How Hot Chicken Takeover is Reinventing the Fast Casual Experience

“Our mission is clear now — simply put, we want to keep creating extraordinary experiences for extraordinary people,” says Joe DeLoss.

On this episode of Emerging Brands, Joe DeLoss—the founder of fast casual restaurant chain Hot Chicken Takeover—discusses bringing Nashville-style fried chicken to Columbus, Ohio. Inspired by Nashville restaurant favorites Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Monell’s, Joe DeLoss decided to create his own hot chicken restaurant chain.

Monell’s had family-style southern meals every day of the week,” says DeLoss. “You would join a table with ten other people, and I fell in love with the communal experience. Most guests walking into a fast casual restaurant don’t remember being called out or greeted—our question was, how do we build the infrastructure of our restaurant around recreating that communal experience for our guests and employees?”

Over the last decade, Joe DeLoss has worked in a number of industries in an effort to create employment opportunities for people experiencing or who have experienced incarceration, homelessness, and other hardships. Founded in 2014, Hot Chicken Takeover has become a breakout brand in the Midwest. The chain boasts an excellent employee retention rate and an ever-growing customer base.

In this podcast, DeLoss details his retention and employee development goals as well as the core values of the fast casual chain.

The Hot Chicken Takeover team endeavors to operate from a place of “bold humility” in everything they do. “We listen to everything we hear and take it very seriously. Our goal is to acknowledge and address trends that our customers are experiencing before they become large problems,” explains DeLoss. “We know that we can always improve, and we’re unwilling to get in the way of progress. We measure an employee’s performance against that.”

Listen to the above podcast to learn more about the future of Hot Chicken Takeover, and check out our Emerging Brands podcast to hear from other rising leaders in the restaurant industry. You can also download the Top 150 Emerging Brands Guide to check out the full list of emerging brands from Foodable Labs.

This post is brought to you by Tyson Foods. To learn more, visit The Modern Chef Network.

Vintage Capital Makes an Offer for Red Robin Buyout

Vintage Capital is offering Red Robin a cash bid of $461.4 million to effectively take over the company. The investor currently controls 12 percent of the company’s stock.

Earlier this month, Red Robin adopted a short-term shareholder rights plan known as a poison pill. The plan temporarily forestalls investors from acquiring full control of a company via the stock market. The move was almost certainly intended to prevent Vintage Capital Management from gaining control of the company by acquiring shares.

Former Red Robin CEO Denny Marie Post retired in April. Board Chair Pattye Moore is currently serving as the interim CEO while consulting service The Elliott Group searches for a replacement.

Vintage Capital urged Red Robin in a letter to auction the casual-dining chain, and reiterated its interest in acquiring the company. “We have very little confidence,” notes the filing, “that the current board will be able to attract a suitable new leader for the company.”

In a statement, Red Robin expressed confusion over Vintage Capital’s claims. “We were surprised by the content of the letter we received today, as Vintage has not been willing to propose any CEO candidates.” The statement concludes affirming that “The board would of course consider any bona fide offer made by Vintage.”

Red Robin has struggled to find its footing. The chain’s stock value halved over the past year. Its unit growth has been on pause since 2018, shortly after the closure of its fast casual brand Burger Works. Red Robin is known to have a “mall problem”: of the chain’s 572 units, 76 are in enclosed malls and facing serious sales concerns. And with a significant decrease in dine-in customers, the company announced in May that it will be closing ten of those restaurants.

Research by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


Uber Drone Delivery Begins Testing This Summer

Your next takeout order could be delivered by drone in just a few months. Uber is performing drone delivery test trials in San Diego this summer, pending approval from the FAA.

The drone will not deliver food to customers’ doors during these preliminary trials. Instead, the drone will arrive at a designated safe landing zone where an Uber courier will retrieve your order and complete the delivery. Uber Elevate, the team handling drone delivery, intends to use this method to reduce the chance of noise pollution, collisions, devices and packages falling midair, and other safety concerns. Delivery boxes are crafted with carefully selected packaging materials that keep food warm throughout the trip.

Uber appears confident that the technology will become the new norm. According to data from previous company tests with McDonald’s, drones are three times as fast as other modes of transportation. Drones can travel 1.5 miles in seven minutes. With a driver or cyclist, such a trip takes about 21 minutes on average.

According to Eric Allison, Uber’s head of aerial projects, the company has invested in this technology in large part because of the growing popularity of Uber Eats. Allison believes drone delivery will give Uber Eats the edge over its competition, with “selection, quality, and efficiency” drastically improving thanks to the advent of drones. Uber analysts predict that within the next ten years, fast food restaurants will have completely remodeled their kitchens to better suit the needs of drone delivery.

Not far behind, Google has already been performing drone deliveries in Finland and Australia through its offshoot Project Wing. FedEx is developing a food delivery robot, and intends to partner with Pizza Hut, Walmart, and Walgreens in the endeavor.

Ever looking forward, Uber Elevate is also in the process of designing flying taxi technology. Test flights are tentatively planned for 2020 with an anticipated commercial launch in 2023.

Research by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


Tyson Foods Launches Plant-Based Brand Raised & Rooted

Tyson Foods, the second largest meat packer in the world, will unveil its first plant-based nuggets and burgers this summer and fall, respectively. These products will be released as part of Raised & Rooted, the corporation’s new plant-based and blended meat brand.

Instead of chicken, the nuggets will be largely composed of pea protein. The burgers will be a blend of Angus beef, plants, and pea protein. The nuggets promise 30 percent less saturated fat than traditional meat, while the burgers guarantee 60 percent less. The nuggets also feature five grams of fiber.

Alternative protein is “experiencing double-digit growth,” says Noel White. White has served as president and CEO of Tyson Foods since late 2018. “It could someday be a billion-dollar business for our company.” He also affirmed that the company would continue to be “firmly committed” to its original meat-based products.

Raised & Rooted will face fierce competitors, including Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat—and Tyson Foods only recently divested from the latter. Tyson Foods has previously invested in other alternative protein companies as well, including Future Meat Technologies, Memphis Meats, and Myco Technology.

After its announcement, Tyson Foods shares climbed three percent while Beyond Meat fell four percent. Beyond Meat ceased production of its plant-based chicken strips earlier this year. Kellogg’s currently offers vegetarian chicken nuggets through its Morningstar Farms division.

Tyson Foods intends to offer additional alternative protein products through its other divisions, and Raised & Rooted is not the first of the corporation’s numerous brands to offer plant-based products. Aidells currently features all-natural sausage and meatballs composed of blended chicken and plant proteins.

Research by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


Kuli Kuli Brings Nutrient-Dense Superfood to the US Market

Moringa is known by many names throughout the world: drumstick tree, mother’s milk, the tree of life. But the plant is relatively unknown in the United States, and its extensive nutritional and medicinal benefits are only beginning to be studied.

In this episode of Food Out Loud, host Nathan Mikita chats with Lisa Curtis, the founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Curtis began researching the moringa plant after personally discovering its exceptional nutritional benefits while living in a mud house with no electricity in Niger, West Africa. Before adding moringa to her diet, she almost exclusively ate rice and millet and often felt tired and faint. The name “Kuli Kuli” comes from a traditional African peanut snack called kuli-kuli, with which Curtis began mixing moringa leaves.

With help from an Indiegogo campaign, Curtis officially launched Kuli Kuli five years ago. Kuli Kuli has since partnered with over 1300 women’s cooperatives and small family farms in eleven countries. Together, the company has raised over 4.4 million dollars in revenue and is now sold in more than 7000 stores. Curtis hopes the work will provide continuous financial and nutritional security for those communities and family farms. She quickly found that the best way to ensure farmers ate more of the plant was to have them grow it themselves.

Moringa may be the most nutrient-dense superfood in the world—though, as Curtis notes, that designation depends upon how you are measuring nutrient value. “Most plants are 90% water. Moringa is 80% water,” says Curtis. “It’s a complete plant protein. Very few greens like that have fiber, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin C. It’s more nutritious than kale.”

According to recent studies, moringa is better than turmeric at reducing inflammation within the body. The plant is also proven to help regulate blood sugar levels, thus providing natural relief for those who suffer from diabetes. Some swear by the plant for soothing arthritis, and new mothers often take it to promote lactation.

Energy bars, shakes, shots, and powder are the main products Kuli Kuli currently offers in such grocery stores as Whole Foods, Safeway, CVS, and Costco. When breaking down the plant, Curtis and the rest of her team endeavor to avoid losing any valuable nutrients. “We’re very careful in the process. We work with farmers to harvest leaves in the morning when the leaves are fresh, and wash, dry, and mill them into a powder within 30 minutes of harvesting.” Vitamin C is the only nutrient lost during the harvesting and delivery process.

Listen to the above episode of Food Out Loud and learn more about the next steps for Kuli Kuli and the medicinal benefits of moringa.

Produced by:

Nathan Mikita