The vacation cruise industry’s major trump card has always been its ocean backdrop that mankind has romanticized since the beginning of time. For years, vacation cruise companies have contrasted the freedom of the ocean with regimented programming. The lack of options led to the industry’s reputation as a vacation for newlyweds and the nearly dead while its onshore counterparts attracted the buying power of everyone else. But in recent years, and spearheaded by industry leader Norwegian Cruise Line, the industry has developed concepts that now match the excitement and freedom of the water it sails on.

One of the largest restaurant franchise owners in the United States has plans to continue growing throughout 2012. Founded in 2003 by President and CEO Jim Bodenstedt with the acquisition of 18 Taco Bell and KFC restaurants in Texas, San Antonio-based MUY Brands, LLC today is one of the top 10 franchisees for Yum! Brands – the owners of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC – and among the top 20 franchise companies in the nation.

When Sutas Pipatjarasgit came to the United States from Thailand in 1968, he had a lot more than the few hundred dollars in his pocket. He had an entrepreneurial spirit that eventually led him to found Toledo-based Magic Wok, a family owned chain of Asian-style restaurants that now has eight locations in Ohio, three in Michigan and three in Bahrain. In addition to Magic Wok, the family owns two Tropical Grill & Juice-branded locations, one in Ohio and one in Michigan.

There are a lot of trendy restaurants out there, places that reinvent themselves regularly in order to remain relevant in a competitive hospitality landscape. Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, Fla., on the other hand, has taken the exact opposite approach, and it has paid off.

Healthy eating and sustainability are two of the biggest trends in foodservice right now, and practically every company in the industry is reacting to it in one way or another. For most, this means some revamps to their menu or an increase in the amount of organic or locally-sourced ingredients they use. For Hyatt, however, the world-leading hotel chain has fully embraced these principles with a top-to-bottom operating philosophy that has been two years in the making. Vice President of Food and Beverage Susan Santiago says this is far from a reaction to market trends – it’s a global initiative that represents how the company’s foodservice operations will think in the future.

Elevation Burger founder Hans Hess had a real beef with the fast food industry back in 1999. After moving from California, Hess says that the market didn’t have a whole lot of fast and healthful options. “I just wanted something I could feel comfortable feeding to my kids,” Hess says. “I couldn’t find an all-American meal in a health-friendly format.”

Nobody goes on a cruise to lose weight, and when they are onboard a Celebrity Cruises ship, they expect a high quality of cuisine. Delivering that is the team of Scott Steenrod, vice president of food and beverage. But besides quality, providing quantity is a challenge his team meets daily. Steenrod estimates his employees feed a total of 22,000 guests on one of 10 (soon to be 11) cruise ships three meals plus plenty of morning, afternoon and evening between-meal cuisine and snacks daily.

The keys to successful franchising are easy enough to understand. It takes a strong brand backed by a knowledgeable corporate team coupled with franchisees boasting keen business sense to make the model work. On paper, the plan seems simple, but the execution is far more difficult. For example, a Quiznos master franchisee with 22 units sued its parent company in October 2010 over breach of contract.

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