Some restaurants around the country, including Chicago's Signature Room at the 95th, decided to close completely at the start of the pandemic and are now facing new challenges as they get ready to reopen, including labor shortages and the prospect of having to close again in the future. "One of the things that's really been the most challenging part is understanding what we can control and understand and what we can't control," Signature Room co-owner Richard Roman said.
The National Restaurant Association has issued guidance for restaurants looking to access aid from the American Rescue Plan's Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The Small Business Administration is expected to set $1,000 as the minimum grant amount and could extend the period eligible for coverage until March 11, 2023.
The popularity of pizza and ice cream during the pandemic has fueled sales growth at Papa Murphy's and Cold Stone Creamery, shoring up revenue for parent MTY Global. The Montreal-based company has 7,000 restaurants under more than 80 banners, many of which are in malls and office buildings that were hit hard in 2020.
Steakhouse operators adjusted to pandemic-related dining room closures by offering take-out and delivery, and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar is seeing continued demand for off-premises options even as dining rooms reopen, according to Pat English of parent Bloomin' Brands. Fleming's also tweaked the format of its wine dinners by switching them from group events to smaller tableside offerings or a to-go option, paired with videos featuring the corporate chef and national wine director.
Fried chicken sandwiches are proliferating on menus around the world, according to Technomic, including Argentina's Deniro Hambergueseria, which tops its SoS Pollo with cabbage, queso fresco and honey glaze. At KFC in Japan, customers will find a chicken sandwich topped with a shrimp croquette; and the Nashville Hot Chicken Burger served at Dunkin' in South Korea is served with coleslaw on top.
Lee Delaney, who was named president of BJ's Wholesale Club in 2019 and CEO last year, died suddenly last week at age 49, the company said in a statement. Delaney, who joined BJ's in 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer, later helping guide the wholesaler through the start of the pandemic, died of "presumed natural causes," the company said, adding that current Chief Financial Officer Bob Eddy will step in as interim CEO.
The pandemic has pushed more people to cook at home and that "sea change in food consumption" contributed to robust sales for dairy and deli cheeses, which jumped nearly 20% year over year, according to a report from IRI. Cheese served as a comfort food and a protein snack, and was a key ingredient of charcuterie boards and healthy salads, with IRI's Jonna Parker saying cheese "rode the wave across the store."
Electric bicycles designed to pull containers that can hold up to 800 pounds of groceries are being rolled out in New York City and Pasadena, Calif., by URB-E, one of the latest companies to pursue cheaper and more environmentally sustainable delivery methods. CEO Charles Jolley would not say which grocers URB-E was working with, but indicated they were companies that have delivery services but want alternatives to gas or diesel vehicles.
HelloFresh is donating meal kits to help more than 1,000 students at culinary schools in New York City practice their meal preparation skills online or in a blended class setting. The debut of @TheTable is a partnership between HelloFresh, the Food Education Fund and the Fund for Public Schools and is "designed to enrich culinary education and support our future culinary leaders during this very challenging school year," said Uwe Voss, CEO of HelloFresh US.
Students in a greenhouse production class at New Diana High School in Texas' New Diana Independent School District are growing vegetables that they then donate to the district's nutrition program for school meals. The students donate between five and 10 pounds of lettuce each week, said the district's child nutrition director, Toni Druschke, as well as cherry tomatoes.