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    2010 in Review

  • It’s been a heck of a year, from Burger King’s buyout to BP’s oil spill. We deliver the stories that rocked our industry.

    Reporting by Blair Chancey, Sam Oches, Daniel P. Smith, Robin Van Tan, Barney Wolf & Lori Zanteson

    1. BK Sold to Brazilian Investors

    Becoming the decade’s biggest restaurant buyout, No. 3 burger chain Burger King Corp. was acquired by 3G Capital, a New York firm backed by Brazilian investors, for $3.3 billion in September. —BC

    2. The Food Truck Obsession

    Undeniably, 2010 was the year of the food truck. From Top Chef Masters stars like Ludo Lefebvre’s LudoTruck to Burgerville’s Nomad to small chains like Sweet- greens ’ Sweetflow, mobile concepts seemed to be on everyone’s mind (and tweets) in 2010. Although bigger chains including Subway and Dairy Queen have explored the idea, none has gotten the revenue stream rolling in a big way just yet. Perhaps that’s what 2011 has in store. —BC

    3. Panera’s Secret to Success

    “We didn’t cut prices; we did stress products that gave us higher gross profit. We introduced a Chicken Cobb Salad, for example, that costs us maybe $1.50 but that we could sell for $8. That’s more profitable than a chicken sandwich, which sells for $7.50 and gives us $5.50 back.” — Former Panera CEO Ronald Shaich on how Panera managed to stay profitable during 2010’s recession —DS

    4. Passage of Health Care Reform

    Despite industry opposition, the health care reform bill was signed into law this March. Although the changes do not begin to affect employers of 50 or more staff until 2014, the issue was hotly debated and widely covered by national and trade media alike this year. —BC

    5. CKE Sold in April

    CKE, which operates Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, was sold for $1 billion to Apollo Global Management, a private-equity firm that assumed the company’s debt. That deal went through after another private-equity group, Thomas H. Lee Partners, refused to match Apollo’s higher offer.

    Although Hardee’s is weathering the recession, its sister company saw 7.4 percent same-store sales declines in the most recent quarter. The company points to high unemployment and the bad California economy for its sluggish performance. —BW

    6. From One to 1,000

    Chipotle founder Steve Ells never intended to expand beyond one store, merely hoping the original Chipotle would help finance his own restaurant. Seventeen years later, in 2010, Chipotle opened its 1,000th restaurant, relishing its place as a dominant fast-casual player. —DS

    Big Changes in Church’s Leadership

    Although the company was bought by Friedman Fleischer & Lowe in 2009, the big management changes didn’t come until this year. Here’s who joined the team in 2010.

    7. Malin Benicek, senior director of quality assurance
    8. Andy Bonaparte, vice president of advertising
    9. John F. Bowie, president of U.S. operations
    10. Will Costello, executive vice president of supply chain
    11. Kevin Houston, senior director of research & development
    12. Louie W. Mele, member of board of directors
    13. Kirk Waisner, vice president of research & development/quality assurance —BC

    Ralph Brennan, president  of New Orleans–based  Ralph Brennan Restaurant  Group, lobbies Congress for  additional money from BP.
    Ralph Brennan, president of New Orleans–based Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, lobbies Congress for additional money from BP.

    14. Leaders Demand Compensation from BP

    “The rest of the world and the rest of America need to know that it’s safe to get back in the water,” said Rip Daniels, vice president of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism Commission, before a Congressional committee in July.

    Alongside Daniels were several hospitality industry leaders seeking compensation from BP after the explosion of its Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20.

    Although BP dedicated $20 billion to repay citizens affected by the oil spill, which brought tourism in the Gulf Coast region to a halt, industry leaders demanded an additional $500 million in marketing dollars from the company to restore consumer confidence in the region and encourage visitors back to the Gulf Coast.

    “Many ask if there’s oil on the doorsteps of New Orleans; and New Orleans is miles inland,” said Ralph Brennan, president of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group in the Louisiana city.

    Along with Brennan, Keith Overton, chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, explained that while Florida was not affected by the oil spill and subsequent tar balls, a recent survey of consumers showed it was perceived to be the No. 1 state suffering from the accident.

    Unfortunately, consumer misperception seemed to be reality this summer as hotels that would traditionally be at 80–90 percent capacity were at about 30 percent because consumers were scared to visit.

    Struggles over compensation for damages and lost profits in the region are expected to stretch into 2011, if not further into the new decade. —BC