Recapping the most memorable moves to come out of the full-service industry in July.
1. Casual Dining Refresh: It's the summer to reinvent and reinvigorate. This month, Olive Garden detailed its complete brand refresh program, from design and food to website and to-go ordering; Applebee's invested $4 million in the Austin, Texas, market to redo its stores, with the potential to take the changes nationwide; TGI Fridays continues the brand refresh it began in June by offering bottomless appetizers; and even upscale Smith & Wollensky reevaluated its offerings and decided to open a more casual concept.
2. Real Estate: FSR investigated the pros and cons of developing a full-service unit in a major metropolitan area; Huddle House made big moves by launching its franchise into the Northeast, with plans to tackle both New York and New Jersey; Tahoe Joe's unveiled a new store design as it opens its first new unit in three years; Smith & Wollensky was again in the headlines with its announcement to head across the pond; and Evansville, Indiana, launched one of the most fun community restaurant challenges we've seen.
3. Technology: Duffy's Sports Grill demonstrates how it drives 72 percent of its transactions (hint: with an extremely effective loyalty program!); Tanjarine revealed its 10-inch tablet for ordering, entertainment, and pay-at-the-table solutions; and gift platform Gratafy, which drives 400-500 percent of overspend on consumers who come in on a single gift, launched in its sixth city.
4. Industry Highlights: This Massachusetts chef turns his daytime hobby of throwing pottery into his restaurant's dinnerware, perhaps accidentally starting the art-to-table movement; Shula's celebrates its 25th anniversary in style; President Obama honors José Andrés with an Outstanding American award; and Go Get Em Tiger gains notice for its bar-like coffee concept.
5. Food & Beverage: It's indubitably the summer of sliders; General Mills announces a recipe contest for independent family restaurants; mid-year trends include hot-as-you-can sauces and barbecue love; and Technomic identifies how various generations expect different things from restaurants.