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Taco Bell opens futuristic 2-story, 4-lane drive-thru with food elevators

When it comes to drive-thru in the post-Covid era, Taco Bell has upped the ante, raised the goal posts and fired a shot through the arc of its fast-food competitors with a drive-thru restaurant 2-story, 4-lane prototype that opened in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota on June 7. The goal of the new “Defy” concept is to deliver a 2-minute or less driving experience, said Mike Grams, President and CEO of Taco Bell. The new design includes features that may appear in future Taco Bell restaurants in the U.S. In addition to digital check-in screens for mobile ordering customers’ unique QR codes and two-way audio and video technology service allowing customers to speak with team members on the second floor, the new design features an exclusive vertical lift to transport orders directly from the kitchen to customers downstairs. The four lanes will offer skip-the-line service for pre-orders, faster pickup for delivery drivers and a dedicated lane for traditional drive-thru. The operator is longtime franchisee Border Foods, which is considering possible renovations to several nearby restaurants.

Panera opens its first digital-only take-out restaurant in Chicago; two more in front

Panera To Go debuted in Chicago, marking another milestone in the growing transition of on-premises restaurants to smaller footprints, increased use of customer-facing technologies, and expanding options for customers to continue eating the food they wanted before Covid… but at home. Focused on pickup and delivery orders, the Chicago cafe is the first of three slated to open this year. The next two will be in Washington, DC, and an as-yet-unknown location in California. The front design of the new model offers no seating. The brand is testing quick delivery and pick-up on shelves that customers and deliverers can access quickly and easily. At the end of 2021, 81% of Panera’s sales were made through its offsite channels (delivery, quick pick-up, drive-thru and catering). Panera also plans to include kiosk and catering orders in the new format in the future.

Choice Hotels to Acquire Radisson Hotel Group Americas for $675 Million

Choice Hotels International has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the franchise business, operations and intellectual property of Radisson Hotel Group Americas (United States, Canada and Latin America). The deal, valued at approximately $675 million, will add 9 brands, 624 hotels, and more than 68,000 rooms and expand Choice Hotels’ presence in the upscale and upper-midscale hotel segments, particularly in the West Coast and Midwest of the United States, according to the announcement. The acquisition includes 10 Radisson Blu hotels, 130 Radisson hotels, 9 Radisson Individuals, 1 Park Plaza hotel, 4 Radisson RED hotels, 453 Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and 17 Park Inn by Radisson hotels, as well as the Radisson Inn & Suites and Radisson Collection brands.

The last Howard Johnson’s closed forever in Lake George, New York

It’s the end of an era for millions of Americans who grew up with the welcoming orange-roofed family restaurants, with their now-legendary fried clams and 28 flavors of ice cream (long before Baskin-Robbins’ 31 flavors ). For many, the childhood magic of stepping into a world of sights and smells is long gone. Yet while the brand slowly faded as America’s favorite road stop across the United States, a growing number of today’s young Americans have never seen or even heard of the brand. .

Founded 97 years ago in 1925 in Quincy, Massachusetts by Howard Deering Johnson, HoJo’s was the largest restaurant chain in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, with more than 1,000 owned and franchised outlets. The company opened its first motor homes in the 1950s, and by the late 1970s had more than 1,000 restaurants and more than 500 motor homes in 42 U.S. states and Canada, marking its peak before starting a slow and steady decline that ended this year. According to one source, in 1965 Howard Johnson’s sales exceeded the combined sales of McDonald’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In his book “Ten Restaurants That Changed America”, historian Paul Freedman credited the company with “several key concepts in the American way of dining out: roadside locations, a family atmosphere, franchising, predictability and serving comfort food long before that term was coined.(Wikipedia)

Question Notes

In 1969, The Howard Johnson Company tried a new restaurant concept, Ground Round.

Speaking of his famous 28 flavors, Johnson reportedly said, “I thought I had all the flavors in the world.”

Curious to learn more about the history, anecdotes and nostalgia of HoJo? Start here or here.

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