Peter Romeo's Reality Check

News and Peter Romeo’s views on the business behind the restaurant business
Peter Romeo
Director of Digital Content
CSP Business Media

Peter Romeo is director of digital content of the foodservice group of CSP Business Media, with responsibility for the content of Restaurant Business and FoodService Director magazines, RestaurantBusinessOnline.com, and the Restaurant Leadership Conference. The multi-media job caps a 34-year career as a business journalist, including 28 years as a chain-restaurant specialist for such information channels as Nation’s Restaurant News, QSR magazine, and the website of the National Restaurant Association. Romeo’s columns during an earlier stint at Restaurant Business earned him two Jesse H. Neal Awards, business publishing’s equivalent of the Pulitzers. He graduated from New York University in 1979 with honors in history and journalism, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He resides in the New York City suburb of Port Washington with his wife, Holly Klokis; four rescued greyhounds; and four ne’er-do-well, slightly nervous cats.

campaign bus
The campaign buses were still punching “Iowa” into the navigation system when developments dragged restaurateurs off the sidelines of the 2016 presidential election. Eighteen months out, operators might as well be the ones kissing babies and angling for an appearance on Jon Stewart’s show. There’s almost as much at stake for them as there is for the actual Oval Office aspirants. Consider that mandatory paid leave arose as an issue on the very day Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy. Pundits...
Restaurant Reality Check is beginning a weekly report to keep you apprised of how some of the industry’s most celebrated ICU cases are trying to rise from the Posturepedic and flex their financial might again. Parties that want to highlight their own turnaround efforts are encouraged to email us at promeo@cspnet.com . Offended parties can object in the same manner. McDonald’s quietly switches to “ask, ask, tell” order-taking. The burger chain smartly continues to take a scattergun approach to a...
Don’t take our word that you missed a chance to get much smarter about the restaurant business if you sat out this year’s National Restaurant Association Show. Here are some head-turning utterances that underscore what a battery recharge it was for restaurateurs who arrived in Chicago feeling short on ideas, adrift amid a changing world and badly in need of a motivation re-up. Rue missing words like these: 1. For your motivation file: “We can’t be 100 percent better than all of our competitors...
The restaurant industry’s annual Woodstock in Chicago once again provided strong clues as to how the business is changing. Here are handful that caught our attention. 1. P&L land erosion. Occupancy costs, though never an incidental, are becoming a major wallop. Russ Bendel, CEO of The Habit, says the increase in rents and land costs is particularly stinging in the fast-casual segment, a fast-growth sector where players seem to share the same site criteria. Prices are being bid up...
Pro-union agitators tried to disrupt the National Restaurant Association’s annual industry convention in Chicago, but they needed to do more than yell and wave a few signs if they wanted to badger attendees out of a good mood. Those who sat through certain of the conference’s 100-plus education sessions had reason to exit with smiles and considerable optimism. Among the revelations that may have buoyed their expectations for the near future: 1. The summer will likely bring an upswing in...
After the industry’s antics of the past week, we’re pretty sure neither political party will draft a restaurateur as their standard bearer for the 2016 presidential election. There’s a better chance of everyone packing meals from home so there’s no risk of association with the business. Consider how the industry fared in events with decidedly political and social undertones, starting with the 15 minutes of fame for what is likely the worst promotion in restaurant history. 1. White Appreciation...
A strange, head-rattling aftershock followed the release of McDonald’s turnaround plan on Monday. What CEO Steve Easterbrook characterized as a “reset” was detailed first in a four-page statement the financial community and we ink-stained wretches seized like starving sharks. A video of Easterbrook detailing the strategy was released almost simultaneously, but many of us didn’t ingest that for a while. When we did, we found a plan much different in tenor that what was detailed in the printed...
The industry may have just pulled the biggest Rip Van Winkle since, well, Rip Van Winkle. The last time we checked, restaurant chains were looking at menu concoctions like Cap’n Crunch balls, shake-on French fry flavorings and Fritos chips so large you can fill them with chili meat. Now comes the head-spinning news that Wendy’s is trying organics and Panera Bread Co. is waging a pogrom on additives. Either we took a multi-year nap or these wicked winters left us cryogenically frozen for a spell...

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