Jun 15, 2024 15 min read

The Kitchen Sink

The Kitchen Sink
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Friends of Branded!

Happy Saturday and I hope you had a great week!

I was reading a LinkedIn post this week by Zack Oates, our friend and the CEO of one of Branded’s most important portfolio companies, Ovation. In case you weren't aware, Ovation was voted the #1 guest feedback platform for restaurants (I figured if I'm using one of Zack's LinkedIn posts the VERY TOP of the Top of the Fold, a boast for this most operator-centric tech company is both deserved and only fair). 😊

The post (which you can find here) was about Zack’s father, Bart Oates, a 3x Super Bowl Champion, 5x Pro Bowler and specifically the invaluable lesson Zack learned from his dad.

Senior Oates bestowed upon his son, “you can’t do everything, but you can anything.”

The post went on to talk about how “easy it is to get caught-up in competing priorities and think we can do it all, but that the truth is, true success comes from solving a very specific problem and dedicating ourselves to that mission.”

You’re probably wondering why I copied a link to Zack’s post if I was also going to quote from it. I’m now wondering the same thing.

By the way, I think the two Super Bowl rings Bart Oates earned as a member of the New York Giants look pretty good on my right hand, don’t you?

My pondering if I can get out of the restaurant with the rings on my hand

I was thinking about Zack’s post in relation to Branded’s Hospitality Headline and how much we try to cover in this weekly ‘read.’ We have a small, but mighty team that LOVES this industry and feels so fortunate to be part of this large, diverse, fragmented, and most special community.

The best part of this industry? Well, that’s simple, it’s the hardworking, creative, and passionate people that try to deliver value and experiences for our guests every single time.

There have been a wealth of interesting stories and specifically things going on at Branded that I’ve been wanting to cover in the H^2. Last week, I intended to go in a completely different direction until I read the manifesto by the legendary Tyler Durden about the “Restaurant Apocalypse” and felt the need to respond (and if you missed last week’s edition, you could conveniently find it here: The First Rule of Fight Club).

In an effort to not fall behind in the topics that are important to Branded and that I believe deserve some attention, I’m making this week’s edition the proverbial ‘kitchen sink,’ and I’m specifically activating the Access Hospitality Network section that appears immediately following the Shoutout section.

In this section, folks are invited to take a look at some of the things Branded Hospitality Ventures is doing and interested parties can opt-in to learn more if they choose.

So as always, read what you like, skip what you don’t and in the immortal words of SNL’s Stefan, this edition of the H^2 has EVERYTHING (except the kitchen sink)!

This week, if I had a nickel for every person that sent me the article by the Wall Street Journal’s Kate King titled “The Unlikely New Real-Estate Darling: Restaurants,” I’d have about eighty cents.

In all seriousness, I loved Ms. King’s article and the realization that “the restaurant business is emerging as the hottest corner of retail real estate.”

I don’t mean to re-visit last week’s theme of headwinds vs tailwinds (and whether one person’s headwind can be another person’s tailwind), but according to the article and specially the data firm CoStar Group, the foodservice industry accounted for more than 19% of all retail leases in 2023, rising in recent years to the highest proportion for any category since CoStar began tracking the statistic in 2007.

The article talks about how Americans are spending more time and money at restaurants and that includes both fine-dining to fast-causal joints. You know the metrics driving this, low unemployment, rising wages and the changes in consumer preferences. I’ve written before how many home-cooked meals I had as a child versus today’s demand for off-premises dining as well as in-store dining.

The average household spent nearly 53% of its food budget on food away from home, a new high watermark according to the US Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service. Total restaurant sales are forecasted to break through $1 trillion exceeding the previous record set only last year by 5.4% according to the National Restaurant Association.

Property owners have always been worried about foodservice businesses and specifically about restaurants. Remember the urban myth that 90% of restaurants fail within the first year? Fast-failing businesses don’t make for very good tenants. However, during the pandemic, the real estate and hospitality industries became partners in the truest sense of the word. Ask any restauranteur about their experience during the pandemic, and they will tell you that their ability to remain open was most significantly correlated to the willingness of their landlord to work with them.

So, while the pandemic crushed the hospitality industry, it also made clear that NOT all restaurant operators are the same. When it comes to landlords, securing the highest rent is no longer as desirable as getting successful operators to take space.

I’ll go further and share that there are a number of real estate operators that continue to leverage hospitality and other experiential venues on the ground floor in order to drive stickier and higher rents on the upper floors. Bottomline - successful restaurants increase foot traffic for nearby businesses.

There’s a lot you can do online and that of course includes ordering food, but in-store dining offers an experience and the ability to connect with people in way that can only be done through food and beverage. You think this trend is going to change? Of course that’s possible (anything is possible), but with the surge in “entertainment” and venues both large and small that are bringing folks together to socialize, and be in the company of others, it’s no wonder that dining out is now among the most popular forms of recreation.

I want to hammer this point, dining out is an experience and Americans are loving experiences more than ever.

Again, according to the National Restaurant Association, 63% of Americans would rather purchase an experience than buy a thing (and dining out is considered an experience). Is this a cultural thing? A generational thing? Well, Generation Z (born 1997 to 2012) is the generation that is eating out the most and spending the most on delivery platforms (as well as the generation that spends the least on groceries and eating at home).

Yes, Millennials (born 1981 to 2000) represent the largest group of consumers and Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) have the largest buying power, but Gen Z is on the rise and according to Bloomberg, these young students, and professionals command $360 billion in disposable income. If you’re making a strategic plan for your business, do you want to focus on the group that’s the largest or richest today or anticipate where the industry is going? I thought so.

I need to end this week’s Top of the Fold on a truly sad note.

Readers of the H^2 know about my love for this community and the village I value, appreciate, and that means so much to me. Last week we lost a friend, one of the OGs of Branded’s village and a most special person.

Solomon Choi passed away at far too young an age and will be missed terribly. His success as a passionate entrepreneur, while incredible, pales in comparison to the many lives he touched, friendships he made, and people he loved and that loved him. And for as much as Solomon gave of himself to others, he was committed most to his beautiful family.

I had the privilege of being introduced and spending time with Solomon as Schatz and I were putting Branded together. A lot of nicknames were thrown around back then, some good, some less so. Some stuck, others, not so much.

Rest in peace King Solomon, thank you for showing me how to be a better man and thank you for being my friend.

For those interested, I’ve copied a link to Solomon’s obituary here: Solomon Choi's Obituary

It takes a village.

I’m thinking about changing the name of the Shoutout section to “The Family Table.” Thoughts on the name change?

As long as Branded’s portfolio companies and partners continue to deliver value to operators and provide a roadmap for success, I’m going to continue to recognize their work here at The Family Table (too soon?).

Let’s kick this week’s shoutouts off with one of our earliest investments, Chowly and this company’s incredible obsession not just to help SMBs make more money, but to make greater profits!

Chowly, with its tool, “Smart Pricing” wants restaurants to focus on its profits, not just about its revenues.

Restaurants are defined by their busy periods and slow periods. With Chowly’s Smart Pricing solution, restaurants can maximize their revenue and profits with a right price at the right time model and keep their income stream consistent.

CEO and Co-Founder, Sterling Douglass, would make my friend and the country’s best mixologist, Doug Quinn proud b/c Mr. Douglass has chosen a side and he’s on team restaurant operator!

While we were all out at the NRA Show in Chicago and the Wendy’s debacle over dynamic pricing was still fresh in the minds of operators b/c the significant backlash from customers, Sterling made his position on the topic clear.

Pulled from the article by Friend of Branded, Joe Guszkowski, on the topic of dynamic pricing, Sterling said, “let’s not beat around the bush, restaurants should be able to increase prices too.” Sterling shared that operators can use dynamic pricing as a scalpel rather than a club. For instance, they could adjust prices only on third-party delivery apps, giving customers an incentive to order directly. About 1,000 restaurants are using Chowly's dynamic pricing tool to do just that.

Here’s Mr. Guszkowski’s article if you’d like to check it out: Dynamic pricing a divisive subject at National Restaurant Show

For Chowly, the value of its Smart Pricing tool is about the following:

(i) FLEXIBILITY: Simply apply Smart Pricing to only your third parties so your loyal customers' direct ordering always gets your best price.

(ii) MAXIMIZING REVENUES & PROFITS: To cash in on busy periods, restaurants can use the Smart Pricing solution to increase their profit margins by charging more.

(iii) CATERING TO DIFFERENT CUSTOMERS: Differentiating prices for customers who order during the week vs. the weekend with Smart Pricing can further drive demand.

Moving from one of Branded’s technology partners to one of our restaurant partners, I want to give a BIG shoutout to our friends at Big Chicken who expanded their BIG FUN in Chicago with the opening of its newest store in Wintrust Arena, located at the McCormick Place campus. Fans of the Chicago Sky and DePaul University will be enjoying BIG LOVE and BIG CHICKEN SANDWICHES during all the action at the arena.

The Big Chicken team gave their own shoutout to Oak View Group and to Larita Clark, the CEO at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority for helping to make this happen.

Big Chicken is continuing its expansion into high-profile arenas across the country and internationally through its partnership with Oak View Group (OVG), the largest builder of new arenas in the world. The group recently opened Big Chicken’s first international location at OVG’s newest world-class venue, Co-op Live, in Manchester, United Kingdom. Now, Big Chicken in Wintrust Arena will be joining several other OVG properties, including Chicagoland’s SeatGeek Stadium, ASU’s Mullett Arena, Arizona’s Footprint Center, New York’s UBS Arena, Moody Center in Austin, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena and Palm Spring’s Acrisure Arena.

“There’s no doubt that Big Chicken will be a game changer for fans with BIG appetites at Wintrust Arena,” said Josh Halpern, CEO of Big Chicken. “Thanks to our incredible partnership with Oak View Group, we’ve been able to captivate crowds of fans in Chicagoland at SeatGeek Stadium, and now Wintrust Arena as well. We partnered with Chicago’s iconic doughnut shop to create a one-of-a-kind sandwich for our debut in the city almost a year ago in Rosemont, and plan to continue to engrain ourselves into the local restaurant scene with a new location coming to Arlington Heights next year.”

“Adding Big Chicken at Wintrust Arena is a slam dunk and promises to further enhance the game day experience for Chicago Sky and WNBA fans,” added Ken Gaber, President of OVG Hospitality, the food and beverage division of Oak View Group. “The restaurant brings a taste of Shaq’s larger-than-life personality to the arena, providing fans with an outstanding dining option that complements the thrilling basketball action. The success of Big Chicken at our other Oak View Group properties speaks volumes about its appeal, and we’re confident all visitors to Wintrust Arena will enjoy these delicious offerings.”

In addition to becoming a staple in U.S. arenas, Big Chicken currently has 40-plus traditional and non-traditional locations open and more than 350 in development worldwide.

And finally, we’re one week away from the kickoff of the official CONMEBOL Copa America 2024 Tamias Fan Zone fueled by ComAve.

Branded is thrilled to be partners with our friends from ComAve; Tamias POS; and Libra Incentix to create a unique fan experiences at The Tamias Fan Zone of CONMEBOL Copa América 2024™!

The Tamias Fan Zone for CONMEBOL Copa América 2024™ is located at Wynwood Marketplace in Miami, Florida, and offers a series of activities for fans throughout the entire tournament, which will be held from June 20 to July 14.

For four weeks, attendees of the oldest and most exciting national team tournament on the continent will be able to experience sponsor activations, giant screens to watch the matches, shows and performances with special guests, among other unique and thrilling activities.

“We want the fans attending CONMEBOL Copa América 2024™ to enjoy the spirit of football, experiencing unique and entertaining activities in the Fan Zone that we will host together with Tamias. We also aim for them to feel the South American passion in the heart of one of Miami's most iconic neighborhoods,” commented Alejandro Domínguez, President of CONMEBOL.

The Fan Zone is part of CONMEBOL's strategic commitment: Fan-Centered, aiming to provide greater excitement to the millions of attendees of CONMEBOL Copa América 2024™, who will be able to enjoy activities such as:

  • Watching matches: attendees can enjoy every moment of the tournament, bringing the stadium atmosphere to the Fan Zone.
  • Official merchandise for purchase: fans will find various retail stores to purchase exclusive CONMEBOL Copa América 2024™ products.
  • Sponsor activations: fans will have the opportunity to interact with the official sponsors of the Cup, enjoying brand activations, special gifts, and exclusive promotions.
  • Live shows with special guests: fans can enjoy live concerts with special guest artists.
  • Food and drinks: fans can enjoy a wide variety of food and beverages specially prepared for CONMEBOL Copa América 2024™.
  • Additional surprises: attendees will experience numerous additional surprises that will create unforgettable moments and experiences.

Tamias Fan Zone - Miami Florida Copa America 2024

Branded has been inviting readers of the H^2 that are interested in learning more about our portfolio companies, and investment strategies to become part of our Access Hospitality Network.

This week, despite Branded Hospitality Ventures' significant focus on emerging technology & innovation, I want to highlight some of the work we’re doing in the restaurant space.

To kick things off, here’s a quick recap of the Branded Restaurant Opportunities we’ve had the privilege of being involved with:

  • Our FIRST was in Micha Magid’s Mighty Quinns BBQ, a quick-service multi-unit company which has experienced meaningful growth since our investment.
  • Our SECOND was in Simon Oren’s Monterey Brasserie, a single unit full-service high end American Brasserie based in New York City.
  • Our THIRD was in Dr. Shaquille O’Neal’s (and CEO Josh Halpern’s) Big Chicken, a quick-service, multi-unit, and fast-growing company.

Today, it's with great pride and excitement that I share our fourth Restaurant Opportunity which is with John Meadow’s LDV Hospitality, a high-end, full-service, multi-unit and multi-brand company.

With such incredibly well-regarded brands such as Scarpetta and American Cut, and hotel partners across Bulgari Hotel London, The Cosmopolitan, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Ritz Carlton, Gurney’s, etc. LDV represents one of America’s strongest operators in the high-end food, beverage, and entertainment space.

Based in the great city of New York (and Branded’s hometown), LDV is a boutique restaurant group aspiring to bring “La Dolce Vita”, or “The Good Life” by delivering best-in-class dining and entertainment experiences to customers around the world through its 20 restaurants and bars across 8 cities and 5 countries.

Readers of the H^2 that would like to learn more about Branded’s work in the hospitality industry, are invited to click the link below to request more information.

In today’s episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg, “The Restaurant Guy,” and Jimmy Frischling, “The Finance Guy,” are joined by guest Josh Halpern, founder and CEO of Big Chicken and Beer Park.

Josh narrates how he began his business and how the relationships he has fostered with shareholders like Dr. Shaquille O’Neal has become invaluable. He also delves into what it is like to own a franchise, walks us through the mindset needed to run one, and uncovers the often-forgotten demographics businesses must consider serving in pursuit of success. describes what it takes to bridge the gap between coworkers from multiple generations.

You can tune in on SpotifyAppleAmazoniHeart, or your favorite listening platform!

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🔍 Got Questions? We've Got Answers! 🌟

Satisfy your thirst for knowledge? Look no further! It's time to dive into our brand-new segment: "Ask The Headline"! 🎉

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That’s it for today!

See you next week, (about the) same bat-time, same bat-channel.

It takes a village!

Jimmy Frischling
Branded Hospitality Ventures
235 Park Ave South, 4th Fl | New York, NY 10003

Branded Hospitality Ventures ("Branded") is an investment and advisory platform at the intersection of food service, technology, innovation and capital. As experienced hospitality owners and operators, Branded brings value to its portfolio companies through investment, strategic counsel, and its deep industry expertise and connections.

Learn more about Branded here: Branded At-A-Glance

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