Happy New Year from the DMA Team!

On behalf of the entire DMA team, we wish you a happy new year! The past few years have been rife with challenges and opportunities, and we hope to help you as you meet your business goals in the coming year. We wish nothing but health and happiness for you and yours in 2022.


Breakfast, Brunch Making Big Comebacks

Here's an eye-opener: Even as the pandemic continues, breakfast visits to restaurants rose significantly.

In the three months ending in November, online and physical visits to restaurants for breakfast increased 11% year over year, according to new data from The NPD Group. Breakfast is now at roughly the same level as it was in Fall 2019, pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, morning snacking visits saw a 6% uptick in the last quarter.

NPD noted that employees returning to workplaces no doubt aided restaurants last fall. Lunch, for instance, improved by 4% in the reported period compared to a year ago, when visits during that daypart were down 11%.

Visits to dine-in at breakfast increased by 51% in September through November in 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, when on-premises traffic was down 55%, according to NPD research. Morning snacking also increased dine-in visits by 51%, compared to the reported period last year when on-premises traffic declined by 48%.

"The increased mobility this fall contributed to year-over-year gains at key restaurant dayparts," said David Portalatin, NPD's food industry advisor, in a statement. "We're in a steady state for the next several months, perhaps with a bump up or down here and there, but we expect to lag pre-pandemic traffic levels through 2022 slightly."

Investment Interest Up

During a November webinar hosted by The Food Institute, industry leaders noted top restaurant investment trends. Mark Leavitt, co-founder of Enlightened Hospitality Investments, said he's "dying" to invest in restaurants that focus on breakfast and brunch these days, due to one main factor:

"In one labor shift you can get three or four turns," Leavitt said of such restaurants. "At 7 in the morning you get the old [customers] that are up, then at 8:30 or 9 o'clock you get people that are working. Then, at 10 o'clock, you get the drinking crowd that's coming in."

Meanwhile, Andrew K. Smith, the managing director of the Mercato Partners Savory Fund, said the breakfast/brunch space is ripe for innovation and investment in new concepts, like a "boozy brunch" during which alcohol is sold. Food Institute Focus

Plant-Based Alternatives Push Further into Fast-Food

Plant-based offerings continue to expand across restaurant menus, as major players like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat broaden their partnerships with fast-food chains.

McDonald's recently announced plans for a major U.S. expansion of its plant-based burger the "McPlant" with Beyond, following in the footsteps of Burger King's Impossible Whopper, which launched in 2019.

The companies began testing the alternative patty in eight locations in November and sold enough McPlants — as many as 70 per day at some locations — to warrant an expansion of the trial, reported Reuters (Dec 14). Full Story

Notably, the locations were in small and mid-tier markets where one would not expect to find a high volume of early adopter plant-based consumers, Mission: Plant founder and managing director David Benzaquen told The Food Institute.

"Increased availability of [the McPlant] not only helps McDonald's but also normalizes the idea that eating plant-based meatless products can be a part of everyone's life," said Benzaquen. "Just like the success of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the "cola wars," this expansion is sure to benefit McDonald's and Burger King."

Target Consumers

According to McDonald's website, the McPlant is topped with traditional veggies and condiments — including lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickle — along with dairy-based mayo and American cheese. The patty is also cooked on the same grill as beef products, making the final burger neither vegan nor 100% vegetarian.

Accordingly, the McPlant is expected to appeal more to flexitarian consumers, Marie Molde, a registered dietician at Datassential, told The Food Institute.

"Flexitarians don't want to eliminate meat from their diets but simply eat less meat and more plant-based foods," said Molde. "This represents about 25% of the population and includes a consumer who may visit McDonald's for a quarter-pounder one day, and a McPlant the next."

The environmental benefits are also a key selling point.

"A majority of consumers believe plant-based foods are better for the planet than meat," said Molde. "Millennials especially believe that reducing meat and increasing plant-based consumption is better for our environment."

Meeting Expectations

While the Beyond/McPlant trial performance drew parallels to the Impossible Whopper, Molde views the rollout less as a competition and more a reflection on consumers' growing expectation for more plant-based options on restaurant menus.

"Today, 71% of Americans have tried at least one type of plant-based meat alternative and Impossible and Beyond have paved the way," said Molde.

However, for some consumers, there are nutritional differences that could make one plant-based brand more attractive than the other.

"Impossible was not gluten free until a reformulation in 2019, and Impossible is still made with soy which can be an ingredient of concern for some," said Molde.

Categories to Watch

Plant-based meat has come a long way since David Chang added the first Impossible Burger to his menu at Momofuku in 2016, said Molde. Alternatives keep popping up in new categories — from seafood to cured meats like pepperoni and corned beef.

Although consumers eat cold cut sandwiches much more often than burgers, Benzaquen notes that plant-based innovation has largely overlooked deli meats.

"In the U.S., there are nearly 24,000 Subway sandwich shops, but only 21,000 locations of Burger King and McDonald's combined," said Benzaquen. "I expect [plant-based cold cuts] to be a huge market in the coming 12 to 24 months."

Plant-based chicken has considerable potential as well, added Molde. "Chicken is found on 95% of restaurant menus, is America's most consumed food — according to Datassential's FLAVOR database — and is globally popular."

KFC began piloting plant-based fried chicken with Beyond in 2019, well ahead of the company's formation of a global strategic partnership with Yum! Brands in early 2021. In October, Burger King became the first quick-service restaurant to test Impossible Food's chicken nuggets.

"I'm also excited about innovation with whole food plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, seeds and legumes," said Molde. "These are the items that consumers most want to increase in their diet and operators are responding with innovations like mushroom shawarma and beet burgers." Food Institute Focus

Is the Fast-Food Industry Ripe for Unionization?

Multiple Starbucks locations have examined unionizing of late, which begs the question: Is this a harbinger of things to come in the fast-food industry?

Fast-food workers have pushed for a $15 minimum wage, and the pandemic with its attendant worker shortages intensified the pressure on restaurant owners. So, with the headline-grabbing vote to unionize by Starbucks employees at a Buffalo, New York, coffeehouse, will efforts to organize workers across the sector take off?

"We see unionizing as a fundamental and necessary way to participate in Starbucks and its future," four workers wrote in a letter to CEO Kevin Johnson.

Key Issues at Play

Starbucks Executive Vice President Rossann Williams wrote in a letter to employees the company doesn't think unionization is the proper path, indicating it would be a wedge between Starbucks and its employees. At the same time, she said the company would bargain in good faith with the Buffalo store workers.

Starbucks, which refers to its employees as "partners," already offers more benefits and higher wages than other fast-food outlets and may be a unique case. There are more than 15,000 locations in the U.S., 8,857 of which are corporately owned. The rest are owned by franchisees. By comparison, McDonald's corporately owns fewer than 3,000 of the nearly 38,000 U.S. restaurants, for example.

"A high percentage of fast-food chains outlets are franchisee-owned. Unionization on a larger scale will be possible only if restaurants are company-owned, and today, more than 90% of popular brands restaurants are franchises," Johnny Hartin of, which evaluates franchise opportunities, told The Food Institute.

Employees Hold the Hammer

Nick Kalm, president of the public relations firm Reputation Partners, said organizations like the Service Employees International Union have been targeting the quick-serve industry, pushing for the $15 minimum wage and positioning themselves to take advantage of situations where franchise owners have had to cut back hours or close locations because of a dearth of workers.

"Until recently, employers could rely on a combination of high employee turnover, a never-ending supply of workers willing to work for minimum wage (or a bit more) and, for the well-funded company, automation to keep employee numbers down and the unions at bay," Kalm said. "What's different now is that employees have been seeing how much their employers need them. They are seeing employers struggling to fill roles – even with higher wages that have reached and even exceeded the $15 an hour goal."

The number of unionized workers in the United States has been declining for decades but there was an uptick in membership last year and an increase in job actions this year.

A Long Time Coming

Carla Diaz, a former food-service worker who founded the internet provider evaluation firm, Broadband Search, said unionization has been a long time coming and could lead to a more stable labor supply in the sector.

"One of the main reasons many decide to leave [the food-service industry] is because they aren't guaranteed a stable position or a stable salary. A lot of servers and others depend on tips to get by, and in many cases, restaurants often protect themselves and leave their employees with little protection.

"There are two ways this can go: with larger chain restaurants giving in as their employees unionize, or in which they will begin to set restrictions for those who hope to join a union. With smaller family owned or casual diners or restaurants, this will probably not be the case," she said. Food Institute Focus

Analysis: Four Top Consumer Delivery Trends from 2021

Since the outset of the pandemic, foodservice delivery companies have become a consumer staple. And while they simply offered a lifeline to hungry consumers earlier in the pandemic, the industry has evolved in truly unique ways.

With Lyft announcing its plans to join the foodservice delivery space recently, let's examine which trends competitors DoorDash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub witnessed in 2021.

French Fries Reign Supreme

On both DoorDash and Uber Eats, the top-ordered item of 2021 was French fries.

Uber Eats also noted the popularity of the ubiquitous French fry, but with a twist. Uber Eats noted orders of cheese fries rose 1,234% when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

DoorDash also reported increased purchases of these modified fries, with cilantro lime fries (+341%), waffle fires (+178%), and garlic fries (+127%) all jumping from the prior year.

Regular French fries weren't left in the cold, though, with DoorDash reporting orders of plain French fries rising 130%.

Foodservice Delivery Turns to Grocery

While DoorDash and Uber Eats both began as foodservice delivery services, forays into the grocery delivery space seem to be paying off for both companies.

Interestingly, both companies noted weekends were the most popular days to order grocery delivery. Uber Eats said the 5-7 p.m. timeframe was most popular on the weekends, while DoorDash said dinner time on Saturdays is the most popular.

Even GrubHub was looking to the grocery delivery vertical, highlighting a partnership it made with Instacart to extend two months of Instacart Express to existing GrubHub diners.

Well, That's Convenient

Grocery stores weren't the only retail sector to align with the delivery trend, with pharmacy chains, convenience stores, and even floral shops getting in on the action. Uber Eats noted partnerships with national operators like Walgreens, CVS, and 7-Eleven, and FTD allowed folks to order everything from Slurpees to COVID-19 antibody tests.

DoorDash saw c-store orders focused on snacks and drinks, with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, lemon-lime soda, mac and cheese bites, peanut butter cups, and energy drinks constituting the top ordered items in the convenience category.

GrubHub reported year-over-year gains for the top five most ordered convenience items on its platform, with 2% milk (+190%), toilet paper (+190%) and instant ramen (+143%) posting strong growth from the 2020 reference period.

Alcohol a Big Hit

All three major delivery platforms boasted of increased alcohol deliveries in 2021, with Tito's vodka an especially big hit with DoorDash and Uber Eats customers.

DoorDash and GrubHub also signaled out margaritas as a popular delivery choice, with orders on the GrubHub platform rising 240% from the prior year.

Cabernet Sauvignon was a winner in the wine category. Uber Eats noted Josh Cellars' version was a hit with customers, while the variety made DoorDash's top-three list and orders rose 106% on GrubHub. Food Institute Focus

Store News:

  • Taco Bell announced new recruitment and retention strategies, including increasing the average minimum wage to $15 an hour across company-owned restaurants by mid-year 2024, reported Forbes (Dec. 14, 2021). Full Story
  • Mountain Mike's Pizza will open five locations in Idaho. Full Story
  • Firehouse Subs debuted its community design concept with a new location in New Iberia, Louisiana. Full Story
  • Chipotle is opening a new location in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, that eliminates the dining room and in-person ordering, forcing customers to only order ahead through its app or website. The restaurant will also have a drive-thru and a walk-up window for order pickups and a small patio section where customers can eat their meals, reported CNN (Dec. 16). Full Story
  • Aramark acquired Wilson Vale, a U.K.-based foodservice company that will operate under existing leadership as an autonomous brand. Full Story
  • McDonald's will sell Dynamic Yield Ltd. to Mastercard. Dynamic Yield, which provides retailers with personalized digital promotions to consumers, was acquired by McDonald's in 2019, reported The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 21). Full Story
  • Olive Garden executives have hinted that the chain's Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion may be gone for good. Incoming Darden Restaurants CEO Rick Cardenas noted recently that the Italian chain hasn't offered the promotion for two years, yet its recent same-store sales were up 5% for the quarter ending November 28, compared to two years ago, reported mashed (Dec. 22). Full Story
  • Twin Peaks inked a deal to open 24 locations in Mexico. Full Story
  • BurgerFi will launch in-car ordering for 5G-enabled vehicles in partnership with, allowing consumers to order in their cars via voice or through the vehicle's dashboard. PYMNTS' How We Eat Playbook noted the current share of people using car-based ordering technologies was small, but that the technology could connect to an untapped source of demand, reported (Dec. 21) Full Story
  • Clean Juice, aiming for a presence in all 50 states, recently opened locations in Connecticut, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Montana and will open a store in Washington in mid-2022. Full Story
  • Starbucks will require U.S. employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing and give workers until Feb. 9 to get vaccinated. Employees who opt for testing will need a pharmacist or doctor to administer the test rather than taking one at home, and employees will be responsible for obtaining and covering costs for any testing, reported The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 3). Full Story
  • Meanwhile, the Starbucks unionization movement continues to snowball with more than a dozen additional stores across the country filing to hold elections, reported Fast Company (Jan. 12). Full Story
  • Koibito Poke signed a franchise sales agreement with True Capital Partners LLC, which has committed to sell a minimum of 300 locations in eight states over the next five years. Full Story
  • Burger King franchisee Carrols Restaurant Group is giving out bonuses of up to six figures to top executives, citing "significant and unforeseen challenges" like supply chain and labor issues, reported Restaurant Business (Jan. 5). Full Story
  • Bojangles plans to bring approximately 50 new restaurants to the greater Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio markets in the coming years. Full Story
  • Subway is trying a new franchising strategy by seeking bigger operators. The sandwich chain grew into a prolific franchise initially by using small-scale operators, but now it wants franchisees with more locations, reported Restaurant Business (Jan. 5). Full Story
  • Papa John's has signed a deal with FountainVest Partners to develop 1,350 locations in China by 2040, reported Restaurant Business (Jan. 7). Full Story
Executives on the Move:
  • Wingstop appointed Donnie Upshaw as its first chief people officer. Full Story
  • Donatos named Kevin King as president. Full Story
  • Golden Corral named Skip Hanke as chief marketing officer. Full Story
  • Beyond Meat named Jorg Oostdam general manager, Europe. Full Story
  • Papa John's promoted Anne Fischer to chief marketing and digital officer. Full Story
  • Krystal has announced David Krisher as chief financial officer. Full Story


New Vaccine Mandates for Truckers Could Impact U.S.-Canada Trade

Although the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a vaccine mandate for large employers, truckers driving between the U.S. and Canada will still need to be fully vaccinated by the end of the month.

Canada began requiring all foreign truckers entering the country to be fully vaccinated as of Jan. 15, with the U.S. set to enact similar rules starting Jan. 22, reported The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 13). Full Story

Although tourist travel has been limited, cross-border trade between the U.S. and Canada has been unimpeded since the onset of the pandemic.

It remains to be seen how the new mandate will affect commerce but trucking and manufacturing trade groups are already warning of further supply chain upheaval.

"We believe these mandates will only serve to push drivers out of the industry or away from these routes, further straining the supply chain between the U.S. and our biggest trading partner," Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), told The Wall Street Journal.

Stressing An Already-Stressed Workforce

Overcoming limited trucking capacity will be a major hurdle as the U.S. looks for ways out of the current supply chain crisis, with ATA estimating the nation was running short nearly 80,000 truckers in late October 2021. The group attributed the record-high shortage to historic demand for moving freight.

Costello noted the shortage could surpass 160,000 by 2030 when considering current driver demographic trends and projected freight growth over the next decade.

"A thing to note about the shortage is that before the pandemic, we were adding drivers to the industry – even though we had a shortage, more people were entering the industry," Costello said in a press release. "The issue is that new entrants into the industry didn't keep up with demand for goods."

RBC Capital Markets indicated the current shortage could stretch as high as 85,000 truckers, according to an e-mail viewed by The Food Institute.

RBC noted demand for conventional van trailers were 5.8 times oversubscribed in 2021, compared to 2 times oversubscribed in 2019. Refrigerated truckloads were three times as in demand when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Attracting Younger Drivers

One of the major challenges affecting the trucking industry is a federal requirement that drivers be at least 21 years of age, but that could soon be changing. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a Federal Register notice Jan. 13 about a pilot a program allowing drivers as young as 18 to drive for interstate commerce.

The pilot program, authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will allow the younger drivers to gain experience via 120-hour and 280-hour probationary periods.

An experienced driver will need to remain in the passenger seat for these periods, and trucks for use in the program will be equipped with electronic braking crash mitigation systems and forward-facing video systems. Food Institute Focus


Restaurant Sales Growth Slows Amid Omicron

Restaurant sales growth was improving the week ending Jan. 2 but remained much lower than the first half of December, according to Black Box Intelligence, which noted rising COVID-19 cases could be causing some concern among diners. Average check growth posted its highest growth rate in a decade, but traffic continued to deteriorate and was at its lowest rate since March 2021. Full Story

New data from IPSOS found Black Box's presumption was largely correct: 57% of Americans social distanced during the first week of the new year, matching a rate last seen in early May 2021. The number of Americans who went out to eat during the period (46%) represented a level not seen since early spring 2021. Full Story

Meanwhile, a recent survey illustrates just how much the labor shortage is hurting restaurants. Popmenu research found that 71% of restaurant operators estimate they lose $5,000 or more per month due to the worker deficit, and 37% of operators are losing $10,000 or more per month. Full Story

Selected Results:

  • Darden Restaurants reported quarterly results that topped analysts' expectations, leading the company to raise its sales and earnings forecast for the rest of fiscal 2022. Net sales rose 37% to $2.27 billion, topping expectations of $2.23 billion. The Olive Garden parent also announced that CEO Gene Lee will retire May 29 and the board elected Chief Operating Officer Rick Cardenas as its next chief executive, reported CNBC (Dec. 17). Full Story
  • Domino's Pizza is expecting "unprecedented" food-cost increases in 2022. The company is forecasting an 8% to 10% jump in its food basket costs – three to four times the inflation for a typical year, CEO Ritch Allison told attendees of the virtual ICR Conference, reported CNBC (Jan. 11). Full Story


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For over 110 years, Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) has stood behind the honest values of about 80 dairy farmer-owners. It’s from them we’ve learned passion can’t be faked, hard work can’t be outsmarted, and real food is worth fighting for. And your customers will taste our level of commitment in every bite.


Every day we aim to connect farmers and food lovers through better-made dairy products. This means continually doing better by our farmer-owners, our employees, our communities, and our consumers. Always. Tillamook Foodservice Full Line


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