They say all press is good press, but during the height of the frenzy surrounding comments by Chick-fil-A’s president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy concerning his views on marriage, even those of us in the press doubted that statement was true.
Then when the Nation’s Restaurant News editors learned that Chick-fil-A’s public relations head, Don Perry, had passed away in the middle of the turmoil, we were all saddened. We can only imagine the tremendous pressure he was handling at the time of his death, as reports from traditional media were accelerated exponentially by Twitter, Facebook and other social media to fan the flames of the controversy. Some NRN editors knew Perry better than others, but everyone on our team was heavyhearted when we learned the news.
Chick-fil-A’s recent saga is instructive to others navigating a world in which everyone has the ability to share information and opinions. Beginning on page 1 and continuing in the Business Intel section, we look at the lessons to be gleaned when a commercial enterprise enters the political arena — especially one as controversial as same-sex marriage — in a world more hyper-linked than ever.
We take on another political hot potato — health care reform — in the Operations section. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s late-June decision upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate, restaurant operators have begun trying to figure out in earnest what the looming changes mean to them.
In a story that also starts on page 1, we explore how reform will affect restaurateurs already offering health care. While these operators are somewhat ahead of the curve, they are still trying to ascertain the possible operational and cost scenarios — some of them quite pricey — that await them as regulators continue to hammer out details of the law.
Of course, succeeding in the restaurant industry has always required a strong heart and the ability to leap multiple obstacles of varying size. This issue’s special report focuses on the 2012 Hot Concepts! Award winners, four industry newcomers destined for growth despite today’s hurdles. These diverse honorees, selected by the NRN editors, exemplify the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurialism and promise that fuels the restaurant industry. They are: the food truck concept Coolhaus; the upscale-casual Del Frisco’s Grille; customized pizza purveyor Pie Five Pizza Co.; and Stacked: Food Well Built, a fast-casual brand that utilizes technology to enhance the customer experience.
The winners will be celebrated during our first www.mufso.com.Supershow in Dallas Sept. 30-Oct. 2. For more information visit
On the topic of technology, operators identify in the Community section the digital resources they rely on to learn about business news and gather industry information. We thank those who cited NRN.com as one of their go-to online sources, and promise that you’ll find some other illuminating reading ideas to click on as well.
In the Marketing section you’ll find our new columnist, Laura Ries, who writes about the importance of visuals in advertising by recalling the meteoric rise and the subsequent fall of Taco Bell’s Chihuahua. Many of you may recognize the Ries name. Laura and her father, Al, are the principals of Ries & Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing firm, and the co-authors of several books. Laura’s most recent book is called “Visual Hammer.”
Finally, Sardar Biglari may be grabbing headlines in his struggle to win a seat on the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store board, but he is not the only activist investor circling restaurant companies today. In the Finance section columnist Steve Rockwell examines the factors that are contributing to a resurgence of activity from such shareholders and the changes their attentions inevitably bring to the targeted businesses.
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