The Infatuation with Zagat and Flippy Debuts

by MRM Staff 13 Min Read

This edition of MRM's Daily Bite features The Infatuation and Zagat, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, Miso Robotics, Cozzini Bros. and Maestranzi Brothers Grinding & Supply, El Fenix, General Mills Foodservice, ICE and Good Food 100. 

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The Infatuation To Buy Zagat
The Infatuation entered into an agreement to buy Zagat from Google. 
“We’re thrilled by this opportunity to acquire such a pioneering and trusted restaurant guide as Zagat,” said Chris Stang, The Infatuation’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “Iconic brands don’t become available very often, and Zagat is about as iconic as it gets. It is the perfect complement to what we have been building at The Infatuation.”
"Zagat has helped us provide useful and relevant dining results for users across our various products," said Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of Product and Engineering, Google. "The Infatuation is an innovative company that will be a terrific home for the Zagat brand."
"Tim and I are very excited for Zagat's next chapter with The Infatuation,” said Nina Zagat. “Their innovative approach, and their passion for helping people discover great restaurants and for building community lines up exactly with what we built with Zagat from the very beginning."
The Infatuation and Zagat will operate as two distinct brands, with individual platforms, and distinct purposes and points of view. Specifically, The Infatuation will retain its editorial-first focus, producing high quality, situational reviews and guides, while continuing its  work in mobile and social media. Working within The Infatuation’s infrastructure and leadership, Zagat will expand user surveys and develop a new tech-driven platform that will create a stronger, more meaningful alternative to other crowdsourced restaurant reviews.
The two brands will work in tandem to provide users quality and diverse options for restaurant recommendations. The Infatuation will introduce Zagat to its highly engaged, millennial audience and will leverage the social capital which they have earned since their launch nine years ago to help grow the Zagat brand. In addition, Zagat’s product offerings will be expanded internationally, to connect with communities abroad.
A More Inclusive Food Service

A new white paper from the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) explores how increasing the representation of women in the foodservice distribution industry will boost profitability and competitiveness. The report, Recruitment and Retention of Women: Enhancing Inclusion and Diversity, contends that while achieving a more inclusive workforce requires senior leadership to commit time and resources, there is significant return on investment.

"This white paper sheds light on the importance of creating an inclusive work environment to recruit and retain women in our industry," said Theresa Kessler, Vice President, Finance & Administration at IFDA. "Increasing Gender Diversity breeds innovation and success."

Among the key findings:

  • Gender diversity is associated with increased sales revenue, more customers, and greater relative profits. Companies with the highest representation of women in their top management teams see a higher return on equity than companies with the low female representation.
  • Gender diversity helps companies connect with an evolving customer base with the number of women-owned restaurant businesses increasing significantly in recent years.
  • A diversity of perspectives is linked with better decision-making and problem-solving as well as increased innovation and creativity.
  • A commitment to diversity helps with recruitment and retention of the workforce. As a workforce, millennials are the most diverse generation and they value inclusion.

The report also highlights that despite the apparent economic benefits, there are many current barriers to achieving gender diversity including:

  • Lack of female representation is often not recognized as a problem. When it comes to opportunities and representation, men believe there is more equitability than women.
  • Fewer women are being hired into entry-level corporate positions, although more women are receiving college degrees. With fewer women in the pipe line, representation continues to decline at every level with women representing only a small percentage of the C-Suite.
  • On average, women are promoted at lower rates than men. Women are seen to be more skilled when entering the workforce, but it is men who are viewed as better prepared for longitudinal success.
  • The wage gap for college-educated women continues to grow throughout their career. While the "family man" is viewed as more stable and receives pay raises for having families, women are penalized for starting families and requesting flexibility.

The IFDA Women's Leadership Committee commissioned the paper. To access the full report, including best practices and resources for increasing gender diversity, click here.

Miso Robotics Partners, Debuts Flippy

Miso Robotics has partnered with Levy, the sports and entertainment hospitality company, to bring robotic kitchen assistants to sports and entertainment venues. The partnership expands the presence of Miso Robotics’ collaborative, adaptable robotic kitchen assistants, which will help kitchen staff provide speedy and tasty food options to on-the-go sports fans and concert goers.

Miso Robotics is publicly debuting its first robotic kitchen assistant ‘Flippy’ in CaliBurger’s Pasadena, California location. The company is also expanding the capabilities of its Miso AI platform for restaurants and food preparation businesses.

“Serving food in sports venues can be a more complex challenge than in fast food restaurants,” said Melissa Burghardt, chief operating officer of Miso Robotics. “Levy values the role our robotic kitchen assistants play in helping staff deliver faster, freshly prepared food and we’re excited to join forces with such a forward thinking partner to achieve our collective mission in improving consumers’ dining experiences.”

In February, Levy participated in Miso Robotics’ $10 million Series B funding. As part of the investment, the companies agreed to team up and will launch the first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant in a Levy-operated venue later this year.

Andy Lansing, president and chief executive officer of Levy added, “We understand that our guests desire exceptional experiences and we’re committed to making sure each one we serve has the most memorable and frictionless dining experiences possible. What appealed to us most in partnering with Miso Robotics is our shared vision in changing the way food is prepared through advanced technology. Their platform will enable us to operate more efficiently, control waste, decrease wait times, enhance consistency and, most importantly, meet guests’ needs.”

David Zito, co-founder and chief executive officer of Miso Robotics added, “I’m thrilled that one of the biggest names in hospitality chose Miso Robotics to assist kitchen staff in their venues. We have a strong vision of improving working conditions for chefs and line cooks with our technology and I look forward to working with Levy to accomplish making kitchen tasks more fun, collaborative, safe and productive.”

Miso Robotics is publicly debuting its first robotic kitchen assistant ‘Flippy’ today in CaliBurger’s Pasadena, California location. The company is also expanding the capabilities of its Miso AI platform for restaurants and food preparation businesses.

‘Flippy,’ the world’s first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant, began working alongside kitchen staff at CaliBurger’s Pasadena, California location during lunchtime by flipping burger patties and removing them from the grill when cooked to order.

Aiming to augment commercial kitchen operations with advanced technology, Miso Robotics developed Miso AI, a cloud-connected learning platform that powers industrial robotic arms. Miso AI combines 3D, thermal and regular vision to automatically detect when raw burger patties are placed on the grill and monitors each one in real-time throughout the cooking process. As the patties cook, Miso AI displays the cooking time on a screen that also alerts kitchen staff when to place cheese on top or when to dress a burger. It also enables Flippy to switch from using a spatula for raw meat and one for cooked meat. In addition, Flippy has the ability to clean spatulas while cooking and to wipe the surface of the grill with a scraper.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my incredibly talented team for their hard work in bringing Flippy to life and we are just getting started,” said Zito. “Our mission is to improve working conditions of chefs and line cooks with assistants, not replace them. Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows how hard the work is and the value of extra hands and that’s exactly what we built.”

Miso Robotics understands the many challenges restaurants face, including turnover rate and increasing demand for prepared foods. In 2016, the team partnered with CaliBurger, Cali Group’s restaurant operating division, to develop a cost-effective and highly efficient solution leveraging their expertise in robotics and artificial intelligence. This resulted in the concept for Flippy, which was specifically designed to operate in an existing commercial kitchen layout and to serve alongside kitchen staff to safely and efficiently fulfill a variety of cooking tasks.

John Miller, chairman of Cali Group, added, “The deployment of Flippy in CaliBurger restaurants represents a major milestone in helping our staff produce mouthwatering burgers more consistently and in a timely manner. The ease of integration into our existing kitchen lines will also allow us to quickly install Flippy in more locations nationwide.”

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than working on something so challenging that also has the potential to be impactful,” said Dr. Ryan Sinnet, co-founder and chief technology officer of Miso Robotics. “Our team poured their hearts into getting Flippy ready to cook for people and I’m so proud of the grit we displayed to accomplish this in record time.”

Cozzini Partners with Maestranzi

Cozzini Bros., Inc., a cutlery sharpening and exchange services company, announced a strategic partnership with Maestranzi Brothers Grinding & Supply, L.L.C., a cutlery, sharpening services and food equipment machine repair company servicing customers in the Midwestern United States. The joint company will operate under the Cozzini Bros. name.

Maestranzi Brothers, which also operates under the trade name Wisconsin Cutlery, is based in Harwood Heights, Illinois. Giustino Maestranzi immigrated to the United States in the early 1920s and eventually found his way to Chicago where he began sharpening knives. Maestranzi Brothers is today owned and operated by two fourth-generation brothers, Bart (51) and Vince (47) Maestranzi, and their brother-in-law, Vince McEnaney (“Mac”) (47). All three will be joining Cozzini to continue providing exceptional service to customers.

“We have long respected Maestranzi Brothers as a formidable competitor providing excellent customer service in the greater Chicago market, where both of our companies were founded generations ago” said Ed Finnegan, CEO of Cozzini Bros. “Joining forces with Maestranzi will strengthen our ability to service the ever-growing needs of our customers and to provide additional relevant services, including repairing slicer machines and various food processor machines and refurbishing meat grinder cylinders, rings and worms. Cozzini Bros. will benefit tremendously from the expertise and leadership of Bart, Vince and Mac, and we are honored to partner with them and their entire team.”

“Maestranzi Brothers is thrilled to partner with Cozzini Bros.,” noted Bart Maestranzi. “We have been impressed with Cozzini’s many investments in sharpening technology and software to streamline its customer routing, customer invoicing and general business operations.”

Added Vince Maestranzi, “I am excited to be part of the largest, most sophisticated sharpening company in the U.S. and look forward to working with the Cozzini team to now service customers on a nationwide basis. The transaction with Cozzini is a significant milestone in the tremendous history of Maestranzi Brothers, and my great grandfather would be proud of the legacy he created.”

In addition to its machine repair capabilities, Maestranzi Brothers brings Cozzini long-term customer relationships, particularly in the grocery store market where, given the increased focus on prepared foods, the need for cutlery sharpening services is ever growing. Maestranzi Brothers will maintain its existing operations and employees in Harwood Heights, Illinois.

El Fenix Turns 100
Very few restaurant concepts have the staying power to celebrate even a decade of service and this year, El Fenix Mexican Restaurant, top photo, is celebrating its Centennial.
The Tex-Mex revolution began when Miguel Martinez opened Martinez Café and developed a mixture of American and Traditional Mexican Food – the birth of what is now known as Tex-Mex. On September 15, 1918, Martinez converted his modest eatery into El Fenix – the first restaurant to serve Tex-Mex – on the corner of Griffin St. and McKinney Ave. in downtown Dallas. In the mid-1930s, he opened the El Fenix Ballroom next door, serving up live music and dancing with the “El Fenix Orchestra.” Even though this coincided with the Great Depression, it was also an era of sophistication. Martinez offered his guests lively nighttime entertainment, making El Fenix and the Ballroom a thriving Dallas hotpot.
Following the safe return of Martinez’s four sons from World War II, Martinez retired and entrusted his children to carry on his unique vision for El Fenix. The Martinez children held up their end of the bargain and today, El Fenix stands as the longest-running Mexican restaurant chain in the U.S. and one of the five oldest continuously operating restaurant chains in America.
“The fact that Miguel Martinez founded El Fenix and created Tex-Mex cuisine right here in Dallas makes our Centennial celebration a momentous occasion for the entire North Texas community,” said Mike Karns, CEO and owner of Firebird Restaurant Group LLP, which bought El Fenix from the Martinez family in 2008. “It’s amazing to think that El Fenix has been sharing its original dishes with locals and out-of-town visitors for 100 years. It’s a source of tremendous pride for all of us, and we have been looking forward to celebrating this historic milestone with our guests for a long time.”
El Fenix’s Centennial celebration – 100 years in the making – began with its first-ever “Create Your Own Margarita” contest. All ‘rita aficionados were invited to share their favorite original recipe for the chance to win a drink feature on El Fenix’s iconic menu and FREE El Fenix for a Year! The winning drink was the Marg-Nitos, created by Lisa Martel. It will be available at all El Fenix locations during the month of August for just $6.99.
The celebration continues with monthly $1 Centennial specials, such as $1 queso with a downloadable coupon for VIP email club members and Facebook followers. El Fenix’s Centennial Margarita will soon make its debut and the Martinez family will be throwing the first pitch at the Texas Rangers game on April 10. El Fenix will finish off the year by participating in 100 Days of Giving in October and November.
Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest
The Neighborhood to Nation™ Recipe Contest is back giving independent family or “neighborhood” restaurants and food trucks the chance to win up to $80,000 in cash and prizes and bring hometown pride to their own communities. For the fourth year, General Mills Foodservice is celebrating independent restaurant operators and seeking out recipes for the one-of-a-kind dishes that showcase their local flavor. The contest is officially accepting entries at

The only foodservice recipe contest of its kind, the 2018 Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest will honor five Regional Recipe Winners who will each receive $5,000 in cash and an additional $1,000 to share with a charity of their choice in their community. One of the five regional winners will also be named the Grand Prize Recipe Winner and receive an additional $25,000 in cash and $5,000 to share with a local charity as well as a three-day trip for two to the 2018 New York City Wine & Food Festival, the premier food and wine event that celebrates America’s favorite foods.

General Mills will travel to each of the Regional Recipe Winners’ hometowns to bring the contest excitement to their doorstep. The winners’ staff, customers and community will all be invited to a special check presentation/celebratory event that will take place at their restaurant in August after the winners are announced.

“Independent restaurants are the heart and soul of their communities, so we couldn’t be more delighted to host a big hometown celebration in their honor! ” said Alyca Judge, senior marketing manager for General Mills Foodservice. “We look forward to bringing the national spotlight to the winners’ neighborhoods to celebrate these much-anticipated award-winning dishes.”

The contest is open to foodservice operators, chefs and line cooks who develop and prepare recipes for menu items served at independent, commercial restaurants or food trucks. Beginning today, participants may submit their original recipes using at least one ingredient from General Mills’ list of eligible foodservice products.

“General Mills is proud to work with restaurants and help them serve up their customer’s favorite menu items, but it is the independent operator’s talent, creativity and local flavor that are truly the ingredients to success,” said Judge. “The Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest was created to shine the spotlight on the amazing cuisine that is served up on independent restaurant menus in neighborhoods across the nation as well as the important role these restaurants play in our communities.”

From March 1 to April 30, 2018, participants may submit recipes for an appetizer, entrée or dessert. They must use one ingredient from General Mills Foodservice’s participating brands: Pillsbury™ (biscuits, puff pastry and pie dough), Gold Medal™ (baking mixes), Yoplait® (yogurt) and Mountain High® (yogurt). 

Recipes will be judged based on taste, appearance, creativity and foodservice viability. Five Regional Recipe Winners (representing the West, North Central, South Central, Northeast and Southeast) will be announced in August as well as the Grand Prize Recipe Winner.

Neighborhood to Nation was created to inspire culinary creativity among independent restaurants and food trucks, giving operators an opportunity to experiment with high-quality and consistent products from General Mills Foodservice as well as exclusive access to trend information, insights and ideas to help them differentiate their menus and delight their diners. For more information on eligibility, complete contest details (including a $50 rebate on Neighborhood to Nation eligible products) and the official contest rules, restaurants should contact their General Mills Foodservice representative, call 1.800.215.6120 or visit

ICE Launches Culinary Voice

The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) launched the 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest. Following the success of the past two challenges, this year, ABC's The Chew co-hosts Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Michael Symon first announced the contest on the show. This year, an innovative format includes the finals airing on The Chew to determine who will receive one of four full scholarships – worth more than $160,000– to the award-winning culinary school.

For 2018's challenge, a public vote will determine the semi-finalists, and from there, ICE chef-instructors will select the finalists, who will appear on The Chew and compete in a series of challenges for the coveted scholarships. Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Michael Symon will host the finals as four celebrity chefs serve as mentors, while ICE's chef-instructors teach the contestants skills and judge the finalists.

"We never dreamed that what began as a creative way to award scholarships would become a worldwide sensation. Then, to have some of the biggest names in the food industry – like Marcus Samuelsson, Ted Allen, Duff Goldman and Donatella Arpaia – get behind us, millions of votes and the 26 lives we've already changed through these scholarships is very gratifying," said Rick Smilow, ICE's president and CEO. "And now having the finals air on the number one food and lifestyle show on TV, takes our scholarship program to a whole new level. The school has helped more than 14,000 alumni find their culinary voice and this year, we're going to add to that in a big way."

"Culinary school is an important step for those eager to enter the food industry," said Gordon Elliott, executive producer, The Chew. "The Institute of Culinary Education was named the best culinary school in America for a reason, and we are very excited to showcase this fantastic opportunity for aspiring chefs on The Chew where we celebrate food and cooking every day."

Eligible entrants must upload an original video up to one-minute in length to, demonstrating their creativity and passion for food, who or what inspires them and what they hope to achieve in the culinary industry. They'll tell the world why they deserve a scholarship and the chance to study at the ICE – named America's best culinary school by The Daily Meal (2016). Entrants can select from two of ICE's career training programs — Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts — as well as their campus of choice — New York City or Los Angeles.

Important Dates:

  • March 5: Entries Open
  • March 26: Voting Begins (new entries are still accepted during voting)
  • April 15: Entries and Voting Close
  • May 10: Finalists Announced
  • June 15: Winners Announced on The Chew

For more information and to enter the challenge, visit

Good Food 100
The Good Food Media Network has opened the application for the second annual Good Food 100 Restaurants™ list, a badge of trust that educates eaters and recognizes chefs and restaurants that are transparent with their purchasing and sustainable business practices.
Founded by food industry veteran Sara Brito, the strategic rating system is moving the restaurant industry forward by underscoring how chefs and restaurants are building a better food system and supporting state, regional, and national good food economies. In its first year, 90 restaurants, representing over 140 locations, in 23 states and all eight regions of the United States applied; contributing an astounding $199 million on the national good food economy.
“The inaugural Good Food 100 Restaurants™ list was a success, revealing the influence of chefs and restaurants beyond what’s on a diner’s plate. It confirmed their undying power to fuel environmental and social change and to drive economic growth,” said Sara Brito, co-founder and president, Good Food Media Network. “We are thrilled to see such enthusiasm around the list and encourage chefs and restaurants who are proud of their good food practices to apply this year.”
The list will again be compiled based on self-reported annual food purchasing data, independently verified by NSF Responsible Sourcing. The data collected will be used to quantify restaurants on a link rating system of 2-6 based on percent of total food costs spent to support state, regional and national ‘good food’ producers and purveyors. Restaurants will be categorized as:
·         Food Service
·         Fast Casual
·         Casual Dining
·         Fine Dining
·         Food Delivery Services
Once the list is assembled, the Good Food Media Network will award the restaurants with the highest percentage of good food purchases in each category as well as restaurants classified as specialty grocers, catering businesses and plant forward businesses. Restaurants that have significantly advocated for the environment, animal welfare and championed farmers, ranchers and
fishermen and restaurant and food chain workers will also be recognized.
To complement the list, the Business Research Division of Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, will analyze the data to produce an economic analysis measuring chefs’ good food purchasing decisions on local, regional, and national economies.
Chefs and restaurants interested in participating can visit the Good Food 100 website to complete the application by the May 1 deadline. The Good Food 100 rating and economic analysis report will be revealed in tandem in September 2018. All participating businesses will receive a certification of participation, window decals and copies of the economic assessment.

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