Secret’s Out: b is for Burgers and Rainbow Hummus

by MRM Staff 12 Min Read

This edition of MRM's Daily Bite features IHOP ... or rather IHOb, ARC Group, Inc., Wahlburgers, Flatbread Grill, Preoday and placeNorder,  A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., Aspen Creek Grill, Domino's Pizza, Ferrero and Azor Brewer Restaurant Advisors.

Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.MRM Daily Bite Logo

IHOP to IHOb

IHOP® Restaurants is going by a new name – IHOb. For burgers. Since the news broke last week on the brand's social media sites, fans can't get enough with more than 30,000* people speculating what the change could "b", guessing everything from bacon to brunch to bananas. The change, in fact, celebrates the debut of the brand's new Ultimate Steakburgers, a line-up of seven mouth-watering, all-natural burgers. Each Ultimate Steakburger starts with 100% USDA Choice, Black Angus ground beef that is smashed on the grill to sear in the juices and flavor before being topped with premium ingredients and sandwiched between a buttered and grilled Brioche bun. According to a company spokesburger, "These burgers are so burgerin' good, we re-burgered our name to the International House of Burgers!"

IHOb re-burgered from the inside out. (Photo Credit: IHOb Restaurants) (PRNewsfoto/IHOb)

To show the brand is as serious about burgers as it is about its world-famous pancakes, it's flipped the "p" to a "b" in their iconic name, including its Twitter handle and other digital and social feeds. A flagship IHOb restaurant in Hollyburgerwood, CA, has also been completely re-burgered and will play host to the VIB launch party the evening of June 11.

IHOb’s Ultimate Steakburgers come in seven varieties that will satisfy burger cravings morning, noon and night. The line-up, which includes both distinctive and classic flavors, is available at IHOb restaurants nationwide:

  • Big Brunch – IHOb knows how to put breakfast on a burger. The Big Brunch Steakburger includes IHOP’s custom-cured, hickory-smoked bacon, a fried egg, a crispy browned potato, American cheese and a delicious new signature burger sauce that compliments the savory flavors.
  • Cowboy BBQ – This may be how the West was won. This sky-high Steakburger includes two thick, crispy onion rings, custom-cured hickory-smoked bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mouthwatering tangy BBQ sauce.
  • Jalapeño Kick – For those who like a little excitement in their lives, there’s the Jalapeño Kick Steakburger with a spicy blend of sautéed jalapeños, Serrano peppers and onion, custom-cured hickory-smoked bacon, Pepper-Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and jalapeño mayo.
  • Mushroom & Swiss – A match made in burger heaven with a blend of sautéed mushrooms and onions, Swiss cheese and creamy mayo.
  • The Classic – Truly a burger classic…melting American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and the brand’s new signature Steakburger sauce.
  • The Classic with Bacon – Only bacon can improve on an American classic, which is made with custom-cured hickory-smoked bacon, melting American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and the brand’s signature burger sauce.
  • Mega Monster – No need to fear this monster…two premium Steakburger patties, American and White Cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and the brand’s signature sauce.

“Burgers are a quintessential, American menu item so it makes perfect sense that IHOP, one of the most iconic, all-American comfort-food brands in the world, would go over the top to create a delicious line-up of quality burgers that hit the spot any time of day,” said Chef Nevielle Panthaky, Head of Culinary at IHOb. “Our new Ultimate Steakburgers are made with all-natural, 100% USDA Choice, Black Angus ground beef that is smashed on the grill to create a sear that locks in the juices and flavor. With seven different burger builds, all Steakburgers are custom built and piled high with premium quality ingredients and unique, signature sauces in between a buttered and grilled Brioche bun. There’s definitely a juicy Steakburger for whatever you might be craving at any time of day! The IHOP Culinary team took the creation of these Steakburgers as seriously as we take innovation around our pancakes, which means they’re soon to become world famous, too.”

“Everyone knows that IHOP makes world-famous pancakes so we felt like the best way to convince them that we are as serious about our new line of Ultimate Steakburgers as we are about our pancakes, was to change our name to IHOb,” said Brad Haley, Chief Marketing Officer for IHOb restaurants. “We’ve pancaked pancakes for 60 years now so it’s the perfect time to start burgerin’ burgers, and we’re kicking it off by flipping the ‘p’ in IHOP to a ‘b’ for burgers. And, when you try them, I think you’ll agree with me that IHOb’s new line of Ultimate Steakburgers are so good that I’d put them up against anyone’s … just like our pancakes.”

ARC To Acquire Tilted Kilt

ARC Group, Inc., the owner, operator and franchisor of the award-winning Dick's Wings & Grill® concept,  intends to acquire the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery franchise. 

SDA Holdings, LLC, a company owned by Fred W. Alexander, who is a member of the Board of Directors of ARC Group, and the owners of Tilted Kilt have fully executed all of the agreements for the sale of Tilted Kilt to SDA Holdings.  SDA Holdings is using funds loaned to it by Seenu G. Kasturi, ARC Group's Chairman and Chief Financial Officer, to satisfy its payment obligations under the agreements for the specific purpose of holding the franchise until such time as ARC Group has obtained suitable financing to acquire the franchise.  ARC Group intends to enter into an agreement with SDA Holdings within the next couple of weeks to acquire Tilted Kilt from SDA Holdings.

Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery has 47 locations in operation across the United States and Canada and boasts a wide array of sports and traditional pub food and drinks all under one roof. 

"I am very excited that we have a plan in place to add Tilted Kilt to ARC Group's book of premium brands," stated Seenu G. Kasturi.  "I am ARC Group's biggest fan and have always supported the company, both financially and otherwise, whenever helpful or needed.  By structuring the transaction in this manner, SDA Holdings will be able to acquire Tilted Kilt now and hold it until ARC Group has the funds available to finance the acquisition of the franchise from SDA Holdings.  We are in the process of finalizing a financing plan for ARC Group that will enable it to obtain the funds necessary to complete the acquisition of Tilted Kilt.  We expect ARC Group to complete the acquisition of Tilted Kilt within the next few months."

Walburgers Vanzura Resigns

Wahlburgers CEO Rick Vanzura, has resigned his position to accept a CEO position with another restaurant chain. Vanzura will remain with the company through June 15. Patrick Renna, the company’s CFO, has been named interim CEO. The company has begun a search for Vanzura’s successor.

“On behalf of Mark, Paul and our entire family, we are grateful for Rick’s years of tireless dedication to this company and being a key part of our brand growth and franchise development,” said Donnie Wahlberg. “We understand and support his decision to step down and appreciate all of the years he worked with us and wish him and his family the very best.”

Vanzura said, “It has been an extraordinary gift to be able to build this phenomenal business with the Wahlbergs the last six and a half years.  Mark, Donnie and Paul have been more than I could ever ask for in terms of the commitment and heart they’ve put into Wahlburgers.  I’d also like to thank our staff, franchisees, vendors and our incredible group of managers and crew that bring this awesome brand to life every day in our restaurants. I will always be available to help them any way I can, and I know the business is in very good hands with Patrick.”

Renna has experience as both CFO and CEO within the restaurant space, currently serving in the CFO role with Wahlburgers and Chef Paul Wahlberg’s fine dining restaurant, Alma Nove; and in the same position and CEO with Boloco, a family of New England based fast casual restaurants.

“I’m incredibly excited when I think about the future of Wahlburgers and our evolution as a company,” Renna said.  “From the expansion of our restaurants domestically and internationally, to food trucks and our recently launched at-home retail beef program, I think the sky is the limit.”

Rainbow Hummus at Flatbread Grill

Flatbread Grill®, a fast-casual Mediterranean bakery and grill with locations in Hoboken and Jersey City, created an exclusive menu item to celebrate diversity and raise awareness for the underserved LGTBQ community. Rainbow Hummus, top photo, will be used to raise funds and support an ongoing partnership with the Hudson Pride Center located in Jersey City. The sisters who founded Flatbread Grill® chose to partner with Hudson Pride Connections Center for their locality and the center's active support and education of an at-risk population.

Flatbread Grill®'s Push-Pop Rainbow Hummus

"Hudson Pride is thrilled to be working with Flatbread Grill® on this very special Rainbow Hummus to celebrate and support all love. Thank you so much Flatbread Grill® for this partnership opportunity!", said Elizabeth Schedl, Chief Operations Officer of Hudson Pride.

The specialty menu item, created exclusively by the Hoboken-born and raised sisters (Fusun, Gonca, and Arzu Esendemir), features six different, all-natural flavors of hummus, including a traditional flavor that has been a staple on Flatbread Grill®'s menu since it was founded in 2007. The vegan, Mediterranean family recipe is delicious, healthy, and rich in nutrients, as well as high in fiber. Flatbread Grill®'s Rainbow Hummus consists of plentiful non-GMO, organic ingredients, such as turmeric, ginger, spirulina, and kale. Rainbow Hummus is the first of its kind on a restaurant's menu. It was created in 2017 by the Esendemir Sisters and is making a return to celebrate Pride 2018. It is available for pre-order immediately, as well as in the Hoboken and Jersey City locations on June 15th.

The hummus is available in a party size, individual size, share size, and in push-pops. The flavors are traditional infused with spirulina (blue), roasted carrot (orange), turmeric ginger (yellow), roasted cabbage (purple), kale and parsley garlic (green), and pickled beet (red).

Preoday Partners with placeNorder

Mobile and online ordering technology provider Preoday and ordering platform placeNorder have partnered to bring digital pre-ordering to food and beverage businesses across North America.

PlaceNorder focuses on providing an online ordering platform to restaurants in the USA and Canada. Now powered by Preoday’s technology, it aims to extend a marketing-based approach to working with restaurants, event venues and catering companies. In addition to digital ordering, the overall placeNorder app also provides a gift card and loyalty program, as well as functionality for event organizing and catering. Existing placeNorder clients include Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse and Ches’s Fish and Chips.

Art Snow, founder of placeNorder, said, “Partnering with Preoday enables us to bring a digital ordering platform and marketing program to restaurants across the USA and Canada that will help increase overall sales and grow brand awareness. As restaurants realize the benefits to their bottom line, digital ordering is moving from a consumer-driven trend to an integral part of their business. We’re excited to begin this partnership with Preoday and we look forward to providing our clients with this technology.”

Nick Hucker, CEO of Preoday, added “This partnership with placeNorder is a first for us in North America and this kind of collaboration enables us to be truly global. Clients will benefit from the combination of our international technology, and local, on-the-ground support provided by placeNorder. We look forward to being part of the placeNorder team and producing great success stories with clients across the USA and Canada.”

A&W Canada Eliminates Plastic Straws

A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. is marking World Oceans Day by eliminating all plastic straws from all restaurants by the end of this year. It will be the first quick service restaurant chain in North America to make this commitment.

A&W Canada first restaurant chain in North America to eliminate plastic straws

"Reducing waste from landfills is a top priority for A&W and this is one big way that we can make a difference," says Susan Senecal, A&W Canada's President and Chief Executive Officer. "We are proud to make this change, which has been driven by the wishes of our guests, franchisees, and staff."

A&W will provide guests with the option of a paper straw. The paper straws are 100% biodegradable, compostable and are sustainably sourced. They last 2-3 hours in a drink without breaking down, but naturally biodegrade in 3-6 months in the environment. This switch to paper will keep 82 million plastic straws out of landfills every year.

"Introducing packaging innovations that reduce waste is key to A&W's environmental strategy," explains Tyler Pronyk, A&W Canada's Director of Distribution, Equipment & Packaging. "By using compostable packaging, real mugs, plates and cutlery, we are diverting millions of single-use packaging from landfills every year."

"Eliminating plastic straws is another big step for us. As we learn more about new tools and sustainable practices, we look forward to more improvements ahead," he adds.

Aspen Creek Grill Names Bern Rehberg as President

Aspen Creek Grill, with eight locations in three states, named Bern Rehberg President of the full service, comfort casual restaurant and bar concept.  As President, he will drive the overall brand strategy and performance of the business with a continued focus on guest experience, operational efficiency, and growth of the brand.

Bern Rehberg


After nearly 30 years of restaurant operations, senior management expertise and leadership, Rehberg takes the helm of the Aspen Creek Grill restaurant concept, known for comfort fresh food made-from-scratch daily and bar fresh cocktails.

“Bern has a collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit and exceptional brand leadership expertise that made him a natural fit for Aspen Creek Grill’s strategic growth plan,” said Steve Madinger, CEO of Aspen Creek Grill. “He has a value-driven philosophy and a proven track record for successfully developing brands that rise to the top of the casual dining industry.”

Prior to his role at Aspen Creek Grill, Rehberg was instrumental in the steady growth of Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, and Metro Diner in key leadership positions, including his work as the Vice President of Operations at Bonefish Grill. Rehberg most recently brought the Florida-based Metro Diner brand to the Midwest, opening six new restaurants in Indiana and Kentucky in two years. Rehberg is an Indiana native and currently resides with his family in Westfield. He has served on the Board of Directors for The Boys and Girls Club, as well as the boards for both the Kentucky and Indiana Restaurant Associations.

Paving for Pizza

Domino's Pizza is saving pizza, one pothole at a time. Cracks, bumps, potholes and other road conditions can put good pizzas at risk after they leave the store. Now Domino's is hoping to help smooth the ride home for our freshly-made pizzas. Starting today, Domino's is asking customers to nominate their town for pothole repairs at pavingforpizza.com.

"Have you ever hit a pothole and instantly cringed? We know that feeling is heightened when you're bringing home a carryout order from your local Domino's store. We don't want to lose any great-tasting pizza to a pothole, ruining a wonderful meal," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA.  "Domino's cares too much about its customers and pizza to let that happen."

Domino's has already worked alongside four municipalities to help repair roads that directly affect their customers, including Bartonville, Texas; Milford, Delaware; Athens, Georgia and Burbank, California. Customers interested in nominating their town for a paving grant from Domino's can enter the zip code at pavingforpizza.com. If their town is selected, the customer will be notified and the city will receive funds to help repair roads so pizzas make it home safely.

Nutella Cafe Coming to NYC

Soon New Yorkers will be able to enjoy the taste of Nutella® in a variety of unique dishes tailored especially for them. Ferrero, a global confectionery company and the maker of Nutella® The Original Hazelnut Spread®, will be opening a Nutella Cafe at 13th Street and University Place, near Union Square, by the end of the year. Nutella Cafe New York will feature a Nutella-inspired cafe menu and specialty espresso beverages. The first Nutella Cafe opened last year in Chicago.

"There truly is nothing like the taste of Nutella® hazelnut spread, and with the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Nutella Cafe Chicago, we know our fans feel the same way. It's their excitement that propelled us to open another Nutella Cafe and continue to showcase the uniqueness and versatility of this beloved product," said Rick Fossali, vice president of operations, Nutella Cafe.

"Nutella is global power brand and the popularity of the spread is built on Ferrero's uncompromising focus on quality ingredients. As a multicultural epi-center, New York gives us the opportunity to explore and offer new ways for our local fans to enjoy Nutella, while reaching millions of tourists visiting the city," added Fossali.

Azor Brewer Restaurant Advisors Launches

Beth Azor, founder and principal of Azor Advisory Services with more than 30 years’ experience in the South Florida commercial real estate industry, has teamed up with John Brewer, a 30+ year veteran in restaurant operations, to launch Azor Brewer Restaurant Advisors (ABRA). The company is headquartered in Weston, Florida.

Beth Azor and John Brewer

ABRA staff has been conducting intense research and good, old-fashioned grassroots canvassing for several months to develop an exclusive database.  This proprietary database is believed to be the first of its kind in the industry, and currently includes more than 450,000 square feet of available space throughout the tri-county area.

ABRA specializes in two key areas:

1)    Site selection for restaurant entrepreneurs

2)    Second generation listing agents for commercial property owners/landlords

The team says the ideal ABRA clients are restaurateurs with fewer than 10 locations looking to expand operations and interested in existing locations already retrofitted as restaurants also known as Second Generation space. With a quick phone call identifying the clients’ preferred geographic region, ABRA can easily identify available locations – many of which are not even on the market.

While the numbers continue to increase as research is conducted, ABRA currently has the following inventory in its proprietary database:

Miami-Dade County

-       48 spaces; 218,499 square feet

Broward County

-       35 spaces; 142,145 square feet

Palm Beach County

-       46 spaces; 90,275 square feet

In describing its services, ABRA’s John Brewer can do so in three words: Locate, evaluate, negotiate.  

“Not only do we proudly maintain (and continue to update) the most extensive database of second generation restaurant locations, we provide true concierge service to our clients, many of whom rely on our expertise to not only secure a location, but who may also need help evaluating a site and negotiating a lease or to purchase.  It’s our personalized service and well-rounded expertise that makes us different.”

“We launched this division because time and again we hear of restaurateurs hitting a roadblock when looking for that perfect location,” said Beth Azor.  “Sure, anyone can look up listings that are publicly on the market – but what if none of those locations meets a client’s need? 

"That’s where we come in; we have dozens of locations in our inventory that are currently under the radar, and we can help restaurateurs find that perfect new home.”

In addition to her decades of commercial real estate experience, Azor has served on multiple committees for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC); she is a founding chair of the South Florida Independent Retailers Awards premiering this September; a sought-after speaker on the industry; and the owner of several shopping centers in Broward county. 

ABRA clients have preferential access to the database and to listings not on the market. That is especially appealing to Oscar de Armas, CEO of Zona Fresca, a popular south Florida fast-casual Mexican grill currently with seven locations and looking to expand.

“We originally hired John to find us a location in Boca Raton after a deal fell through in Fort Lauderdale," says de Armas. "Within a week John showed us an off market site in Fort Lauderdale on 17th street where we wanted to be. It fit our needs and requirements and we are moving towards a lease. We would not have known about this site if not for John’s market relationships.”

On the flip side, ABRA has also made inroads with operators and landlords looking to engage a leasing agent to actively secure tenants.  This is the case with Ken Cordes, South Florida owner/operator of Corner Bakery Cafe, which is looking to secure a tenant for its Pembroke Pines location.

He said, “I’ve been really impressed with their industry knowledge and extensive network, and how they’re out there hustling to bring qualified operators to my space. We really appreciate John’s total dedication to our needs.”

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