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Ahold Delhaize provides update on combined strategy

Posted: December 7, 2016, 9:43 pm
Merged company will be ‘Better Together,’ execs say
Ahold Delhaize laid out ways in which the new company will be greater than the sum of its parts in a strategy called “Better Together."

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Fresco Y Mas comes to 5 new sites

Posted: December 7, 2016, 2:42 pm
CEO: Winn-Dixie conversions signal ‘authenticity’ to Hispanic community
CEO: Winn-Dixie conversions signal ‘authenticity’ to Hispanic community

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Stern: Amazon Go may change the game

Posted: December 6, 2016, 10:19 pm
Amazon Go could be a game changer for food retailers, but whether it should be keeping them up at night will come down to how quickly Amazon can deploy it, according to Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillanDoolittle, Chicago.

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Fiesta buys 3 Houston-area stores

Posted: December 6, 2016, 8:59 pm
Fiesta Mart announced the acquisition of another three stores Tuesday, this time in the Houston market.

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2016 Disruptors: Key Food

Posted: December 6, 2016, 8:51 pm
The Key Food Stores Co-operative CEO has made aggressive moves to position the sprawling co-op as a consolidator in a large, fragmented and still-splintering New York City grocery market.

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Nation's Restaurant News - News

News and information covering onsite foodservice, including education, healthcare, nontraditional restaurant locations and contractors. Additional news provided by NRN sister publication Food-Management.com.

Working Lunch: NLRB undoing Obama-era regulations

Posted: December 18, 2017, 4:54 pm

Plus, an interview with the reporter who broke the Mario Batali sexual harassment story

The National Labor Relations Board is acting quickly to undo standards set during the Obama administration. Align Public Strategies explains what is impacted by these changes. Also, with an attempt at a tax overhaul closer to getting passed by Congress, Align unpacks the implications for restaurant and retail operators. 

Also, listen to a discussion about the fallout from the recent U.S. Senate special election in Alabama, and hear an extended interview with the reporter who broke the story about sexual harassment allegations surrounding Mario Batali. She gives her take on what’s happening in the industry and what must change.

Related: The beginning of the end of sexual harassment?

Align Public Strategies is a full-service public affairs and creative firm that helps corporate brands, governments and nonprofits navigate the outside world and inform their internal decision-making. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Nation's Restaurant News or Restaurant Hospitality.

Trending this week: Mario Batali steps down amid sexual harassment accusations; A big year for restaurant acquisitions

Posted: December 14, 2017, 11:00 pm

See what's trending on NRN.com

A big year for restaurant acquisitions

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A big year for restaurant acquisitions

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With one month left, 33 restaurant companies have changed hands this year.
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Meet 2017’s new top executives

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Meet 2017’s new top executives

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Thirty-seven foodservice companies saw new people rise to the top post at their respective companies in 2017. Here’s a look at who began leading brands this year.
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Chris Sullivan resigns from Bloomin’ Brands’ board

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Outback Steakhouse co-founder’s seat won’t be replaced, the company says.
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Shake Shack teams with Postmates for burger giveaway

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Shake Shack teams with Postmates for burger giveaway

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New users of the delivery service get a free ShackBurger if they send a free one to a friend.
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Mario Batali steps down amid sexual harassment accusations

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The famed chef and restaurateur apologizes, says allegations match past behavior.
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5 female workers sue McCormick & Schmick’s over sexual harassment

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The parent of Landry’s says the company took ‘appropriate action’.
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5 technology trends in 2017

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Foodservice technology innovations in 2017 poised to cause more disruption in 2018.
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First look at Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery in Shanghai

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First look at Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery in Shanghai

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The giant space features pastry and tea shops and augmented reality.
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Restaurant mobile payments hit tipping point in 2017

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Restaurant mobile payments hit tipping point in 2017

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Volume grew 75% and growth is expected to continue, First Data executive says.
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Starbucks launches another extreme LTO

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The 5-day Christmas Tree Frappuccino is already a hit on Instagram.
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GOP expected to unveil final tax-reform bill

Posted: December 14, 2017, 9:48 pm

House and Senate versions merged with plan for a vote next week

Republicans are reportedly expected on Friday to unveil a final consensus bill to overhaul the U.S. tax system, with the goal of bringing it to a vote next week.

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of a tax-reform bill. In a conference committee Thursday, the two chambers appeared to reach an agreement on merging the two plans — despite reports that some Republicans were still threatening defection if certain elements were not included.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, indicated in The New York Times that he would hold out for an expanded version of the child tax credit.

Other ideas still being discussed Thursday to help pay for the bill included allowing tax cuts for individuals to expire sooner than 2025, or raising the tax rate on profits that companies have parked overseas.

Republicans in the House and Senate agreed in principle on a 21 percent corporate tax rate, down from the current 35 percent; and a lower top individual tax rate of 37 percent for the wealthiest taxpayers, down from 39.6 percent, according to The New York Times.

Other elements reportedly in the consensus bill include:

-A repeal of the Affordable Care Act health insurance mandate.
-Repealing the corporate alternative minimum tax.
-The rate for pass-through income would be determined by a 20-percent deduction. That would apply to business entities like s-corporations and partnerships that pay taxes through the individual side.
-State and local tax deductions would be expanded to include income tax, but the deduction would be capped at $10,000.
-The mortgage interest deductibility threshold would be set at $750,000.
-High out-of-pocket medical expenses will be deductible.
-Graduate students who receive tuition waivers would not have to pay taxes on that benefit, as proposed by the House bill.

Reports indicated Republican lawmakers were confident they could pass the sweeping legislation next week, though two GOP senators, John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, are sidelined for medical reasons. And Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee has expressed opposition.

No Democrats are expected to vote for the bill, and party leaders called the consensus bill a “sham,” saying the tax cuts were deeply unpopular among taxpayers. Some called for a delay to allow incoming Democratic Senator Doug Jones in Alabama to be seated in January.

If a vote is held Monday or Tuesday as planned, the bill could reach President Trump’s desk by the end of the week, and would go into effect in 2018.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@KNect365.com  

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout 

5 female workers sue McCormick & Schmick’s over sexual harassment

Posted: December 13, 2017, 10:27 pm

Parent Landry’s says company took ‘appropriate action’

Five female kitchen workers are suing McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, alleging an environment of sexual harassment that included touch, groping and lewd behavior.

The five women, who served as dishwashers, cleaners and prep cooks at the McCormick & Schmick’s near Faneuil Hall in Boston, outlined their claims at a press conference Tuesday.

The plaintiffs described lewd comments and gestures, such as supervisor grabbing his crotch and saying “This is your food,” as well as physical threats in walk-in coolers and sexually suggestive comments and actions that created “an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.”

McCormick & Schmick’s, which is owned by Houston-based Landry’s Inc., in a statement Wednesday said it “strives to maintain a harassment-free environment.”

Julia Liebelt, Landry’s vice president of human resources, said, “When harassment of any type is reported, we take matters seriously and immediately investigate, resulting in swift, appropriate action. This case is no exception. Like most companies, we are not immune from bad characters.”

The five Latina women appeared publicly in order highlight working conditions in the restaurant industry, especially for back-of-house employees, their lawyer said.

“These women were very brave,” said Sophia Hall, an attorney with the Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which along with Fair Work P.C. filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston.

“Unfortunately, back-of-the-house blue-collar employees aren’t regularly tied to an effective reporting mechanism for any type of labor violations or for discrimination,” Hall said in an interview Wednesday. “This is particularly the experience of immigrant women and women of color, especially when it comes to sexual harassment.”

The complaint was filed on behalf of Milagro Alvarez, Santiago Cruz, Gladys Fuentes, Marta Romero and Fabiana Santos. Alvarez remains employed at the restaurant, Hall said.

The complaint was filed after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined reasonable cause to believe that McCormick & Schmick’s discriminated against the women on the basis of their gender, Hall said.

Landry’s Liebelt said McCormick & Schmick’s investigated the case when it was first reported in 2015 and terminated one employee and took disciplinary actions.

“Although the EEOC and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination both declined to prosecute this matter, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have latched on to the current frenzy concerning sexual harassment and filed a lawsuit citing inflammatory allegations that conflicted with statements of their own clients and that at least one independent eyewitness identified during our investigation said was untrue,” Liebelt said in her statement.

“We are confident that after we were put on notice, we did all we could to restore the workplace to a harassment-free environment and that we will prevail in the litigation,” Liebelt said.

Hall said the five women seek compensation for harm as well as changes across Landry’s restaurants.

“They are all adamant that their experience should be a catalyst for all the women who typically don’t have a forum to speak from,” Hall said. The women are from several Central American countries as well as Brazil and spoke Tuesday through a translator.

“In our clients’ opinion, it’s not sufficient to shed light on just their experiences, but they would like to see systemic mechanisms that would allow for women with similar backgrounds and financial desperation to assure they can speak out when their rights are violated,” Hall said.

Large restaurant chains also should be aware these are not isolated incidents, Hall said.

“Despite the fact that these are the most vulnerable and oftentimes the lowest paid on their staff, they still have legal rights and are willing to use the law to make sure those rights are being met,” Hall said. The plaintiffs have requested jury trial.

Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry has come under increased scrutiny in the past few months with high-profile chefs and restaurant owners facing widespread accusations.

In October, John Besh stepped down as CEO of his New Orleans, La.-based restaurant group after sexual harassment allegations were published in the Times-Picayune.

This week, celebrity chef Mario Batali stepped down from operations at his B&B Hospitality Group and hosting duties at “The Chew” ABC television show after harassment claims from four women.

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@knect365.com 

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

Mario Batali steps down amid sexual harassment accusations

Posted: December 11, 2017, 7:31 pm

Famed chef and restaurateur apologizes, says allegations match past behavior

The high-profile chef and restaurateur Mario Batali on Monday stepped down from operations of B&B Hospitality Group following allegations that he sexually harassed four women, according to a report in Eater New York

The women, including three who worked for Batali in the past, shared stories of being groped and touched inappropriately, the report said. One former employee said the chef repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body. Another said he grabbed her breasts at a party.

The report did not identify the alleged victims because of concerns about retaliation.

Batali — who is known for the restaurants Babbo Ristorante and Del Posto in New York and as a co-host on “The Chew” — issued a public apology and did not deny the allegations, according to Eater. 

“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt. Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with the ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family,” he said in a statement. 

Batali added that he will have to work to regain the trust of those he has hurt and disappointed.

“We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior,” he continued. “I won’t make that mistake again. I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there.”

Batali has been reprimanded for inappropriate behavior in the workplace in recent months, and the chef was required to undergo training, according to the report. The company has had sexual harassment policies and training for over a decade, including a detailed procedure for reporting complaints.

In a statement, Batali’s New York-based multiconcept group B&B Hospitality said the allegations are being taken very seriously and that the decision for Batali to step down was mutual.

“Mr. Batali and we have agreed that he will step away from the company’s operations, including the restaurants, and he has already done so,” the company said. “We pride ourselves on being a workplace for our employees where they can grow and deliver great service with equal opportunity and free from any discrimination. We have strong policies and practices in place that address sexual harassment. We train employees in these policies and we enforce them, up to and including termination.”

B&B also said it has hired an outside corporate investigations team, T&M Protection Resources LLC, to independently investigate complaints and report to outside counsel. The move is a step beyond current policies and practices to “ensure all employees feel comfortable and empowered to report issues,” the statement said.

Batali is a partner in B&B along with Joe and Lidia Bastianich. In addition to nearly a dozen restaurants in New York, the group operates the concepts Carnevino, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and B&B Ristorante in Las Vegas.

On the West Coast, B&B is a partner in the restaurants Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza along with Nancy Silverton.

Silverton in a statement described Batali as "a man with boundless bravado and a man with flaws.

"Sexual misconduct of any kind is unacceptable in our workplaces, on any level, and I simply do not stand for it," said Silverton, noting that "all of the restaurants we own together are led by women. From me and Dahlia Narvaez to Liz Hong and Sarah Clarke."

She noted that Batali has stepped aside from her restaurants as well. "I will continue to lead the restaurants as usual and remain focused on doing what we love — bringing people great food."

Batali is also an investor in the Italy-based Eataly chain’s U.S. division, which recently opened its fifth location in Los Angeles, with another planned for Las Vegas.

According to the report, some of the alleged harassment occurred while Batali was chef at the now-defunct restaurant Pó in New York during the 1990s.

Steve Crane, who co-owned Pó with Batali, told Eater that multiple staff members at the restaurant had told him of Batali’s ongoing inappropriate behavior. Crane said he told Batali to stop but didn’t have power to fire him, though Batali told Eater that Crane never confronted him.

According to the Eater report, some employees said that Batali would only become more aggressive after Crane asked him to stop, and others said Batali was at his worst when he was intoxicated.

Batali is the latest in a string of high-profile men to be accused of sexual harassment across a number of industries. In the restaurant world, those accused include chef and restaurateur John Besh and pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini

Data indicates that sexual harassment is more prevalent in the hospitality industry than any other, based on complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout