TPG Capital Acquires Mendocino Farms
TPG Capital, a private equity firm, has acquired a majority stake in the 16-unit Southern Californian fast-casual chain, Mendocino Farms from Greenwich, Connecticut private equity firm, L Catterton, according to a press release. Terms were not disclosed. Co-founder Mario Del Pero stepped down from his CEO role, and Harald Herrmann stepped in November 16. Herrmann was previously CEO of Darden’s Yard House and president of Darden’s specialty restaurant group, according to Bloomberg.  Click here to read the full story

Still No Verdict in First Gig-Economy Labor Trial
Was Raef Lawson an employee or not? That’s the issue at the heart of what is being called the first gig-economy labor trial.  Lawson, an aspiring actor who made ends meet on services like Grubhub and Caviar, says he was. Grubhub says he was an independent contractor. It’s a murky grey area that the judge admitted was “tricky” given the standard employment framework.  Closing arguments came on October 30, 2017, but there’s no word on when a verdict should be expected. But whatever the outcome, the case could have major significance for the nascent third-party delivery industry and the gig economy at large. If gig-economy parent companies are forced to classify drivers, delivery personnel, dog walkers or whoever as employees, the foundation of the gig economy will change drastically.  And that would be a blow for an industry built on 1099 or independent contractors to suddenly have to pay health insurance, employment insurance, taxes and everything else that goes along with standard employees. If that happens, the low prices that persuade customers to order and the ample drivers could both be at risk.
Read up on the case at Ars Technica or dig into the legal precedents at Law360.

Hairy Crabs Fuel Chinese Delivery Wars
The race to be the best isn’t unique to the Western delivery players. In China, two giants are duking it out with a uniquely Chinese ingredient: hairy crabs.  The problem is that the crabs need to be alive for the freshest taste. So and Alibaba both have assembled an army of refrigerated logistics trucks and are flying the crabs cross country.  While the competition is not likely to win any awards for green practices, it parallels the same growth of food delivery seen in Western countries—albeit with a very tricky ingredient.  Like the U.S., online food orders account for just 3 percent of food expenditures in China, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Portillo’s Launches Delivery Nationwide
Portillo’s, the iconic hot dog and crinkle-cut fry restaurant known for long lines is now delivering!  The chain has partnered with DoorDash for delivery and Olo for the digital ordering infrastructure.  CEO Keith Kinsey said they might not be the first to deliver, but they’ve done it right.  “Some people beat us (to delivery), but we’re doing it at the right time and we believe we’re doing it the right way,” Kinsey told the Chicago Tribune. “The biggest thing is we’re delivering quality food.”  Previously tested in a Chicago-area location, the nationwide move added delivery in 13 more markets. The remaining markets will add delivery next year.

IHOP Starts Testing Delivery
Taking a page from fellow breakfast slinger Denny’s, IHOP announced the national launch of a new online ordering platform and plans to test delivery in certain markets as part of its IHOP ‘N Go platform. Working with Amazon and DoorDash, IHOP is rolling out delivery in select cities in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Washington and Utah. As part of this initiative, the brand also created its own “Meals to Go Specialist Certification program,” which trains and certifies restaurant staff to be experts on every touchpoint of IHOP ‘N GO, from plating to packaging to guest service. Each IHOP restaurant will have at least one team member certified in the program. In the announcement the company touted patented packaging designed to maintain food taste and quality through features such as nested packaging compartments and side ventilation.  Click here to read the full story

Deliveroo Raises Another $98 Million
With the addition of $98 million to its latest funding round, U.K. delivery startup Deliveroo’s total funding is close to $1 billion. With the extra money, the British company’s Series F round raised $482 million; existing investors T. Rowe Price and Fidelity led the round and Deliveroo’s valuation is at more than $2 billion. In a statement, Deliveroo said it plans to invest in pop-up shipping crate kitchens for restaurants, technology such as artificial intelligence, and entering new markets. Deliveroo recently hit 200 cities following its launch in Cannes, France.  Click here to read the full story

Ex Twitter, Groupon Execs Join DoorDash
DoorDash is beefing up its executive team as it prepares to expand into more cities—and deliver more than just food. The third-party delivery service hired Twitter’s former VP of engineering, Jeremy Rishel, along with Rajat Shroff, who was Groupon’s VP of product.  Rishel is charged with overseeing DoorDash’s engineering department, while Shroff leads the company’s product, design and growth teams. Both aim to help fine-tune the company’s operations, with Rishel focused on using DoorDash’s data insights to improve travel and meal prep time predictions, and Shroff working to expand the service into more cities and identify opportunities for delivery beyond food.  Click here to read the full story

NCR and MonkeyMedia Collaboration
The great tie-up is underway as restaurant and software firms partner up to reduce the barriers of entry and pain points that come with integrating third-party delivery into existing restaurant operations. The latest is NCR Corporation, which announced a strategic integration with Monkey, a cloud-based software platform for takeout, delivery and catering channels. This new integration allows NCR’s Aloha point-of-sale system to seamlessly manage orders placed through Monkey, reportedly eliminating the need for extensive IT involvement.  According to Euromonitor International, food delivery is expecting to grow 51% from 2016 to 2021. Restaurants are quickly transforming their ordering channels to accelerate off-premise ordering and operations. NCR’s cloud-based infrastructure and APIs make it easier for NCR and technology partners, like MonkeyMedia Software, to integrate solutions that span channels and applications.  MonkeyMedia is using an NCR ordering open API to integrate and inject orders directly into the NCR Aloha POS, reducing restaurant operators’ IT efforts and spend associated with bringing multiple ordering channels together in one ecosystem.  “On the Border is constantly seeking ways to effectively leverage technology to improve the overall guest experience,“ said Richard Wallace, senior director of information technology at On the Border. “The NCR Aloha POS and MonkeyMedia Software integration has enabled an improvement in operational efficiency while simplifying our catering operations for our restaurant team members. This represents a significant two-fold benefit for our brand.”  “The explosion of takeout, delivery and catering, combined with the swift adoption of mobile technology, has made off-premise a critical component to the future growth of many of the restaurant brands that we work with,” said Don Zimmerman, general manager of hospitality solutions at NCR. “The key is giving restaurants a platform that empowers them to easily add any channel they want while maintaining the same order flow management into the kitchen and consolidated reporting across all channels.”

Uber Buying Thousands of Volvos in Major Autonomous Marriage
In a landmark deal for autonomous cars, Volvo Cars signed an agreement with Uber to sell tens of thousands of autonomous driving compatible base vehicles between 2019 and 2021. This non-exclusive partnership deepens the ties between Volvo and Uber that was first announced in 2016, and marks a new chapter in the convergence of carmakers and Silicon Valley-based tech companies.  “The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo Cars chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and CEO. “Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally. Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”  Volvo engineers have worked closely together with engineers from Uber to develop the XC90 premium SUVs that it is supplying to Uber. The base vehicles incorporate all necessary safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies that are required for Uber to add its own self-driving technology.  Volvo will use the same base vehicle in the development of its own independent autonomous car strategy, which is planned to culminate in the release of its first fully autonomous car in 2021.

7-Eleven and Postmates Delivering Thanksgiving
If big-ticket American holidays are all about laziness for everyone but the cook, then 7-Eleven and Postmates were likely onto something with a Thanksgiving partnership offering free delivery of certain 7-Eleven items from Monday, November 20, through Cyber Monday on the 27th. The service was offered in 35 of 7-Eleven’s U.S. metro areas.  To qualify, the orders had to be placed through the Postmates app. Postmates coordinated the delivery from the nearest outlet to fulfill the customer’s order in an average of 30 minutes. After the holiday, Postmates will continue to deliver from 7-Eleven, but the service won’t be free.