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Milano Restaurants International, which operates the Me-n-Ed’s Pizza Parlor, Victory Grill and Coney Island Grill concepts, entered the fast-casual pizza fray in 2013 with Blast 825° Pizza

In mid-January, better-burger fast-casual concept Fatburger and its sister brand, Buffalo’s Express, opened a new co-branded location in Barstow, Calif. The 3,800-square-foot location offers guests access to specialties from both concepts in a single platform.

“Surprise!” is a welcome exclamation on birthdays and anniversaries but not on construction projects. Unexpected events usually increase costs. In rare cases, an unpredicted expense can cause an owner to scuttle a project.

When a new restaurant opens, it is a time for celebration. Like any kind of significant event, an opening takes preplanning. Restaurant chains that open a number of units each year have developed best practices for what could be called the countdown-to-opening period. While the key elements are similar — punch lists, marketing, training — the specific focus and timing can be quite different, depending on the chain’s corporate mission and brand promise.

High-end steakhouse operator Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group (SWRG) has introduced a new, more casual sister concept, Wollensky’s Grill. Positioned as a place for best-in-class shareable dining and interaction with a gastropub-style menu, Wollensky’s Grill is located on the lower level of the iconic Smith & Wollensky restaurant on the Chicago River.

Dunkin’ Donuts has launched DD Green, a green building certification program to help franchisees build sustainable, energy-efficient restaurants. In conjunction with the announcement, the company celebrated the grand opening of a DD Green-certified unit in Long Beach, Calif., in December.

Big Boy is dead! Long live Big Boy! That seems to sum things up for the Warren, Mich.-based franchisor. It would appear, on one hand, that better days are behind the aging brand despite an attempt four years ago to rev sales with a new full-service prototype. 

It’s a refrain repeated too often by casual industry observers: Casual dining is dying. Yes, some big-name brands in the segment are struggling. Full-service concepts that made Technomic’s 2014 list of the Top 500 Chain Restaurants (ranked by U.S. system-wide sales) posted sales growth of 2.4 percent in 2013, compared with the 3.8 percent growth recorded by limited-service concepts.