Danny Meyer-Backed Fast Casual Pizza Concept Transitions to Full-Service

It appears as though the Danny Meyer-backed pizza concept Martina wasn't performing as well as a fast casual concept. The New York pizzeria has transited from the fastcasual format to full-service.

The Union Square Hospitality Group, which started the fast casual success Shake Shack, closed Martina last week to complete the revamp.

The new restaurant opened back up Monday and is serving bigger portions and a new menu.

The menu includes more wine selections and a new Reuben with mortadella, artichoke slaw, and cheese.

Martina was opened in August of 2017 by the renowned chef Nick Anderer as a more affordable version of his restaurant Marta. Before the revamp, people would order at the counter then pick up their thin-crust pizzas at the counter after their buzzer went off.

Although this format has been proven successful for the better-burger chain Shake Shack, Martina has much more competition in the pizza market. Not only is it in a city known for its thinly slice pizza slices, but the pizza fast casual market is now much more saturated.

There's Blaze pizza, Mod Pizza, &pizza– just to name a few of the pizza-focused fast casuals rapidly expanding across the country.

Then Pizza's consumer Sentiment is down too. Customers are ordering pizza-less.

According to Foodable labs data, Pizza delivery is down by 18.5 percent year over year. This is partly because the quality of the pizza being delivered most of the time isn't up to customers' standard.

Will this influence guests to visit pizza fast casual concepts in store more? Or have guests developed a taste from different cuisines as more fast casual chains have emerged serving new exciting cuisines like Mediterranean food?

But USHG isn't giving up on the pizza concept, instead, the group is aiming to elevate it. Its rare for a restaurant to transition into a more formal format as the demand for on-the-go food becomes more widespread.

Do you think this revamp will pay off?

Read more about Martina's big change at "Eater" now.

Foodable Labs tracks over six million influencers and over 100 pizza chains. Want to find out what else is causing the slip in pizza Sentiment? Watch the video about the decline in pizza delivery below.

Amazon Will Open New Offices in These Two Cities

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When the tech giant Amazon announced that it was deliberating on where to set-up its second headquarters, this ignited a bidding war from different cities in the country.

Amazon received 238 proposals and in January announced the 18 finalists that included L.A. and Chicago. But this month, the Seattle-based company finally made its decision.

Instead of setting up another large headquarters, which Amazon had called HQ2, the tech mogul will be opening two new offices– one in Queens, New York and another just outside of Washington, D.C.

Amazon, which is the world's third-most valuable company, is investing $5 billion to build the new office and will be getting $2 billion in tax credits.

The new developments are expected to create over 25,000 jobs in both the NYC and D.C. areas.

So why did Amazon pick these cities?

"Amazon talked up Long Island City’s breweries, waterfront parks and easy transit access. Rents there are typically lower than in Midtown Manhattan, which is just across the East River. The former industrial area also has a clock counting down the hours until the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term in office," writes "Reuters."

But not everyone thinks this is a win for NYC.

“Our subways are crumbling, our children lack school seats, and too many of our neighbors lack adequate health care,” said Michael Gianaris, New York State Senator and Jimmy Van Bramer, City Council Member in a joint statement. “It is unfathomable that we would sign a $3 billion check to Amazon in the face of these challenges.”

The other office in Arlington, Virginia is close to the U.S. capital and Amazon is bidding for a $10 billion cloud-computing contract from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Both of these areas had quality schools and helicopter landing pads.

These new offices are just part of Amazon's plans to rule the E-commerce space.

Read more about the company's decision at "Reuters."

When the tech giant acquired Whole Foods, the food industry was forever changed.

It meant the company saw potential in the organic grocery and specialty food sector too.

Check out The Barron Report episode below to see how this acquisition impacted the industry and how the company is expected to steal customers from not only other retail giants and grocery chains but from foodservice businesses too.

Walmart's Jet.com is Now Selling Blue Apron Meal-Kits

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Its official Jet.com, the e-commerce company owned by retail giant Walmart, will be the first retailer to sell Blue Apron meal-kits.

Now, customers in New York City, along with surrounding areas like Jersey City and Hoboken can receive a meal-kit with next-delivery through Jet’s City Grocery service.

Both companies announced the partnership on Monday and there will be two meal-kit recipes rotating specifically for Jet.com customers.

For the launch, four meal-kits are available for delivery including the Togarashi Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Chili Slaw & Jasmine Rice and the Dukkah-Spiced Beef & Couscous with Tahini-Dressed Broccoli recipe.

The meal-kits, which feed two, are priced between $16.99 to $22.99 and customers don't have to subscribe to Blue Apron to get a meal-kit either.

“Teaming up with Jet enables us to dynamically serve the lifestyle of metropolitan consumers, who will now be able to conveniently fill up their online shopping carts with high-quality Blue Apron meals that can be cooked in 30 minutes or less while shopping for other everyday needs, " said Brad Dickerson, CEO of Blue Apron in a press release. "This exciting launch is another step forward in our channel expansion strategy and reflects the strength of the capabilities we are developing to readily support a variety of opportunities to broaden our access to consumers.”

This appears to be the latest strategic move by Blue Apron as the on-demand delivery space gets more competitive.

As meal-kit delivery services struggle to grow their subscriptions, partnering with retailers is a clever way to gain more customers, especially those that aren't sure about the subscription-based model.

Blue Apron was the first meal-kit company to go public, but its debut on the New York Stock Exchange was lukewarm. The Whole Foods acquisition by Amazon was announced the same month the meal-kit company went public, which diminished some of Blue Apron's momentum.

But now, Blue Apron has a partnership with one of Amazon's biggest competitors.

Will meal-kits ultimately survive in today's saturated market? In July, Foodable reported that the QSR chain Chick-fil-A announced that it will also be offering meal-kits.

Watch this recent On Foodable: Industry Pulse to see what needs to happen for some of these companies to stay in business.

Veggie Grill to Expand to the East Coast With First NYC Store

The fast casual chain known for its veggie-centric bowls, Veggie Grill has announced that it's expanding to the east coast with a new store in New York City's trendy Flatiron District.

The concept has 31 total stores in California, Oregon, Washington, and Illinois, but will be soon feeding the NYC masses bold yet healthy food starting spring of 2019.

The west-coast based chain launched in the Midwest with a Chicago location earlier this year. But the management team felt it was time for the fast casual to set up some roots in The Big Apple.

“The expansion of Veggie Grill to the East Coast could not come at a better time,” said Steve Heeley, Veggie Grill CEO in a press release. “Plant-based food and clean eating continues to be a growing trend, especially in big cities, so New York City is a very exciting opening for us and we look forward to joining the community there.”

The chain's menu, where vegetables take the center stage, is seasonal with plant-based favorites like the Mediterranean Supergreens Salad and Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’, Sonoran Bowl. The brand has also partnered with a company on the rise Beyond Meat and serves the VG Beyond Burger on its menu.

Earlier in the year, Veggie Grill made two new hires to help foster the brand's rapid growth. Tim Welsh, VP of Real Estate and Development, has been leading the efforts to achieve the brand's lofty goal of doubling its stores by 2020. Then the fast casual also hired the vegan food expert Kajsa Alger to be the director of culinary innovation to develop new menu items.

Back in 2015, we visited the veggie-focused brand on the west coast. Watch the video below to learn about how the chain developed its unique menu from the former Chief Energizing Officer.

Danny Meyer's Fund Invests in Goldbelly

Enlightened Hospitality Investments (EHI), Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group's fund, is making another investment in the food space, but this time it isn't a restaurant.

The online food marketplace Goldbelly announced that with the help of EHI, the company has raised $20 million in Series B funding.

"We are thrilled to partner with Danny and the team at Enlightened Hospitality Investments and to join their great portfolio of brands who are unified by shared values of hospitality and a commitment to providing a stronger emotional connection to food," said Joe Ariel, founder & CEO of Goldberry "At Goldbelly, we believe that the country's greatest foods are made by passionate regional food makers and artisans. We've created a platform to empower these iconic local brands to connect with food lovers across the country, and look forward to enabling more people to enjoy these magical food experiences around the country."

Goldbelly appeals to passionate foodies looking to either try an iconic food item from a specific city or to have a famous city food offering yet again. The online marketplace features gourmet one-of-a-kind food products and gifts from legendary restaurants, bakeries, and delis that are available for shipping nationwide.

Some of the purveyors on the online marketplace include Chicago's Lou Malnati's Pizza, Philadelphia's Tony Luke's, Pittsburgh's Primanti Brothers, Texas's Salt Lick, Nashville's Prince's Hot Chicken, and many other beloved food concepts.

Goldbelly, formerly headquartered in San Francisco, recently opened a new headquarter office in New York City and renowned restaurateur Meyer will join the company's advisory board.

"Enlightened Hospitality Investments is passionate about finding category disruptors, particularly when their business and culture leverage technology to provide exceptional hospitality," said Meyer. "Goldbelly does just that, conveniently fulfilling nostalgic cravings for hometown favorites. Joe Ariel and his team have created something very special, as evidenced by Goldbelly's devoted following and inspiring culture. We look forward to working together to share the gift of Goldbelly with as many food lovers as possible."

With Meyer's backing, Goldbelly's traffic is sure to skyrocket. Do you think the website is fulfilling a need in the e-commerce space?

Read more about Meyer’s investment in Goldbelly at “Business Insider.