Restaurant News Bites: ShopHouse, Panera, The Fuzzy Peach

Restaurant News Bites: ShopHouse, Panera, The Fuzzy PeachTechnomic has examined the menus of over 100 independent restaurants to compile their new report on upcoming food trends. Beverages like coffee, soda and tea are being used as ingredients in dishes more than ever. These include pork chops brined in sweet tea, cheesecake made with beer and duck seared in coffee.

Host Concepts provides restaurant technology for the front of the house, and they recently released a new multiplayer trivia game. Triviage allows guests who are waiting for a table to play with anyone within 25 miles on their mobile phone. Guests can gain points for answering questions correctly and will advance on regional and national leader boards.

ShopHouse, the new Asian inspired chain from the creators of Chipotle Mexican Grill, recently debuted with their first restaurant opening. Reviews from Asian food fans have dissed the chain’s authenticity, but some people are quickly becoming enamored with the new concept. The chain allows diners to make their own custom noodle and rice bowls.

Panera Cares involves three test restaurants where customers pay what they want for food. While two locations are bringing in 80% of the normal profits, the Portland location only takes in 60%. The CEO of Panera Bread is working to change the way the program works to keep out customers who are abusing the free lunch.

The Pat & Oscar’s chain, based in California, has recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The chain was purchased by a new owner 2 years ago, but failed to turn around their sinking profits since then. The 11 franchise locations plan to stay open, but this may not be possible as the company liquidates all of its assets.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is already struggling due to lower traffic, but now they are losing their Chief Operating Officer as well. Richard Tasman was with the company since 2007, when the chain first began their struggle against failing profits. The chain has not yet announced a replacement for Tasman.

North Carolina-based frozen yogurt chain The Fuzzy Peach is opening up franchise applications. The chain manages to keep a 98% customer satisfaction rating through creating a special atmosphere within each store. Applications for franchising will be accepted from across the country so the chain can grow in all regions.

IHOP will be celebrating Halloween all month this October, ending with the free Scary Face Pancake giveaway. On October 28th, each child who visits a local IHOP between 7 am and 10 pm will receive a free pancake. During the rest of the month both children and parents can enjoy the fall flavors of Pumpkin Pancakes.

Food critic blogger Steve Plotnicki is known for being one of the most outspoken food bloggers on the Internet. He helped found the restaurant review site E-Gullet and recently released a new book entitled Opinionated About U.S. Restaurants 2011. He hopes to release yearly volumes of information on restaurants worth traveling to eat at.

Diners who are interested in eating to a specific nutritional guide can use the new calculator tool at the UFood Grill website. The company wants diners to come prepared and the calculator gives detailed information on sodium, fat and calorie content of any meal combination. The chain paired with Nutritionix to create the tool.