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The restaurant deal world is finally picking up. Negotiations that were in the works prior to COVID are on again, and parties are starting to find common ground on valuation. But that doesn’t mean sellers won't try to obtain a premium because of increased sales due to COVID. Just don't assume the banks will go along with those transactions. Or, will they?

Top 200 Franchisee Report

  • The Monitor's Top 200 Franchisee Report ranks the largest restaurant franchisees in the United States by annual revenue. In this report, you will find a list of the Top 200 franchisees and an analysis of the group's performance. The report reflects many of the major trends in the franchised restaurant industry—consolidation, technology and access to capital are all reasons for significant franchisee growth over the past thirty years.

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  • Don't waste time searching for restaurant finance sources when we've already done the heavy-lifting for you. View the Monitor's comprehensive Finance & Real Estate Directory and start contacting partners that can help you grow.

Back Issues 2020

August is supposed to be a quiet month, but, in the sixth month of Covid, there isn't anything quiet about it. This month's Restaurant Finance Monitor reflects that reality. Restaurant deals are starting to pick up, and in this issue, David Farkas takes a look at the continued popularity of SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies) and a recent SPAC filing by two well-known restaurant executives. Dennis Monroe offers advice for mediating disputes between key stakeholders that might arise because of the tough times certain restaurant companies are experiencing. In this issue, we also look at the liquidity moves of the major sit-down brands and highlight ten key operations trends we've seen since Covid. Plus, we managed to interview the Answer Man for this month's issue, his first appearance in these pages in over year.

Multi-unit franchisees took advantage of a decade of refranchising, consolidation and accommodating capital markets to increase the size of their companies. This month in our July 20th issue, we publish the Monitor 200—the annual ranking of the 200 largest franchisees in the United States—and we’ll explore the growth that's taken place. And, how could we cover the top 200 and not write something about the recent bankruptcy filing of NPC International, the second largest franchisee in our ranking, and the largest franchisee of both Pizza Hut and Wendy's. John Hamburger takes a look at NPC's long history and suggests an alternative to the refranchising, consolidation and heavy leverage plan the brands cooked up for their franchisees during the past decade. Long-time readers of the Monitor will have heard the speech before. Also, this month, we cover the big restaurant transactions, while our columnist, David Farkas, takes the temperature of key restaurant dealmakers. Quiet, and no feverish activity he reports.

Hospitality as we know it has taken on a new meaning Satifsying guests no longer means extended physical interaction. In this issue of the Monitor, we explore what it means to be a digital restaurant operation. Also, David Farkas explains how business sale earnouts have come back into vogue. And we take a close look at all the share buybacks the large casual dining brands wish they hadn't made.

Investors and lenders had pivoted to QSR long before the coronavirus forced so many casual, family and fine-dining restaurants to close, or operate at reduced capacity. Drive-thru QSR has survived the ultimate stress test, whereas the rest of the industry makes a valiant effort to stave off elimination by increasing off-premise sales. Now that restaurants are reopening their dining rooms, will the combination be enough? The Restaurant Finance Monitor always gives its readers an unvarnished version of what's really happening in the restaurant business. This month’s issue is no exception.

Fluid. That’s the operative word in the world of restaurants these days. First there was decision-making to keep stores open or closed. Then a mad dash to keep them safely staffed and functioning. The past few weeks have been spent applying for and receiving Payroll Protection Loans, which by the way, was a good move, because the fund has run out, at least temporarily. Now the heavy lifting begins. How do you reopen, if you are closed? How do you deal with your landlord or your bank? Over the past four weeks, we’ve made a special effort to stay in communication with all of our subscribers via emails, weekly newsletters, webinars and now the April edition of the Monitor.

We’ve predicted a downturn might be on the way, but who could have anticipated the coronavirus would take down half of the restaurant business? Certainly not us. In this month’s Monitor, John Hamburger refers to the crisis as “haircut season” and provides straight talk to restaurant owners, bankers and investors on how to help their business survive the Covid-19 panic and save cash in the near term. This is serious stuff, he says, and the greatest threat to the restaurant business he’s seen in his 40-year restaurant career. Survive the next few months, and the world is your oyster.

Krystal's Chapter 11 filing got us thinking about the 88-year history of the company. A family enterprise for 60 of those years, Krystal is a case study in what happens when leverage and financial engineering takes over a restaurant company. White Castle, on the other hand, is 100 years old, still family-owned and prospering. We tell the story of White Castle and Krystal in this issue of the Monitor and you can guess which financial strategy we prefer. Restaurant CFOs will definitely be interested in a CFO Salary Survey, which we've published in this month's issue. The Monitor and advisory firm, Aethos Consulting, produced a CFO survey—base salary, bonus and annual compensation—grouped according to revenue. The survey results are reprinted on pages eight and nine of the Monitor along with the commentary of our regular columnist, David Farkas. If the Krystal article doesn't get you worked up, the CFO Salary Survey definitely will.

“As much as it seems the restaurant business has changed, the more it remains the same,” begins Monitor president John Hamburger, in his annual soliloquy to the basics of the restaurant basis. The basics include a focus on operations and that begins in the restaurant with a strong general manager. In fact, there should be a sign in every restaurant CEO office that reads, “It’s the GM, stupid.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case in every restaurant business. Restaurant owners and executives are more likely to have a sign in their office that reads “Lever It Up” or “Financial Engineering Practiced On Site.” Competition has never been keener and accelerating wages rates are pressuring margins. Low interest rates are great for cars and houses, but lower the hurdle rate for new restaurant development. They keep zombie concepts in business beyond their use-by dates. That increases competition. The Restaurant Finance Monitor begins its 31st year with the same message it began with years ago. The key to success in the restaurant business is to focus on operations, keep the stores looking like they are new, and only take on debt in moderation.

Back Issues 2019

Who would have believed a full employment economy and low interest rates would cause so many issues for so many restaurants? It turns out the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years combined with the lowest interest rates in a generation means fewer employees are available to work in all the restaurants that have been built and remodeled since the last recession. Ugh! That hasn’t stopped restaurant dealmakers from dealing and it hasn’t stopped the Restaurant Finance Monitor Monitor from covering the deals. This month’s issue is packed full of them (hint: there were a lot of deals this month) plus our columnists have written a number of insightful articles about “conditions on the ground.” Consider this: Things could be worse. You could have high unemployment and no customers, and high interest rates and maybe a few less restaurants. Knowing the people in this industry like we do, we’re sure you'd know how to get them financed and built anyways….especially with our help. Happy Holidays…Happy New Year!

Just off a week of conferencing with upbeat attendees at the sold-out Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, we were excited to return to world headquarters to put the finishing touches on this month’s Monitor. It took a Herculean effort (actually, Herculean effort to return to 20-degree weather), but we were up to the task and produced five pages of interesting finance source and deal information this month. In other features, Dennis Monroe looks at the tax-advantages of transferring ownership by way of an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Not many of these plans are done in restaurants, but Dennis thinks it might be a way to solve the labor problem and reward long-tenured employees. On the eve of Wendy’s breakfast launch, Bonnie Riggs looks at why there is so much buzz about this daypart. And, David Farkas interviews one of the titans of breakfast, IHOP President Jay Johns. Thanks for reading the Monitor, the only restaurant publication that is the antithesis of clickbait!

There are thousands of new business ideas that are born in the United States each year. The really good ones take hold in both up and down economic climates. However, when money is flowing, rates are low and risk is on, marginal businesses, such as the office reseller WeWork, become magnets for capital. In this month’s Monitor, John Hamburger explores the money-losing ways of WeWork. He reminds readers that current valuations and the ability to raise capital might say more about the easy money times we live in than the dynamism of the enterprise. Think of the capital markets, he writes, “as a game of musical chairs. When the market seizes up, which it always does, don’t act surprised when the music stops.” In this month’s Monitor, there's a lot of restaurant finance news to report. Some of the companies we cover include PNC Bank’s Franchise Finance business, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, First Tennessee, Trinity Capital, Geraty Investment Advisors, Unbridled Capital, National Franchise Sales and Auspex Capital.

“Traffic is the restaurant industry’s elephant in the room, challenged in all but a handful of chains,” writes John Hamburger in this month’s essay about where all the customers have gone and what operators can do about it. The answer (hint, hint) has something to do with management and execution. The Monitor’s columnists were busy this month offering advice. Bonnie Riggs urges restaurant operators to focus their efforts on carry-out, which still represents the largest component of restaurant sales, more than either dine-in or delivery. Dennis Monroe office timely financial advice to multi-unit operators contemplating an investment in a second, third or fourth restaurant concept. And finally, David Farkas looks into some franchisee issues at Pizza Hut, as the second largest pizza brand transitions away from its Red Roof base to smaller carryout/delivery units. This month’s Monitor is full of finance sources, tips, tidbits and other useful financial information to keep you on top of your restaurant game.

As economists ponder whether a recession is on the horizon, private investment in restaurants and emerging brands continues to blaze boldly forward. As our Outlook columnist reports in this issue of the Monitor, “According to Bain Capital’s Global Private Equity Report, PE firms had $2 trillion of ‘dry powder’ at the end of 2018.” All that capital has to go somewhere. Is the restaurant industry worthy? Or will these emerging brands run up against the same roadblocks as the ghosts of restaurants past? Columnist David Farkas covers the M&A beat this month, echoing that investors are still pouring capital in the sector. What are these PE and family offices looking for? His interviews with some industry experts shed light on the deals. Restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs teaches us how to integrate dynamic pricing into our menus, and dealmaker and restaurant industry attorney Dennis Monroe sheds light on how to expand your concept. It’s an issue packed with advice on how to grow, and when you shouldn’t.

There is a lot going on in restaurants right now. The industry is clearly in transition. Digital ordering and delivery is disrupting. Traffic is hard to come by and labor is more expensive. All of this impacts cash flow and debt service, two metrics near and dear to the hearts of operators lenders and investors. This month, John Hamburger looks at restaurant delivery and wonders if some restaurant chains are going down a similar path as Kodak, when they tried to protect film sales at the expense of embracing digital photography and file sharing. The Monitor is packed full of great information this month. All of our columnists—Dennis Monroe, David Farkas and Bonnie Riggs—have written thoughtful pieces. Plus, for those of our readers not old enough to watch the July 1969 lunar landing on televison, the Monitor provides a blast from the past—a look at what the big hamburger chains looked like in 1969. Here’s a hint: Not everyone made it back to earth safely.

It's a rat race out there. That’s what John Hamburger thinks is happening in restaurant land. He writes that restaurant owners and executives are scrambling to employ multiple technology solutions to drive in-store traffic and off premise sales, while at the same time trying to blunt the impact of higher wage rates. Unit expansion and the demand for delivery by the consumer, he writes, have expanded the boundaries of the trade area. But, the actual trade area doesn’t have any more homes, apartment buildings or businesses to support all those options. That’s giving some operators fits. This being our annual Monitor 200 issue, where we rank the largest restaurant franchisees, columnist David Farkas looks at the gargantuan size of some of these large, multi-unit franchisees and asks this question: “When is big too big?” There are some interesting findings in our Monitor 200 issue. Here’s one interesting stat: The top 25 franchisees generated $18.1 billion in sales, almost 45% of the entire total of $40.5 billion of the 200 companies. That’s what we call gargantuan.

John Hamburger has spent most of his career warning restaurant companies not to grow too fast, or take on more debt than they can reasonably handle. But little does anyone know that he was once a CFO of a fast-growing and highly-leveraged franchisee back in the 1980s. In this issue of the Monitor, John relates a recent conversation he had with an investor about taking a hit on a restaurant investment, and then goes off on a tangent about his brush with leverage in his prior life. His article is titled “The Salad Days,” and he reminds us of that popular saying, “I wish I’d known then, what I know now.” The Monitor is full of great information this month including David Farkas’s comparison of Steak ‘n Shake’s franchise program to Chick-fil-A. Okay, Steak ‘n Shake isn’t Chick-fil-A, but it has a similar franchise structure. Bonnie Riggs looks at all the financial commitments consumers have these days including Netflix, Hulu and Costco. Could that be the reason they are holding back on restaurant visits? And Nick Upton clears up the fake news story of the month—that restaurants are going cashless. Here’s a hint: Don’t count on it anytime soon. Don’t forget to mark your calendar. The Restaurant Finance & Development Conference is back at the Bellagio on November 11-13.

Off premise restaurants sales are expected to reach almost 30% of industry sales, or $200 billion. The Monitor’s David Farkas looks at the recent Food on Demand Conference and the various promises, boasts and advice of the third-party delivery companies. Does it square up with the operator concerns of customer data-sharing, point-of-sale system integration, high commissions, and driver shortages? Here’s a hint: Not exactly. Bonnie Riggs takes a look at the much maligned meal kit market and offers a ray of hope for restaurant operators contemplating another off-premise move. Julie Bennett relives her youth working in a restaurant and reminisces about the lack of restaurant controls that can now easily be handled through outsourcing the technology and accounting functions. And Dennis Monroe looks at how to handle the real estate acquired in an acquisition. Here’s another hint: Do your due diligence. This month's Monitor is packed full of good information, finance sources, tidbits and morsels about the restaurant finance world that you just can’t find anywhere in the mainstream restaurant media. One last thing. The Answer Man is back with his quarterly rant and loves to expound on just about anything and everything—credit, the economy, delivery and even socialism. No Masters this weekend…read the Monitor!

The more things change, the more they stay the same is the theme of this month’s Restaurant Finance Monitor. The fact is restaurant chains have been struggling with rising labor costs for years. The problem they have now is that they can’t pass those rising costs on to consumers. That’s causing a whole host of issues including franchisee unrest in some systems. The tough operating environment hasn’t stopped new lenders from coming into the restaurant credit space. This month we focus on Capital One’s foray into restaurant lending. Our columnists were busy this month too: David Farkas talks with mega-franchisee Greg Flynn about what he will be doing in 25 years while Bonnie Riggs examines the demand for plant-based proteins. Our favorite blogger, Roger Lipton looks into franchisee unrest and offers up a royalty suggestion for fledgling franchisors. And Dennis Monroe, who’s seen his share of restaurant ups and downs, looks at what it takes to “reconcept” a stale brand. All in all, this month's Monitor packs more information into 12 pages than all the restaurant rags combined.

Can a prosperous pizza delivery business build a mighty fortress around its customer base by adding more locations in its trade areas? Domino’s calls it “fortressing” and that’s what they intend to do to reach 25,000 stores and $25 billion in sales by 2025. Will their plan work? Will franchisees support it? Will franchisees make more money? Have others tried fortressing? What is it? Hint: Subway and Starbucks tried it and it didn’t work very well. John Hamburger, a master at throwing cold water on even the best of strategic plans, picks over Domino’s plan. The Monitor is chock full of information this month. David Farkas’s column looks at what former Dine Brands CEO Julia Stewart is up to; Dennis Monroe’s provides good advice for raising development capital; and Bonnie Riggs comments on the changing consumer dynamics at lunch and dinner. There’s more usable restaurant information in this issue of the Restaurant Finance Monitor than all the restaurant shoppers combined!

The restaurant industry is undergoing a fundamental change. Operators once had an abundant pool of workers. No more. Full employment, Uber, Lyft and the rest of the Gig Economy have taken away many potential restaurant employees at the same time states and municipalities are mandating higher wages. As John Hamburger points out in his monthly Outlook column, there are real consequences of hourly wages rising beyond the level of what businesses are capable of paying. He describes 10 things investors and operators need to focus on as the $15 minimum wage is implemented nationwide. Our columnists this month have the pulse of the restaurant finance marketplace: David Farkas explains what is really going on in the Jack in the Box franchise system as he interviews the head of their association. Julie Bennett provides a summary of our recent CFO Series at the Restaurant Finance & Development where CFOs from Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Subway and Focus Brands talk about delivery and other restaurant challenges. And finally, Dennis Monroe explains the problems with common restaurant ownership structures and how they can be simplified to accommodate future restaurant financings.

Back Issues 2018

With consumer confidence high and unemployment low, it should be the best of times for restaurant operators. But there is trouble afoot in restaurant finance land—rising wages are a double-edged sword, good for consumers, bad for the restaurant P&L. Simply put, restaurants are squeezed by higher wages and interest rates and can’t raise prices. The lenders have taken notice, but equity still pours into the industry. We conclude restaurants are oversubscribed and there still is more capital than good ideas. Despite the backdrop, in this month’s Monitor, David Farkas looks at the outlook for M&A activity in 2019—investment bankers are surprisingly bullish. Bonnie Riggs examines discounting and the crafty move by restaurants brands to extricate themselves from dollar promotions. That should be good news. Nicholas Upton, ever optimistic, analyzes the craft beer marketplace, which he concludes, “shows no sign of slowing down.” Restaurants may be overbuilt and underperforming, but there’s no other industry that maintains such optimism.

The restaurant business is unlike any other industry. The barriers to entry are low. It remains entrepreneurial. Momentum plays a huge role. There's absolutely no pricing power. The relationship between restaurant and customer is often fickle. So ask yourself this question: Why would anyone want to pay a huge, double digit multiple to try and consolidate an industry with all these negatives? There is no hope of building a moat around any restaurant investment. The answer is money—too much of it floating around looking for a home and it's found its way to the restaurant industry. In this issue of the Monitor, we give the big consolidators one more thing to worry about and that's this: The bigger the restaurant company, the further away they move from that fickle customer, and that's not a good thing in the long run. This month's Monitor is packed full of great restaurant finance information this month. David Farkas looks at the all the franchisee unrest. Restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs analyzes the key generation groups to find out where the restaurant dollars are coming from and what they want. And, Dennis Monroe zeroes in on the key attributes of growing a restaurant concept. We're at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference all week and look forward to seeing all of our regular readers there. If you are in Las Vegas this week for the conference, stop us in the hall and say hello.

In the movie Casablanca, the local gendarme, Captain Louis Renault, facetiously tells Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick Blaine, that he was “shocked, shocked” to find that gambling was going on in Rick’s Cafe. The stock and bond market seemed “shocked, shocked” to learn interest rates were actually moving higher and the Federal Reserve was reducing the quantity of Everclear in the nation’s monetary punch bowl. Wink wink, the Fed has been telegraphing this move for 18 months. In this issue of the Monitor, we look at the potential implications of those higher interest rates on two beneficiaries, restaurants and real estate. That’s not all. This pre-Restaurant Finance Development Conference issuer is packed with finance sources, stats, figures, cartoons, quotes, and our usual columnist insight. Dennis Monroe takes a closer look at the tax law and suggests new structuring ideas for restaurant chains to maximize those deductions. David Farkas looks at the troubles facing fast casual, while Bonnie Riggs asks the proverbial question: “Do we have too many restaurants?” And this month, back by popular demand, is the politically incorrect and never afraid to talk smack, Answer Man. The restaurant seer reveals simple secrets on how “how to make restaurants great again.” So when you crack open the envelope containing this month’s Monitor, take a whiff of that fresh print smell and ask yourself this question: What would the restaurant industry be like without a printed and mailed Restaurant Finance Monitor? Digital be damned!

Analyzing what’s happening in the restaurant business has been the Monitor’s forte for almost 30 years. And this year, there’s a lot to think about. For instance, why is restaurant traffic so sluggish? Former NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs, now writing for the Monitor, offers up two plausible reasons for the softness. The Monitor also provides commentary on the top finance stories of the month. First, David Farkas talks with investment insiders about EBITDA multiples after the recent Del Frisco’s/Barteca and Focus Brands/Jamba Juice deals. And, John Hamburger provides historical perspective to Papa John Schnatter’s latest broadside against the board of directors and CEO of the company he founded 35 years ago. And finally, Nick Upton and Julie Bennett offer up two timely technology pieces. Nick looks at labor saving technology, while Julie highlights a number of restaurant companies that are using cloud-based financial planning and budgeting software, instead of Microsoft Excel. This month’s Monitor is packed full of deal information and finance sources that you won’t find anywhere else. Make sure you slip it into the beach bag and take it with you to the shore!

We celebrate the top 200 franchisees in the United States in this issue by publishing our annual company ranking. Restaurant franchisees find themselves in a competitive operating environment, yet these leading companies booked revenue of $39.1 billion in 2017, an increase of 4.3% from a year ago. However, they did it the newfangled way, not building many new stores or driving big same store sales increases, but buying refranchised company stores and consolidating smaller franchisees. For this, they can thank the private equity funds, family offices and competitive senior lenders for the vote of confidence in QSR franchising. Capital continues to mobilize despite higher labor and interest costs. That’s because buying EBITDA is still more bankable than creating it at the new unit level. In this issue, David Farkas and John Hamburger take a close look at the Top 200 companies and what the outlook is for the future. Also, we’ll introduce you to two of the top restaurant bankers in the business— Armando Pedroza and Bill Pabst. The Monitor is packed full of information this month and we hope you slip it into your backpack for the beach or cabin. Enjoy the summer!

The bankruptcy filing of Applebee’s second largest franchisee, RMH Franchise Holdings, wasn’t a surprise given all the sales and margin problems in the Applebee’s system over the past three years. What was surprising, we noted, was the way in which RMH laid the blame for their sales and margin problems on their franchisor, Dine Global Brands. We suspect the court vitriol in the filing was directed at former CEO Julia Stewart, not the current occupant of the CEO chair, Steve Joyce…..although we can’t entirely be sure. The Monitor examines the details of RMH’s rise from zero to 163 units—almost entirely through acquisition—and what multi-unit restaurant operators might learn from the company’s history. Also in this issue, Dennis Monroe provides readers with a financial fix for casual dining, an elixir that has eluded an army of high-priced consultants over the years. But, never underestimate Dennis. He’s seen it all. Franchise Time’s restaurant editor, Nicholas Upton, examines the robot scene for foodservice, which is really heating up given the labor problems the industry is facing. That made us think of this idea: What if we could train robots to spend more money at casual dining restaurants? And finally, the Monitor profiles Cristin O’Hara, the managing director and head of the restaurant group at Bank of America. Cristin is one of the top lenders in the restaurant space and you should know more about her. They say restaurants are having some issues? Hey, it wouldn’t be any fun to read the Monitor if there weren’t some issues.

We took a trip to the suburbs to see what the casual dining growth brands are doing to tap into the largely affluent local demographic. They want the same thing urbanites want, but there are a few tweaks to really resonate outside the urban core. Julie Bennett examined the diversity among CFOs. At last year’s Restaurant Finance and Development Conference, a record number of female CFOs were in attendance. And while it’s not a big number, it shows the trend toward a more diverse CFO and C-suite in general. David Farkas is talking all about into covenants and risk, Rare Management’s new CEO and some praise for the outgoing Steve Ells. Dennis Monroe looks at the impact of tax reform on real estate. Thanks to the real estate executive in chief, there’s some good news for the industry. Finally, Answer Man ponders the many family offices dumping cash into the restaurant industry. Driven by ego or sophisticated strategy, their investments will change things. And as always, we’re taking a look at the most interesting deals, some great people and stats and commentary from around the industry.

Happy New Year! We’re all celebrating 2018 and tax reform. But alas, the Trump tax reform may have come too late. So before committing to another year of high growth, take pause and think about the best use of the windfall. The benefits are clear, but unless traffic turns around, more restaurants isn’t the answer, as John Hamburger examines in this months’ Outlook. He’s also looking at labor. What happens to restaurant jobs when Walmart builds a higher floor on wages? We’re about to see. This month, we’re introducing the Restaurant Finance Monitor Stock INDXX. The tool will serve as a valuable measure of how the industry is doing going forward. We’re taking a close look at 2017 stock performance and what 2018 has in store in the 2017 Market Review and in commentary from restaurant analysts. Last year was tricky, but will it stay that way? Dennis Monroe takes a look at refranchising. It’s unwise to race to asset-light without a good reason and a strong plan. David Farkas is looking at the drama around Jerry Richardson, a franchisee turned NFL owner. He’s also digs into the contentious Ruby Tuesday bidding process. And what happens when you mix fast food with marijuana? And as usual, get the inside scoop on some of the most interesting deals in the restaurant world and newsy tidbits from across the industry.

Back Issues 2017

Will this M&A frenzy ever end? Not quite yet. We took a look at the trends, the massive multiples and who might be next with some of the best in the business. We also look into securitization: who’s doing it, how are they doing it and why? And, most importantly, what are the rates? Multiple industry watchers think Chipotle is on deck for acquisition. David Farkas digs into the rumors and what’s next for the rebounding brand. What are the growth brands doing? We talked to five of them to get a growth perspective from some of the concepts devouring market share. Julie Bennett takes a look at the ever changing role of the CFO; which changes year over year. Now, it’s all about strategy. And Dennis Monroe explores intellectual property as a source of revenue, everything from collateral to (very presidential) licensing agreements.

Let’s check in with the Answer Man, a.k.a. Mr. Negative, and see what he thinks about the current restaurant environment. Hint: he’s about ready to hibernate. Wedging itself between startup capital and private equity, the Kitchen Fund sees itself as a restaurant venture capital fund--and it has a new investment. The fund has invested in Bay Area Indian concept Curry Up Now and is charting a path from six to 1,000 locations. Macaroni Grill is in the midst of a major workout after filing bankruptcy. David Farkas takes a look at what is being done at the brand that once counted 200 locations. It’s down to 93 with more work to come. It’s tax time! And while nobody knows what will happen in Washington, there are many deductions to be made and a bevvy of ways to profit along side employees. Dennis Monroe outlays some of the most attractive credits while they last. Why is it so hard to lend to independent restaurants? Chef-turned-MBA-turned-analyst Chris Teague says it comes down to experience, financials and collateral. Also see the highlights from this month in Finance Sources and Finance Insider and take a look at some of the rationalization from the industry as it wades through Q3 results.

What happened to Ignite Restaurant group? As the parent company of Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern & Tap is absorbed by Landry’s, David Farkas gets the inside story on what led to their downfall. Commercial banks are consolidating at a rapid rate. Longtime chef turned bank analyst Chris Teague takes a close look at what that means for operators large and small. In this issue, we look at Muscle Maker’s “going concern” Reg A+ IPO filing, Roark's minority investment in Culver’s and Ruby Tuesday's deal to be acquired by NRD Capital. All this M&A is not slowing down; in fact, 2018 may be even more active as money keeps pouring into the industry. Nicholas Upton provides an update on the frenzy.

The first question when looking at a restaurant turnaround is “what to cut?” But the low hanging fruit are right at guest level. John Hamburger takes a close look at the tricky balancing act and offers some cautionary advice for those holding the scissors as the industry struggles to trim its way to profits. Mini IPOs and crowdfunding are buzzing, but Dennis Monroe says there is still plenty of creativity in traditional financing sources like sale-leasebacks or retirement plan investors. It’s a great time to be lending and investing! Private equity partners always like to say they add value, but what happens in the boardrooms is not well understood. So David Farkas grilled three executives experienced with operating partners to see how they actually add value. What’s driving restaurant trends? It’s less about the trendy new food or the latest app, but how consumers want to use the restaurant industry—and times are always changing. Nicholas Upton looks at some of the foundational drivers that empower some while deflating others. As always, see what’s going on with financing in Finance Sources, track interesting happenings in Finance Insider, get a macro and micro insight on the Stats and Quotes page and drill into the key deals in the restaurant industry in Market Surveillance. Also see what the analysts think of Chipotle, Del Taco and Zoe’s Kitchen in Analyst Reports.

The “animal spirits” have pushed the restaurant cycle to its apex. But this time it’s different, deep structural issues are plaguing the restaurant industry. John Hamburger takes a sobering look at the house of cards as it shakes and shivers. Dennis Monroe digs into all the novel ways to invest in restaurants as more paths are open to investors under the JOBS Act, including the exciting mini-IPOs, crowdfunding and new considerations for private placements. GE Alums at First Tennessee have brought back the expansive Restaurant Review. Nicholas Upton takes an early look at the data and which segments are growing at breakneck speed. Some valuations out there are “just staggering” across the industry. David Farkas takes a look at some of the deals that have investors sprinting to the capital table for better or worse. Catch up on all the most interesting deals in Finance Insider and see who’s funding who in Finance Sources. Take a look at the Q2 winners on the Stats and Quotes page and pour through some of most interesting updates in Market Surveillance.

The sales haven’t returned, and workout is in the air. For those who don’t recall the mid-‘80s sales slump, gather around for the abridged version from John Hamburger and some solutions from hindsight. Dennis Monroe gets a lot of questions about restaurant investment. He breaks down the investment levels from large to “fun” and the questions investors at each level need to ask before signing the check. Nicholas Upton asks strategic advisors how to succeed among the array of disruptions. Focus is key, but focusing on the right things can be tricky. John Hamburger breaks down unit economics to find the key things that exceptional restaurants have—a must-read list of terms for industry watchers. As always, get up to date on all the news and trends in Finance Insider, some of the best quotes from the restaurant industry and see some of the most interesting deals in Finance Sources. Finally, Answer Man is back and has plenty to say about all the recent industry drama from Potbelly activism to Tim Horton franchisees and restaurant prices.

It’s the Monitor 200 issue! See what the best and brightest operators in the industry are up to. Here are a couple hints. Making more money: The Top 200 reports $37.5 billion in sales, up from $34.6 billion. Owning more restaurants: The Top 200 has 26,993 restaurants, averaging 135. That’s up from 25,176 and 126. They’re accelerating: Eight companies added $100 million or more year-over-year. How are they maintaining operations? Nicholas Upton finds there’s no “too big,” but the key is keeping an eye on the details. John Hamburger takes a look at how much the group has grown. He also examines the three key things that enabled the Top 200 to grow so fast since the Great Recession. Dennis Monroe has eight observations about the Top 200. What are the trends among the trendsetters? David Farkas takes a look at the decision to be a mutli-brand franchisee. It’s a big decision that adds a lot of complexity, but as the biggest operators grow, they also see the need to diversify. As always, catch up with Finance Sources, get the inside scoop on the flurry of restaurant activity in Finance Insider, see some of the most meaningful metrics in the industry and keep an eye on some of the biggest deals of the last month in Market Surveillance.

Mick versus Sally: the ugly activist attack on Buffalo Wild Wings keeps getting hotter. But can financial engineering enhance the brand? John Hamburger takes a look at the fight round-by-round ahead of June's annual shareholder meeting. David Farkas takes a different look at Buffalo Wild Wings: the impending refranchising of corporate locations. Franchisees and lenders are ready, but they’re cautious about costs. Dennis Monroe takes a close look at negotiating a strong sale-leaseback deal. The cap rates are great, but operators need to be careful about the future. The key is creativity, tenacity and transparency. Nicholas Upton examines the oversupply issue, restaurant counts are down, but there's still too many. What can growth brands do to keep growing? Julie Bennett examines this question: Should you outsource accounting or keep it in house? The Monitor has its finger on all things restaurant finance from ApplePie's new CDO to the latest acquisition by Four Corners Property Trust.

Did Ron Shaich just make the best restaurant deal of all time? We’re taking a closer look at the whopping $7.5 billion offer from JAB and what it means for the rest of the industry. Restaurant investor Dennis Monroe breaks down what it takes to make a successful chef-driven restaurant. It’s not all about location. It takes an adored chef, a keen understanding of demographics and—of course—it has to make money. Nicholas Upton looks into delivery. For operators looking to compete with Domino’s and Panera without a spare billion, there are plenty of ways to tackle the incremental sales stream. The key is starting slow. David Farkas explores the criticisms of DinEquity. Sure comps are up in flames, but shareholders had a good run. But where does that leave the asset-light model? Mary Jo Larson is trying to keep up with the onslaught of activity in the restaurant finance world. Everyone from Four Corners to KBP Investments to Cooper’s Hawk and the Cypress group has been busy. Read up on the multitude of new deals an opportunities out there today. Also, get some insight on the cheapest stocks in the restaurant industry. We can’t promise you’ll make any money, but what else can you buy with a quarter? Answer Man is back with a restaurant lexicon for the modern era. What does Food Hall or Polished Casual really mean?

Two of the best and brightest female CEOs have left the building in the past few weeks. But Cheryl Bachelder and Julia Stewart left under distinctly different circumstances. John Hamburger takes a closer look at two of franchising’s most famous women. Everyone knows labor is tight, but finding and keeping good general managers is slowing growth. Nicholas Upton looks into finding a good GM. Pay is one thing, but operators who can build a strong culture keep the best managers. Big anchor stores are closing and mall operators are wondering what’s next. Beth Mattson-Tieg takes a look at the mall in the era of Amazon and what restaurants can do to weather the storm. Trump hasn’t said much about taxes that will help restaurants. But Dennis Monroe and Richard Gibson are digging into 10 possibilities for the future tax plan to help tweak the business plan going forward. David Farkas takes a look at the secretive family offices that are getting aggressive in the restaurant space. Now that hedge funds aren’t performing, they’re looking for direct investments that will. As always, we’re packed with finance and restaurant news. Big time REIT Four Corners Property Trust is picking up more property, the M&A continues at legacy brands like Taco Bell and the kiosks now have facial recognition—at least at UFood Grill. Also get a look at the Restaurant Brands International and Popeyes deal and see how Carrols Restaurant Group did in 2016. And finally, John Hamburger takes a look at third-party delivery. Should we embrace the omni-channel complexity for a few incremental sales?

Have you seen The Founder? The story of Ray Kroc paints an ugly picture of the man behind McDonald's, but where is the line between fact and fiction? John Hamburger digs through the archive and gets the full picture of Ray Kroc. Dennis Monroe digs into the new era of restaurant profitability. The basic anatomy of the industry is changing as demographics shift and even recent disruptors like Chipotle or Panera are having difficulty keeping up. And David Farkas looks into the trend of very early investments from firms like Hargett Hunter Hospitality, Quilvest Private Equity, Miller Investment Management and individual investors. How are they changing the growth brand playbook? The Answer Man is concerned about the political climate and what it means for business. President Trump promised to be the new Reagan, but the denigrator-in-chief is a whole different animal. In all the chaos, Answer Man ponders when he will get to work on business regulations. As always, track the most interesting finance sources and the most interesting deals. This month, Auspex Capital, Bob Evans and CR3 Partners are making news. Some notable industry players are making moves and the deals keep coming. P.S. We went to press before the resignation of DineEquity’s CEO, Julia Stewart, but frankly we weren’t surprised. Check out our November 2016 Monitor issue and then you will know the reason why.

What does the inauguration of President Donald Trump mean for restaurants? Likely it will more of the same, at least in 2017. There are a lot of legacy issues that haven’t gone away, and as long as brands race headlong into continued development, innovation is the only answer. Nicholas Upton explores lessons from leading brands that the industry must grapple with to succeed in the new year. Dennis Monroe takes a look at the widening gap between what restaurant sellers and buyers want, and the various reasons around the mismatch. Will buyers and sellers come together in 2017? Why is every restaurant brand bending over backward for multi-unit franchisees? David Farkas takes a look at the trend and how much of a difference aligning with experienced operators who require less support. Also take a look at the best and worst performers among public restaurants in 2016. As always, get a good look at all the deals getting done, see some of the highlights of public companies (or soon to be public) and see what the analysts have to say going into the new year.

Back Issues 2016

How’s the restaurant business? That’s a tricky question, but John Hamburger asked the best and brightest of the industry what they thought at the annual Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. He also took at look at the sale-leaseback world and what it will take to get a deal done in the new year. Nicholas Upton takes a look at the fast-moving world of fintech and how it might change things for the restaurant industry, especially when it comes to financing. David Farkas chats with some of Wall Street’s restaurant watchers who gave a little guidance on the new year and Julie Bennett talked with restaurant CFOs about digital technology. Monitor writers also get some insight into the tough labor market from RFDC attendees and sessions. And as always, see all the updates from the finance sources and finance insider where there was a lot of movement with new deals, new firms and new sources of capital.

What happens when asset light siphons company cash to shareholders? It means less reinvestment in the business, as John Hamburger examines in the November Outlook. Speaking of financial tactics, are they running out of steam for legacy brands and a new guard is taking over, built for or innovated to the new consumer. Nicholas Upton talks with Bob Emerson, author of Fast Food: The Endless Shakeout. David Farkas takes a look at the new overtime rules going into effect on December 1. Will it mean better workers or entitled workers? And Julie Bennett takes another look at the future of restaurant robotics and compares it to the past. Why buy a robot when the commissary can shop carrots? Also, see where the capital is flowing in the Finance Sources section what’s behind some of the third-quarter earnings. And take a deeper dive into the segment in Market Surveillance and in the Analyst Reports. Finally, Answer Man is on the election beat, with some insight on the many successful ballot initiatives that raised wages across the country.

What happens when asset light siphons company cash to shareholders? It means less reinvestment in the business, as John Hamburger examines in the November Outlook. Speaking of financial tactics, are they running out of steam for legacy brands and a new guard is taking over, built for or innovated to the new consumer. Nicholas Upton talks with Bob Emerson, author of Fast Food: The Endless Shakeout. David Farkas takes a look at the new overtime rules going into effect on December 1. Will it mean better workers or entitled workers? And Julie Bennett takes another look at the future of restaurant robotics and compares it to the past. Why buy a robot when the commissary can shop carrots? Also, see where the capital is flowing in the Finance Sources section what’s behind some of the third-quarter earnings. And take a deeper dive into the segment in Market Surveillance and in the Analyst Reports. Finally, Answer Man is on the election beat, with some insight on the many successful ballot initiatives that raised wages across the country.

In this month’s monitor, John Hamburger takes a look at the massive Jimmy John’s deal from the homerun hitting Roark Capital. Could the partnership spawn the next Subway-sized sandwich brand? The Monitor team also takes a look at the increasingly popular 1031 exchange market, who’s buying what and where are the deals? Guest writer and real estate guru Jim Haslem has one eye on the next recession and has plenty of guidance when it comes to rent. In short, don’t do what the market says. David Farkas looks into how small brands fund growth, aside the wild-and-crazy private equity market. And as always, see what the stock analysts are saying, take a look at some of the biggest deals in the restaurant space and see who is helping finance new expansions and M&A activity.

Why are restaurant sales sagging? Have you looked at the bill lately? John Hamburger explores a damning recession call, the flatness in the industry as a whole and what to do next (hint save your money). Dennis Monroe investigates the food court phenomenon, it's not so non-traditional anymore. David Farkas looks into another scary analyst report and the issue of too many restaurants with too few employees. Finally, the robots are coming! Julie Bennett and Nicholas Upton peek into the crystal ball for some insight on our automated future and the growing pains that may come along with it. And as always, see quotes, statistics and big deals in the restaurant world.

Are restaurants too expensive for wary consumers to go out anymore? John Hamburger explores the history of price increases and ponders whether we’ve reached a tipping point in prices where diners would rather just go to the grocery store. Speaking of tipping points, is the American consumer ready for a no tipping model? Some have found success, but many others have returned to tipping. Nicholas Upton investigates the trend. Also, Dennis Monroe looks at non traditional real estate and how restaurants can use it to make money and enhance the brand. And finally, Answer Man is looking at commercial real estate, are we in a bubble?

The Monitor 200 is here! Take a look at the best operators, which now account for $34 billion in sales and operate more than 25,000 restaurants. The biggest operators are getting even bigger with easy access to capital and stronger and stronger cash flow. John Hamburger, Dennis Monroe and Nicholas Upton explore the trends that drive these mega operators to new heights. David Farkas investigates where debt is flowing, and where it’s not, and what all these new restaurants mean for real estate. And the Answer Man has a lot of ideas about McDonald’s big move to downtown Chicago. Are there ulterior motives afoot?

We’ve long questioned the claims of restaurant chains that they were putting the independent restaurateur out of business. The major demographic change we are witnessing today—boomer to millennial—is showing how wrong these claims are. Today, consumers are embracing local and regional operators, not cookie-cutter legacy brands. In this issue of the Monitor, we examine the outlook for the multi-unit, multi-concept independents and provide tips for those contemplating an investment in an early stage restaurant business. Also in this issue, we explore the concept of dynamic pricing—that is, charging a different price depending on the date or time of service. Airline and hotels do it, so why not restaurants? You’ll discover the new ways some enterprising restaurateurs require customers to pre-pay their meals at different price points depending on the date or time. In this issue, we also look at the share buybacks of the public restaurant chains over the past three years to see how they benefited shareholders. No doubt most companies have reduced the number of shares outstanding with buybacks, but the jury is still out as to whether all of the debt incurred was worth the exercise. Interest rates may stay low for a while longer, but we know from experience large debts have a way of overwhelming restaurant businesses. Registration is now open for our Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, to be held at Las Vegas’ Bellagio this November. We’ve put together another excellent program and expect a large crowd. So register now to avoid the disappointment that we might sell out for a fifth straight year—I guarantee you’ll worry less, which, side benefit, could lower your golf score this summer.

McDonald’s projects its average hourly wage will exceed $10 by the end of the year, two thirds of the $15 New York and California are mandating for 2021 and 2022. Will higher wage rates result in fewer hours or even worker layoffs as some economists and restaurant pundits predict? Will the shift from a cheap labor model to an expensive one force marginal restaurant operators out of business? Will the industry win the “space race” and implement smarter restaurant equipment and hire R2-D2 to replace the crew? Find out what the Monitor has to say about labor. All of this and more in this month’s Restaurant Finance Monitor.

Sometimes a bargain isn’t a bargain. Sometimes it’s an expensive disaster. That’s what Food Management Partners is discovering after it acquired Ovation Brands—Old Country, Hometown and Ryan’s Buffet— last August. Six months into the running 300+-unit buffet chain, it’s down to 150 locations and back in bankruptcy, the third time in eight years. The Monitor takes a look at deal, why it went sour and whether it will emerge again. Also in this issue, Nick Upton takes a closer look at restaurant leases and talks with real estate leasing experts about proper rent levels and renegotiation. David Farkas interviews former Brinker CFO Jim Parish and NRD Holdings CEO Aziz Hashim on how they judge growth potential in up & coming restaurant chains. Our legal eagle Dennis Monroe advises operators on how to structure a restaurant company and whether to create a single or multiple companies. And, there are plenty of new financing sources in this issue as always.

The Restaurant Finance Monitor provides its usual dose of financing tips and deal information to its readers. Here’s what’s inside the February issue: John Hamburger asks why there isn’t more transparency when restaurant companies report same store sales. David Farkas looks at three large multi-unit franchisees to see why they are going full-speed ahead with expansion despite macroeconomic headwinds. Money, money and money could be the answer, as capital seems easy to come easy these days, especially to large multi-unit franchisees. Nick Upton looks at dilemma faced by operators in North Dakota and the Texas oil patch, while Julie Bennett offers some hedging tips if interest rates should ever go north instead of south. And finally, Dennis Monroe takes readers through a private financing transaction and offers some tips on structure.

Rising interest rates, plunging oil prices, gourmet burgers and healthy fast food were the talk of the restaurant industry in the early '80s Sound familiar? In this issue of the Monitor, we explore a number of similarities between today’s financing and expansion binge and back in 1984. It’s no surprise John Hamburger predicts we’re nearing the end of the current restaurant expansion cycle. Our columnists were busy this month. David Farkas looks at the restaurant M&A outlook in 2016 and interviews the key players. Dennis Monroe says it wasn’t a year for new financing ideas, but it sure was fun to watch the competitiveness of the lenders and sale-leaseback providers. Nicholas Upton says emerging brands remain the darling of growth investors, but macroeconomic trends could derail them. And, the Answer Man reveals his best and worst restaurant deals of 2015, and then lets readers in on what keeps him up at night. Other than too much Irish whiskey, of course.

Back Issues 2015

We’re looking back on the year of a million mergers and acquisitions, driven by low interest and commodity prices—investors paid top dollar for a smorgasbord of concepts. Of course, we can’t look back on 2015 and not examine Chipotle’s ongoing food-safety struggles. What’s next for the burrito giant? And will their all-in bet on food safety pay off in the long run? Also, learn what grown brand CFOs are pondering for 2016, how to save some money on taxes and see all the latest market intelligence from the past month.

Will they or won’t they?! Everyone is wondering what the Fed will do, but they seem primed to raise rates soon. But what does that really mean for restaurants and real estate, and could it mean scary bumps for the sale-leaseback train? We’re fresh from the Restaurant Finance and Development Conference with a wealth of knowledge from our esteemed panelists and attendees. See how CFOs are navigating their new role in technology-driven restaurants and how franchisees are creating new concepts built on their restaurant experiences. Finally, Answer Man is play some inside baseball, digging into some of the biggest trends in the industry.

Don’t believe the hype. Valuations are heading for the moon as investors gamble on the next big thing, but we’re more interested in EBITDA to get a sober look at a company. A word to the wise, we’re on borrowed time in the economic cycle, so be smart with your money. Also in this issue: Get some insight into operations at one global investment group with a very famous name; take a look at Native Grill & Wing’s bond-driven funding deal; and see what mezzanine investors are doing these days. Finally, Answer Man is relaxing while an army of delivery drivers race to bring him lunch.

The Monitor takes a closer look at who’s behind the Chubby Chipotle ads and why Chipotle’s Steve Ells is now drawing some enemies after a career of warm fuzzies. Also, David Farkas reports on the interesting Twitter exchange taking place between a Cosi shareholder and Cosi CEO R.J. Dourney. David’s piece goes to show how social media and public relations play such a large role in today’s restaurant businesses. We also take a closer look at sub sandwich franchises and how they shape up as multi-unit investments. And, Dennis Monroe looks at why so many banks are getting into restaurant lending.

Sale-leasebacks have become the rock stars of restaurant finance in the past few years. Everyone’s doing them, including franchisees who’ve owned their own real estate for years. Why the sudden surge in sale-leaseback financing? You’ll find out in the July issue of the Monitor as we break down the pros and cons sale-leaseback financing.

Welcome to the Monitor’s annual franchisee issue where we rank the Top 200 franchisees in the country according to revenue. In this special franchisee edition, John Hamburger asks whether large, multi-unit franchisees are taking on too much risk by owning so many stores in one brand. Are the concentration of stores in one or two brands at risk, especially in those brands where franchisors have adopted the “asset-light” model and taken on major debts for share buybacks and dividends? You probably know what he thinks the answer is. David Farkas looks at the deal environment for franchisee transactions, while Dennis Monroe examines the two major points of franchisee/franchisor heartburn—development agreements and capital expenditures. Keep up to date on the latest restaurant finance information by reading the Monitor.

CEOs make awful capital allocators, at least according to the legendary Warren Buffett. In this issue of the Monitor, we take a closer look at the top class of capital allocators, such as Buffett and Henry Singleton, and compare them to what we are seeing in the restaurant business right now. Also in this issue: The Answer Man speculates on the potential sale of GE Capital, Franchise Finance and what it means for the restaurant industry. Would it surprise you that GE’s lending competitors wish they’d quietly disappear? David Farkas looks at the hot real estate market and what emerging brands are doing to keep rents down. Bill Carlino looks closer at zero-based budgeting and explains what all of the hullabaloo is all about. Dennis Monroe analyzes community banks as possible sources of restaurant financing. And finally, restaurant financial consultant, John Gordon, identifies 15 ways to make money in restaurants, as well as 15 sure ways to lose money.

All anyone can talk about these days in restaurant finance is what's going to happen to GE Capital Franchise Finance, now that parent company GE announced it would break up GE Capital. Can it be sold as a complete restaurant finance unit? Who will buy it? Does it fit with a bank and their low cost of capital, or should it stay a finance company? The Monitor provides some insight on the various scenarios for this major restaurant finance unit. Also in this issue, David Farkas looks at why it is so difficult for restaurant companies to create a second concept, and Dennis Monroe offers tips on restaurant labor savings. Included in the issue is David Epstein's annual Chain Merger and Acquisition Census, which shows restaurant deal count continues to accelerate, especially in franchising. And finally, the Answer Man looks at the burgeoning alternative lending space and asks the proverbial question: What could go wrong?

In this month’s issue, we explore the impact on restaurant loan underwriting, given the unprecedented number of banks and non-bank lenders that have entered the space since the recession. Is price competition, more acceptable leverage, and stretched amortizations the new normal. Also, Dennis Monroe explores the low cap rates offered in the sale-leaseback markets, and asks whether or not we are in a real estate bubble. Our columnists, Bill Carlino and David Farkas focus their reports this month on the restaurant back office. Carlino examines the make-up of the modern accounting department of a restaurant company, while Farkas looks at some recent bad behavior from restaurant thieves. And finally, workout expert Gene Baldwin, provides some advice to emerging brands on how to avoid workout status later in life.

Its celebration time for restaurant chains as valuations reach new highs. Shake Shack's IPO values the chain at 87x EBITDA, an all-time high for restaurant chains. Restaurant analysts get worked up over same store sales increases, but the Monitor asks this question: "Doesn't that barely cover commodity inflation?" Bankers forget what happens when they make aggressive loans late in the credit cycle. As it's prone to always do, the Monitor throws cold water on the valuations and bank frivolity it sees these days. Who else would do that?

This month, the Monitor examines the 2014 stock market winners and losers in our industry, and examines what’s in store for chains this year. Plus, learn which brands took top honors when it comes to social media buzz, how to get noticed by PE and angel funds, and the latest finance deals from the lenders and financing companies making the restaurant industry their home. And finally, the Answer Man throws cold water on the industry’s über optimism brought on by low gas prices, a Shake Shack IPO and more. There’s always someone ready to spoil a party. Take home the January issue of the Monitor this week and study it!