In Brief

Thompson Hospitality has announced that it is acquiring the Austin Grill Tex-Mex commercial restaurant chain. Washington, DC-based Austin Grill has more than $16 million in annual sales. The deal could lead to Austin Grill outposts on the some two dozen college and university campuses at which Thompson operates the dining services.

IFMA is now accepting nominations for the 2007 Silver Plate Awards. Categories include Healthcare, Elementary/Secondary Schools, Colleges/Universities, B&I/Foodservice Management and Specialty Foodservices. To get a nomination form, go to www.ifmaworld.com/GSnomination.htm [3].

Compass Group PLC has announced that it had settled two lawsuits filed in the United States by competitors claiming damages following allegations of corrupt activities in some of its contracts with the United Nations. The company said it admitted no legal liability in reaching the settlements with Monaco-based ES-KO International Inc. and the Swiss firm Supreme Foodservice AG. The two companies had claimed a total of around $1.1 billion in damages but Compass said the total costs relating to the settlement were less than $74 million.

Bloomsburg (PA) Area High School will be the first in the state to install a PA Preferred vending machine that will dispense healthier food options like juice and apple sauce, all grown or produced instate. The new vending machines were scheduled to arrive at the high school at end of October.

A new student-run community farm hopes to begin providing organic produce to the 17 campus dining facilities at Stanford University beginning next January. The one-acre patch includes a fruit orchard, herb garden and a number of individual plots maintained by Stanford students, faculty and staff. Project organizers also intend to use the space as an educational outlet, with a class on sustainable agriculture slated to be offered next spring.

UCLA has begun serving kosher lunches like sandwiches, salads and burgers at its The Shack at Hillel retail dining outlet. Currently only open for lunch, the eatery's fare is somewhat pricey, averaging about $7 per meal. A new meal plan expected to be offered later this year will give students a 15% discount on a regular meal. Most meat served in other campus eateries, including the four campus dining halls, is currently not kosher.

The Miami-Dade County (FL) School Board has voted to expand the district's online lunch payment program to all 367 of its schools. Already in 14 schools, the Parent Account Management System allows parents to fund their children's school meals by setting up an online account that can be replenished with a credit card. They will have the option of automatically replenishing the account and will receive e-mail warnings for low balances. It also allows them to monitor purchases.

Sodexho Alliance SA posted a 9.4% increase in revenue, to $16.3 billion, in its 2006 fiscal year, ended August 31. The increase was led by the healthcare division, which posted an 11% increase.

Bon Appétit Management Co. has announced an informational campaign that will advise diners of the risk of eating seafood containing high levels of mercury. Starting November 15th, signage in all 400 of the company's cafés will direct fish eaters to the GotMercury.Org calculator, which they can use to gauge their personal mercury exposure and intake risk.