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Restaurant Roundup: Dunkin’ Cuts Back On Beyond Meat, Restaurant Visits Surge

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It looks like Dunkin’s relationship with Beyond Meat is not going to go beyond the Western states from now on. The two companies announced the nationwide launch of Dunkin’s Beyond Breakfast Sausage sandwich in 2019. Now, Dunkin’ is scaling way back, limiting the availability of the meat substitute to just 10 states.

“We maintain a strong relationship with Beyond Meat and will continue to work together to explore innovative plant-based options to meet consumer demand for plant-based menu items,” the company in a statement, according to Restaurant Business. “The Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich continues to be available at several hundred Dunkin’ restaurants throughout the country, including in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Hawaii, Utah, Kansas and Wyoming.”

The item has disappeared from Dunkin’s online menu, where web archives show that it previously appeared. The company’s confirmation of this dramatic rollback follows a somewhat inaccurate report from J.P. Morgan that the company had removed the option from all locations.

“We personally enjoyed the Beyond Sausage sandwich at Dunkin’ and thought it was one of BYND’s best, but apparently it did not sell as well as expected,” J.P. Morgan managing director Ken Goldman and equity researcher Anoori Kadakia said in a note to CNBC.

The apparent unprofitability of the partnership suggests that, despite both the growing market for plant-based options and the trendiness of the category, alternative proteins are not a guaranteed money maker.

Donatos Pizza Ghosts Nashville

Fast-casual pizza chain Donatos Pizza, known for its “Edge to Edge” thin crust pizzas with no outer crusts,announced Thursday (June 24) that the chain is growing its presence in Nashville with new ghost kitchens. These delivery-only locations with no consumer-facing dining rooms will be created in partnership with REEF Kitchens, and will join the chain’s 300-plus traditional and non-traditional locations across 10 states.

If these locations are successful, the partnership will likely expand to other U.S. cities and states — both companies noted in the release that they hope that the partnership will be a “multi-city growth venture throughout the country.”

These new delivery-only kitchens are part of a larger push on Donatos’ part to propel its digital ordering options into the future, looking to be more nimble and to grow its order fulfillment capacity.

“In the coming years, we are expecting the share of our orders to go more to the digital platform,” the chain’s vice president of information technology Matthew Coy told PYMNTS in an interview featured in the March 2021 edition of our Mobile Order-Ahead report, created in collaboration with Kount. “Our delivery mechanisms are going to have to be oriented toward that kind of shift, and we are going to have to be thinking about how [to make our platform] easier and easier to use from a digital standpoint, how we can scale to handle extremely busy periods.”

Third-Party Delivery Services Face Scrutiny From Local Legislatures

It was announced Tuesday (June 22) that Uber Eats has agreed, under pressure from the attorneys general of Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. to be more transparent about the menu price markups, relative to in-restaurant prices, that consumers see on the platform in those states.

“Online food delivery platforms can be very convenient, but hidden fees have driven up costs for consumers and hurt struggling neighborhood restaurants at the worst time. You deserve to know where your money is going,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro commented in a joint statement from the two AGs. “This is another step towards making the marketplace more fair for restaurants and consumers — and I call on all food-delivery platform companies to provide this same information as soon as possible.”

The AGs are also pushing to inform consumers about the markups and additional fees customers pay on these apps and about the commissions that these services charge restaurants.

Earlier this month, a New York City eatery filed a lawsuit against Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates and Seamless, alleging that these services violate local fee caps.

Restaurant Seating At Record-High Rates, According To Yelp

Restaurant customers seated via Yelp reached an all-time high in May, QSR Magazine reports. The platform seated more than 3.7 million people during the month — not just a higher number than at any point during the pandemic, but also a higher number than Yelp has ever seated. In fact, it was almost a 50 percent increase from May 2019.

Warmer months tend to be the best for restaurant sales in general, pandemic or not, and May sales are helped by occasions such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and college graduations, meaning that comparisons between, say, April sales and May sales may not be an indication of overall demand. However, May’s 48 percent growth on a two-year stack in seating was also higher than the two-year growth Yelp recorded in April 2021, 46 percent. Seatings in Wyoming and Idaho soared more than 1,000 percent relative to 2019, and a handful of states saw seatings rise over 300 percent on a two-year stack.

The news comes as grocery sales take a dip, suggesting that customers are shifting their food spending back to away-from-home meals.

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