Restaurant News Bites: Olive Garden, Five Guys, Sonic

Restaurant News Bites: Olive Garden, Five Guys, SonicA new opening of a Five Guys Burgers and Fries causes visitors to line up for hours just for a taste. Other “better fast food” chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill are stealing more traffic from casual restaurants like Applebee’s than from fast food giants. Customers are enjoying the combination of low prices, fast service and fresh ingredients.

Americans may be used to picking up nothing but a burger and fries at their favorite fast food joints, but beer and wine may soon be available too. Burger King locations in large towns like Las Vegas and Miami are now testing a “Whopper Bar” concept. Two South Florida Sonic restaurants will be adding alcohol to their menu as well.

Darden Restaurants, the parent company behind Olive Garden, is increasing the value priced menu offerings of the popular Italian food chain. Recent research demonstrated that the chain could capture more of the households with an annual income of under $60,000 by offering lower priced meals. They’re planning to maintain the same profit margins even with new menu items.

The founder of the Phillips Seafood Restaurants chain, Brice R. Phillips, has passed away at age 90. With the help of his wife Shirley he was able to open Phillips Crab House in 1956. The small restaurant grew into a chain of 19 locations and a line of retail seafood products. Their flagship store also constantly ranked highly in the top 100 highest grossing independently owned restaurants.

Two restaurants from Muskegon, Michigan have been featured on the Food Network’s new show “Outrageous Food”. Bernie O’s Pizza and Papa Bear’s Restaurant have both enjoyed increased business from the positive publicity. Customers traveled from neighboring states to try the incredibly hot Firebird pizza or the massive stuffed hash browns known as the Grizzly.

The Cheesecake Factory has announced that July is now National Cheesecake History Month. The restaurant’s Facebook page will share interesting stories and facts about the development of the famous dessert. The end of the month culminates with the National Cheesecake Day Celebration and the new Hershey’s Chocolate Bar Cheesecake.

Dairy Queen’s newest ad campaign features a commercial with Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton in a pinata. The commercial is part of the new “So Good It’s RIDQulous” concept. A DQ manager hits the pinata and Mary Lou Retton comes tumbling out of it. Retton was chosen for her iconic status and for being a Gen-X mother of four.

Benihana, America’s largest and most popular Japanese steakhouse chain, has announced the monthly Chef’s Special for July. Hibachi Shrimp & Chicken for Two will be available at the discounted price of $36. The meal includes five courses and drinks. Classic Benihana sides like onion soup, Benihana salad and hot green tea is all included.

The Wienerschnitzel chain turns 50 this summer just in time for National Hot Dog Month. The company is starting a “Chili Dog Days of Summer” promotion by sending the Wiener Wagon out to give away 5,000 free chili dogs. The truck will make 20 stops across Southern California in areas like Los Angeles and San Diego.

Pizza Inn is expanding in the Midwest again. The newest location for the chain opened in Springdale, Arkansas in a larger travel center. The location cooks full sized pizzas from scratch despite being part of the convenience store. The chain is now in three states including Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama.