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1412 posts categorized "Food news"

July 22, 2014

Bea's Kahler group reaches beyond Rochester's downtown

The Kahler Hospitality Group, the Rochester company led by Javon Bea, is checking out the hotel market beyond downtown.

15344_b1The local buzz for weeks has been that the Kahler group, which owns four hotels in downtown Rochester, is taking the reins at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center at 1517 16th St. S.W.

While neither the KHG leadership nor Ramada team officially have admitted it, a recent Kahler email about catering changes seems to confirm that the hotels are now linked.

A mass email sent Monday by the Kahler group's new catering director included the Ramada logo among its hotel brands and it specifically pointed out that the Kahler's new policy opening its event spaces to outside caterers does not include the Ramada Hotel.

Chef Pasquale Presa, the Kahler's executive director of food and beverage operations, also includes the Ramada in the list of hotels under his management on his professional LinkedIn page. Local contractors also say that the Kahler group is talking to local builders about contracting for work on the Ramada complex.

The big unanswered question is whether the Kahler Hospitality Group has purchased the hotel from Rochester developers Dan and Terri Penz or if KHG has been contracted just to manage the Ramada facility.

No matter which is correct, the Kahler's involvement with the Ramada signals a major change for both organizations.

The Penzes also own the adjacent T.J. Maxx Shopping Center and Elcor Construction as well as other Rochester properties and businesses. They bought the hotel in January 2002 and changed its brand from Best Western to Ramada in 2004.

In 2011, the Penzes closed their hotel restaurant called Teresa's. That cleared the way for Joe Powers and his Powers Ventures firm to create new convention space within the hotel. At about the same time, Jim Nicholas leased space to open Wildwood Sports Bar in the Ramada complex. It's unclear what kind of impact, if any, the Kahler involvement in the hotel could have on the Powers and Wildwood operations.

On the other end of the deal, the Kahler Hospitality Group is a collection of five unidentified investors who bought the Kahler Grand Hotel, the Kahler Inn & Suites, the Marriott Rochester, the Residence Inn and the Textile Care Services industrial laundry for $230 million in 2012. Javon Bea, of Oronoco, is the well known public face of the organization.

In 2013, the Kahler group hired the Colorado-based Richfield Hospitality to manage the downtown hotels.

July 17, 2014

New plan: Newt's at Crossroads

After years in limbo, a plan to build a restaurant/bar in front of Rochester's Crossroads Shopping Center once again is moving ahead.

However, it won't be the long anticipated Buffalo Wild Wings. Instead, it'll be the latest version of Rochester's iconic eatery, Newt's.

Rochester restaurateurs David and Mark Currie are working on plans to build Newt's South as their ninth local restaurant. Their Creative Cuisine restaurants are the original downtown Newt's, the City Cafe, City Market Deli Downtown, City Market Deli South, the Redwood Room, 300 First, Newt's Express and Newt's North.

The project is in its early stages, so it may be a while before construction starts on the large rectangle of dirt and grass.

"If I could break ground today, I would," said David Currie, who owns and runs Creative Cuisine with his brother. "But I'm going to say it will be in the six-month range before it really gets going."

The sibl07162014bbwsignings are buying the site between the Andy's Liquor store and Home Federal Savings Bank from Tom Graf. Graf originally had hoped to build Rochester's second Buffalo Wild Wings there, but a series of legal disputes over parking eventually quashed that plan. The development plan, approved by the city, called for extending BWW's parking onto Crossroads property to have the required number of spaces.

Parking shouldn't be an issue for the new Newt's project because it will be smaller than Graf's proposed BWW. That means the restaurant and all of the required parking should both fit on the island of land in the Crossroads parking lot.

"I thought the Curries could make the best use of the space with the size of what they want to put on it," said Graf. "At the end of the day, it's a win for the shopping center."

07162014newtssouth1The first generation of Creative Cuisine dates to the 1960s with Jerry Zubay and Mike Currie, the father of Dave and Mark. Building a ninth restaurant will add to an already full plate for the brothers.

"The business is a lot of fun. We both love it and enjoy it. We're blessed to work with a ton of great people. That makes it super enjoyable," said Dave Currie of why they decided to open a new place.

Creative Cuisine employs 141 people. The Curries estimate Newt's South will need 20 to 30 employees.

This will be the first time the Curries have opted to construct a new building rather than adapt and renovate an existing site. They had shopped for a south Rochester spot for about a year before the Crossroads deal worked out.

"Building from the ground up took a lot more thought going into it. We're used to finding a 100-year-old building and then working with it," said David Currie.

They plan to build a restaurant similar in look and size to the quirky Newt's North location, which opened in 2011 inside the Wallin Building at 5231 U.S. 52 Frontage Road N.W.

The genesis for the project dates to 2011, when Graf purchased Tasos Psomas' Pannekoeken Huis restaurant and demolished it to make way for a second Rochester BWW.

Even though Graf decided "it just made sense" to have the Curries build on the site, it doesn't mean he's abandoning his own restaurant plans.

"There will eventually be another Buffalo Wild Wings in Rochester. It will happen. The city's big enough for at least one more," he said.

July 14, 2014

Ex-Pump & Munch to make way for new Caribou Coffee shop

More caffeine is on its way through Rochester's development pipeline.

A long-empty ex-BP Pump & Munch building at 451 16th Ave. N.W. is slated to be cleared away to make room for a new Caribou Coffee shop in northwest Rochester.

16thavepumpandmunchThe 1,804-square-foot stand-alone Caribou Coffee shop is planned for the high-profile spot, which will give the Minnesota coffee company access to both Civic Center Drive Northwest and the increasingly busy 16th Avenue North. The sit-down shop also will have a drive-through window.

Site plans still are working their way through official channels, but Mona Keehn says the hope is for the demolition and construction to begin yet this year.

Rick and Mona Keehn, who also own the Cariboucoffeedrawingadjacent Automotive Procare, bought the 3,000-square-foot building in 2011 for more than $730,000. They had hoped to find a tenant to lease it.

"We just couldn't find a good match," said Mona Keehn. "And then this came up."

042909pumpmunchBPciviccenter1jkIn the summer of 2009, all six of Rochester's BP Pump & Munch c-stores closed their doors for good. Since then, five of those buildings have either been re-purposed or demolished.

However, the 16th Avenue Pump & Munch has stood pretty much as it did in 2009. And now it will give up its spot for a new place for Rochester's growing population to grab a cup of coffee.

July 08, 2014

Cowboy Jacks now open on Broadway

The word is that Rochester's latest Western-themed eatery opened its doors and fired up the grill on Monday.

074After an extended build-out, Cowboy Jack’s is now cooking in the Wyndham Garden hotel at 1625 S. Broadway. That's the 145-unit hotel that was under the America's Best Value Inn and Suites brand from 2011 to November 2013.

Cowboy Jack's is a casual, American-style restaurant chain based in the Twin Cities.

The name and look of the hotel's bar and restaurant has morphed several times in the past few years. In 2008, it became Macho Nacho. Later it transformed into Ron's Place, which then became The Fieldhouse.

The Wayzata-based Bay Ridge Properties own the 40-year-old hotel. Bay Ridge purchased it in February 2012 for $4.8 million.

June 30, 2014

Hormel bulks up portfolio by buying maker of Muscle Milk

Austin-based Hormel Foods Corp. is bulking up its portfolio of companies by buying the maker of Muscle Milk protein drinks for $450 million.

UrlHormel, which produces Spam, Jennie-O Turkey and Skippy Peanut Butter among many other products, announced Monday evening that it had signed a deal to buy Benicia, Calif.-based CytoSport Holdings, Inc.

“Muscle Milk products will serve as a growth catalyst for our Specialty Foods segment, providing this division with a leading brand in the high-growth sports nutrition category,” stated Hormel CEO and President Jeffrey M. Ettinger in the press announcement. “The acquisition of CytoSport expands our offerings of portable, immediate, protein-rich foods, and broadens our appeal with younger consumers.”

Spammy2Muscle Milk power and drinks are used by many bodybuilders as muscle-building boost. It's considered the top brand in the ready-to-drink protein drink category. CytoSport launched Muscle Milk in 2000 and its grown to be its most popular brand. The company also makes other products like protein bars, oatmeal and ready-to-drink products.

Hormel anticipates CytoSport's total 2014 sales to hit an estimated $370 million. The deal is expected to officially close within 30 days.

CytoSport, which is owned by the Pickett family, first started talking to potential buyers in the fall of 2013. Hormel was considered a possible buyer from the start, along with Irish cheese maker Glanbia and Colorado-based butter and soy milk maker Whitewave Foods. The early pricing talk in 2013 was that CytoSport was looking for $500 million for the company.

Hormel already has a protein drink product line made by Hormel Health Labs, but HealthyShot drinks are aimed at medical patients and seniors who have trouble eating or swallowing.

This is acquisition follows another Hormel non-meat protein buy in 2013, when it bought Unilever's Skippy peanut-butter business for $700 million.

June 23, 2014

Rochester's Dunkin' Donuts to open at end of month

Doughnuts should be dunking before the fireworks start launching.

Rochester's new Dunkin' Donuts, the first to operate in Minnesota since 2005, is prepping for a late June "soft" opening. The return of DD is happening at 15 First Ave. S.W. in the Kahler Grand Hotel complex in the heart of downtown.

06232014dunkindonuts"We're in good shape," says Donna Caflisch, who represents Rochester Retail Services. "We're working hard on training now to make sure we're ready with good customer service."

So if you smell doughnuts in downtown during the next few weeks, it probably won't be your imagination. The staff is rolling through lots of training batches.

While Caflisch already has a full team of about 30 employees on staff, she says they still are hiring people that help with DD or other projects. Rochester Retail Services also manages the new Freshens franchise in the Kahler Inn & Suites and is working on a second one in the subway of the Marriott Hotel. That second Freshens could open its doors, if everything goes according to plan, in early August. It's located in the space that last housed the long-time downtown shop, The Crate.

She says the early responses to recent opened Freshens in the Kahler Inn have been very positive.

"People seem to be excited to see some variety in their (downtown) menu choices," said Caflisch.

When asked about speculation that a second Dunkin' is being planned for southeast Rochester, she said she couldn't comment.

While all of the franchises managed by Rochester Retail Services are located in downtown hotels owned by the Kahler Hospitalty Group and the firm offices in the Kahler, Caflisch stressed that there is absolutely no direct connection between any of the owners of the Kahler hotels and the owners of the restaurant franchises. However, she declined to identify who actually owns the franchises.

Rochester's Dunkin' Donuts franchisee, Donuts Non Traditional LLC, incorporated in October 2014. The address it uses is Rochester's Dunlap & Seeger law firm. That's the same address used for Rochester Retail Services, which incorporated in March 2013. It's not unusual for some companies to use their attorneys' address for such filings.

June 18, 2014

Baker turned pizza maker hits hits the road with wood-fire oven

Have wood-fire oven. Will travel.

That could be Stephan Jennebach's new motto now that he's added a mobile pizza o10329915_10152411609534524_707966481405501891_oven to his Firebrick Bread business in Zumbrota.

About a month ago, he hit the road with a new custom trailer featuring a wood-fire oven and prep kitchen to make and sell pizzas wherever he'd like. Right now, Jennebach can be found at the Zumbrota Farmers Market on Tuesdays and the Red Wing Farmers Market on Saturdays.

The new offering has gone over so well that he needed to hire three employees to keep the pizzas moving. However, he's still remaining true to the original vision of Firebrick Bread and continues to bake an array of hand-made breads in his wood-fired oven at his home. He first fired up the bakery business in 2012.

His menu includes five types of pizzas. He's using some local produce on them now and hopes to do more of that as the project progresses. It takes about five minutes to make and then bake a pizza in the 700-degree wood-fired oven.

Jennebach says adding the kitchen-on-wheels made sense given the local hunger for wood-fired pizza.

"When I told people about Firebrick Bread, the first question always was, 'Do you make pizzas, too?,'" he said.

Since regulations wouldn't allow him to do that at his home, Jennebach started looking into putting an oven on a trailer and eventually turned to a company that specialized in them.

"It was a big investment, but it's one I believe will pay for itself," he said. "I can take it anywhere in Minnesota."

Right now he's sticking to weekly appearances at the two farmers markets and an occasional special event. That, combined with his weekly bread baking, has pretty much filled up his schedule at this point.

EDITOR'S NOTE

101207jennebachonaballLong-time readers may recognize the Jennebach name, since Stephen was a very enthusiastic commenter on this blog during its early years.

He was also pretty much the only one who would act on my goofy attempts at photo contests. I was just ahead of my time with 'selfies.' Heh. His best submission involved the big red balls in front of what was then the brand-new south Target store.

May 28, 2014

Analyst speculates that Hormel may be target of takeover bid

There's a lot of merger and acquistion activity cooking in the meatier aisles of the financial markets these days.

Spammy2The latest was Pilgrim Pride's surprise move to buy Hillshire Brands. Lots of investors with stock options profited from the $6.4 billion deal and that's leading to speculation about the next meat deal to hit the grill might be.

I spotted a very speculative column today on Barron's website by Scott H. Fullman of investment research firm, Increasing Alpha, on that topic. Fullman focused Austin's favorite Fortune 500 company and the creator of Spam, Hormel Foods, as a takeover candidate.

I have no idea if his theories make sense.

Here's some from Fullman's piece:

"Often when such an acquisition takes place, we look for other candidates. One stock seeing increased interest re Spamproductscently is Hormel Foods Corp, which rose back above its 100-day moving average Tuesday and was attempting to break above its 50-day moving average, but ended the day just below it. Momentum is rising sharply and volume is higher as well.

We are seeing a slight increase in implied volatility for Hormel, even as the shares jumped. The 30-day implied volatility is up more than 0.7% for calls, and down 0.8% for puts, indicating a sharp shift in bullish sentiment.

Despite the rise, those risk premiums are still close to their 52-week lows. Clearly, other traders are having the same thought as we are.

If you are looking for a low-cost, low-dollar-risk entry, consider purchasing the Hormel July $50 calls, which are offered at 40 cents. The delta on that option, which shows the current relationship between the movement of the stock and the option, is 23%, but it is expected to rise as the call becomes closer to being at-the-money, thereby increasing the leverage of the option. If the stock rises 10% from here to $52.58, the options will be worth $2.58, for a gain of $2.18 per share, or 545%. If the shares fail to rise, you will lose 40 cents per share, or 100% of your investment.

That compares, however, to a potential loss of $1.14 for those purchasing shares if the stock reverts to Friday's closing price.

Our suggestion is to purchase an equivalent number of calls to the amount of stock you can afford to buy, thereby keeping your risk in check.

May 27, 2014

Zumbro River Cafe to focus on breakfast, lunch

Going with the flow, Rochester's Zumbro River Café is following the current toward the rising sun.

The café at 120 Elton Hills Dr. N.W. will soon shift its daily schedule earlier by offering breakfast every day and continuing to serve breakfast items through lunch. Previously, breakfast was only offered on weekends. As part of the hours adjustment, the restaurant will also drop its dinner service.

ZumbroRiverCafeExteriorOwners Dennis and Lynn Wong say the new earlier schedule started at 7 a.m. today. Zumbro River Cafe will then serve breakfast followed by lunch until closing time at 2 p.m. It's open Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Monday.

Dennis Wong says the change is spurred by customer requests and how traffic fades in the evening.

"We've had a really good response," he said of telling customers about their plans.

Customers are particularly pleased about being able to order some of the restaurant's popular breakfast items, like the New Orleans Omelet, for lunch.

The Wongs opened Zumbro River Cafe in 2011 to complement their Dunn Bros. coffee shop, which is its next-door neighbor. The restaurant gives customers a place to get a full sit-down meal, if a quick bite with coffee is not enough.

The Zumbro Cafe seats about 35 people in  950-square-feet of space just east of the coffee shop, between Dunn Bros. and the Olmsted National Bank branch.

"It has worked out well," Dennis Wong says. "The cafe is a little quieter. The coffee shop is louder and has more more hustle and bustle."

The Wongs also own two other Rochester Dunn Bros. as well as a downtown noodle shop called Hot Pot.

May 20, 2014

Hy-Vees to add sit-down restaurants

The Hy-Vee grocery chain plans to upgrade the in-store restaurants in its three Rochester stores to fit its full sit-down model, which serves beer and wine. 

05202014hyveebarlowRemodeling the current spaces into Hy-Vee's Market Café casual restaurant format could begin as soon as June at the Barlow Plaza and Crossroads Plaza stores, said Chris Friesleben, the Iowa-based grocer's director of communications. She estimates that the new cafes could be ready to open by August.

The Hy-Vee store on 37th Street Northwest also has a new Market Cafe on the menu, but it will always undergo a major renovation. It will get a new pharmacy, customer service counter and floral area. The exterior will get a major face-lift and Rochester2the parking lot will be repaired as well as expanded. That construction project is tentatively expected to begin in July.

When they open, the new Market Cafes will have a wait staff that will take orders at the tables, in contrast to the current cafeteria-style ordering used in Rochester's Hy-Vee eateries. They will also offer beer and wine with the meals.

West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee is an employee-owned corporation operating 235 retail stores in eight Midwestern states. For 2013 the company recorded sales of $8 billion, ranking it among the top 25 supermarket chains in the United States.

The sit-down Stor1547 restaurant is a model that Hy-Vee has found success with in other markets.

"We've always been in food service. We do very well at breakfast and at lunch, but it really drops off for dinner in Rochester now," said Friesleben. "Everywhere we have Market Cafes, we find that the evening traffic picks up. By adding these to the Rochester stores, we hope to capture more of that dinner crowd."

She explained that by the end of the work day, customers want to relax and have someone come to take their order. They also seem to be more interested in having a glass of wine or a beer with dinner.

The seating in the Hy-Vee's food service areas will close down for construction, which should take about two months.  New tables and booths will be installed as will new decor.

"They will have a completely new look," Friesleben said.Iow0520hy-veemarketcafe03

The Market Cafes will also have a larger, dedicated staff than the store's restaurants have had in the past.

While Hy-Vee is moving decisively ahead with upgrades of its existing Rochester stores, it's "re-visiting the layout" of the proposed  95,000-square-foot store to be built along West Circle Drive, she said.

The project is still slated to move ahead, though the time line is uncertain until the plans are finalized. This fourth Rochester store was first announced in October 2011 after Hy-Vee purchased the property just south of the Northern Hills Golf Course for $3.19 million. It will be part of Rochester developer Dale Ragan's planned Northern Hills Commercial Park.

Previously estimated at costing between $15 million to $17 million, the proposed store is anticipated to be the largest of Hy-Vee's Rochester locations once complete. By comparison, the Hy-Vee in the Barlow Plaza is 78,000 square feet; the Crossroads store is 70,000, and the 37th Street store is about 60,000. Hy-Vee estimates that about 450 people will be hired to staff it.

Unlike the other stores, the new one is expected to have a different restaurant format called Market Grille. That model, which Hy-Vee uses in its newly constructed stores, has a more elaborate kitchen allowing for a more extensive menu.