tokyo has rights to the rest of the world.