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Assembly-Line Pizza: The Next Chipotle?

Assembly-Line Pizza: The Next Chipotle?

Investors are seeing Chipotle-style fast-food concepts rising off the ground

A Chipotle burrito is sort of a staple nowadays, especially among the college crowd, so it makes sense that other restaurants are adopting the assembly-line, personalized trend.

The best place to make this work? Pizza joints, of course. That’s not to say that personalized, two-minute pizzas aren’t already a staple in the college diet (has anyone ever eaten at the dining halls? It’s not a new trend), but investors like Maria Shriver, Tom Werner (Boston Red Sox co-owner), and Panda Express founder Andrew Cherng have reportedly dropped $3 million into the next fast-casual, assembly line joint: Blaze Pizza.

Bloomberg reports that Blaze is slated to be the next Chipotle, with $6.85 pizzas that are made fresh via assembly line, dropped into an 800-degree oven, and baked in 120 seconds. "It’s Chipotle for pizza," co-founder Rick Wetzel told Bloomberg, noting that while Blaze only has two locations in California, it plans to have 15 stores by the end of 2013, expanding to Chicago and New York.

Next up, we’re thinking assembly-line sushi. Someone better get on it.


A Chipotle-style pizza chain endorsed by LeBron James is taking over America

The brand opened 50 restaurants across the country in 2014. This year it plans to open 60 to 70 new locations.

Celebrities like LeBron James and Maria Shriver have invested in the brand, which is based in Southern California.

Much like Chipotle or Subway, Blaze Pizza emphasizes customization.

Customers build pizzas choosing from seven cheeses, eight proteins, 20 vegetables, and three sauces, Jim Mizes, the president and chief operating officer, told Business Insider.

The pizzas are then placed in a stone hearth oven. They're ready in about three minutes.

A few years ago Blaze Pizza was just an idea.

In 2011, Rick and Elise Wetzel, founders of Wetzel's pretzels, went looking for a fast-casual pizza chain. They came up empty-handed.

The couple enlisted the help of renowned pizza chef Bradford Kent to open a "better pizza" chain.

"Until recently, your only options were the big, traditional, pizza chains or sit-down restaurants," Mizes said. "We wanted to build something with a modern twist that would resonate with millennials."

Mizes said the fresh ingredients and stone hearth oven make the product taste better. Blaze Pizza makes the dough by hand and lets it rise for 24 hours before serving.

Prices range from $5-10, depending on toppings.

"We're taking pizza back to its roots," he said. "If you use the method of putting pizza on a conveyer oven, you're going to get a less quality product."

While Blaze Pizza has a variety of pies on the menu, Mizes estimates 90% of orders are customized in some way.

The chain's modern architecture was influenced by Chipotle. The restaurants have a sleek, modern, urban feel with lots of stainless steel and reclaimed wood.

"The atmosphere helps bring out the quality of the product," Mizes said. "If you eat a Chipotle burrito in a Taco Bell, it's not going to taste as good."

The chain also trains workers to greet and engage with customers.

Blaze Pizza has some competition.

Chipotle is opening its third Pizzeria Locale. The chain is very similar to Blaze Pizza.

Other fast-casual chains, like PizzaRev, have also expanded in popularity.

But Mizes says getting into the business early has benefitted his brand.

"We got into the game early and have the wind at our backs," he said. "We're opening a new restaurant every five days and will just keep growing."


The recipe to Chipotle’s success

A look into how Chipotle has invented a unique operating model to deliver fast, affordable, high-quality Mexican food.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how Chipotle manages to consistently make the world’s best burritos. Chipotle has been a big part of my life since I first discovered the chain when I was in high school. A lot has changed since then – cities, jobs, relationships, my hair color– but Chipotle’s guacamole and salsa-laden goodness has been there for me through all of it. And now that I’ve taken TOM, I finally understand where the magic inside that silver wrapper comes from: the tight alignment of their business model and operating model!


First, their business model: Food with Integrity. What does that mean, you ask? Fast, affordable, high-quality food. They are committed to sourcing the best ingredients they can find and preparing them by hand. In the CEO’s words, they deliver “fresh, local, sustainable ingredients, cooked with classic methods in an open kitchen where the customer can see everything, and served in a pleasing environment.” See – he can’t even explain their strategy without getting into their operating model!

Chipotle has been so successful at scaling their business and operating model that they have created an entire new segment of the market: Fast Casual. And they manage to generate 25 to 26% margins, among the highest in the fast food industry. Here are some of the critical elements of their operating model that allow them to deliver that consistently across their 1,700 locations:

Menu: Chipotle has a very streamlined menu with just four items – burrito, burrito bowl, tacos, and a salad. For each, there 5 different choices of protein, 2 types of rice, 2 types of beans, and 9 different kinds of salsa and toppings that customers can choose from. As a result Chipotle only has to stock 24 ingredients, which keeps costs, complexity, and waste down. But customers are still able to create more than 1,620 different combinations – a win / win if you ask me!

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Production: Food is prepared in an assembly line. There are typically 3 team members staffed at different points on the line – the first toasts tortillas and adds rice and beans, the second adds the proteins and salsa, and the final station adds toppings. By breaking up labor this way Chipotle is able to match cycle times, thus mitigating bottlenecks and keeping the line moving. As a result, Chipotle can fill as many as 300 orders per hour in top performing locations – that’s a burrito every 12 seconds!

Furthermore, the customer walks down the line as their food is being prepared. This allows the customer to give the relevant Chipotle team member the information needed to complete that part of their order. As a result, Chipotle don’t need any fancy system to manage or track information systems – even more efficiency and cost savings! Don’t believe me? Ask this guy:

Limited service: Customers order at the counter and bus their own tables, which eliminates the need for extra labor to serve customers and helps keep costs down.

Close Relationships with Suppliers: High quality, responsibly produced ingredients are core to Chipotle’s business models. They don’t use ingredients that include GMOs, which are found in 80% of conventionally processed food, so have developed a rigorous selection and screening process to find suppliers that comply with their strict requirements. There are not very many suppliers that meet their requirements, so they are at a high risk of supply chain disruptions. To mitigate that risk and ensure consistency of supply, Chipotle spends considerable resources to build longstanding, collaborative relationships with suppliers.

Also, it turns out, Chipotle even has a TV Show. That’s not relevant to their business nor operating model, but a fun fact I learned while researching this project. With, I’m off to Chipotle for some dinner!


Pie-ology wants to be the Chipotle of pizza chains

Pie-ology Pizzeria’s assembly line style of ordering has patrons calling it the Chipotle of pizza places in Orange County.

Located in Fullerton, down the street from the Cal State campus, Pie-ology has created quite a following in the three months it has been open.

Like Chipotle, Pie-ology allows customers to decide what toppings they want on their 12-inch pizza, all for $7.50. The restaurant offers a simple menu of seven pizzas for those guests who don’t want to build their own and allows them to add additional toppings at no extra charge.

Pie-ology offers Hostess Ding-Dongs and homemade cinnamon sticks for dessert.

Pie-ology owner James Markham,41, said he wanted to combine Chipotle’s concept of assembly line ordering with his love of pizza.

“I love Chipotle. I think it’s an amazing concept,” Markham said. “When people compare us to Chipotle it feels like the ultimate form of flattery.”

Alcohol is the one thing missing from Pie-ology’s menu, but according to Markham, the restaurant is in the process of getting its liquor license.

Markham is a 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry. He formerly created and owned a global line of pizzerias called New York Style Pizza. After spending years working on that business, Markham had a desire to do something different and began developing recipes for his latest creation, Pie-ology.

“The numbers have been great,” Markham said. “People have been going crazy for us.”

On Saturday at 9 p.m., the restaurant was still busy serving hungry patrons. That night, Fernando Gomez, 30, and Pam Tedrow,30, dined at Pie-ology for the first time.

“We love it,” Gomez said. “Anywhere I can create my own food is a great place.”

Adam Goldman, 40, has been taking his family to Pie-ology for about a month. He said the price and quality of the pizza is what keeps him coming back.

“The pizza’s similar to Red Brick, but the service is a lot faster and friendlier,” Goldman said.

Markham is planning his expansion of Pie-ology and is looking at locations in Orange County and Los Angeles. He’s projecting that 25 Pie-ology stores will be open in the next two years, but is unsure if he will franchise.

Pie-ology is located at 516 N. State College Blvd in Fullerton. Check out Food Frenzy’s review of Pie-ology.

-By Hannah Fry / For The Orange County Register

Tell us: Have you eaten at Pie-ology? What do you think of the assemblyline style of ordering?

Join the conversation: Please LIKE my new Facebook fan page for real-time information on local food news, trends and deals. We have great conversation about restaurants, so join the fun. You can also follow me on Twitter .


New Orland Restaurant Wants to Be 'Subway or Chipotle of Pizza'

For two years, friends Jason Walsh and John Sanfilippo were planning the next big thing in pizza. By the time their restaurant, Pronto Pizza Kitchen in Orland Park, had opened, they had some competition.

Walsh, who runs Packard Business Consulting, brainstormed with Sanfilippo, a longtime trader who was looking to use his cooking skills to get into the restaurant business.

"Pizza," they thought. "Everybody loves pizza."

But, as Walsh recognized, there's upwards of 20 pizza places to choose from in Orland Park alone.

"So how do you create a different model?" Walsh said. "One problem we saw with pizza was that it can be unhealthy, so we wanted to give people the choice to make a healthier pizza. We wanted to be the Subway or the Chipotle of pizza."

Those are the role models in both concept and footprint at Pronto Pizza Kitchen at 15222 S. La Grange Rd. in Orland Park's Ravinia Plaza. Walsh said the goal is "a couple hundred of these, we want to franchise them." The Orland Park restaurant opened in December, and he and Sanfilippo, both of whom live in Frankfort, already have scouted locations for their next move—into Naperville and the South Loop.

The concept is the assembly-line, make-your-own style of ordering seen in the likes of Subway for sandwiches and Chipotle for burritos. "The choose your own mentality is the hottest craze," Walsh said.

By the time Pronto Pizza opened in Orland, another similar and local concept existed: Wooden Paddle Pizza, which, like Pronto, allows patrons to choose their crust, sauce, meats, veggies and cheeses. (Wooden Paddle is only carryout and delivery, though, while Pronto offers seating along with wine, beer and more.)

While planning the restaurant, Walsh said he came across a couple similar places in California: Pizza Blaze and Pizza Rev, the latter in which Buffalo Wild Wings has invested. That was a sign that make-you-own pizza could be the next big thing, and now it appears that could be the case, with Chipotle using its own concept with the Colorado-based Pizzeria Locale chain, and the founders of California Pizza Kitchen moving on to a fast-casual style as well.

Although competition looms and other Chicago-area deals for Pronto Pizza could come soon, the focus is on making the first one in Orland Park as good as it can be, with high-quality and healthful ingredients, and a relaxed and rustic atmosphere.

Customers can choose a signature pizza or salad to eat, or make their own from the 45 ingredients, which include healthier options such as wheat or gluten-free crust, oil as a sauce, chicken as a meat and plenty of vegetables. The pizzas are each 10-inch personal pies and take about five minutes to bake in the 5,000-pound oven. Each pizza or salad is $7.95, regardless of the ingredients used. There's also oven-baked cookies and soft serve for dessert.

Walsh said the feedback has been great so far, with many people coming in multiple times each week for a quick and tasty meal.

"We always say, 'We'll see you tomorrow!' because that's the case sometimes," Walsh said. "People come here because it's something different. They come for the atmosphere and the good food."


The next Chipotle? It may be Pizza Hut

KFC and Taco Bell, two of the three main units of Yum Brands (YUM), have stepped out of their fast-food comfort zone to try and gain a foothold in the rapidly expanding fast-casual restaurant space. The third one hasn't. That's Plano, Texas-based Pizza Hut, the world's largest pizza chain, with almost 15,000 locations across the globe.

There's certainly no guarantee it will, but it wouldn't be a shock if it did expand into this realm, because pizza has its own developing fast-casual set of "craft" pizzerias. It's one of the buzzy restaurant trends being built around customization and less-processed ingredients, and large names are starting brands and investing in artisan pizza. Notably, Pizza Inn (PZZI) owns the expanding Pie Five chain, while Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) has acquired a stake in California-based PizzaRev, and Chipotle (CMG) has financially backed Colorado's Pizzeria Locale.

Though it's speculative, Darren Tristano, executive vice president at food-industry research group Technomic, sees merit in the idea. Although existing stores will continue to benefit from the convenience pizza delivery services provide for families and large gatherings at home, the fast-casual influence is having a noticeable impact on the group, he says.

"When it comes to lunch, and when it comes to dinner, this whole fast-casual pizza is taking a number of cities by storm," he says. "And Pizza Hut really needs to be aware of it, invest in it and potentially evolve to it."

Theoretically, it could do this a few ways: make changes to existing locations, open an entirely new restaurant with a new name or buy an existing operator. The first of those, altering current stores toward artisan-style pizza, quickly and on any scale, is extremely difficult to fathom. The second notion would involve Pizza Hut developing its own brand, as KFC has done with KFC eleven, Super Chix and Banh Shop, and as Taco Bell did with U.S. Taco Co. However, an even better way might be the third one -- to invest in a promising chain that's already building out and demonstrating success, Tristano says.

PMQ Pizza Magazine has published industry data estimating the size of the U.S. pizza market at $37.3 billion in sales and more than 71,000 restaurants. Based on those numbers, Pizza Hut is today about 15% of the sales total and 11% of the stores. But last year, its domestic same-store sales were down 2%, while total sales, at $5.7 billion, were unchanged from 2012. Per-store sales fell 2.5% to $861,000. It's not panic time, but there's no victory in waiting for panic time. It's certainly still early enough on the fast-casual pizza timeline for Pizza Hut to put down roots.

It also would be a positive at a time when the brand is coping with some degree of stress overseas. Pizza Hut parent Yum has for years invested heavily abroad, particularly in China, but a series of negative news stories in the past couple of years, including a recent supply-chain investigation, has dented KFC and Pizza Hut sales in the world's second-biggest economy. Further adoption of fast casual could provide a small amount of insurance -- and a potentially long road of sales -- against further such drags.

The downside of pizza's popularity in the United States means stores aren't hard to find and competition is tremendous. With a fast-casual pizzeria, even if Pizza Hut's main-store share ebbs, it would be picking up uniqueness, important for today's "tired of the same" customer, as well as new revenue. Craft stores are attempting to capitalize on perceived consumer boredom by going beyond everyday toppings such as pepperoni, offering various crust flavors, multiple sauces, choice of cheeses and make-as-you-go lines, doing perhaps for pizza what Chipotle did for burritos.

And they're getting it right, in Tristano's view. "This whole assembly, fast-casual model is one that is here to stay," he says. "It's one that consumers want, and it's certainly poised for growth."

Pizza Hut and its largest competitors do regularly offer new creations and limited-time specials. These range from the Blake Shelton-backed barbecue-sauce pizzas and lower-calorie trials at Pizza Hut itself, to Domino's (DPZ) Tuscan Salami & Roasted Veggie and Papa John's (PZZA) Spinach Alfredo. However, these are adjuncts, a nod to fast casual's creativity, not a full commitment to a dedicated craft brand.

Past and future

Whether they sell burgers, burritos or pizzas, many fast-casual names are seeing strong sales and traffic, even though they tend to charge higher prices than fast-food competitors. Industry observers believe they'll keep their momentum, considering they're still small and making considerable effort to stand out. Technomic puts the fast-casual restaurants at about $35 billion in sales for 2013, or around 5% of what the National Restaurant Association says is now a $683 billion industry.

Here, influence exceeds size. These stores regularly promise better-for-you ingredients, concern about the environment and other themes viewed as resonating with the important millennial demographic, as well as eaters who've forsaken McDonald's (MCD).

Still, this fast-casual approach would require savvy at Pizza Hut. A key consideration here is the franchisees, who ran 94% of the 7,846 U.S. Pizza Huts last year. They'd have to be managed carefully, since they reasonably would not view competition from inside their own house as helpful to their operations. It could be dealt with, though, perhaps with the ability to take direct part in the new brand, maybe even with a conversion option, Tristano says. Pizza Hut, in business since 1958, would need to remain loyal to its past, while establishing a new future path. That won't be easy.

"It's not within their nature to be a fast-casual restaurant," Tristano says, adding that Pizza Hut has been a story of full-service restaurants and limited-service delivery. "They could potentially be their own worst enemy and roadblock because of their history, and their nature, and their brand and who they are."

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(Bloomberg) -- Bitcoin resumed its selloff Friday after China reiterated a warning that it intends to crack down on cryptocurrency mining as part of an effort to control financial risks.The largest digital currency fell 6.6% to $37,451 as of 12:41 p.m. in New York. The statement Friday after a meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Committee provided the latest blow in a rough week for the cryptocurrency market, rattled by forced selling and a possible U.S. tax clampdown.China has long expressed displeasure with the anonymity provided by Bitcoin and other crypto tokens, and warned earlier in the week that financial institutions weren’t allowed to accept it for payment. The country is home to a large concentration of the world’s crypto miners who verify transactions and require massive amounts of commuting power, threatening the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.“The new guidance issued from the regulatory agencies – they’re taking it more seriously, they want more enforcement,” Bobby Lee, founder and chief executive officer of crypto storage provider Ballet, said in an interview Friday. “But in terms of the rules, it’s the same in terms of what’s allowed and not allowed. There’s talk about going after miners. The question is, can they catch all the miners.”Friday’s selloff hit Bitcoin believers still fuming after onetime proponent Elon Musk did an about-face and criticized the token for its energy usage. Bitcoin is down about 38% since last Friday, though up from a Wednesday plunge to as low as $30,000. Other coins have slumped too -- Ether is down about 38% over the past seven sessions.The sour stretch for digital tokens started with Musk suspending acceptance of Bitcoin payments at Tesla Inc. and trading barbs with boosters of the cryptocurrency on Twitter. China’s central bank added to the downdraft Tuesday after carrying a statement warning against using virtual currencies. On Thursday, it emerged the U.S. may require crypto transactions of $10,000 or more to be reported to tax authorities.China moves this week ultimately highlight the country’s continued desire to seek control over the notoriously volatile asset class. It’s something China would rather see regulated by the People’s Bank of China, market watchers say.“It’s not really the mining issue that is the problem,” said Matt Maley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak + Co. “They say they’re doing this as part of an effort to control risk taking in their markets, but it’s really a signal that China is not going to be a big market for cryptos unless it’s a PBOC-controlled one.”In the meantime, volatility in Bitcoin is likely to stay elevated. The selloff Friday has once again pushed Bitcoin below its average price over the past 200 days, which to some chartists and technical analysts suggests it could trend lower still to around $30,000, where it found support earlier this week.This week’s swings have led to huge liquidations by leveraged investors and damaged the narrative that cryptocurrencies will become more stable as the sector matures. Musk’s actions showed how just a few tweets can still upend the entire market. But even more so, the past few days has also reiterated the regulatory threat on the crypto market.“Investors are underestimating the regulatory risk of crypto as governments defend their lucrative monopolies over currency,” said Jay Hatfield, chief executive officer of Infrastructure Capital Advisors in New York. In the U.S., the possible imposition of transaction reporting requirements could be the “tip of the iceberg” of potential Treasury rules on virtual currencies, he said.As far as regulations in China go, it may be a game of wait and see.“You must always proceed cautiously with China -- never get too bullish or bearish,” said David Tawil, president of ProChain Capital. “We’ll have to see what the regulation brings. It’s one thing to say, it’s another to do.”(Updates prices, adds comments in fourth, eighth and last paragraphs)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Trudeau Tightens Up Mortgages After Macklem Sounds Housing Alarm

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian officials escalated efforts to cool the nation’s booming housing market, moving ahead with tighter mortgage qualification rules after the central bank issued a fresh warning against buyers taking on too much debt.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government set a new benchmark interest rate on Thursday afternoon to determine whether people can qualify for mortgages that are insured by Canada’s housing agency. The move matches an April decision by the nation’s banking regulator to do the same for uninsured mortgages.The regulator -- the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions -- announced earlier Thursday it would implement its new rules June 1.Those steps coincided with a stern warning from Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem in the morning cautioning that Canadians should neither assume interest rates will remain at historic lows nor expect recent sharp gains in home prices to continue.“It is vitally important that homeownership remain within reach for Canadians,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.The moves come amid a surge in housing prices that’s raising concern among policy makers and economists. Cheap mortgages and new remote-working conditions have spurred a frenzy of demand for more spacious homes, with house hunters bidding up prices across the country.Canadians are so alarmed by the red-hot housing that nearly half the respondents in a Nanos Research Group poll for Bloomberg News say they’d like to see the Bank of Canada raise borrowing costs to curb demand for real estate and stabilize prices.Still, the measures announced Thursday are seen as incremental steps rather than representing a fundamental shift in policy.With the changes, home buyers will have to show they can afford a minimum rate of 5.25%. The current threshold, based on posted rates of Canada’s six largest lenders, is 4.79%. Economists have been estimating the tighter qualification restrictions would reduce the buying power of households by about 5%.The changes will have little impact on current housing price dynamics, according to Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.“This is not a game changer by any stretch of the imagination and it was highly expected,” Tal said by phone from Toronto.The measures from the government and the regulator came only hours after the Bank of Canada released its annual financial stability report, which highlighted the growing vulnerabilities associated with overleveraged households and speculative housing activity. It flagged three urban markets -- Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal -- as showing excess “exuberance,” with the national capital of Ottawa on the cusp of crossing that threshold.‘Not Normal”At a press conference, Macklem said some people have taken on “significantly” more debt, with many carrying very large mortgages relative to income. Borrowers and lenders need to understand that interest rates won’t always be at historic lows, and home buyers won’t be able to rely on rising values, he said.“It is important to understand that the recent rapid increases in home prices are not normal,” Macklem said. “Counting on ever higher house prices to build home equity that can be used to refinance mortgages in the future is a bad idea.”Outside of the warnings Thursday, it’s not clear how much the central bank can do to cool the market.Growing household vulnerabilities could give policy makers more reason to consider raising borrowing costs, for example, but higher rates would also inflate risks -- such as slow growth or a price correction. Macklem’s next interest-rate decision is due June 9 and the Bank of Canada has said it won’t consider raising its 0.25% benchmark rate until he economy is recovers fully from the Covid-19 pandemic.The Bank of Canada’s financial system review did find that Canada’s lenders could absorb a significant amount of losses in the case of another shock. The central bank said household debt and housing market vulnerabilities probably don’t pose a significant systemic threat to bank solvency, even though they could undermine future growth.“We have to look at the whole economy,” Macklem said at the press conference. “There are important parts of the economy that remain very weak, and the economy needs our support.”(Updates with context throughout.)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Pound hits $1.42 as economy roars back to life

Shares in the cannabis research firm backed by Snoop Dogg jumped by as much as 50pc on its market debut, as investors lapped up the chance to invest in the emerging industry. Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, which is developing pain-relief medicines based on cannabis compounds, spiked in early trading on Friday, after shares were admitted to the London Stock Exchange. The company's share price hit 7.50p before later dropping to around 4.875p, just slightly below the listing price. Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT), whose shareholders also include tobacco giant Imperial Brands, said it had raised £16.5m in a placing - cash which will go towards its efforts to commercialise a cannabis-related drug for use in pain-relief within the next six years. Flutter Entertainment, the Irish bookmaking holding company created by the merger of Paddy Power and Betfair, climbed to £129.30 from the previous close of £126.70. At the opposite end of the index was Kingfisher, which spent the day dragging on the index. The B&Q owner fell to as much as 354.40p and finished the day 4.5pc down from the previous close, after the company reported product shortages are expected to last for six months and investors wondered how businesses that boomed during lockdown could maintain momentum. British Land shares were also lower ahead of their release of full year numbers next week. Analysts expect them to show 82pc of rent had been collection for FY21. The FTSE 100 traded flat for most of the day on Friday, despite new data showing the UK economy is enjoying an 'unprecedented growth spurt' as it emerges from lockdown. Having dipped below the 7,000 mark in the morning, London's main index was down 1.75pc to close at 7,018.05 in a choppy week where the index hit a one week high and a six-day low in the space of only 24 hours. The pound rose to $1.42 at one point on Friday, as the Office for National Statistics said retail sales surged 9.2pc in April - double the rate economists expected. Eventually it closed up 0.02pc versus the US dollar, $1.418 and was up 0.03pc against the euro at €1.162. Bitcoin clawed its way back to $40,000 after this week's cryptocurrency clash sparked by regulation fears in China. The coin managed to hold the $40,000 level for most of London trading until late afternoon China's Vice Premier Liu He reiterated the government's intention to crackdown on Bitcoin mining and trading, sending the currency skidding to $36,756.24, down 8pc just after London closed.

Deutsche Bank: 'The value of bitcoin is entirely based on wishful thinking'

Analysts are piling on bitcoin as it plunges, noting headwinds and issues that might stunt its increased adoption.

UPDATE 2-Ford Motor, SK Innovation announce EV battery joint venture in N. America

Ford Motor Co and South Korean battery maker SK Innovation on Thursday announced they will form a battery joint venture in North America to support the No. 2 U.S. automaker's electric vehicle rollout. The companies said they have signed a memorandum of understanding for the formation of the venture, called BlueOvalSK. Reuters on Wednesday reported plans for the joint venture.

Fourth stimulus check wins new fans in Congress, adding to the squeeze on Biden

Over 80 lawmakers are now urging the president to OK more cash for struggling Americans.

UPDATE 4-Canada to tighten mortgage lending rules as central bank frets over housing market

Canada said on Thursday it would tighten rules on mortgage lending starting next month after the Bank of Canada earlier warned that the hot housing market and high household debt levels had left the economy more vulnerable to economic shocks. The country's financial regulator and the Finance Department said separately that borrowers of both uninsured and insured mortgages must show that they can afford loans that are the higher of their current rate plus 200 basis points, or 5.25%.

Crypto Hedge Funds Buy the Dip in Bitcoin’s Week of Reckoning

(Bloomberg) -- Felix Dian is in fighting spirits after this week’s crypto meltdown.Like many pros, the former Morgan Stanley trader says Bitcoin’s volatility actually shows why hedge funds are in the digital-currency game: To ride boom and bust cycles with diversified bets so clients don’t get killed at times like this.Something is working. His $80 million crypto-focused fund at MVPQ Capital is up 14% in May and has more than tripled in value this year. In contrast, Bitcoin has plunged almost 30% this month, cutting the advance for 2021 to 42%.“We had kept dry powder,” he said in an interview from London. He took advantage of Wednesday’s price collapse and bought Bitcoin when it was trading around $35,000.Crypto-Crash Autopsy Shows Billions Erased in Flash LiquidationsNot everyone’s been so lucky. Scores have seen their fortunes dashed this week in a cascade of selling across crypto markets. Investors spent some $410 billion buying up Bitcoin during this bull market, according to data from Chainalysis. When prices sank to $36,000 this week, $300 billion of those positions were at a loss.It’s left money managers wrestling with whether the digital currency, which is coming under new regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. and China, still has the makings of a serious asset class or will remain nothing more than a speculative bubble.Bitcoin hovered around $40,000 on Friday, trading up 1% as of 7:15 a.m. in New York. The token has lost 35% since hitting an all-time high of $63,000 in April.Charles Erith, who worked for 24 years in Asian emerging markets before jumping to crypto, said the speculative froth was flushed out this week. He bought Bitcoin as prices were plunging.“At $35,000, we felt it’s a reasonable level at which to be adding,” said Erith, who runs ByteTree Asset Management in London. “It’s obviously not regulated and it’s a very young asset, but I don’t think this is going to be a revisit of 2018.”Data from research firm Chainalysis shows professional investors used the crash as an opportunity to start buying at cheap levels, helping put a floor under the market. Big investors bought 34,000 Bitcoin on Tuesday and Wednesday after reducing holdings by as much as 51,000 bitcoin in the last two weeks, according to data from Chainalysis.“People that were borrowing money to invest, they were wiped from the system,” said Kyle Davies, co-founder at Three Arrows Capital in Singapore. His firm bought more Bitcoin and Ether as prices of the tokens tumbled this week.“Every time we see massive liquidation is a chance to buy,” he added. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Bitcoin and Ethereum retrace the entire drop in a week.”Over in Paris, Loan Venkatapen, founder of Blocklabs Capital Management, blames the recent rout on over-leveraged retail investors but says blockchain and the related technologies “are here to stay.”Unlike Davies, Venkatapen avoided Bitcoin, but bought Ether, Solana and other assets connected with the decentralized finance movement as they sold off.“Bitcoin is not dying, but we expect productive blockchain assets such as Ethereum or Solana to challenge Bitcoin dominance in the coming months,” he said.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Japan Exports Surge as Global Trade Rebounds From Dismal 2020

(Bloomberg) -- Supply Lines is a daily newsletter that tracks trade and supply chains disrupted by the pandemic. Sign up here.Japanese exports jumped again, climbing in April by more than a third from last year’s dismal level, as recovering global trade gave a needed boost to an economy that’s stalling at home amid new waves of the coronavirus.Surging car and auto parts shipments helped power a 38% rise in Japan’s exports from a year earlier, according to figures Thursday from the finance ministry that beat all but one forecast from 26 surveyed analysts. The consensus was for a 30.8% gain.Although the data give an inflated view of the strength of exports because they’re based on a comparison with 2020’s terrible figures, the report still shows trade bouncing back -- a major positive for the global economy and Japan. Shipments climbed almost 8% compared with 2019.A separate report showed Japanese machinery orders, a leading indicator of capital spending, gained in March from the prior month.Key InsightsMore export gains are good news for an economy struggling to quell new virus waves amid a slow vaccine drive. Weak consumer spending and business investment last quarter led to a bigger-than-expected GDP contraction and raised the risk of a double-dip recession.Last month’s trade increase showed a broad-based recovery in world economies. Shipments to the U.S. and Asia rose the most since 2010, while those to the EU climbed the most since 1980, according to a ministry official.“Demand itself is very strong led by the U.S., and Chinese exports,” said economist Hiroaki Muto at Sumitomo Life Insurance Co, adding that bottlenecks in semiconductor supplies could slow gains in months ahead. “‘I expect net exports to be positive for Japan’s 2Q GDP, although it wouldn’t surprise me if 2Q GDP overall was negative.”A drop in the yen’s value gives Japan’s exporters another tailwind. The currency has fallen roughly 6% versus the dollar so far this year, increasing the value of repatriated profits for companies from Toyota to Hitachi.What Bloomberg Economics Says. “Looking ahead, we expect exports to come in above the pre-Covid level in May, supported by a recovery in European demand with progress on vaccinations. Shipments to the U.S. and China may increase at a slower pace.”--Yuki Masujima, economistTo read full report, click here.Get MoreImports rose 12.8% from the previous year, compared with analysts forecasting a 9% increase.Shipments to the U.S. jumped 45.1%, while those to the EU climbed 39.6% and those to China gained 33.9%.The trade balance was 255.3 billion yen ($2.3 billion) in the black. Analysts had expected a surplus of 147.7 billion yen.Core machinary orders increased 3.7% in March versus the prior month, compared with a 5% rise forecast by analysts.(Adds economist’s comments.)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

What bitcoin’s collapse could mean for your retirement

Youngsters’ dreams of an easy, early and rich retirement were getting a pounding this week as their favorite cryptocurrencies collapsed. Prices for bitcoin (BTCUSD) and other futuristic “currencies” were in free fall Wednesday. Anyone who has bought into bitcoin since February is already in the red.


You can make a shandy from the beverage selection at Blaze Pizza

Pizza and beer is about as time-honored a food tradition as movies and popcorn, and most Blaze Pizza locations have extensive beer menus featuring a wide variety of suds, both local and international. But what goes even better with pizza, especially in warmer weather? A shandy, obviously.

In the case that your neighborhood Blaze carries a wheat beer, Blaze Pizza co-founder and executive chef Brad Kent told Mashed about a cool hack to make your own shandy during your next trip to the pizza joint, even when one's not on the menu. Blaze Pizza's beverage section carries a special blood orange lemonade, which is also one of the chain's signature drinks. Kent says that when you mix the blood orange lemonade with your favorite wheat beer, it makes for a pretty solid DIY shandy.

As an added bonus to this make-your-own shandy, mixing your beer with lemonade makes your beer last even longer. So the next time you're at Blaze Pizza on a hot summer day, don't be afraid to mix it up.


Chipotle's non-GMO policy has been good for business

Fresh produce and meat has been a benchmark of Chipotle's operation for years, but in 2013 is when the company really started to turn some heads with its approach to food. As part of the company's "food with integrity" motto, Chipotle announced that it would only be serving foods that had not been genetically modified. "Transparency and giving our customers information about where their food comes from is a core part of who we are as a company, and we felt that GMO disclosure was a key component of that," Food with Integrity program manager, Joshua Brau said at the time.

While serving non-GMO foods was more expensive for the company and did result in an increase in menu prices, the decision proved to be a huge hit with Chipotle's base. By 2014, same-store sales were up almost 17 percent with a net income increase of 36 percent. The move was lauded at the time by investors for giving millennial consumers what they wanted and helped the restaurant stand out from fast food competitors.


Frankfort Men Want New Orland Restaurant to Be 'Subway or Chipotle of Pizza'

For two years Frankfort residents and friends Jason Walsh and John Sanfilippo were planning the next big thing in pizza. By the time their restaurant, Pronto Pizza Kitchen in Orland Park, had opened, they had some competition.

Walsh, who runs Packard Business Consulting, brainstormed with Sanfilippo, a longtime trader who was looking to use his cooking skills to get into the restaurant business.

"Pizza," they thought. "Everybody loves pizza."

But, as Walsh recognized, there's upwards of 20 pizza places to choose from in Orland Park alone.

"So how do you create a different model?" Walsh said. "One problem we saw with pizza was that it can be unhealthy, so we wanted to give people the choice to make a healthier pizza. We wanted to be the Subway or the Chipotle of pizza."

Those are the role models in both concept and footprint at Pronto Pizza Kitchen, which is located at 15222 S. La Grange Rd. in Orland Park's Ravinia Plaza. Walsh said the goal is "a couple hundred of these, we want to franchise them." The Orland Park restaurant opened in December, and he and Sanfilippo have already scouted locations for their next move—into Naperville and the South Loop.

The concept is the assembly line, make-your-own style of ordering seen in the likes of Subway for sandwiches and Chipotle for burritos. "The choose your own mentality is the hottest craze," Walsh said.

By the time Pronto Pizza opened in Orland, another similar and local concept existed: Wooden Paddle Pizza, which, like Pronto, allows patrons to choose their crust, sauce, meats, veggies and cheeses. (Wooden Paddle is only carryout and delivery, though, while Pronto offers seating along with wine, beer and more.)

While planning the restaurant, Walsh said he came across a couple similar places in California: Pizza Blaze and Pizza Rev, the latter in which Buffalo Wild Wings has invested. That was a sign that make-you-own pizza could be the next big thing, and now it appears that could be the case, with Chipotle using its own concept with the Colorado-based Pizzeria Locale chain, and the founders of California Pizza Kitchen moving on to a fast-casual style as well.

Although competition looms and other Chicago-area deals for Pronto Pizza could come soon, the focus is on making the first one in Orland Park as good as it can be, with high-quality and healthy ingredients, and a relaxed and rustic atmosphere.

Customers can choose a signature pizza or salad to eat, or make their own from the 45 ingredients, which include healthier options such as wheat or gluten-free crust, oil as a sauce, chicken as a meat and plenty of vegetables. The pizzas are each 10-inch personal pies and take about five minutes to bake in the 5,000-pound oven. There's also oven-baked cookies and soft serve for dessert.

Walsh said the feedback has been great so far, with many people coming in multiple times each week for a quick and tasty meal.

"We always say, 'We'll see you tomorrow!' because that's the case sometimes," Walsh said. "People come here because it's something different. They come for the atmosphere and the good food."


Chipotle&#x2019s three key operating costs

Chipotle’s key operating costs are:

The above chart analyzes Chipotle’s food, labor, and other costs. The vertical bars indicate the expenses in millions over the last five years, and the horizontal line indicates these costs as a percentage of sales. From the above graph, we can see that Chipotle’s cost of food has increased in 2018 to $1.6 billion from $1.54 billion in 2017.

However, as a percentage of sales, the company’s food cost has declined from 34.3% to 32.9%. The increase in menu prices and decline in avocado prices lowered the company’s food costs as a percentage of sales. But the increase in freight costs, as well as tortilla and rice costs, offset some of these declines. In comparison, Shake Shack’s food and paper costs stood at 28.3% of its company-owned restaurants’ sales in 2018.

Labor and other operating costs

Labor, Chipotle’s second key operating cost, represented 27.3% of the company’s total revenues, or $1.33 billion, in 2018. From last year, the company’s labor cost has increased from 26.9% to 27.3% of total sales. Wage inflation was one of the main reasons for higher labor costs. However, the sales leverage from positive SSSG offset some of the increases in labor costs.

Earlier in this post, we saw that Chipotle doesn’t franchise. So all of Chipotle’s labor costs are undertaken by the company itself. For the comparable quarter, Shake Shack, which operates both company-owned and franchised locations, had reported labor expenses of 26.6% of total revenue in 2018.


Watch the video: Punitha at Chipotle Mexican Grill. 4k Video (December 2021).