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News and Noteworthy: Bite Squad, Beard Finalists

In its first step to transition the company’s existing hybrid-electric fleet to fully electric vehicles in the coming years, Bite Squad will test the Tesla Model 3 as part of its food delivery vehicle fleet. The initial test will be in Bite Squad’s home market of Minneapolis; the restaurant delivery service operates in more than 30 markets across the country.

“On an average day, we have delivery drivers navigating thousands of food deliveries through the streets of 30 metropolitan markets across the country,” said Bite Squad co-founder and CEO Kian Salehi. “Our existing hybrid cars significantly cut emissions, but an all-electric fleet would be completely emissions-free. This is where we want to be.” 

Among its delivery areas, Bite Squad deploys a fleet of hundreds of Toyota Prius full hybrid cars, supplementing employee drivers’ personal vehicles.

The Tesla Model 3 has an EPA-rated all-electric range of 220 miles. It offers semi self-driving capabilities with Tesla's Enhanced Autopilot system, and will eventually have full self-driving capability with software updates promised to be rolled out over time. According to Salehi, the self-driving feature is a big draw, and a considerable factor in the decision to test the Model 3. “Automated cars are the future of food delivery,” he says. The timing of the test is at least partially dependent on Tesla, which has yet to deliver the vehicles. Bite Squad hopes to have them to begin the test this fall.

Helm joins Newmark Knight Frank

Jen Helm has joined the Minneapolis office of Newmark Knight Frank (NKF) as managing director. A leading retail specialist, Helm provides tenant representation and sale/leasing advisory services for retail properties in the Twin Cities and throughout the Midwest. She was the first female president of the Minnesota Commercial Association of Realtors and has about 17 years’ experience and a cadre of national retail clients. Helm joins NKF from Cushman & Wakefield, where she was senior director of brokerage services. Helm holds the Certified Commercial Investment Member designation and is a member of the Minnesota Shopping Center Association, and the International Council of Shopping Centers. 

Manufacturer selects Iowa for its plant

Michael Foods, a $2 billion manufacturer and distributor and a processor of value-added eggs, has selected Norwalk, Iowa, as the location for its new regional manufacturing and distribution facility. The company’s brands include Papetti’s and Simply Potatoes.

Once the facility is complete, Michael Food’s capital investment is expected to be more than $85 million, making it one of the largest industrial projects to land in Iowa and one of the largest tax payers in Warren County. 

Norwalk was selected as the preferred site over other sites in Iowa and Nebraska due to its strong economy, good workforce, and proximity to Interstates 35 and 80, Highway 5 and the Des Moines International Airport.  

“Having a certified shovel-ready site was crucial to landing this game-changing project in Norwalk,” Hollie Askey, Norwalk’s economic development director said in a release. In order to help offset high development, utility, and property tax costs for the company, the City of Norwalk has implemented a new bulk water user rate and approved a 20-year, 65% TIF rebate, as well as a high-quality jobs grant of $1,000 per qualifying full-time position.

The finalists for the prestigious James Beard Awards have been announced, and Minneapolis is well represented. Diane Yang of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis is a finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef; Best Chef: Midwest finalists are Steven Brown of Tilia, Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable and Ann Kim of Young Joni. Two chefs from Milwaukee rounded out the category that represented eight states. 

Also in the running for a cookbook award is The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley, from the University of Minnesota Press. The gala is May 7 in Chicago. 

Coffee Talk

The delivery-only food service based in Indianapolis, ClusterTruck, is slated to begin operations in Minneapolis in May. The company is currently doing business in six markets, mainly in the Midwest. The move into Minneapolis is part of an aggressive plan by the company to expand into about 20 new markets in 2018. ClusterTruck (you gotta love that name) was started in April 2016 and since that time has attracted more than 11,000 customers and raised more than $3 million in capital.


After three years on Nicollet Avenue, Vicinity Coffee’s Kingfield shop closed in early March with little fanfare. Vicinity’s first cafe on South Lyndale Avenue will stay open for now.


Because of plans to redevelop its block, the iconic 72-year-old Market Bar-B-Que is relocating from its Nicolle Avenue address to a new spot in NE Minneapolis. Steve and Anthony Polski (father and son) will be moving as much of the iconic décor and equipment as possible from the current space to the new NE location. The move is slated to occur in late 2018.


Lilydale’s Italian complex that includes fine-dining restaurant I Nonni and deli/grocery Buon Giorno has a new owner, as Bill Miller moves his Sunfish Cellars liquor and wine store there. Sunfish Cellars is being forced to move from its longtime site due to redevelopment. (I Nonni owner Frank Marchionda is retiring.) The wine and spirits store is in what used to be part of the deli space. The pending redevelopment of businesses, including a strip mall in Lilydale, means the closure of longtime bar/restaurant Moose Country. The strip mall and Moose Country will make way for a residential development.


According to research firm and food-industry consultant, Pentallect, the third-party food delivery segment is poised for strong growth in the coming years. Currently a $13 billion market, third-party delivery is projected to grow at 13.5 percent annual rate to reach $24.5 billion by 2022. The data also showed that 13 percent of consumers used a third-party delivery service in the past 30 days. Why should you care? Because delivery impacts both restaurants that are delivering and those that aren’t.

Have news to share? Send it to nancyw@foodservicenews.net

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