Restaurants are always looking to increase business during slower times, while consumers are always seeking a good deal. LiveDeal, what the company refers to as the world’s first deal engine, is a real-time, online marketplace that connects consumers and local restaurants through the offer of live limited-time deals.

“LiveDeal was reverse-engineered, as we have a background working with daily deal companies nationwide on the procurement side,” CEO Jon Isaac says. “We created LiveDeal because we found that the daily deal companies give restaurants what they don’t need. They send traffic to restaurants when they don’t need it, it takes 60 to 90 days for them to cut a check back to the restaurants, and they send the wrong amount of traffic almost every time.”

LiveDeal traces its roots in the online marketing industry to its start as YP.com, the first company to bring the print yellow pages to the Internet in 1994. It moved into the online classifieds business in 2007. Today it provides local customer acquisition services for small businesses through its two primary wholly owned subsidiaries, Velocity Marketing Concepts and Local Marketing Experts. The idea is to offer an affordable way for businesses to extend their marketing reach to local, relevant customers via the Internet and mobile devices.

Founded in 2005 in an existing restaurant, Kannah Creek Brewing Co. has since proven its market appeal and built from scratch a $4.2 million production facility called Edgewater Brewery with a second restaurant on the banks of the Colorado River. With the area being what owner and Head Brewer Jim Jeffryes calls an “outdoor paradise” – mountain biking, fishing, rafting and hiking abound in the summer and downhill and cross-country skiiing and snowboarding in the winter – Kannah Creek Brewing is the latest entrant in Grand Junction, Colo.’s populated craft brewing scene.

Rockslide Brewing was the first brewpub in Grand Junction in 1994. “They broke ground for us in Grand Junction,” Jeffryes says. With seemingly every little mountain town having at least one brewpub, the market in Grand Junction – even with Breckenridge Brewing’s Ale House in town – is hardly saturated, Jeffryes maintains.

Convenience stores are called convenience stores for a reason, because they provide customers with a fast and easy way to pick up the items they want. To do that, c-stores need to be able to have the right products on their shelves at the right time, which means they need a distribution partner that can deliver product quickly and reliably. That’s the reason why Inderbitzin Distributors Inc. has thrived in the Pacific Northwest for 35 years, and it’s why President John Inderbitzin says the company stands poised to carry that success well into the future. 

Inderbitzin’s father, Dick Inderbitzin, started the company in 1979, and John Inderbitzin joined in 1982 as a truck driver. Although it originally operated out of the Inderbitzin home, it quickly grew, and today Inderbitzin Distributors has routes throughout Oregon and Washington. The company’s primary focus is on serving customers up and down the I-5 corridor, which primarily consist of convenience stores but also include chain stores, school stores, espresso stands and golf courses. 

The first Le Peep restaurant opened in Aspen, Colo., in 1963, with what was then a unique concept – operating from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and specializing in breakfast and brunch offerings. In the more than 50 years since, Le Peep has expanded beyond its origins and seen growing competition within its niche.

“When we got started, there were just a few restaurants doing this, now it seems like there’s hundreds,” says Kevin Wessel, CEO and president of HW Holdings, the Littleton, Colo.-headquartered company that licenses the Le Peep brand. “Our competition in the breakfast and lunch category is getting stiffer, so it’s important that we do it faster, fresher, better and at a competitive price point.”

One of Le Peep’s main advantages in the marketplace is its ownership structure. Each of the restaurant’s 54 locations in 13 states is locally owned and operated by proprietors who license the name, recipes and concept as opposed to a franchise structure. 

Hickory Harvest Foods works hard to increase awareness of its brands to retailers and distributors by increasing production capacity and launching new products from its processing plant. 

The Akron, Ohio- based company was incorporated in 1972 by Joseph and Pauline Swiatkowski and their son, George. It began as a small distributor of cheeses and smoked sausages, but as the business grew, the company changed focus and began roasting nuts in the mid-1980s. In 2003, George Swiatkowski died suddenly and left the business to his wife, Darlene, and their sons Joe and Mike Swiatkowski. “As CEO of Hickory Harvest, I am proud of the company my sons have helped me grow – one that truly blossomed after they stepped into their leadership roles in 2003,” CEO Darlene Swiatkowski says. 

Today, Hickory Harvest offers a selection of more than 400 different products sold under the Hickory Harvest Foods, I.M. Good Snacks, private labels and in bulk. Its specialty is raw, roasted and flavored nuts, dried fruits and vegetables, confections, candy, licorice, trail mixes, and granola. 

A burger may seem as American as baseball and apple pie, but one Canadian burger chain plans to carefully crack the U.S. market with its particular brand that emphasizes sustainability.

Toronto-based Hero Certified Burgers has 57 locations in Ontario, with plans to open about a dozen more stores in the greater Toronto area in 2014. Also this year, the chain will expand just over the border in upstate New York with two of its first U.S. locations.

“There’s going to be a big effort on our part to understand how our concept will translate in the U.S.,” CEO John Lettieri says. “Even though we’re neighbors, it’s a different culture with different consumption patterns.”

But not so different. Consumer concern over locally sourced food and ethically raised meat has grown strong enough in both countries that it has reached even the quick-service burger space – at least among individual burger joints and smaller, regional chains – on either side of the border.

However, “We push the envelope by having full traceability of our beef,” Lettieri says. “We have direct contact with our ranchers.” 

In 1946, H.C. Duke & Son LLC was a commercial laundry equipment repair company that fielded an unusual request. A small ice cream franchise asked the company to build an ice cream freezer for its stores, and what it developed was the first pressurized soft-serve ice cream machine. 

Armed with this innovative new equipment, the small ice cream chain began opening up new franchises all over the country, and today Dairy Queen is one of the biggest names in the market. H.C. Duke & Son soon left the commercial laundry equipment market to concentrate entirely on ice cream machines, purchasing the Electro Freeze brand in 1969 to expand its reach outside of Dairy Queen. 

Today, Electro Freeze remains one of the biggest and most trusted names in soft-serve ice cream technology, with a network of distributors that spans the globe. Vice President of Sales Penny Klingler says the company’s tradition is one of innovation, and that continues to be its focus to this day. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is our ability to be first in the mark­et for some unique operational innovations,” she says. 

The idea of an unused company suggestion box for improvements has become something of a corporate cliché derided in recent times. At Douglas Machine Inc., the company ditched the suggestion box of old in favor of a more dynamic employee-driven improvement program.

With its Douglas Improvement Projects (DIPS) program, worker ideas to improve products and processes are actually implemented. By 2012, more than 1,000 DIPS were completed.

“It could be anything from something very small that meets a need and saves a little money to a significant design improvement or modification of an employees work cell,” explains Chris Haugen, VP of Supply Chain.

The DIPS participation rate is greater than 85 percent of the workforce and includes improvements in the areas of safety, quality, productivity and cost reduction. “It is something that has really taken off,” Haugen says. “To qualify, employees have to have an improvement implemented,” he says. As employee owners, employees see the value in turning their ideas into improvements rather than mere ‘suggestions.’  

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