News Feature | April 10, 2017

Restaurant And Hospitality News – April 10, 2017

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Panera Bread

In news this week, Jab Holdings snags Panera; Cowboy Chicken launches a new customer app; and Caesars Entertainment launches a new employee communication app.

Panera Sale To Jab Holdings Grows Coffee Empire

JAB Holding Co., owner of a growing number of coffee and breakfast concepts, has announced that it has agreed to acquire Panera Bread for $7.5 billion. According to the New York Times,  JAB Holding Company has acquired the American brands Peet’s Coffee, Caribou Coffee and Keurig Green Mountain, all since 2012. It also created Jacobs Douwe Egbert by combining European coffee giant D.E. Master Blenders 1753 and the Mondelez coffee business.

Reuters reported that the acquisition marks the second-biggest restaurant deal in North America after Burger King's $11.53 billion purchase of Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

To provide venues to sell all that coffee, JAB has agreed to add the Panera chain to its growing empire, joining Einstein Brothers bagel chain and Krispy Kreme, its other recent acquisitions. The move takes the Panera chain private once again, relieving the pressure for growth . Ron Shaich, Panera’s CEO told the New York Times that this was one of the chief motivators for the sale. He stated, “For the last 20 years, I’ve spent 20 percent of my time telling people what we’ve done to grow and another 20 percent of my time telling people what we’re going to do to grow. I won’t have to do that anymore.” However, the sale does not signal a change in leadership. Shaich stated, “The management team and I will remain.”

JAB has invested more than $40 billion in an effort to challenge the Starbucks and Nestle-dominated American breakfast marketplace. The JAB approach to the acquisition will be hands off. “We strongly support Panera’s vision for the future, strategic initiatives, culture of innovation, and balanced company versus franchise store mix,” Olivier Goudet, JAB’s chief executive, said in a news release. “We are excited to invest in and work together with the company’s management team and franchisees to continue to lead the industry.”

Fast Casual Wood-Fired Rotisserie Chicken Restaurant Launches New App To Enhance Guest Service

Dallas-based Cowboy Chicken has announced the launch of a new app that will enhance gust service, reward loyalty, and help personalize the dining experience via mobile technology.  According to a company statement, the chain “is ringing a new kind of dinner bell, and it sounds a lot like a smartphone.” The new Cowboy Chicken app, available through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, allows guests to pay on the go, order ahead, earn rewards, buy gift cards, find the nearest locations, and create a personalized profile.

 “We are excited to offer our guests the convenience of a mobile app and wanted a product that could grow with our company,” said Sean Kennedy, Cowboy Chicken’s president and CEO. “We have incorporated mobile ordering and payment along with a loyalty program in a user-friendly way that perfectly aligns with the welcoming experience of our restaurants.”  

The app not only helps personalize the experience to give guests more of what they are looking for, it also helps them save money through the loyalty program. ““The app is completely customized for Cowboy Chicken, taking into account their brand and values,” said Emma Beckerle, director of client services and account management at LevelUp. “Our designers worked with Cowboy Chicken to ensure the app has a “Cowboy Cool” design that puts guests first and makes them feel welcome.” Beckerle added, “Cowboy Chicken's 10% back loyalty program is pretty incredible, and the $5 for referring your friend is also quite appealing, especially since the friend also receives $5.”.

The app even integrates detailed dining preferences into the personal profile, allowing diners to identify specific dietary needs such as vegan, gluten free, dairy free, or vegetarian. “By having this level of detail, Cowboy Chicken can take all of this information into consideration when designing menus going forward,” explained Beckerle.

Caesars Entertainment Meet Challenge Of Communication With Employees With New App

According to a case study from the Employee App, Caesars Entertainment has met the challenge of communicating with its geographically diversified employee base, many of whom do not have corporate email addresses, all of whom need to access information conveniently and easily.  With 58,000 employees, 50,000 of which do not sit behind a desk or have access to computers or email, Caesars needed to find a way to keep its staff informed and on-point.

As the Case Study explained, “Given the nature of its workforce, Caesars sought to find a way to simultaneously and instantaneously communicate with its employees. However, it was important that the Company be able to target its communications to its different employee audiences. For example, the Company needed to be able to provide management information to its supervisors in order to engage with their direct reports and provide top of mind information. At the same time, supervisors and communications professionals need to make sure that employees were not inundated with irrelevant information.”

The solution was the CaesarsToday app, implementing a property-by-property deployment to reach its entire workforce.  Only authorized Caesars employees have access to the app, and when an employee leaves the company, he or she no longer has access to the app and its content.

“Approximately two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone. Taking that fact into account, along with the notion that when you walk through a resort or hotel property, it is likely that employees that are between shifts are spending time on their smartphones – it makes sense to provide some information on a smartphone platform for employees,” explained Kitty Conrad, vice president of government affairs and communications at Caesars. “Ultimately, having a mobile app addresses the way our employees digest information – employees are not sitting behind desks and may not have corporate email – a poster on a wall or information published elsewhere on property is conveniently available on their phone. An app is one of many effective communication tools to reach employees.”

The app allows employees to receive important updates, access important information specifically pertaining to their job, access the company’s training manual, or request time off. The app is also secure, and the company can send team- or company-wide push notifications to the home screens of employee phones.