Casual Dining Jumps on Online Ordering Bandwagon

Casual Dining Jumps on Online Ordering Bandwagon

As online ordering grows in popularity, especially with the millennial generation, we are seeing more brands develop ordering apps or easy to use ordering platforms on restaurant websites.

However, casual-dining establishments (and fine-dining) don’t get nearly as much take-out business as the less casual segments. This is partially because guests decide to dine in at these establishments because they offer an elevated experience with more service. The higher quality food product and a more personal service appeals to diners and this is why they often choose to dine at casual dining restaurants.

Not only have guests started to expect that restaurants offer online-ordering, but it’s a way for these brands to compete with the high-quality fast casual chains that have been stealing away their customers.

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'The Academy Awards of Foodservice' — The IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards 2017

IFMA'S Gold & Silver Plate Awards

As the Oscars are for the film industry and as the James Beard Awards are for culinary, the Gold & Silver Plate Awards are the academy awards of foodservice. The celebration, which honors the nation's most prestigious operator talent, is hosted by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) every year in Chicago.

The 63rd Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards night was held on May 20th at Revel Fulton Market and highlighted eight Silver Plate Award winners, all from different foodservice categories. All of which were chosen through a painstaking, thorough jury process of the most innovative foodservice icons of the industry. From that elite group, one winner is honored with the Gold Plate Award.

The Class of 2017: Silver Plate Winners

This year's winners within eight different categories, were all nominated by the industry's leading companies. From those candidates, the Gold Plate Winner was voted on through a secret ballot by the previous Silver Plate Award winners, national trade press editors, and a group of foodservice experts.  

The Class of 2017 Silver Plate Award Winners include:

  • Independent Restaurants/Multi-Concept: Wolfgang Puck, chef and owner, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group (nominated by Nestlé Professional)
  • Chain Full Service: G.J. Hart, executive chairman and CEO, California Pizza Kitchen (nominated by Wayne Farms)
  • Chain Limited Service: Chris Newcomb, co-founder and president & CEO, Newk’s Eatery (nominated by Wenner Bakery)
  • Health Care: Patti Oliver, director of nutrition, UCLA Health (nominated by Hobart Corporation & Basic American Foods)
  • Elementary & Secondary Schools: Betti Wiggins, executive director, Office of School Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools (nominated by Schwan’s Food Service)
  • Colleges & Universities: Ted Faulkner, director of dining services, Virginia Tech (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Business & Industry/Foodservice Management: Jeff Metz, president & CEO, Metz Culinary Management (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Retail & Specialty Foodservice: Chris Gheysens, president & CEO, Wawa Inc. (nominated by Nestlé Professional)

Meet the 2017 Gold Plate Winner: Wolfgang Puck

"I'm really appreciative, and on behalf of all my partners, all my associates all the people out there who work so hard day in and day out, who make a big difference... Thank you! " said Wolfgang Puck, owner and chef of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, proudly as he received his award.

Puck has more than 40 years of experience in the foodservice industry. He began cooking at a young age by his mother's side, but it was his perseverance that helped him forge a culinary, and then, leadership career. Through his flagship restaurant, Spago, first opened in West Hollywood and now in Beverly Hills, Puck was able to propel his business to a whole new level by creating a friendly and inviting environment through his open kitchen. This then led to his continued success in the foodservice industry.

"When I built Spago, normally the chefs at the time are hidden somewhere in the kitchen. I said: 'Okay, I'm going to build a kitchen in the middle of the dinning room so I can see every guest and they can see me...'," said Wolfgang Puck. "Everybody used to come by, if it was John Collins, Billy Waldo, Michael Douglas, they used to come by and say hello and everything... So this is really a great thing!"

Puck's message to future operators and chefs at the 2017 Gold and Silver Plate Awards ceremony was very clear, "If you're passionate and you can dream... You can do it!"

CPK Launches New App With Online Ordering and Mobile Pay

CPK Pizza Dough Rewards app |  California Pizza Kitchen

CPK Pizza Dough Rewards app | California Pizza Kitchen

The casual dining giant, California Pizza Kitchen is jumping on the mobile ordering bandwagon.

The brand has launched the CPK Pizza Dough® Rewards Mobile App for both iOS and Android, where guests can not only order and pay for their meals, but also earn and redeem rewards, find the closest CPK restaurant, get local promotions and offers, calculate tips, see their previous order history, see a sneak peek of upcoming menu items and more.

“We’re extremely proud of our enhanced CPK Pizza Dough Rewards app, which we believe will set the bar for the consumer mobile experience in polished casual dining,” said Ashley Ceraolo, senior vice president of marketing and beverage at California Pizza Kitchen in a press release. 

“Our guests are looking for an elevated dining experience that offers flexibility to meet their needs, whether enjoying the full dine-in experience, a quick, efficient visit on their time-challenged days or an excellent takeout experience on the go. Our new app enhances all three, seamlessly integrated with our loyalty rewards program. Not only can CPK guests use the app to order online, they can also check in at their table to earn and apply loyalty rewards and decide when and how to pay for their meal, including adding tip, easily and conveniently from their phone. The experience is all at their fingertips and completely customizable.”

The brand is promoting it's loyalty program with a high value offer of a free small plate when the register. Guest earn $5 in rewards for every $100 they spend.

“Our enhanced CPK Pizza Dough Rewards app represents a best-in-class partnered approach between our loyalty provider, Paytronix, and CPK IT and Marketing, working hand-in-hand to develop an omnichannel experience that delivers on our guests’ core needs, from the palm of their hand to point-of-sale,” said Andy Mai, chief information officer at California Pizza Kitchen in a press release. “This integration between loyalty, tech and marketing also offers us the nimbleness and flexibility to introduce additional functionality that enhances the guest experience in the future.”

CPK isn't the only brand recently launching an app.

Shake Shack launched the Shack App for iOS last week and is giving away a limited-timed offer of free single ShackBurger® to guests who download the app until February 28th.

The casual dining segment in particular is making a push to connect with customers with app launches. Will guests be as likely to download these apps for casual dining restaurants as they are from the fast casual and quick-serve brands? The faster and more affordable segments are all about convenience, while casual dining is about the experience. Will apps enhance the guests experience enough that they will use actually them?

Summer Menu Trends: California Pizza Kitchen Adds Strawberry-Focused Menu Offerings

Summer Menu Trends: California Pizza Kitchen Adds Strawberry-Focused Menu Offerings

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

The casual-dining chain has announced that they will be celebrating summer by incorporating strawberries into the upcoming season’s menu. 

Some of the new berry-tastic, made-to-order menu items include strawberry margaritas and salads featuring the fan-favorite fruit and the “freshest seasonal ingredients.”

“We love summer at California Pizza Kitchen when some of our favorite produce, like sweet strawberries and watermelon, are at their freshest and juiciest,” said Brian Sullivan, SVP of Culinary Innovation at California Pizza Kitchen in a press release. 

“Refresh your taste buds with our newest seasonal dishes like the California Fields Salad, with fresh strawberries, juicy watermelon, fresh basil, pistachios, feta and champagne vinaigrette atop crisp field greens. Under 650 calories, the California Fields Salad is deliciously light and refreshing on a warm summer day. Sweeten your meal with the return of our seasonal Strawberry Shortcake, a treat that’s reminiscent of those carefree childhood summer days, or cool down with a hand-shaken Strawberry Lime Margarita or non-alcoholic Fresh Strawberry Mango Cooler, bursting with fresh strawberry flavor.”

Why Strawberry?

CPK isn’t the only brand to jump on the strawberry bandwagon this season, McDonald’s recently announced that their quick-serve stores will now be offering new menu options featuring this red fruit. 

Strawberry is consistently a consumer favorite. 94% of households consume this fruit. With the health movement continuing to spread across the country, consumers are gravitating to fresh produce.

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Brands on the Move: Four Restaurant Chains Redesigning its Space to Appeal to Today's Consumer

Brands on the Move: Four Restaurant Chains Redesigning its Space to Appeal to Today's Consumer

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

The emergence of fast casual concepts has impacted every segment in the industry. These innovative restaurants showed the consumer that they didn’t have to settle for an affordable meal and dining options. 

With fast service and higher quality food combined with a welcoming environment, fast casual quickly took off with today’s on-the-go consumer. 

Both quick-serve and casual dining restaurants now have some major competition in the market. They have been forced to adapt or lose more business. 

What was the first step to win back their customers who have been stolen by fast casual? A total redesign. Here are five concepts that have either recently completed a total remodel or the restaurant’s re-branding is in the works. 


The last few years, the chain known for its signature gold arches has experienced a slump in sales. This is not a coincidence either. 

The quick-serve giant has been around for 60 years though, so it isn’t the brands first time getting a face lift. But, it has been well overdue and this time around the redesign will make the stores almost unrecognizable.

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