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Smashburger Opens First Washington, D.C. Location

Smashburger Opens First Washington, D.C. Location


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The chain opened in Dupont Circle, right near Shake Shack

This bacon cheeseburger is just one of the many burgers Smashburger has to offer.

Step aside, Shake Shack, a new burger joint is coming through. Smashburger opened its first store in D.C on Wednesday, as reported by Eater.

Founded in 2007, Smashburger started as a single store in Denver to now over a hundred across the country. What makes Smashburger unique is that they have a signature burger for different regions. Specific for the D.C store, the featured burger is called the Capital and has grilled onions, Swiss, arugula, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes, and mayo on a brioche bun.

Their menu also offers a great variety that includes burgers (even a veggie one!), chicken sandwiches, sides, salads, Haagen-Dazs shakes, kids meals, and the option to choose your own bun, cheese, sauce, and toppings. On top of that there are two burger sizes to choose from, which are all under $7.

The new opening will bring in many tourists, college students, or anybody coming through the nearby metro station. But the Smashburger already has some competition. Shake Shack, located also in Dupont Circle, will have people choosing between the two, which is certainly a tough decision.


Smashburger Opens First Washington, D.C. Location - Recipes


1345 19th Street NW just south of the Dupont Circle south metro entrance

Following news of Philz Coffee coming to the old Cosi space come word that Barry’s Bootcamp is opening up on the old CVS/Movie theater space next door this November “early December”.

“Barry’s Bootcamp, the original boutique lifestyle brand that innovated group fitness by creating an immersive and transformative full-body workout experience, is set to open its first Washington, D.C. area location in Dupont Circle this fall. The opening will mark the lifestyle brand’s 38th studio globally. Barry’s Washington, D.C. will deliver the signature, high intensity workout that more than 50,000 participants take part in every week to quickly change their bodies and get into the best shape of their lives.


courtesy Barry’s

At over 5,714 square feet, the studio will be located just steps away above the Dupont Circle metro station and in the heart of one of the most vibrant neighborhoods to live, work and play within the nation’s capital. The historical art deco building was designed by architect Mihran Mesrobian (whose work also includes Washington, D.C. landmarks such as The Hay-Adams, The Carlton Hotel and Wardman Tower). The studio will accommodate up to 53 participants, a lifestyle clothing boutique selling Barry’s original workout and athleisure apparel (including exclusive Washington, D.C. pieces) and signature Fuel Bar, serving Barry’s own recipes of healthy and energizing smoothies and snacks designed to help clients reach their goals. The location will also house a playful selfie wall to accommodate pre and post-workout photos. Additional amenities include full men’s and women’s locker rooms stocked with Oribe products.

“Washington, D.C is a fantastic (and fit!) city – we’ve been inundated with requests from people to open here. I can’t wait to watch the Barry’s community take shape and grow,” said Joey Gonzalez, CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp.

Barry’s Washington, D.C. is located at 1345 19th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. Classes at Barry’s Bootcamp Washington, D.C. cost $34 (class packages also available).


courtesy Barry’s

The Barry’s Bootcamp Experience: Barry’s is the original cardio & strength interval workout. Immersive & high energy, it’s the fastest & most fun way to get lean & hard! Nearly twenty years ago, the brand innovated group fitness by creating an efficient, immersive and transformative hour-long workout experience. Over 50,000 members of the Barry’s community visit the studios each week and use the brand’s signature method to burn fat, tone muscle and push themselves to reach their physical and mental potential. Today Barry’s is credited as the “best workout in the world!”

Founded in Los Angeles in 1998, Barry’s was conceived to make getting into the best shape of your life possible and fun! Barry’s signature method utilizes the most effective combination of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) by incorporating 20-25 minutes of interval-based cardiovascular routines on treadmills with 20-25 minutes of strength training using free weights, resistance bands, and more. The workout is results driven–pushing participants to their physical and mental limits–and efficient. A 50-minute class incinerates fat, burns up to 1,000 calories, and releases stress.

Barry’s is a one-stop signature class to a leaner and harder body, and ends the frustration of trying to pack multiple cardio and strength training workouts into an overscheduled week. Additionally, the studio calendar is uniquely customized to focus on a different body part each day of the week, offering participants a complete, full body fitness regime. Barry’s promises that no class is ever the same so participants never plateau.

Barry’s classes are held in dim lit, red studios to motivating playlists. The room adds an element of excitement to the workout while enabling participants to dig deeper and lose themselves in the physical moment. Barry’s instructors coach and motivate the group to run and work harder than they ever thought possible. Working side by side as a community creates strong bonds between participants who inspire, support, and hold each other accountable inside and outside of the studio.

With over thirty locations worldwide, including studios in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, London and Dubai, Barry’s Bootcamp has established a cult-like following across the globe. Professional athletes, editors, captains of Industry, and A-list celebrities are all familiar faces amongst the Barry’s community.

Barry’s is also a popular lifestyle brand with its own performance and athleisure clothing line and Fuel Bar, serving signature smoothies and healthy snacks engineered to take the guess work out of post-workout recovery nutrition.

The Barry’s workout has innovated the fitness landscape by offering an efficient, effective, and transformative group fitness experience unlike any other.”


Smashburger Continues Smashing Success

Smashburger, the rapidly expanding better burger restaurant concept, announced it has added five new franchise partners to its growing family of better burger franchisees, totaling a combined commitment for 19 new franchise units across the U.S. These most recent franchise agreements bring Smashburger’s total active franchise pipeline to approximately 300 locations, which are expected to open over the next several years. These new commitments will also allow Smashburger to make its debut in three new markets, further expanding its growing national footprint as it looks to reach all fifty states.

Additionally, Smashburger has entered into an agreement to acquire a 75 percent stake in 13 restaurants currently owned and operated by franchise partner Scott Gillman of Mascott Corporation in the state of New Jersey. This year’s growth, combined with the acquisition, will move its systemwide corporate and franchised breakdown closer to its goal of 60 percent company owned and 40 percent franchised locations. Mr. Gillman, who has been a Smashburger Franchisee of the Year, will continue to be actively involved in the growth of Smashburger in New Jersey. Smashburger’s stake in these select high performing restaurants will allow the company to accelerate its growth in the market and is part of the company’s corporate development strategy on the east coast, coming on the heels of its corporate entrance into the Washington D.C. market.

“ Consumer appetite for Smashburger’s “better burgers,” as well as for other premium fast casual offerings, is continuing to grow and the opportunity to develop the Smashburger brand has never been better,” says Dave Prokupek, chairman and CEO of Smashburger. “New Jersey and the entire East Coast markets are very attractive to us from a corporate and franchise perspective, and we believe there is considerable opportunity to expand our footprint here over time. We’re also very pleased to welcome our newest group of veteran franchise partners who are just as passionate as we are about growing the Smashburger brand in order to bring great tasting premium burgers and other offerings to consumers across the country and around the world.”

Each of Smashburger’s new franchise partners possesses deep restaurant operations and management experience. Smashburger is pleased to announce its partnership with the following franchisees to expand the company’s sizzling fast casual offering in the following markets:

· Tallahassee, Florida – Smashburger has partnered with David Walker and Kerry Nohle of Sizzle Adventures to debut the first Smashburger restaurants in Tallahassee and open four locations in the northern Florida area over the next few years. The two partners are former operators of Tropical Smoothie, Subway, and Marco’s Pizza restaurant franchisees.

· Charleston, South Carolina – Smashburger has partnered with Josh Snyder of Low Country Burgers to debut Smashburger in Charleston and open three new restaurants in the area over the next couple years. Mr. Snyder is also an operator of a Moe’s Southwest Grill franchise.

· Salt Lake City, Utah – Smashburger has partnered with husband and wife team Mark & Chris Beck-McKay of McKay Management to expand the brand’s operations in Utah with the opening six new restaurants in Salt Lake City over the next few years. Local operator Chris Beck-Mckay is a former McDonald’s franchise veteran.

· Colorado Springs, Colorado – Smashburger has partnered with husband and wife team Lucas & Allyson Farnham of Better Burger Builders to open three new restaurants in Colorado Springs over the next few years. The couple also operates restaurants under the Black Bear Diner brand.

· Ventura County, California – Smashburger has partnered with father and son duo Ron & Ryan Hunter to open three new restaurants in Ventura County over the next few years. Local operator Ryan Hunter is also a Culinary Institute of America trained executive chef.

Smashburger remains on track to grow its unit count by approximately 30 percent in 2013 and plans to open an additional 30 to 40 restaurants in the balance of 2013, putting its year-end target at approximately 250 locations globally. The company’s goal is to become the number one global “better burger” brand with 500 restaurants globally in the next few years. The company continues to seek qualified franchise partners to expand the brand into top DMA markets in new states domestically and in international markets including Canada, South America, United Kingdom, and South East Asia.


Contents

A. H. "Gus" Belt (born in Morrisonville, Illinois) founded Steak 'n Shake in Normal, Illinois, in February 1934, after serving four years in the United States Marine Corps. He converted the combination gas station and chicken restaurant that he owned (Shell's Chicken) into a hamburger stand. [1]

Steak 'n Shake's slogan "In Sight It Must Be Right" originally referred to Belt's practice of wheeling a barrel of T-bone, sirloin, and round steaks into the public area of his restaurant, then grinding them into burgers in front of his customers. [1] This practice was intended to reassure customers of the wholesomeness of the product at that time, ground beef was still viewed with some skepticism by the general public, based on the likelihood of its having deliberate impurities introduced into it. This practice of grinding the beef in public also helped assure his customers of the veracity of Belt's "Steakburger" claim because they could see for themselves that he was grinding steaks into the hamburger meat. Later, patrons were assured that Steakburgers were still made from these ingredients "at our own commissary" for shipment to the restaurants, where the open grill line remains "in sight" to customers.

Following the success of the original restaurant, Belt purchased a chain of "Goal Post" restaurants throughout central Illinois, converting them into Steak 'n Shake restaurants. [ when? ] He also added curb service at this point. [1]

The original building at the intersection of Main Street and West Virginia Avenue was damaged by a fire in the early 1960s, but it was repaired and its dining room expanded. In the late 1990s, Steak 'n Shake sold this building to the Monical's Pizza company.

After Gus Belt Edit

Steak 'n Shake continued to expand throughout Illinois following the death of its creator in 1954, with ownership passing through many hands, including Gus's wife Edith (who ran the chain until 1969) Longchamps, Inc. (an East Coast steakhouse company that owned the chain from 1969 [5] to 1971 [6] ) and the Indianapolis-based Franklin Corporation, led by Robert Cronin, author of Selling Steakburgers: The Growth of a Corporate Culture. After the acquisition, Franklin moved Steak 'n Shake's headquarters from Normal, Illinois, to Indianapolis.

In 1981, Steak 'n Shake and its parent company Franklin were acquired by E. W. Kelley and Associates, [7] whose chairman, E. W. "Ed" Kelley was responsible for the restaurant chain until his death on July 4, 2003. [1]

Under Sardar Biglari Edit

Entrepreneur Sardar Biglari took control of Steak 'n Shake in August 2008 after 3 years of declining same-store sales and losses of $100,000 per day. He led a turnaround that resulted in 24 straight quarters of increases in same-store sales and profits of $100,000 per day. [8] [ unreliable source? ] Biglari focused the brand on burgers, fries and milkshakes, reducing the menu from eight pages to a bi-fold. [9] However, Steak n' Shake ran into renewed problems in 2016 and onward, with revenue declining sharply. [10] Potential reasons include underinvestment in restaurants after the deep price cuts of 2008, competition from "fast casual" restaurants like Chipotle that aimed for a more high-class experience, and two expensive lawsuits from former managers who accused the chain of misclassifying them as salaried employees and refusing to pay earned overtime. [10]

In 2018, Steak 'n Shake changed its business model to a franchise partner system, with Biglari attempting to turn all of the 400+ company-owned restaurants into franchise operations. Entrepreneurial single-unit operators could take control of an existing Steak 'n Shake for $10,000, an unusually low price, but would need to turn over fifty percent of the restaurant's profits to Steak 'n Shake. [11] The firm remained heavily indebted, however. As of April 2020, its debt was rated as a low C/D "speculative" grade by bond rating agencies, colloquially known as junk bonds. The Washington Post considered the chain extremely likely to default with a low likelihood of recovering, with the restaurant closings due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States being an unrecoverable blow to the firm. [12]

The first Steak 'n Shake in the state of Indiana was opened as a drive-in restaurant in Indianapolis in November 1954. [13] As typical for this time period, this restaurant had offered curb service (carhop) in addition to table service and takeout. At the time of the opening of this location, Steak 'n Shake had locations in five states.

The company entered North Carolina for the first time by opening a franchised location in Greensboro in December 1996. [17]

Steak 'n Shake entered Wisconsin with locations in Racine, Janesville and Madison in the late 1990s, [18] but all locations closed by 2004. [19] Another franchiser opened locations in Waukesha and Wauwatosa in 2007, but both closed by 2010. [20] [21] The chain has yet to return to the state.

After briefly operating a few restaurants in south Texas during the 1970s, Steak 'n Shake returned to Texas by opening locations in the Dallas–Fort Worth area beginning in 2001, [22] in the Houston area beginning in 2012, [23] and in the San Antonio area beginning in 2013. [24]

Steak 'n Shake entered South Carolina for the first time by opening a location in Greenville in February 2001. [25]

The company entered Oklahoma for the first time by opening a franchised location in Edmond in 2004. [26]

Steak 'n Shake entered West Virginia for the first time by opening a franchised location in Barboursville in August 2007. [27]

Steak 'n Shake opened their first location in Nevada inside the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada in July 2010 [28] and a second Nevada location in Reno in July 2013. [29] [30] In January 2017, a second location was opened in Las Vegas, the third in Nevada, in the Student Union building on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas [31] followed by a second Reno location, the fourth in Nevada, in July 2017. [32]

Steak 'n Shake entered Louisiana for the first time [33] by opening a location near Baton Rouge in Covington in 2011. [34]

The company first entered Colorado via a franchise in Denver in November 2011 [35] before the parent took over the Colorado locations after a lengthy lawsuit between the franchisee and the parent company.

In January 2012, they opened their first and only location in the state of New York on the island of Manhattan in New York City, [36] adjacent to the Ed Sullivan Theater, then home to the Late Show with David Letterman. Indiana native David Letterman, an avid Steak 'n Shake fan, would frequent the location and mention it often on his show. [37] This location closed in October 2017, ending the chain's five year presence in the state. [ citation needed ]

The first location in New Jersey was opened by a franchise holder in September 2012 in Paramus. [38] At the beginning of 2016, a second and third location within New Jersey were opened by the same franchisee in West Windsor Township and Hamilton Township, [39] but both of those locations quietly disappeared within a year. In September 2017, the original Paramus location, the last location in New Jersey, also closed after a five-year struggle to remain in business. [40]

The first Steak 'n Shake location in the state of Arizona was opened in Tempe in October 2013. [41] [42] A second Arizona location was open on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson in July 2017. [43]

The first and only location in the state of Montana, and in the upper plain states, was opened in Billings in December 2013. [44] This location was forced to close after two and a half years in July 2016 due to poor sales that were blamed on "harsh reviews on social media". [45]

Steak 'n Shake expanded to California in July 2014 by opening a location in Victorville. [46] [47] A Los Angeles County location was opened in Santa Monica in late October [48] [49] and another in Burbank in December. [50] After a lack of activity for over a year in the highly competitive Californian marketplace, the company announced in April 2016 of the expected opening of their first Orange County location, their fourth in California, in Aliso Viejo in mid-May. [51] After a short delay, a fifth California location was opened behind schedule in Riverside in August 2016. [52] In March 2017, a 6th location opened in Yucca Valley. [ citation needed ] After 3.5 years of operation, the Victorville location closed abruptly in February 2018 after receiving an eviction notice for failure to pay rent. [53] [54]

In 2015, the company planned a restaurant in Northern California in Campbell, California, but local residents delayed it. [55] Because of that delay, the first location in Northern California opened instead in Daly City in November 2016. [56] [57] [58] This opening was followed by the opening of the first Central California location in Fresno in March 2017. [59] A second San Francisco Bay Area restaurant was opened on the campus of San Jose State University (SJSU) in July 2017. [60] After a long four delay fighting local anti-development activists, the company finally opened their long expected restaurant in Campbell in September 2017. [61] After four months of operation, the Daly City location closed along with the Campbell location in January 2018. [62] This leaves only San Jose location on the campus of SJSU as the only Bay Area store. [63] After 10 months of operation, the lone Central California location in Fresno also closed in January 2018. [64]

In June 2015, the first location in Maryland opened in Millersville. [65] Two years later, the struggling Maryland franchisee filed for voluntary bankruptcy in June 2017 while still remaining open. [66] This location finally closed in January 2018 after the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County seized the restaurant for non-payment on loans and taxes. The restaurant and contents were auctioned off by the court on January 31, 2018. [67] Later that year, the franchise owner was arrested after FBI filed an indictment against the franchise owner for plotting to kill his wife and to burn the restaurant down in an attempt to receive insurance money for his then failing business. [68] In January 2019, the restaurant has reopened under new management. [69] In April 2019, the same franchise owner of the Millersville location announced plans to open a second location in White Marsh by summer 2019. [70]

The first location in the Pacific Northwest opened in Seattle, Washington in May 2016. [71]

In September 2018, the first location in the state of Delaware was opened in Middletown. [72]

In March 2019, the first location in the state of Nebraska was opened on the campus of University of Nebraska–Lincoln. [73]

In March 2019, Steak 'n Shake announced plans to open its first restaurant in Washington, D.C., inside the Rayburn House Office Building to serve House members, staffers, and the public who pass "through security and a metal detector". [74] The location officially opened for business in the first week of September 2019. [75] And come 11 January 2021, the first Steak N Shake Location the Des Moines Suburb of West Des Moines opened, joining seven other stores in Iowa, with strict measures, like no eat-in dining. [76]

In December 2013, Steak 'n Shake opened a corporate office in Monte Carlo, Monaco, to support its expansion in West Asia and Europe. [77]

West Asia Edit

In October 2012, Steak 'n Shake announced its first international expansion agreement with plans to open forty locations in the United Arab Emirates. The first of these locations opened in Dubai in 2013, [78] but closed in a little more than a year. Ultimately, only two out of the original 40 locations planned were opened in the United Arab Emirates. Both closed in January 2015. [79]

The brand also announced in December 2013 a 50-unit franchise agreement in Saudi Arabia with AB Holdings. The first location in Riyadh was expected to open in the first half of 2014. [80]

The first location in the Persian Gulf country of Kuwait was opened in December 2014. [81] This location appeared to have been closed after less than three years of operation. [82]

The first location in Qatar opened at the Tawar Mall in November 2017. [83]

Europe Edit

The first two European locations opened in Cannes, France, in May 2014 [84] [85] and on the island of Ibiza in Spain in June 2014. [86]

The second location in France was opened in Marseille in December 2014. [87] A third location in France was opened in Toulon in April 2016 [88] and was quickly followed in June by the openings of a fourth and fifth locations in Caen and Rueil-Malmaison, [89] in October by the openings of a sixth location at the Cité Europe shopping centre in Coquelles, [90] and in November of a seventh location in Fenouillet. [91] The eighth and ninth location in France were open in Bordeaux [92] [93] and Anglet respectively in early 2017. [94] A second location in Marseille was opened in December 2017. [95] A third location in Marseille, the 17th location in France, was opened in May 2018. [96]

The second location in Spain was opened in the capital Madrid in September 2015 [97] followed by a third location in Churra, Murcia in October 2015. [98]

The first location in Italy opened in Milan in December 2015. [99] A second location was opened in Peschiera del Garda in May 2016. [100] A third location was opened in Castione Andevenno in September 2016. [101]

In July 2016, the first location in Portugal opened in Montijo, near Lisbon. [102]

In December 2016, the first store in the United Kingdom opened in Chester, Cheshire, England. [103] The only location within the UK was closed 21 months later in August 2018. [104] [105]

Franchise pricing lawsuits Edit

Between 2010 and 2015, Steak 'n Shake became involved in lawsuits with several of its franchisees concerning mandatory menu prices and mandatory food sourcing. As of August 2013 [update] , five lawsuits had been filed. The first lawsuit began in 2010 and is by Stuller, Inc., the Illinois franchisee that is the oldest franchisee in Steak 'n Shake's history. Stuller won a preliminary injunction that went to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2012. [106] Three more franchisees filed suit in April 2013—Druco Restaurants based in St. Louis, People Sales & Profit Co. based in Georgia, and Scott's S&S Inc. in Pennsylvania. [107] A settlement was reached with these franchisees in 2014, but terms of the settlement were not made public. [108]

Steak 'n Shake filed suit against Denver franchisees Larry and Christopher Baerns in July 2013 over the same issues, with a counterclaim soon after. [109] Steak 'n Shakes won their lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Baerns when judge ruled that the Baerns intentionally overcharged customers. [110] The complaints by the franchisees also question whether Steak 'n Shake promised franchise results that could never actually be achieved under its policies. [111]

Employee classification lawsuits Edit

286 managers in the St. Louis area filed and won a lawsuit against Steak 'n Shake on grounds that they were misclassified as exempt employees unable to earn overtime. [112] Steak 'n Shake had to pay $7.7 million in damages. They were sued again by an even larger group of 1100+ managers on similar grounds as of 2019, that case was pending. [10]


Smashburger’s Long-Term Play is a Digital Transformation

Digital orders have grown 436.7 percent amid the COVID pandemic.

To understand where Smashburger is now, you must look back to August 2019 when Carl Bachmann was promoted to president.

Attached to his tenure was an aggressive, five-point strategy aimed at pushing Smashburger to the top of the better-burger category. The go-forward plan consisted of forming a world-class team and infrastructure, focusing on taste and quality of products, redefining the portfolio as a hub-and-spoke model, adopting the systems and culture of Jollibee, its parent company, and leveraging the marketing team to reposition the brand.

Jollibee, the largest foodservice company in Asia with north of 3,000 outlets, took control of Smashburger in late 2018 when it grabbed a $100 million stake in the chain, bringing its ownership from 45 percent to 85 percent. It then spent $10 million to acquire the remaining 15 percent.

Because of the blueprint, Bachmann and his team entered the pandemic with a strengthened compass. And if any further proof is needed, Smashburger will end 2020 with sales growth year-over-year, and double-digit increases for eight consecutive months.

“Smashburger decided that we could live with our plan, but we need to accelerate the plan,” Bachmann says. “So instead of sitting back, we coined the phrase 'pandemic positive’ and that meant culturally, but also in sales. We were going to take an aggressive approach.”

Each of the five points was carried forward with the knowledge that the restaurant industry was headed toward a digital landscape. Amid the crisis, Smashburger has used third-party aggregators and its website and mobile app to deliver a 436.7 percent increase in digital orders.

On December 14, the chain will launch updates to its app and website to provide a faster, frictionless experience, and give consumers the ability to earn and burn points through the loyalty reward program. In January, Smashburger will roll out a more intuitive curbside pickup program in which customers can tell restaurants what type of car they have and where to place the order. Curbside was rolled out to more than 70 units at the peak of the pandemic.

“I believe that's the long-term play,” Bachmann says. “I think restaurants need to understand that without a digital transformation in today's world, you're not going to be successful.”

Bachmann notes that the brand has seen a real conversion by customers. That gives Smashburger the opportunity to build prototypes more conducive to the digital age.

Smashburger's new prototype is built for a digital landscape, with modern design touches.

The brand is creating a design that’s more modern and chef-inspired. Bachmann says it will feature contactless pickup via cubby systems and an open kitchen to “make food the star.” Smashburger is also reimagining its style by elevating interior designs and moving away from fast food cues like the colors red and yellow.

“The key to our new model and new prototype is to give people, as close as you can, to a fast-casual experience, both inside the restaurant, but also outside the restaurant,” Bachmann says.

The goal is to open 40 or more stores in 2021, but the approach will be much different. Bachmann explains that Smashburger has grown like a vine across the country when it really needs to flourish as a bush by growing outward from core regions.

The development will be spread across two basic areas—uber urban and suburban retail. The suburban units will be positioned beside big box retailers and highly residential areas. The urban locales, places like Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Houston, Denver, New York, and Washington, D.C., will be Smashburger’s ionic, high-volume stores that create brand awareness.

While suburban units have performed well during the pandemic, urban locations have struggled to recover because of empty office spaces and lack of foot traffic. But Bachmann cautions restaurateurs not to give up on cities just yet—Smashburger certainly isn’t.

“I think it’s highly overrated that the end of cities is near,” Bachmann says. “Maybe because I’ve been a New Yorker all my life, but I believe cities are going to bounce back and I think you’re seeing it already even though we’re having some challenges with this pandemic. I think people still live and work and will enjoy the cities. I think the business climate has changed and that’s why the digital piece becomes so important. Your traditional restaurants have to adapt. And if they don’t adapt, they’re going to suffer. So that’s the reality.”

Smashburger has retracted unit count in recent years. It shut 46 venues to end 2019 with 277 stores. The year before, it exited the calendar with 323 restaurants. It had 333 at the end of 2017. A net 78 stores closed in the past three years.

Smashburger closed 2019 with $300 million in total domestic systemwide sales, according to FoodserviceResults. Average-unit volumes ticked up to $945,000 from $933,000 in the prior year.

As the portfolio becomes more polished, so does the menu. While many concepts chose to shy away from menu innovation amid the pandemic, Smashburger moved forward with its Bacon Brisket Burger in May. The BOGO $1 deal generated more sales than any other promotion in 2020 and pushed the burger to 7 percent of sales. Four months later, the Bacon Brisket Burger has settled in around 5 percent.

Smashburger also decided to bring back the best-selling Colorado Burger, a celebration of its home state it also mixes roughly 5 percent. At the end of November, the chain is preparing for the release of its new and savory Tailgater Burger.

“We really wanted to create great family-dining experiences,” Bachmann says. “Whether they couldn't dine in anymore or not, we still want to give them the kind of experience that we felt that people needed. So we thought it was the right time and place to do it. I always come back to the word comfort—really great comfort food. We want people to have a great dining experience, even if it's in their car or in their home. And we thought this was the time to give them something better.”

Bachmann says everything that Smashburger is doing ascribes to what he calls the new world order, which is mastering transparency, convenience, and quality. That’s why his team has manically worked around fixing the restaurant’s body, it’s products, and the manner in which they are served.

He believes that people demand more, and they will continue to do so. Smashburger wants to meet that demand by raising the bar and creating comfort in uncomfortable times.

“When you talk about positioning Smashburger in the future, I think that's really where we're trying to be,” Bachmann says. “… When you want to have a great experience, whether it's your work group or your family or a softball team, you want to have an elevated experience and have great value at the same time. I think that's where we position ourselves.”


Http://burgerdays.com

Today marks the opening of the D.C.-area's first-ever location of Smashburger-- a Denver-based burger chain that has been not-so quietly and not-so slowly spreading like wildfire across the U.S. The Fairfax joint, opened up to the masses at 10 a.m. this morning, but we got a preview of the spot and its grub a bit early, and also got a chance to chat with Smashburger founder Tom Ryan on his burger plans for the Capitol area. (If there's two things you need to know about Ryan, it's that he 1) introduced Stuffed Crust to Pizza Hut and 2) brought McGriddles to McDonald's. Yup, he's a bonafide fast-food mad scientist.) The first Smashburger opened its doors in Denver in June 2007 and, with today's Fairfax spot, now has 173 operating around the country. It's been named the fastest growing fast-casual restaurant in the U.S. by Inc. 500 and last year Forbe's declared it the Most Promising Company in America. With plans to have over 500 stores open in the next few years, Smashburger shows no sign of slowing down. "We're going to have 15-20 [in the D.C.-area]," says Ryan, "DuPont Circle is next." There will be no franchises here either he says, as all the D.C.-area Smashburgers will be corporate-owned.

Smashburger founder Tom Ryan smashes burgers. Naturally.

So what are we getting with the latest burger joint to sling beefwiches in the D.M.V.? When it comes to the burgers, don't go looking for the thickness here-- the name of the place reflects the way the burgs gets cooked on the grill. The beef, an 80/20 blend of 100% Angus chuck, starts out getting bowl chopped and then is rolled into meatballs each morning. When your order goes through, the meatballs are then placed on the grill over a thin layer of butter. And then comes the smashing. A specially-designed metal press is then, quite literally, smashed down on the meatball, flattening it to about a 1/3 of an inch thick. The burger cooks for about 10 seconds and the most beautiful sear is formed on the bottom, creating a thin, tasty crust. After a flip, the burger cooks a bit more and then is transferred to a compressed, toasted and buttered bun. (There are four to choose from-- chipotle, egg, brioche and whole wheat.) Burgers are available in three sizes, the 7 oz. Big Smash, the regular at 5 oz. and a wee 3.2 ouncer.

The D.C.-area exclusive Capital Burger.

And, unlike some other District fast-casual burger chain we won't mention, Smashburger is showing some love to the D.M.V. bringing with them two D.C.-area exclusives: the Capital Burger and the Capital Chicken Sandwich (both topped with grilled onions, aged Swiss, baby arugula, Applewood smoked bacon, tomatoes and mayo on brioche). They've got a lineup of signature burgers too which include a BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar and fried onion-topped number, a Club-style burg with avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch and mayo and the Spicy Baja with pepper jack, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo and fresh jalapenos. Don't worry about the booze-- they'll have plenty of that too, serving up both wine and local brews.

In addition to the burgs, Smashburger also serves up hot dogs (both regular and chili-cheese), chicken sandwiches (grilled and crispy), some damn big salads, Haagen-Dazs shakes and floats and a jam-packed lineup of sides including regular and sweet potato fries (both available straight up or Smash-style with rosemary, olive oil and garlic), chili cheese fries, fried pickles, fried onions, chili and veggie frites-- flash-fried green beans and carrot sticks. Plain burgers start at $3.69 for the small and up to $5.29 for the big. If you opt for one of their signature creations, it'll cost you anywhere from five bucks for the regular to seven bucks for a big. There's also the opportunity to double-up the beef for $1.50, $2 or $3 depending on size. Smashburger is now open in Fairfax, every day, from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. at 10160 Fairfax Boulevard.


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Smashburger is latest burger joint to come to D.C. area


Founder Tom Ryan shows off a Smashburger. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)

Over the past five years, Tom Ryan has created more than 50 types of sandwiches for his Smashburger restaurants. His latest: The Capital Burger, a bacon- and baby arugula-topped patty on a brioche bun, for the chain’s newest location in Fairfax.

“It’s a more upscale, sophisticated burger for Washington,” he said. “We try to add local flair to every menu.”

Ryan, 55, a veteran of Pizza Hut, Pillsbury and McDonald’s, opened the first Smashburger store in a Denver suburb in 2007. Since then, the company has grown to include 173 locations, with plans to build about 100 more by the end of next year. The restaurant on Fairfax Boulevard opened last Wednesday.

“Our original goal was just to put burgers back into people’s lives,” said Ryan, who has a doctoral degree in flavor and fragrance chemistry.

Ryan isn’t alone, though. More than a dozen burger joints, including Shake Shack, Black & Orange, Bobby’s Burger Palace and Burger, Tap & Shake, have opened in the Washington area since the beginning of 2011. The newly-formed Bolt Burgers has plans to open its first outpost in the area, as does Dallas-based Mooyah, which has been shopping around for locations in Washington and Maryland.

A Smashburger is pictured at the chain’s newest location in in Fairfax. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)

“I thought the burger trend was going to fade away, but it’s just not happening,” said Adam Sobel, executive chef at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. “Americans love their hamburgers — it’s an unfortunate stereotype that’s proven true.”

At Smashburger, Angus beef patties are quite literally smashed onto the grill, where they are cooked for about three minutes, seasoned and served.

“It develops a lot of beef flavor because you’ve got that butter, hot beef thing going on,” Ryan said of the technique, which took him about four months to develop.

The chain’s menu also includes chicken sandwiches, fried pickles and veggie frites — flash-fried green beans and carrot sticks.

“We tried to think about what the next generation wants,” Ryan said. “What are people going to be looking for? What can we do that’s new?”

The company customizes its menu to sell local favorites: fried jalapenos in Texas, Spanish chorizo in Florida and almond milkshakes at its restaurant in Kuwait.

This year, Smashburger is anticipating sales of $175 million, a 40 percent increase from 2011, according to David Prokupek, the company’s chief executive and chairman.

“I think Americans, whether there’s a recession or not, want to go out for great food without breaking the bank,” Ryan said.


Now in Dupont, Smashburger to open elsewhere


The Classic Smash burger with rosemary and garlic-seasoned Smashfries and hand-spun Häagen-Dazs® shakes. (Smashburger)

On his visits to Washington to see his daughter, a student at American University, food entrepreneur Tom Ryan would walk the streets in search of the perfect burger.

Despite the abundance of hamburger options — think Burger Joint, Shake Shack, Bourbon Steak, Kraze Burgers, to name just a few — Ryan still saw room for one more.

Ryan, 56, co-founder of a 230-store Denver-based hamburger chain called Smashburger, is planning to roll out 30 franchises here in the next five to seven years. The first store inside the District opened this month in Dupont Circle, following one a few months ago in Fairfax.

“Washington, D.C, is one of the most emerging, sophisticated food markets in the world right now,” Ryan said.

The guy knows food. He created the stuffed crust pizza at Pizza Hut. As worldwide chief concept officer at McDonald’s, he helped create everything from the McGriddle to fruit and yogurt parfaits.

Ryan said his Smashburger chain, which he started with a business partner, is a half lunch place, half date place. The stores, which can dim their lights at night to appeal to the more romantic minded, offer wine, beer or a Haagen-Dazs heart-stopper milkshake, and cost less than $500,000 to fit out.

“It is this special balance between the three things consumers care more about: time, money and experience.”

After mapping out the area for population density, real estate, lunch traffic and other factors, Dupont Circle was near the top of 40 locations.

“It’s daytime and nighttime densities are great,” he said of Dupont. “Restaurants work best where people live, work and play.”

With that in mind, he already has locations for the next five Smashburgers: Falls Church, Tysons Corner, Germantown, Bethesda and Gaithersburg. Then he is revisiting the city.

“We have the whole Adams Morgan mapped, but I cannot tell you when,” he said.

CertifiKid is heading south.

The Potomac-based daily deals family site founded and run by entrepreneur Jamie Ratner has purchased the assets of FamGrab, a similar site which began three years ago.

Ratner is starting CertifiKid’s Atlanta business with deals on a Disney On Ice show and a Wings Over North Georgia air show.

The Atlanta offensive follows Certifikid’s purchases of similar sites in Los Angeles and Chicago earlier this year.

“After our recent successful expansion to Chicago and L.A., and the numerous requests to open in Atlanta that followed, when the opportunity presented itself with FamGrab, we were confident that Atlanta was the right next stop for us,” Ratner said.

The mother of two trolled daily deals sites as an avid deal hunter, and then founded CertifiKid in 2010 to fill her own desire to get family deals. The company now has five full-time and 15 part-time employees.

Laytsonsville-based Ruppert Landscape acquired two North Carolina companies this past summer, increasing Ruppert’s headcount to 850.

The companies are Eco Scape and New River Landscape, both of Raleigh.

Chief executive Craig Ruppert said the new businesses are in the company’s sweet spot because they are sandwiched between established Ruppert markets in Charlotte, Atlanta and Richmond.

Ruppert said his company targeted the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill markets because of all the growth emanating from a university-rich region known as the “research triangle.”

“The research triangle is a vibrant, growing market, driven by education and biotech,” he said. “It is in our footprint.”

Morgan Stanley chief executive James P. Gorman offered a peek at his personal investment strategy at last week’s Economic Club of Washington luncheon. “We’re pretty boring,” Gorman began. “Partly because of the job I’m in, and partly because in life and in business, it behooves you to take catastrophic risk off the table. Once you take catastrophic risk off the table, you can do a lot of other things besides.” So he and his wife invest in municipal bonds mostly, and put money in one small biotech fund in addition to their large holding of Morgan Stanley stock. For the kids? Gorman bets on equities, backing companies all over the world because he assumes his children will live a long time and the global economy will improve.


New Franchisees in Georgia and Florida to open 20 restaurants over next 7 years

Smashburger, the nation’s fastest growing “better burger” concept, today announced new franchise deals to grow the company’s East Coast presence, which will bring 20 new restaurants to key markets over the next seven years. The new franchisees PCM Food Services LLC and Robison Peck Group LLC, bring significant restaurant and franchise experience to Smashburger’s rapidly growing team.

The first new franchise agreement with Robison Peck Group LLC, owned by Eric Robison and Charlie Peck, will bring 15 Smashburger restaurants to the Savanna and Atlanta, Georgia area over the next seven years. Robison and Peck have been friends since college, and bring more than a decade of combined franchise ownership experience to Smashburger. The pair own 50 Verizon stores in four states. Prior to their partnership, Charlie oversaw operations of more than 20 Arby’s restaurants.

The second franchise agreement with PCM Food Services LLC, owned by Jerry Davis will bring five restaurants to Broward County in Florida over the next four years. Davis owns and operates PeakCM LLC, a full service commercial construction management company specializing in the hospitality and entertainment industry. He also owns one Hampton Inn Franchise.

“We are pleased to continue our expansion in the southeast through our new franchise agreements with Robison Peck Group LLC and PCM Food Services LLC,” said Michael Nolan, Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer of Smashburger. “These new partners bring extensive experience and a passion for delivering a great product and exemplary customer service. We are excited to continue the rapid expansion of our business alongside franchisees who share our vision to restore the American burger to greatness.”

Additionally, Smashburger will continue its expansion on the East Coast in the D.C. Metro market, and is preparing to celebrate the brand’s first franchised location in the D.C. metropolitan area later this month. This milestone opening represents the first of a five store development deal with franchisee Julian Goodman of Ashford Holdings East LLC, signed in May 2014. The first restaurant will open Wednesday, April 20 , at 10 a.m at 1800 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland. The menu includes the Capital Burger, Smashburger’s custom-designed regional burger topped with grilled onions, aged Swiss cheese, baby arugula, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes and mayo on a brioche bun. Like all of Smashburger’s signature burgers, the Capital Burger is also available as a grilled or crispy chicken sandwich.

“We look forward to expanding our presence on the East Coast, particularly in the DC Metro market,” commented Nolan. “Julian is an experienced franchise owner, and we are proud to work with him to further expand our footprint in the United States Capital.”

The Smashburger menu is centered on quality, fresh, smashed-to-order burgers that are seared in butter and seasoned on the griddle to lock-in natural juices. The menu features innovative burger combinations served up on toasted artisan buns and loaded with fresh toppings. Smashburger features fresh never frozen 100% Certified Angus Beef burgers, grilled or crispy chicken sandwiches and a black bean burger. Guests can create their own unique combinations by customizing the bun, sauces, toppings and cheese. Customers can choose from irresistible sides, like signature Smashfries seasoned with rosemary, olive oil and garlic, haystack onions or fried pickles, or enjoy in a wide variety of additional menu items, such as fresh salads, premium handspun shakes made with Haagen-Dazs® ice cream and craft beer, all at a great value.

Smashburger has plans to open an additional 60-80 restaurants in 2016 including expansion across the globe and into new markets in the United States. The brand currently operates more than 360 restaurants across the United States, Kuwait, Canada, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

For more information on Smashburger, please visit www.smashburger.com or check us out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

About Smashburger

Smashburger is a leading fast casual “better burger” restaurant known for its fresh never frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef® burgers that are smashed on the grill to sear in the juices, creating an upscale quality burger packed with flavor and served at a great value. In addition to burgers, Smashburger offers grilled or crispy chicken sandwiches, fresh salads, signature side items such as Haystack onions and Veggie Frites, and hand-spun shakes made with Haagen-Dazs® ice cream. On each market menu, Smashburger offers locally inspired items like the regional burger, as well as regional sides and local craft beer. Smashburger began in 2007 with the vision of Rick Schaden and funding by Consumer Capital Partners—the private equity firm that Rick and his father Richard own. There are currently over 360 corporate and franchise restaurants operating in 35 states and seven countries. To learn more, visit www.smashburger.com

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Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza to Open First Washington State Location

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Aug 7, 2015) - Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, the fast-casual concept known for its chef-driven menu and casually hip restaurants, today announced that it will soon open its first Washington state location, in Spokane. The highly anticipated restaurant, which will feature a 2,600 square foot interior with seating for 52 inside and an outdoor patio, will open in September in Spokane (926 N. Division St.), near Gonzaga University.

Blaze Pizza is a modern day "pizza joint" that has been inspiring excitement and cultivating fanatics for its custom-built artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s'more pies since it opened its first location in 2012. Each restaurant features an interactive open-kitchen format that allows guests to customize one of the menu's signature pizzas or create their own, choosing from a wide selection of carefully sourced, high-quality ingredients -- all for under $8. The generously-sized personal pizzas are then sent to a blazing hot open-flame oven -- the centerpiece of the restaurant -- where dedicated pizzasmiths ensure that the thin-crust pies are fast-fire'd and ready to eat in just 180 seconds. Each restaurant makes its own dough from scratch using a recipe developed by critically-acclaimed Executive Chef Bradford Kent (the "Pizza Whisperer"), which requires a 24-hour fermentation period to produce his signature light-as-air, crisp crust. For pizza fans with specific dietary needs, Blaze Pizza offers gluten-free dough and vegan cheese. The Spokane restaurant will also feature a selection of wine and craft beer.

To create the perfect vibe inside the Spokane restaurant, award-winning design architect Ana Henton has added several unique, modern touches, including an oversized wall graphic custom-built to suit the space. Additionally, in support of the company's commitment to "Intelligent Choices for Our Pizzas, People & Planet," the Spokane restaurant will use both recycled and sustainable materials and energy-efficient LED lighting, and will feature eco-friendly, compostable packaging.

"At Blaze, we're all about creating an engaging dining experience where guests can enjoy artisanal pizza that's both fast and affordable," said Jim Mizes, president & COO of Blaze Pizza. "The authenticity of our food, plus a service culture that genuinely focuses on the happiness of our guests and crew -- have been key to our popularity and expansion."

The newest Blaze restaurant is looking forward to building strong roots within the community, offering a spot where guests can connect, create and enjoy. To that end, the restaurant promotes a turn-key fundraiser program that returns 20% of an event's proceeds back to the organization, helping schools, sports clubs and other local groups "cause a scene for a good cause."

About Blaze Pizza
The first Blaze Pizza ® restaurant opened on Aug. 6, 2012, in Irvine, Calif., and quickly gained attention for its chef-driven recipes, thoughtful interior design, and a service culture that celebrates individuality. Now ranked as the overall #2 fast-casual brand in FastCasual.com's annual Top 100 list, Blaze Pizza is building momentum and developing a cult-like following as it expands across the country. The company currently operates 79 restaurants in 20 states and the District of Columbia, including the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington D.C. Founded by Elise and Rick Wetzel (co-founder of Wetzel's Pretzels), the concept is backed by investors including LeBron James, Maria Shriver, Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner and movie producer John Davis. For more information, please visit blazepizza.com and facebook.com/blazepizza or click here to view a company video.

Blaze Pizza®, Fast-Fire'd®, the horizontal logo design, and the proprietary names "Pizzasmith", "Intelligent Choices For Our Pizzas, People & Planet" and related trademarks are the property of Blaze Pizza LLC.

Crypto miners halt China business after Beijing's crackdown, bitcoin dives

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Gold Holds Near Four-Month High Amid Bullish Investor Sentiment

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China Braces for $1.3 Trillion Maturity Wall as Defaults Surge

(Bloomberg) -- Even by the standards of a record-breaking global credit binge, China’s corporate bond tab stands out: $1.3 trillion of domestic debt payable in the next 12 months.That’s 30% more than what U.S. companies owe, 63% more than in all of Europe and enough money to buy Tesla Inc. twice over. What’s more, it’s all coming due at a time when Chinese borrowers are defaulting on onshore debt at an unprecedented pace.The combination has investors bracing for another turbulent stretch for the world’s second-largest credit market. It’s also underscoring the challenge for Chinese authorities as they work toward two conflicting goals: reducing moral hazard by allowing more defaults, and turning the domestic bond market into a more reliable source of long-term funding.While average corporate bond maturities have increased in the U.S., Europe and Japan in recent years, they’re getting shorter in China as defaults prompt investors to reduce risk. Domestic Chinese bonds issued in the first quarter had an average tenor of 3.02 years, down from 3.22 years for all of last year and on course for the shortest annual average since Fitch Ratings began compiling the data in 2016.“As credit risk increases, everyone wants to limit their exposure by investing in shorter maturities only,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV. “Issuers also want to sell shorter-dated bonds because as defaults rise, longer-dated bonds have even higher borrowing costs.”The move toward shorter maturities has coincided with a Chinese government campaign to instill more discipline in local credit markets, which have long been underpinned by implicit state guarantees. Investors are increasingly rethinking the widely held assumption that authorities will backstop big borrowers amid a string of missed payments by state-owned companies and a selloff in bonds issued by China Huarong Asset Management Co.The country’s onshore defaults have swelled from negligible levels in 2016 to exceed 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) for four straight years. That milestone was reached again last month, putting defaults on track for another record annual high.The resulting preference for shorter-dated bonds has exacerbated one of China’s structural challenges: a dearth of long-term institutional money. Even before authorities began allowing more defaults, short-term investments including banks’ wealth management products played an outsized role.Social security funds and insurance firms are the main providers of long-term funding in China, but their presence in the bond market is limited, said Wu Zhaoyin, chief strategist at AVIC Trust Co., a financial firm. “It’s difficult to sell long-dated bonds in China because there is a lack of long-term capital,” Wu said.Chinese authorities have been taking steps to attract long-term investors, including foreign pension funds and university endowments. The government has in recent years scrapped some investment quotas and dismantled foreign ownership limits for life insurers, brokerages and fund managers.But even if those efforts gain traction, it’s not clear Chinese companies will embrace longer maturities. Many prefer selling short-dated bonds because they lack long-term capital management plans, according to Shen Meng, director at Chanson & Co., a Beijing-based boutique investment bank. That applies even for state-owned enterprises, whose senior managers typically get reshuffled by the government every three to five years, Shen said.The upshot is that China’s domestic credit market faces a near constant cycle of refinancing and repayment risk, which threatens to exacerbate volatility as defaults rise. A similar dynamic is also playing out in the offshore market, where maturities total $167 billion over the next 12 months.For ING’s Pang, the cycle is unlikely to change anytime soon. “It may last for another decade in China,” she 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.

Summers Says Crypto Has Chance of Becoming ‘Digital Gold’

(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said cryptocurrencies could stay a feature of global markets as something akin to “digital gold,” even if their importance in economies will remain limited.Speaking at the end of a week in which Bitcoin whipsawed, Summers told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin that cryptocurrencies offered an alternative to gold for those seeking an asset “separate and apart from the day-to-day workings of governments.”“Gold has been a primary asset of that kind for a long time,” said Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg. “Crypto has a chance of becoming an agreed form that people who are looking for safety hold wealth in. My guess is that crypto is here to stay, and probably here to stay as a kind of digital gold.”If cryptocurrencies became even a third of the total value of gold, Summers said that would be a “substantial appreciation from current levels” and that means there’s a “good prospect that crypto will be part of the system for quite a while to come.”Comparing Bitcoin to the yellow metal is common in the crypto community, with various estimates as to whether and how quickly their total market values might equalize.Yassine Elmandjra, crypto analyst at Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management LLC, said earlier this month that if gold is assumed to have a market cap of around $10 trillion, “it’s not out of the question that Bitcoin will reach gold parity in the next five years.” With Bitcoin’s market cap around $700 billion, that could mean price appreciation of around 14-fold or more.But Summers said cryptocurrencies do not matter to the overall economy and were unlikely to ever serve as a majority of payments.Summers is on the board of directors of Square Inc. The company said this month that sales in the first quarter more than tripled, driven by skyrocketing Bitcoin purchases through the company’s Cash App.Summers’ comments were echoed by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who doubted crypto’s value as a medium of exchange or stable purchasing power, but said some forms of it may continue to exist as an alternative to gold.“Are cryptocurrencies headed for a crash sometime soon? Not necessarily,” Krugman wrote in the New York Times. “One fact that gives even crypto skeptics like me pause is the durability of gold as a highly valued asset.”Summers also said that President Joe Biden’s administration is heading in the “right direction” by asking companies to pay more tax. He argued policy makers in the past had not been guilty of pursuing “too much antitrust” regulation although he warned it would be “badly wrong” to go after companies just because of increasing market share and profits.Returning to his worry that the U.S. economy risks overheating, Summers said the Federal Reserve should be more aware of the inflationary threat.“I don’t think the Fed is projecting in a way that reflects the potential seriousness of the problem,” he said. “I am concerned that with everything that’s going on, the economy may be a bit charging toward a wall.”(Adds Summers is on Square’s board in 8th paragraph)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Zara owner Inditex to close all stores in Venezuela, local partner says

Inditex, owner of brands including Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear, will close all its stores in Venezuela in coming weeks as a deal between the retailer and its local partner Phoenix World Trade has come under review, a spokesperson for Phoenix World Trade said. Phoenix World Trade, a company based in Panama and controlled by Venezuelan businessman Camilo Ibrahim, took over operation of Inditex stores in the South American country in 2007. "Phoenix World Trade is re-evaluating the commercial presence of its franchised brands Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear in Venezuela, to make it consistent with the new model of integration and digital transformation announced by Inditex," the company said in response to a Reuters request.

Exxon Activist Battle Turns Climate Angst Into Referendum on CEO

(Bloomberg) -- An unprecedented fight over who should sit on the board of Exxon Mobil Corp. is turning into a referendum on Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods as a decades-long struggle by climate campaigners comes to a head.Activist investor Engine No. 1 LLC wants to replace one-third of Exxon’s board in an effort to force the Western world’s largest oil explorer to embrace a transition away from fossil fuels and end a decade of what it calls “value destruction.” Shareholders are set to gather — virtually — for their annual meeting on May 26.The stakes are high. Under Exxon’s bylaws, a victory for any dissident director would mean an incumbent must step down, equating to a zero-sum proxy contest: of 16 candidates, only 12 will prevail. Any dilution of Woods’s influence over the board could derail his long-term plans and force strategic and tactical changes he has previously rejected.Although Engine No. 1 hasn’t targeted Woods for removal, even a partial victory for the activist would be a serious, and perhaps fatal, blow to his leadership, according to Ceres, a coalition of environmentally active investors managing $37 trillion.“I don’t see how Darren Woods remains as CEO if one of the dissidents, let alone all four, are elected,” said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas at Ceres. “It would be such a sign of fundamental dissatisfaction with the status quo that something would have to change. And that starts with the CEO.”Exxon's engagement with environmental activists was once characterized by a sense of bemusement — under former CEO Lee Raymond, Greenpeace protesters outside its annual meetings were offered donuts. But as worries about climate change have gone mainstream in the investment world, the clash has evolved into a confrontation over boardroom seats.In other corners of the commodities sector, shareholders this year have already shown frustration with executives’ reluctance to embrace tough environmental goals. DuPont de Nemours Inc. suffered an 81% vote against management on plastic-pollution disclosures, while ConocoPhillips lost a contest on adopting more stringent emission targets.Exxon’s meeting this year threatens to be one of the stormiest on the U.S. corporate calendar, made all the more remarkable for being instigated by a newly formed fund that only has a $54 million, or 0.02%, stake in the oil behemoth. Investor dissatisfaction with the company largely centers on two issues that are becoming more interlinked: climate change and profits. The oil giant envisages a profitable, long-term future for fossil fuels, but sees no point in investing in traditional renewable energy businesses. It also refuses to commit to a net-zero emissions target, unlike European rivals.Climate concerns are are resonating more deeply with investors at the same time that Exxon’s status as a financial powerhouse crumbles after multiple corporate missteps, some of which preceded Woods’s elevation to CEO in 2017. Returns on invested capital are a fraction of what they were in Exxon’s heyday a decade ago and debt ballooned 40% last year as Covid-19 paralyzed economies and energy demand around the world. Under mounting pressure and concerns over Exxon’s ability to pay the S&P 500’s third-largest dividend, the CEO slashed an ambitious $200 billion expansion program by a third late last year. It was a relief to some investors who had questioned both the cost and the need for such projects at a time when policymakers — and even rivals like BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc — are planning for the twilight of the petroleum era.Still, Engine No. 1 says Exxon needs higher-quality directors who are willing to challenge management. Exxon missed key industry trends such as the shale revolution, “the shift to focusing on project returns over chasing production growth, and the need to gradually prepare for rather than ignore the energy transition,” according to the San Francisco-based activist.After receiving early backing from major state pension funds, Engine No. 1’s campaign gathered momentum this month as two prominent shareholder-advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co., threw their partial support behind the activist’s efforts. ISS wrote a scathing rebuke of Exxon’s climate strategy, saying the company had only taken “incremental steps to prepare for the inevitable.”Top 20 shareholder Legal & General Investment Management, a previous critic of Exxon, is also backing Engine No. 1 and has pledged to vote against Woods. However, the voting intentions of some other major investors, such as Vanguard Group, BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp. aren’t clear — all three declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund said late last week that it would support the reelection of most Exxon directors, but not Woods, part of its long-standing push to separate the roles of CEO and chairman at Exxon.With such animosity brewing, the usual course of action would be for Exxon’s board to meet with the activists and hash out a compromise. But that has yet to happen, and both sides appear to be entrenched.Exxon said in a May 14 letter to shareholders its board “listens and responds to shareholder feedback,” but that Engine No. 1, founded only a few months ago, wasn’t interested in engaging and “is trying to replace four of our world-class directors with unqualified nominees.'' The company added that the activist fund's plans would “derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend.”For its part, Engine No. 1 said Exxon refused to meet its nominees: Gregory Goff, former CEO of refiner Andeavor environmental scientist Kaisa Hietala private equity investor Alexander Karsner and Anders Runevad, ex-CEO of power producer Vestas Wind Systems A/S.Exxon did talk with another investor, hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., which built a stake in an effort to push for change. Those discussions led to the appointment of the new directors, including activist investor Jeff Ubben. The oil company has also announced new emissions targets, started a low-carbon business, and supported policies that will help technological innovations like carbon capture.In some respects Exxon is in a better position that it was at the start of 2021. Its stock has rallied more than 40% as oil prices rebounded and lockdowns are eased. Engine No. 1 points to its involvement as the turning point, while Exxon claims the market is rewarding prudent cost cutting and high-return investments made over the last couple of years. The forthcoming vote will help to determine which side of the debate other investors lean toward.“There’s a governance challenge at Exxon,” said John Hoeppner, head of U.S. sustainable investments at Legal & General. “How seriously is the current board questioning management’s business model? It’s important to add urgency to the debate.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Hong Kong Exchange’s New CEO Is Put on Cleanup Duty

(Bloomberg) -- The veteran JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker who’s taking the helm at Hong Kong’s exchange has been put on cleanup duty.Chairman Laura Cha has handed Nicolas Aguzin, who takes charge Monday, the task of reviewing the exchange’s practices after a bribery scandal and censure from the regulator, according to people familiar with the matter. The 52-year-old former head of JPMorgan’s international private bank is seen by Cha as having the experience to force a cultural shake-up given his background at a heavily regulated bank, said the people, asking to remain anonymous discussing sensitive issues.Aguzin takes over as the bourse is delivering record earnings. His predecessor, Charles Li, oversaw a doubling of revenue during his decade in charge through acquisitions, loosened listing rules and, most importantly, trading links with mainland China. The easier oversight allowed the listing of Chinese technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and positioned it as the exchange-of-choice for mainland firms amid tensions with the U.S.But there has also been criticism that investor protections were sacrificed to win business. Over the past years, there has been a steady stream of flareups between the bourse and the regulator over IPO quality, the proliferation of shell companies and whether to allow dual class shares.“The HKEX has done a great job in market development, and has introduced measures to improve investor protection,” Sally Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said in an email. “But it seems that issuers’ voices tend to prevail over that of the investors. We very much look forward to working with the new CEO to see how to strike a more appropriate balance to better safeguard investor interests.”Spokespeople for the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission as well as Aguzin declined to comment.In a review released last year after the former IPO vetting co-head was arrested for bribery, the SFC discovered “numerous ambiguities” in the Chinese Wall between its listing and business divisions. Other issues highlighted last year include keeping track of share options and following up on complaints on withdrawn IPO applications.Cha had begun to tighten internal checks and balances for senior managers toward the end of Li’s tenure as well as assert more board control over hiring, people familiar have said. The exchange has halted the interactions between its listing and business units, according to the SFC review. Last week, in a joint statement with the SFC, the bourse vowed to better police its frothy IPO market, citing concerns about companies inflating their values, market manipulation and unusually high underwriting fees.Aguzin is expected by the board to prioritize the exchange’s role as a regulator alongside its growth ambitions, people familiar said.David Webb, a former HKEX director, investor and corporate governance activist, is skeptical the bourse will institute any meaningful reforms. “HKEX has, with government approval, lowered its standards to attract business, for example, by listing second-class shares with weak voting rights,” he said in an email. “It shows no sign of raising them again.”Investors have also urged the exchange to set rules requiring company boards to have a lead outside board member or an independent chair, according to Wong. “But it seems that the HKEX is not ready to even bring them up for market consultation.”The government is on board with Aguzin’s appointment, which comes at a fraught time after Beijing has tightened its grip on the city, raising questions about its continued status as an international financial hub.Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui said the three-tiered regulatory system comprising his department, the SFC and HKEX has worked well. Aguzin’s appointment embodies the city’s openness and its role as a gateway between China and the world, he said. “This is exactly what we will pursue.”Further deepening connections to China is seen as key to growth for the bourse, which also faces stiffer competition from mainland exchanges as China opens its financial markets.While Aguzin has worked in Asia for the past decade -- also serving as JPMorgan’s CEO of Asia Pacific from 2013 to 2020 -- he will be the first non-Chinese CEO of a bourse that often needs to deal with Beijing.Cha is well connected in China, having served as vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission. She has signaled that she sees the bourse’s role as serving Beijing’s interests and avoiding competition with the mainland, a person said familiar with the matter said last year.The push toward the mainland is not all welcome in China. Expanding the link to include several benchmark stocks has proved difficult, with one sticking point being whether to include shares like Alibaba Group, which are dual listed and with weighted voting rights.Even so, Cha said at the time of the appointment that Aguzin’s remit will include further strengthening the link to the mainland.Another board member, Fred Hu, said in an interview that “Aguzin is well positioned to take HKEX into the future, to further deepen the connectivity with China but also connectivity with the rest of the world.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bitcoin, Ether Now Down 50% From Last Month’s ATHs as Rout Resumes

Even if Huobi is the specific catalyst for today's plunge, it's just the latest negative news in the sector that has been battered in the last few weeks.

Inside the Race to Avert Disaster at China’s Biggest ‘Bad Bank’

(Bloomberg) -- It was past 9 p.m. on Financial Street in Beijing by the time the figure inside Huarong Tower there picked up an inkbrush and, with practiced strokes, began to set characters to paper.Another trying workday was ending for Wang Zhanfeng, corporate chairman, Chinese Communist Party functionary—and, less happily, replacement for a man who very recently had been executed.On this April night, Wang was spotted unwinding as he often does in his office: practicing the art of Chinese calligraphy, a form that expresses the beauty of classical characters and, it is said, the nature of the person who writes them.Its mastery requires patience, resolve, skill, calm—and Wang, 54, needs all that and more. Because here on Financial Street, a brisk walk from the hulking headquarters of the People’s Bank of China, a dark drama is playing out behind the mirrored façade of Huarong Tower. How it unfolds will test China’s vast, debt-ridden financial system, the technocrats working to fix it, and the foreign banks and investors caught in the middle.Welcome to the headquarters of China Huarong Asset Management Co., the troubled state-owned ‘bad bank’ that has set teeth on edge around the financial world.For months now Wang and others have been trying to clean up the mess here at Huarong, an institution that sits—quite literally—at the center of China’s financial power structure. To the south is the central bank, steward of the world’s second-largest economy to the southwest, the Ministry of Finance, Huarong’s principal shareholder less than 300 meters to the west, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, entrusted with safeguarding the financial system and, of late, ensuring Huarong has a funding backstop from state-owned banks until at least August.The patch though doesn’t settle the question of how Huarong makes good on some $41 billion borrowed on the bond markets, most incurred under Wang’s predecessor before he was ensnared in a sweeping crackdown on corruption. That long-time executive, Lai Xiaomin, was put to death in January—his formal presence expunged from Huarong right down to the signature on its stock certificates.The bigger issue is what all this might portend for the nation’s financial system and efforts by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to centralize control, rein in years of risky borrowing and set the nation’s financial house in order.“They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said Michael Pettis, a Beijing-based professor of finance at Peking University and author of Avoiding the Fall: China’s Economic Restructuring. Bailing out Huarong would reinforce the behavior of investors who ignore risk, he said, while a default endangers financial stability if a “chaotic” repricing of the bond market ensues.Just what is going on inside Huarong Tower? Given the stakes, few are willing to discuss that question publicly. But interviews with people who work there, as well as at various Chinese regulators, provide a glimpse into the eye of this storm.Huarong, simply put, has been in full crisis mode ever since it delayed its 2020 earnings results, eroding investor confidence. Executives have come to expect to be summoned by government authorities at a moment’s notice whenever market sentiment sours and the price of Huarong debt sinks anew. Wang and his team must provide weekly written updates on Huarong’s operations and liquidity. They have turned to state-owned banks, pleading for support, and reached out to bond traders to try to calm nerves, with little lasting success.In public statements, Huarong has insisted repeatedly that its position is ultimately sound and that it will honor its obligations. Banking regulators have had to sign off on the wording of those statements—another sign of how serious the situation is considered and, ultimately, who’s in charge.Then there are regular audiences with the finance ministry and the other powerful financial bureaucracies nearby. Among items usually on the agenda: possible plans to hive off various Huarong businesses.Huarong executives are often kept waiting and, people familiar with the meetings say, tend to gain only limited access to top officials at the CBIRC, the banking overseer.The country’s apex financial watchdog—chaired by Liu He, Xi’s right-hand man in overseeing the economy and financial system—has asked for briefings on the Huarong situation and coordinated meetings between regulators, according to regulatory officials. But it has yet to communicate to them a long-term solution, including whether to impose losses on bondholders, the officials said.Representatives at the People’s Bank of China, the CBIRC, Huarong and the Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to requests for comment.Focus on BasicsA mid-level party functionary with a PhD in finance from China’s reputed Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Wang arrived at Huarong Tower in early 2018, just as the corruption scandal was consuming the giant asset management company. He is regarded inside Huarong as low-key and down-to-earth, particularly in comparison to the company’s previous leader, Lai, a man once known as the God of Wealth.Hundreds of Huarong staff, from Beijing division chiefs to branch employees in faraway outposts, listened in on April 16 as Wang reviewed the quarterly numbers. He stressed that the company’s fundamentals had improved since he took over, a view shared by some analysts though insufficient to pacify investors. But he had little to say about what is on so many minds: plans to restructure and shore up the giant company, which he’d pledged to clean up within three years of taking over.His main message to the troops: focus on the basics, like collecting on iffy assets and improving risk management. The employees were silent. No one asked a question.One employee characterized the mood in his area as business as usual. Another said co-workers at a Huarong subsidiary were worried the company might not be able to pay their salaries. There’s a widening gulf between the old guard and new, said a third staffer. Those who outlasted Lai and have seen their compensation cut year after year have little confidence in the turnaround, while new joiners are more hopeful about the opportunities the change of direction offers.Others joke that Huarong Tower must suffer from bad feng shui: after Lai was arrested, a bank that had a branch in the building had to be bailed out to the tune of $14 billion.Dark humor aside, a rough consensus has begun to emerge among senior management and mid-level regulators: like other key state-owned enterprises, Huarong still appears to be considered too big to fail. Many have come away with the impression—and it is that, an impression—that for now, at least, the Chinese government will stand behind Huarong.At the very least, these people say, no serious financial tumult, such as a default by Huarong, is likely to be permitted while the Chinese Communist Party is planning a nationwide spectacle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding on July 1. Those festivities will give Xi—who has been positioning to stay in power indefinitely—an opportunity to cement his place among China’s most powerful leaders including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.What will come after that patriotic outpouring on July 1 is uncertain, even to many inside Huarong Tower. Liu He, China’s vice premier and chair of the powerful Financial Stability and Development Committee, appears in no hurry to force a difficult solution. Silence from Beijing has started to rattle local debt investors, who until about a week ago had seemed unmoved by the sell-off in Huarong’s offshore bonds.Competing InterestsHuarong’s role in absorbing and disposing of lenders’ soured debt is worth preserving to support the banking sector cleanup, but requires government intervention, according to Dinny McMahon, an economic analyst for Beijing-based consultancy Trivium China and author of China’s Great Wall of Debt.“We anticipate that foreign bondholders will be required to take a haircut, but it will be relatively small,” he said. “It will be designed to signal that investors should not assume government backing translates into carte blanche support.”For now, in the absence of direct orders from the top, Huarong has been caught in the middle of the competing interests among various state-owned enterprises and government bureaucracies.China Investment Corp., the $1 trillion sovereign fund, for instance, has turned down the idea of taking a controlling stake from the finance ministry. CIC officials have argued they don’t have the bandwidth or capability to fix Huarong’s problems, according to people familiar with the matter.The People’s Bank of China, meantime, is still trying to decide whether to proceed with a proposal that would see it assume more than 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) of bad assets from Huarong, those people said.And the Ministry of Finance, which owns 57% of Huarong on behalf of the Chinese government, hasn’t committed to recapitalizing the company, though it hasn’t ruled it out, either, one person said.CIC didn’t respond to requests for comment.The banking regulator has bought Huarong some time, brokering an agreement with state-owned lenders including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. that would cover any funding needed to repay the equivalent of $2.5 billion coming due by the end of August. By then, the company aims to have completed its 2020 financial statements after spooking investors by missing deadlines in March and April.“How China deals with Huarong will have wide ramifications on global investors’ perception of and confidence in Chinese SOEs,” said Wu Qiong, a Hong Kong-based executive director at BOC International Holdings. “Should any defaults trigger a reassessment of the level of government support assumed in rating SOE credits, it would have deep repercussions for the offshore market.”The announcement of a new addition to Wang’s team underscores the stakes and, to some insiders, provides a measure of hope. Liang Qiang is a standing member of the All-China Financial Youth Federation, widely seen as a pipeline to groom future leaders for financial SOEs. Liang, who arrived at Huarong last week and will soon take on the role of president, has worked for the three other big state asset managers that were established, like Huarong, to help clean up bad debts at the nation’s banks. Some speculate this points to a wider plan: that Huarong might be used as a blueprint for how authorities approach these other sprawling, debt-ridden institutions.Meantime, inside Huarong Tower, a key item remains fixed in the busy schedules of top executives and rank-and-file employees alike. It is a monthly meeting, the topic of which is considered vital to Huarong’s rebirth: studying the doctrines of the Chinese Communist Party and speeches of President Xi Jinping. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Away From the Big Crypto Blaze, Another Market Tension Eases

(Bloomberg) -- A bear market in Bitcoin. A bull market in Bitcoin. Taper talk, or talk thereof. The biggest pop for meme stocks of the season. A lot just happened, and yet when the history of this week is written, it’s possible a much quieter development will be the lead.After intensifying earlier this month, inflation anxiety appears to be easing. Rates on 10-year breakevens dropped by the most on a weekly basis since September, capping any rise in Treasury yields. Meanwhile, a surge in raw materials continued to sputter, with the Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index sinking for a second straight week.That was enough to comfort investors in big tech. The Nasdaq 100 posted its first weekly gain in over a month, after being rattled by warnings that soaring prices would eat into future cash flows and shine a harsh light on expensive valuations. And while minutes from the Federal Reserve’s April meeting signaled an openness to discussing a scaling back of asset purchases, comments that it would “likely be some time” until the economy recovers to that point helped prevent any knee-jerk reactions.“Inflation is really only a problem for stocks if it’s going to bring the Fed off the sidelines,” said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen. “If you see interest rates falling, if you see inflation expectations receding, if you see the Fed continuing to come out with overall dovish minutes, it tends to be a pretty friendly environment for tech.”Whether or not the U.S. economy has seen peak growth, a series of weaker-than-expected reports have helped quell inflation fears. Last month’s housing starts were lower than anticipated, while the pace of mortgage applications slowed from the prior month. On Thursday, data from the Philadelphia Fed showed manufacturing activity in the region eased in May from a 48-year high the prior month.As a result, Citigroup Inc.’s economic surprise gauge -- which measures the magnitude to which reports either beat or miss forecasts -- briefly dropped into negative territory for the first time since June 2020 this week.The Nasdaq 100 held onto a 0.1% gain this week as inflation expectations ebbed, snapping a four-week losing streak. Tech eked out a gain as cryptocurrencies ricocheted, with Bitcoin dropping 12% on Friday alone after China reiterated its intent to to crack down on mining.Still, some warn that it’s too early to signal the all-clear on inflation risks. Anxiety around price pressures in the coming months should be a boon for defensive sectors and particularly favor financials, while eating into growth stocks with duration-sensitive cash flows, according to State Street Global Advisors.“Because there’s so much disagreement on how inflation may unfold, that disagreement in the market will inevitably lead to volatility,” said Olivia Engel, chief investment officer of SSGA’s active quantitative equity team. “If you look at the aggregate market, it’s hiding some of that market rotation -- that’s where you can see much bigger moves.”(Updates Bitcoin price in seventh paragraph.)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Huobi Scales Back Due to China Crackdown Bitcoin Falls Below $32K, Ether Past $2K

The exchange made the move on the heels of a series of crackdown notices from Bejing in recent weeks.


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