There’s no doubt about it: Running a restaurant today is tougher than ever before.

On top of some usual challenges — financial planning, food and labor — restaurateurs must also stay abreast of technologies that are changing the way our industry and customers do business. The great news is technology is making us more efficient by increasing productivity, reducing wait times and satisfying busy, tech-savvy customers who want to incorporate dining out into their time-constrained schedules.

Did anyone think four or five years ago they’d be outfitting servers with Apple Watches or other wearable “smart” devices to help increase check averages or table turns? That’s starting to become more the norm than the exception these days. Tableside technology is allowing customers to order and pay for meals via electronic tablet — reducing throughput times and enhancing the overall customer experience. And don’t forget on-demand delivery, which could help restaurants and consumers make the most of off-premise dining. (read more…)

Pricey cupcakes may not be the hot trend they were a few years ago, but Americans are still sweet on desserts and they’ve got a growing selection of individual and shareable options at restaurants and at the grocery store.

Seventy percent of Americans eat dessert at least once a week, up from 57% three years ago, according to US Foods. Nine out of 10 households regularly buy ice cream and other frozen desserts, according to Packaged Facts, and retail sales of frozen desserts are on track to hit $11.7 billion by 2018, up from $10.9 billion in 2013.

Sales of packaged sweet snacks and desserts were also on track to grow, with smaller package sizes and new single-serve options, according to a separate Packaged Facts report. By 2010, 46% of food companies were working on single-serve packaging such as 100-calorie cookies and other snacks, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association. (read more…)

News on two big food retailers emerged among the most popular stories of this week: Kroger announced that it will experiment with digital shelf technology at its stores. The technology, developed by Kroger, will be installed on 2,200 Edge shelves that can show digital price tags and ads, and might also eventually have the ability to communicate with shoppers’ smartphones. A&P’s auctioning of 128 stores was also well-read.

On the restaurant side of the industry, higher food costs mean restaurants are using coping tactics such as raising prices, reworking menus and creating more specials featuring less-pricey ingredients. Readers also learned about Chick-fil-A debuting its first NYC location in Manhattan.

Take a look at the full list of this week’s 10 most-clicked stories below:

  1. Kroger tries out smart shelving in Cincinnati store
  2. How restaurants are coping with higher food costs
  3. A&P to auction 128 stores Thursday
  4. Quest Nutrition’s sales explode
  5. Chick-fil-A to make Manhattan debut this weekend
  6. Sam’s Club shakes up marketing strategy, management structure
  7. Unilever adds Italian gelato company to ice cream portfolio
  8. Meijer names 26-year company veteran as new president
  9. Campbell Soup Co.
  10. (read more…)

Breakfast has long been called the most important meal of the day, and the cliche is proving increasingly true for packaged food makers and restaurants looking to serve consumers’ growing craving for morning meals that balance healthy, yummy and easy to eat on the go.

“Consumers have really absorbed the message for awhile now that starting your day with a bowl full of sugar is not the best way to sustain your energy and be your best,” said Kara Nielsen, culinary director of Sterling Rice Group. “It’s part and parcel with the anti-carb and pro-protein trends, and some of these nutritional themes we keep reading about in the news and hearing about on CNN.”

Retail breakfast food sales grew during the recession and they’re expected to hit $15.7 billion by 2017, a 26% increase from 2012, according to Mintel data. Still, many time-crunched consumers say they skip or skimp on the morning meal, according to a 2014 report from Clarkston Consulting, and breakfast food brands including Kellogg’s, Kraft, Hillshire Brands and Hormel Foods have been working to create breakfast bars and other more convenient options. (read more…)

SmartBrief’s food and beverage readers saw CPG companies making some big moves in the product arena in our news coverage this week, with Keurig informing consumers about the upcoming launch of its Keurig Kold machine and WhiteWave reporting a 27% growth in shares so far this year, driven by the company’s yogurt, plant-based and Horizon Organic products. Cheerios is taking a big step into the gluten-free market with five gluten-free cereal varieties, and Slim Jim is looking to capture more male millennial consumers with its new Funny or Die ad campaign.

Food companies seemed to be focused on their growth strategies this week. Anthony Bourdain announced plans for a shipping warehouse full of food destinations from vendors, to stalls, to shops. Albertsons announced it could raise up to $1.84 billion in an initial public offering, while Kroger gathered 5,000 of its managers from across the company to talk about the retailer’s future growth. (read more…)