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With ‘Aggressive’ Approach, Applebee’s to Close 100-plus Locations

Applebee's aims to identify older locations in areas “where once vibrant retail, residential and traffic characteristics are just no longer present,” the brand's president, John Cywinski, noted, along with restaurants that are underperforming “and perhaps even brand-damaging restaurants with unsustainable unit economics.”

La Madeleine Signs New ‘Zee, Continues Refranchising Push

La Madeleine French Bakery and Café is already more than halfway to its goal of refranchising 38 corporate locations, an initiative the brand announced in March at the Franchise Times Finance & Growth Conference.

NCR Partners With Grubhub, DoorDash to Eliminate Delivery Tablets

A new partnership between point-of-sale giant NCR and delivery providers DoorDash and Grubhub aims to eliminate the separate tablets that have become a necessary evil for restaurants looking to add revenue through third-party delivery.

Are You Prepared for Sin Taxes?

As a society, we’ve made massive strides in public health. Smoking rates have declined sharply, teenagers have lower rates of sex, drug use and drinking, and we’re even using less high fructose corn syrup—progress! But the franchised restaurant world is still exposed to how unhealthy some of its foods are.

Social Justice a Must in Retailing, Says Apricot Lane Founder

“Today, the consumer culture has turned a page toward social justice,” declared Ken Petersen, founder and CEO of Apricot Lane Boutique, when I reached him today to talk about how retailing is changing in this era of big-box store closures and Amazon everywhere.

Need Capital? It's Time to Re-Think Your Elevator Pitch

Most entrepreneurs have their elevator pitch down pat—that 30-second speech about their company that can be delivered in the time it takes to go up or down a few floors. But angel investors and venture capitalists on a panel this week recommended listening rather than talking.

In Strategic Move, Wyndham to Spin Off Hotel Unit

Wyndham Hotel Group is set to become a new, publicly traded company by the first half of next year. Based in Parsippany, New Jersey, it operates or franchises more than 8,100 hotels across several brands, including Ramada, Days Inn and Baymont Inn & Suites.

Cereal-loving Journalist Seeks Investors

They say capital’s cheap and easy these days. Because there are so many good business ideas out there, I’ll keep this brief: I’m thinking of becoming a franchisor in the cereal business down in Kentucky. Who’s coming with me?

House Pushes Bill to Define Joint Employer—and It's Bipartisan

A U.S. House committee has introduced legislation defining what it means to be a “joint employer,” stating the employer must “directly, actually and immediately” exercise significant control over the primary elements of employment to be so considered and thus liable for violations of workers’ rights.

Franchise Model Not for Everyone, Palm Beach Boss Says

Chip Paul is shutting down his electronic cigarette franchise, Palm Beach Vapors, which at its peak had 21 units, for regulatory reasons. Meanwhile, he’s starting a new company called Gnu Pharma, which is developing herbal supplements that he will sell through distributors but definitely not roll out as a franchise. Why not?

Nuggets From Cushman’s Shopping Center Update

In its Q2 2017 U.S. Shopping Center Marketbeat, C&W predicts an increase in retail closures over 2016 with retail bankruptcies and consolidations magnifying the impact of e-commerce and other seismic shifts.

Denny’s Sees 2Q Lift From ‘On Demand’ Platform

Denny’s On Demand, which the company launched nationally in May through a partnership with Olo, includes online and mobile ordering and payment for to-go items, plus delivery via Olo’s Dispatch network of third-party services.

Record Year of Franchise Growth for Huddle House

Huddle House entered new markets across 14 states, including the brand’s first Maryland location and additional growth in New Jersey, where the all-day breakfast concept has one store open and five more in development. Eight of its multi-unit owners signed additional agreements in fiscal year 2017 to open 22 more locations.

Wayback Burgers on a Growth Tear

I’m continually amazed by the number of better-burger players out there, but the herd has stayed strong as the competition has intensified. And, for whatever it’s worth, Wayback Burgers is still expanding like crazy, recently hitting 120 domestic locations and many new international openings in the hopper.

World of Beer’s Pandora-style Beer 'Discovery Engine'

Restaurants and retailers have clearly read the memo that younger consumers want an experience when they spend their precious fun money. The latest innovation is a great one for a summer Friday—World of Beer’s ALEgorithm that it bills as a Pandora-style “beer discovery engine” providing beer recommendations based on personal taste and member engagement.

In Defense of Marketing to Gen X

Gen Xers, usually in the shadow of millennials and baby boomers, are an equally important customer base for restaurants, finds a new NPD Group foodservice study.

Social Media Influencers Present New Marketing Opportunities

Courting social media Influencers is one way restaurant owners can create buzz around new food items or new store openings.

Capitalizing On the Summer Moving Season

For franchised service concepts in the moving segment, summer the opportunity of the year, but to get the most out of the season, it takes a thoughtful approach.

At 900, Smoothie King Vision 'Validated'

When Wan Kim bought Smoothie King in 2012, he had a singular thesis in mind: to be a part of every healthy lifestyle. It seems to be working.

Dunkin’ Heads Into Price Chopper Grocery Stores

As the so-called non-traditional real estate strategy goes mainstream, Dunkin’ Donuts is the latest announcement with a new partnership to open three restaurants in Price Chopper grocery locations in Kansas. It’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing more grocery store tie-ups, among others as restaurant brands seek to go wherever people congregate.

Franchising to Help Chef Service Feed More Seniors

Meet Chefs For Seniors, a four-year-old company out of Madison, Wisconsin, whose professional chefs prepare weekly meals in the home for an elderly clientele. The service, which has corporate locations in its home state plus Illinois and Florida, just launched its franchising initiative in 37 states.

Wyndham Acquires Mid-level AmericInn Brand

As the good times keep rolling in the hotel world, major hospitality brands are continuing to expand their portfolios as healthy business and personal travel continue to fuel record revenue gains and occupancy rates. The latest is Wyndham Hotel Group’s acquisition of Minnesota-based AmericInn hotel and its management company, Three Rivers Hospitality, for $170 million.

Blaze Pizza Gets PE Investment From Brentwood

The move by the Los Angeles-based group also puts two Brentwood partners, Bill Barnum and Rahul Aggarwal, on Blaze Pizza’s board of directors, along with industry veteran Greg Dollarhyde.

IFA’s NextGen Program Goes Live

It’s time once again for one of the very best things in all of franchising: IFA’s fantastic NextGen in Franchising Global Competition is now accepting applicants for the next crop of industry leaders who need a boost in bringing their great idea to market via franchising.

KFC Launches Hilarious Merch Shop

After launching one of its sandwiches into space and publishing its first corporate romance novel (seriously), KFC has launched an online merchandise shop it’s calling KFC Ltd. With Colonel Sanders pillows, a chicken sandwich made with real meteorite and drumstick socks—among many others—this is the real deal.

Southeast Asia Market Remains Ripe for Hooters Expansion

Franchisee Destination Eats, part of Bangkok-based Destination Resorts, is the local partner behind this market expansion and in 2015 signed a 35-location development agreement with Hooters. Led by CEO Gary Murray, Destination Eats also recently opened Hooters locations in Marina Bay and Fusionopolis, Singapore, as well as Jakarta, Indonesia, and Koh Samui, Thailand.

New School of Rock Boss Not Scared of Controversy

The bravest man in franchising may be Rob Price, who accepted the CEO job at School of Rock after Dzana Homan got the boot on June 30. I’ll tell the whole story about franchisee complaints alleging intimidation and more at the music school chain in the next print edition, but Price says he is not fazed by the controversy.

New Owners, New Start for Back Yard Burgers

It took a whole lot of explaining, but Back Yard Burgers has attracted a new majority investor, Axum Capital Partners, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based private equity firm. “It was hard,” to find an investor to buy out Pharos Capital Group, says CEO Dave McDougall, who had to explain over and over why the brand has 23 company-owned stores and 32 franchised units today, down from a peak of 180 stores in 2007.

Marilyn Monroe Spas CEO Lewis Talks International Franchising

Marilyn Monroe Spas inked its first international deal to bring the salon and spa concept to India. We'll have more on this deal in the August issue of Franchise Times, but first, some interview outtakes.

'Disloyal' Jimmy John's Workers Lost their Protections

A federal appeals court ruled in favor of MikLin Enterprises, a franchisee of 10 Jimmy John’s shops in Minnesota, saying employees there were “so disloyal” they were not covered by labor rules protecting unionization activity.

More From Qdoba 'Zees: We're Not Disgruntled

“We do believe in the brand,” declared Ron Stokes, president of the newly formed Qdoba Franchisee Association and president and CEO of the system’s largest operator, with 55 stores. I called him because the announcement followed the rapid formation of two new franchisee groups for Tim Hortons, in Canada and the U.S., who have multiple grievances against their franchisor, and I wanted to see if the Qdoba situation was similar.

Ordering McDonald’s Delivery With UberEATS

Is delivery faster and more convenient than ordering McDonald’s at a drive-thru? We tested McDonald’s new delivery partnership with UberEATS to see how the fast-food giant’s sandwiches, fries, Happy Meals and so-called artisan burgers weathered the journey to our office with a driver, rather than just driving down the road to get it ourselves.

Amid Franchisor ‘Uncertainty,’ Qdoba Franchisees Organize

By forming an independent franchisee association, Qdoba Mexican Eats operators aim to “protect and enhance their $250 million collective investment” in the brand. This announcement comes as parent company Jack in the Box Inc., concerned that operating two different brands is negatively impacting the company’s value, continues to evaluate potentially selling the Qdoba brand.

Time to Embrace the Lactose Intolerant

For all the R&D that’s gone into gluten-free foods, catering to some that science proves aren’t actually sensitive to anything, it’s time for restaurants and ice cream brands to embrace a hot new crowd everybody’s talking about: the lactose intolerants. From my very personal experience, I can tell you that we’re kinder than those gluten peeps, we’re asking nicely and have fun money to spend with whoever starts bringing dairy-free frozen treats to the mainstream.

We’re On the Cusp of … Something

I’m old enough to remember the Dow Jones Industrial Average first cracking 10K on March 29, 1999. I was a junior in high school, and it felt like the whole country—and me, especially— was on the cusp of greatness. Eighteen years and 11,392 points later, it once again feels like change is afoot.

For U.S. Diners, Experience Is the Influencer

Sixty-three percent of diners agree that visiting restaurants is a form of entertainment for them. For franchise restaurants looking to stand out, particularly as dining dollars are being spread across more off-premise channels such as delivery and carryout, this means focusing on differentiating elements such as convenience, atmosphere and social sharing.

IFA’s Cresanti on D.C. Chaos, Mega ‘Zees & More

Sitting down with IFA Chairman Robert Cresanti for a conversation about working through the current chaos in Washington, the impacts of ever-larger multi-unit franchise groups and where he sees the biggest growth opportunities in the industry’s future.

Putting Culture First, Funky Sausage Concept Dat Dog Expands

COO Bill DiPaola sees franchising as a way for Dat Dog to be viewed as a local restaurant, one where owners have the “touch and relationship with the community.” Restaurants serve a menu of unconventional sausages including those made from alligator and crawfish, plus dozens of toppings.

An Insider's Look at Drug Testing, by Fastest Labs Boss

When it comes to drug testing, David Claflin has seen and heard it all. “I could write a book on it,” says the CEO of Fastest Labs. “We have people that try to trick us every single day. And the funniest thing is when they get caught they just say, ‘OK, you got me.’”

Pickup USA Appeals to Aging Hoopsters, Like Me

After five-plus years at Franchise Times I have finally found the franchise for me: Pickup USA, which offers basketball-based boot camps for fitness and most notably organized, officiated pick-up basketball games for a monthly fee under 59 bucks. Are you kidding me?

Tim Hortons Suit 'Need Not Have Happened,' Attorney Says

A $500-million lawsuit filed this week by Tim Hortons franchisees in Canada didn’t have to happen, says John Sotos, the attorney at Sotos LLP in Toronto who is pressing the case against Restaurant Brands International, the owner of the coffee-and-donuts chain since December 2014.

Jani-King's Win 'A Blow' to DOL, Gardere Lawyer Says

A win for Jani-King of Oklahoma in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Labor is “a blow to the government’s overall goal to classify franchisees as employees of their franchisors,” declares Carrie Hoffman, one of the attorneys at Gardere law firm who argued for Jani-King.

Walking the Streets of NYC at IFE '17

Those of us on the “show circuit” know the various expos can blend together, with a lot of the same usual suspects. This year’s International Franchise Expo in New York City last week was an exception, with many new concepts, cool new startup companies and a diversity that highlights all that’s great in franchising.

KFC Zinger Heads Into Space

For all the Jetsons episodes that glamorized life in the space age, they never mentioned where George, Jane and company would get access to delicious fried chicken. Here on planet Earth, that problem has allegedly been solved as KFC and space flight experts World View announced they are partnering to launch the Zinger chicken sandwich to the edge of space—really.

Boosting Confidence Is Job One for FranSelect Hire

Barbara Marshall, a newly hired coach at FranSelect, had inspiring words when I reached her last week, to buck up anyone who has ever struggled in school or any aspiring business owner who could use a confidence boost—in other words, quite a lot of people.

Sharp Advice on Franchisee Self Promotion

Ryan McEnaney knows how to pitch a good story, and as the PR director for his family’s fifth-generation business and as a franchisee and communications manager for Frenchies Modern Nail Salon, his skills at weaving a personal narrative pay off in real-world benefits for both of his brands.

DOL Rolls Back Joint Employer Standard a Bit

A short statement by the Department of Labor last week—that Obama-era guidance on joint employer is being rolled back—has franchisors and their attorneys resting more easily. Workers’ advocates, of course, would not be pleased.

Subway's 'Green Room' Aims to Attract Music Festival Crowd

As an attendee of a major camping music festival last summer, there were three big pain points: lack of showers, adequate food and overwhelming heat during the daytime hours. Subway is attempting to tackle at least two of these issues with a summer festival roadshow, offering free mini sandwiches in its air conditioned “Green Room.”

Franchise Chefs Deserve More Credit

Stealing a phrase from Special Agent Dale Cooper, there’s some “damn fine” food in franchising. I would know, because in my three years as a reporter at Franchise Times, I have been on a competitive eating marathon that has exposed me to some extremely tasty food -- and not just for a franchise.

NPC In, DavCo Out as Wendy's Puts to Rest 3-Year Dispute

Wendy’s has resolved its three-year battle with DavCo Restaurants, formerly one of its top franchisees that started with the brand in 1976, by buying 140 restaurants from DavCo and selling them to NPC International of Overland Park, Kansas, according to a Securities & Exchange Commission filing June 1.