Robin Van Tan

Robin Van Tan is a contributor to <em>QSR</em>'s online exclusives.
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Mission: International

The U.S. Commercial Service is helping startup U.S. brands expand into high-potential international markets.

On April 10, Mauricio Acevedo, the CEO of Miami-based crepe concept BannaStrow’s, will head to India to visit Mumbai, Hyderabad, and New Delhi. While there, Acevedo will meet with entrepreneurs who are interested in partnering with the brand to open stores in each market.

The Whole Foods of Fast Food?

LYFE Kitchen hopes to use the backing of former McDonald’s executives and a celebrity chef to take healthy food to your market.

Chef Art Smith will let you in on a little secret: Even chefs eat a lot of fast food.

“They might tell you that they don’t, but they do,” says the two-time James Beard Award winner who owns two fine dining restaurants and was Oprah’s personal chef for 10 years.

How to Fix the 'Blind Spots' Everyone Else Sees

Chris Newcomb, cofounder, president, and CEO of Newk’s Express Café, would have called himself an understanding manager. His two co-owners, however, would have described it differently—something along the lines of too forgiving.

“They came to me and said, ‘You sure do give people a lot of chances,’” he says. “And you know what? They were right—sometimes you need to realize when a person’s just not a good fit with your company or your culture. Now I separate my employees’ personalities from their professional skills when I evaluate them from a business standpoint.”

Why Conflict Helps

Jim Amos Jr., CEO of frozen dessert concept Tasti D-Lite, does exactly one thing to discourage conflict among members of his c-suite: nothing.

“There is no progress without disagreement,” Amos says. “As long as there’s no extreme fear of failure, people will dig in and state their opinions. Then they’re not afraid to say what they truly believe, and that’s where really productive decisions come from.”

4 a Key Number for Cold Stone

The company is launching a frozen yogurt line and three other innovative strategies in 2011.

Cold Stone Creamery president Dan Beem will tell you that 2010 treated the company pretty well.

“We had our best October in about four years,” he says. “If you look at our year overall, we’re trending much better than the industry.”

In an attempt to replicate that success in the coming months, Cold Stone will revisit some of the initiatives that were most successful in 2010—and introduce a few new ones it hopes will be similarly well received.

Here, a look at four areas the brand will focus on in 2011.

The Upsides of Competition

Kevin West will tell you he’s been working in the coffee industry since he was 10 years old, when he would spend free time at a coffee roasting plant with his father, watching, learning, and tasting. Now, as director of coffee operations for Tim Hortons, West tastes more than 300 cups a day to ensure the concept serves consistently high-quality brews. Here, he discusses the increasingly competitive nature of the coffee game—and how spikes in coffee bean prices will affect all its players.