Ice cream from a 3D printer has edged closer to reality.
Small-batch ice cream that’s made with local ingredients and offers barrier-breaking flavor combinations is what sells in restaurants these days. But wait until customers see what a 3D printer can do with plain old frozen soft serve ice cream.

Three Massachusetts Institute of Technology students are the inventors of the 3D ice cream printer, which they developed this spring for a class in additive manufacturing. Their system takes soft-serve ice cream extruded by a standard Cuisinart device, super-cools it and prints 3D shells made of ice cream. The machine, which you can see in action here, is at the proof-of-concept stage right now.

Cutting-edge pastry chefs who dabble in molecular gastronomy already perform similar dessert and ice cream magic. But the beauty of 3D ice cream printing is that it would—presuming commercial development ensues—enable restaurants at any level to produce clever ice cream shapes in volume with the push of a button. 


Sysco has settled a lawsuit over its use of drop sites.
The foodservice distribution giant has agreed to pay California $19.4 million for its past use of unrefrigerated drop sites to temporarily store perishable foods.

In 2013, investigators learned that Sysco trucks were delivering perishable items to 14 public storage lockers that did not have refrigeration. Sysco salespeople would later pick up these items and deliver them to customers.

“We sincerely regret that some of our California companies failed to adhere to our long-standing policies related to drop sites,” says Sysco president/c.e.o. Bill DeLaney. He adds that the company has eliminated the use of drop sites. The $19.4 million settlement includes $15 million in penalties, $3.3 million that will fund four California Department of Public Health investigator positions for a period of five years, a $1 million donation to food banks within California and $127,000 in legal costs.

Forbes weighs in on the best and worst franchises to own.
Magazines ranging from Consumer Reports to Nation’s Restaurant News produce lists that track consumer preferences for restaurant chains. Now Forbes has developed way to rank franchised chains from the perspective of the potential investor/operator. The magazine sorted through 3,000 franchises across a range of businesses to compile its rankings. Restaurants showed up multiple times on lists of the best and worst franchises to own.

Making the top 10 in the under-$500,000 cost of entry category on Forbes’ “Top-Ranked Chains in America” list were (3) Jimmy John’s, (6) Which Wich, (7) Chester’s and (8) Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop. The over-$500,000 cost of entry group winners included (4) Quaker Steak & Lube, (5) Jack in the Box, (7) Firehouse Subs and (8) Noodles & Company. 

Full-service restaurant were absent from the “best” list. But they were prominent on the Forbes list of Lowest Ranked Chains in America. In the over-$500,000 category were (1) Country Kitchen, (5) Bennigan’s, (6) Shoney’s, (7) Bonanza Steakhouse and (10) Ground Round Grill & Bar. Also making this list were bakery cafe (5) Atlanta Bread Company and fast casual Mexican chain La Salsa (9). 
The under-$500,000 category of “Lowest Ranked Chains” also had three restaurants: (2) Steak Escape, (9) Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill and (10) Great Steak & Potato Company.

The Forbes rankings were based on factors including a chain’s five-year-compounded annual growth rate and how much the franchisor aided franchisees with financing support, marketing programs and initial and ongoing operational aid. Complete rankings can be found here.

Macaroni Grill debuts mega meatballs.
The Meatball Shop in New York City, the Meatball Spot in Las Vegas, the Meatball Room in Boca Raton, the Meatball Shack in Aspen—the market for meatball-based restaurants is big and getting bigger. So big that 205-unit Macaroni Grill is thinking it can sell more meatballs than the sizable number it already does via a trio of entrees that feature a half-pound meatball atop a serving of imported specialty cut spaghetti.

The portions are big, and so are their flavors. The Beef Bolognese version offers a classic beef and ricotta meatball, fresh herbs, melted provolone, bolognese ragu and parmesan cheese for $12.50. The Chicken Parmesan is a chicken and parmesan meatball, fresh basil, romano cheese, melted provolone and rustic pomodoro sauce that sells for $11.50. The Veal Marsala option, costing $13, consists of a veal and wild mushroom meatball, house roasted garlic, caramelized onions and mushroom marsala wine sauce. Customers also have the option of adding one of these meatballs to another entree for $6. 

Rustic Kitchen Meatballs will be on the Macaroni Grill menu through the end of August.

Technomic tackles Generation Z.
Need more data to help define who your restaurant’s key demographic is and what it wants? Foodservice industry research heavyweight Technomic is weighing in with a new study that pinpoints the needs and behavior of restaurant customers across the full generational spectrum.

Included in that spectrum is emerging demographic Generation Z. Technomic says this younger-than-the-Millennials cohort—figure ages 19 and under—is the first true digital generation and represents the future foodservice consumer. Among the Gen-Z findings from Technomic’s Generational Consumer Trend Report: its members are big on ordering takeout, they place a premium on fast service at QSRs and they expect to eat out more frequently next year. For more on this report, go here.