Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Arby's tests 'natural' chicken

Arby's has started a "test of 'natural' chicken sandwiches, wraps, tenders and salads in Harrisburg, Pa., and Jacksonville, Fla., that will extend to free customer samples on June 3rd in both markets." The chicken is billed as "not altered or injected with added water, salt or phosphates." [NRN]


Friday, May 27, 2005

Fast Food Nation film director speaks

As we mentioned here a month ago, Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation is being made into a movie by director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise/Sunset, and School of Rock). Linklater, in an interview with Empire Online, has now revealed a little bit more about how he plans to turn a book that is a non-fiction expose into a feature film:
"Eric Schlosser and I, we wrote the script, kind of based on a town in Colorado where all the various sides are represented. It's sort of the human effects of that industry; I guess that's how you'd describe it. ...It's the teenagers who work at the fast food places, and immigrant labourers who come across the border, working in the packing plants, and an executive."

Texas Senate OKs 'cheeseburger bill'

Following the lead of 18 other states that have passed similar legislation, the Texas Senate yesterday passed the so-called 'cheeseburger bill' that prevents lawsuits blaming fast food restaurants for obesity problems. 27 other states are considering similar legislation. 61 percent of adults and 35 percent of school-age children in Texas are considered overweight or obese. [Houston Chronicle]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Too much Paris?

While some groups are calling the Carl's Jr. ad featuring Paris Hilton "soft-core porn," consumers are swamping the ads special website, spicyparis.com. The websites of Carl's Jr./Hardees were overloaded and crashed by all the traffic.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Burgers, wine and $50,000

Sutter Home Vineyards is holding their Build a Better Burger competition for the 15th year. The 2005 winning entry will receive $50,000. Entries will be accepted beginning Monday and until August 26.

Burger King/Star Wars promotion criticized

The Dove Foundation has asked Burger King to cancel their Kid's Meal promotion for the new Star Wars film. Their complaint is that the promotion targets children ages 4 to 9, yet the film is rated PG-13. Dove was successful in getting McDonald's to apologize 13 years ago for its promotion of Batman Returns, also rated PG-13, with their Happy Meals. [USA Today & CNN/Money]


Monday, May 23, 2005

"Have it your way" again

After trying other slogans like "Best Darn Burger" (1978) and "Burger King Town" (1986), Burger King has returned to it's 1974 slogan "Have it your way." According to research, the 31 year old slogan was the one that resonated best with consumers. [USA Today]


Sunday, May 22, 2005

McDonald's settles vegetarian lawsuit

24 groups that filed a class-action suit against McDonald's will receive a total of $10 million. The groups include Hindu, Muslim and vegetarian organizations. The groups' suit claims McDonald's deliberately mislead the public by presenting their french fries as suitable for vegetarians when they were, in fact, prepared with a beef additive for flavoring. [Hindu News]

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Farmworkers seek fast food changes

After a 4 year boycott, a farmworkers group has convinced Taco Bell to agree to a penny-a-pound increase on tomatoes and a code of conduct that will help to penalize suppliers that abuse workers. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, mostly Guatemalan or Mexican, is the group responsible for the concession. They hope to convince the rest of the fast food industry to follow suit. They have sent letters to McDonald's, Subway and Burger King executives. [CIW News & AP]

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McDonald's headed 24/7

Following Wendy's lead with late-night operations and possibly recent studies, McDonald's is encouraging it's franchisees to keep their stores open 24 hours. Presently about 20% of McDonald's stores are open all night. As an incentive to the other 80%, McDonald's is offering rent rebates to operators. [CNN Money]

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Friday, May 20, 2005

The McLes diet

Les Sayer of Edmonton set out to teach his biology students to be critical thinkers. He explained to them that Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me expresses an opinion and is not an objective investigation. To do so he embarked on a diet that was similar to Spurlock's in that he ate exclusively McDonald's food, but much different in that it included exercise. The result: he lost 17 lbs.
"Overeating is bad for you, not getting enough exercise is bad for you. Blaming McDonald's for your expanding waistline is like blaming MasterCard for your overspending." -Les Sayer
You can read all about Les and his diet on his website.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wendy's new ad direction

First there was "Where's the beef," then there was Wendy's founder Dave Thomas as pitchman. But since then Wendy's has not had a memorable advertising message. Wendy's is hoping that has changed with a new series of ads (unrelated but timely to the recent finger fiasco). The new slogan: "Do what tastes right." The ads will be in a variety of styles and focus on specific menu items as well as the restaurants image as a whole. [Business Week & Yahoo]


KFC takeover of Russian chicken

Rostik'sYum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, is considering a 45% stake in Russia's fried chicken restaurant chain Rostik's. Rostik's is the second most popular fast food chain in Russia after McDonald's. [Moscow Times]


Super-Size Me director sued

Morgan Spurlock, director of the Oscar nominated film Super Size Me, has been sued by a company that claims they helped him start the project that resulted in the film. [Wash.Post]

In other Spurlock news, his new book Don't Eat This Book, hits book shelves today. [Amazon]

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Customer satisfaction ratings

This year's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ratings are out. Papa Johns came out on top, McDonald's at the bottom. Here they are with their scores and the number of points they've gone up or down since the last survey.
  1. Papa John's - 78 up 2
  2. Wendy's - 75 up 1
  3. Little Caesar - 74 up 1
  4. Taco Bell - 72 up 4
  5. Burger King - 71 up 3
  6. Domino's - 71 down 4
  7. Pizza Hut - 71 down 4
  8. KFC - 69 down 2
  9. McDonald's - 62 down 2
The ACSI "is a uniform and independent measure of household consumption experience. A powerful economic indicator, the ACSI tracks trends in customer satisfaction and provides valuable benchmarking insights of the consumer economy." It is produced at the University of Michigan.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

BK to offer new veggie burger

A new vegetarian burger produced by Kellogg 's Morningstar Farms and served by Burger King will be the first vegetarian burger offered nationwide. McDonald's has a vegetarian burger in a limited number of markets. -CNN -Press Release

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Subway aims for teens

Subway restaurants has hired Alloy Marketing to help them develop an advertising strategy that will attract teens to the chain's 23,269 restaurants. Subway has until now focused primarily on the 18-40 year old market. The new promotional campaign is expected to begin later this year. --CT Post


Sonic Opens 3,000th drive-in

The 52 year-old Sonic, the nation's largest drive-in restaurant chain, had a ceremony celebrating unit number 3,000 yesterday in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the location of the first Sonic Drive-In. Sonic opened its 2,000th unit 1999. --Yahoo

UPDATE (5/2009): This blog post (from 2005) has become a popular place to discuss Sonic Drive-In locations, particularly in New Jersey (but everywhere else, too).

Feel free to add your thoughts and Sonic Sightings below.

Trying to find a Sonic? Try Sonic's Restaurant Locator or Sonic's Trip Planner (for finding all the Sonic's along your route.


Monday, May 16, 2005

McDonald's testing new fries

McDonald's is again testing new fries with less trans fatty acids at various restaurants around the country. They've been trying different cooking oils and methods since 2002 in an enormous effort to reduce trans fat without losing the famous flavor of their fries. In '02 when they announced their efforts people began to complain about how the fries tasted even before any changes had been made, so now they're more tight-lipped about the where, when and how of their testing and trials. McDonald's switched from beef tallow to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in 1990. Currently a large order of fries has about the same amount of trans fat as 1.5 tablespoons of shortening.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Spurlock not welcome

Fast food's nemesis and Oscar nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super-size Me) has a new TV project entitled "30 Days" coming to cable's FX in June where he "emmerses himself in various lifestyles for one month at a time." (from Cinematical) The first episode has him working minimum wage jobs. "I wanted to get a job at a fast-food restaurant," he reveals, "but, what a surprise — none of them would allow us to shoot there." (from My Boob Tube!) Surprise indeed!

International Fast Food News Briefs

KFC's British TV ad for the Zinger Crunch Salad has received a record number of complaints. Citizens say it encourages bad manners in children. The ad shows people singing while their mouths are stuffed full of food. [BBC & Scotsman]

Drunk drivers in Australia may soon be targeted in fast food drive-thrus. Police have had success targeting drivers with late-night fast food cravings. [Sunday Mail]

Heinz is testing new "SqueezMe!" ketchup packets in UK fast food restaurants, individual ketchup packets "designed to open with no fuss, and dispense with no muss." [NY Daily News]

Fast food is being blamed for a dramatic rise in obesity in France. [IHT]

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Not-so-happy meal

"Vietnamese workers who make toys for McDonald’s Happy Meals held a two-day strike after claiming they were forced to work 12-hour days with no overtime and allowed only 45 minutes for lunch. They also complained that their 9p-an-hour wages were cut if they visited the toilet more than twice a day or if a visit to the doctor took longer than two hours." (source: Scotsman)

Fast food's 'bigger is better' trend

USA Today has extensive coverage of the recent fast food trend towards larger, less healthy food offerings and why they're so popular, with examples from several restaurants. The article includes a top 10 list of the most popular restaurant foods for both men and women. There is also an interactive graphic of Hardee's Monster Thickburger describing the elements that fast food restaurants include in food item development to make us crave their food.


BK official NFL sponsor

Paying mid to high seven figures to the NFL, Burger King has become an official sponsor of the football league hoping to reach their core customer, young males. This is the NFL's first fast food sponsorship since McDonald's sponsorship ended in 1998. The deal also includes a NFL kid's meal video game giveaway at BK to help generate interest with young football fans of the future. As reported in a Miami Herald article:
The deal gives Burger King the right to use the NFL trademarks in its advertising and promotions, but it doesn't mean the fast-food chain's logo will be displayed on NFL broadcasts or in stadiums. Burger King is expected to launch key promotions surrounding the kickoff of the NFL season and the NFL playoffs, culminating with Super Bowl XL in Detroit.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Owner of Wendy's chili finger found

At the outset of the finger-fiasco, Wendy's offered a $100,000 reward for information on the source of the finger. A call to Wendy's tip line has led to the finger's owner, an acquaintance of the husband of the woman who claimed to find it, Anna Ayala. Reuters reports:
the acquaintance of Ayala's husband, who lives in Nevada, lost the finger in an industrial accident in December and was cooperating with authorities.
The news comes on the day Wendy's starts their free Frostys weekend, an effort to rebuild customer confidence in Wendy's after the weeks of confusion surrounding the source of the finger.


BK HQ to stay in S. Florida

After much conjecture, Burger King has announced it will keep its headquarters in Florida. BK has signed a lease on a new building in Coral Gables.


Paris Hilton in new fast food TV ad

Carl's Jr. will add to a string of television ads for the Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger on May 19th with a new ad featuring Paris Hilton. In the 30-second spot, Hilton is shown eating The Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger while washing a Bentley in her swimsuit. Adweek magazine has labeled the ad "too hot for TV," but the star herself simply characterized it as "hot." -press release


Thursday, May 12, 2005

McDonald's first drive-thru in China

The number of private cars in China grew by 80% in 2003. There are now 1.7 million cars in Beijing and it is projected that there will be 140 million cars in China by 2020. McDonald's has seen the opportunity and has announced plans to open their first drive-thru location in China in Shenzhen in Guangdong Province this fall.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Coronary rates linked to fast food prevalence

A Canadian study by the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences claims that areas with more fast food restaurants also have higher rates of heart disease and death. (As reported today by CTV and Canoe.) The study looked at 380 regions in Ontario and calculated the per capita rate of fast food restaurants and compared them with the coronary and mortality rates in those regions. Dr. David Alter, an ICES scientist: "Our study sends a strong message at a time when obesity rates in adults and children are rising rapidly across the nation."

In a not at all surprising move, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association has quickly posted a press release refuting the claims of the study and calling into question its research methods: "The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences has released a highly flawed study on restaurants in Ontario which is riddled with contradictions."

Late night fast foodies spend more

According to a recent study, fast food cravings after 10 PM result in bigger spending, especially among young males. The average late night diner spends $6.22 which is well above the all-day average. Young males spend even more, average $7.23. Late night diners may be fast food's best customer!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Star Wars returns to Burger King

Burger King produced a series of popular collectible glasses when the original Star Wars film was released in 1977. Now, with the release of Star Wars Episode III, Burger King will be offering the Super Star Wars Collection:
"31 Star Wars toys spanning all six Star Wars movies...pull-back vehicles that speed away, wind-up figures, water squirters, plush toys and image viewers with scenes from each Star Wars episode." -StarWars.com [list of toys]
They will also give away bigger prizes (money, cars, electronics, etc) in the "Choose Your Destiny" promtion. Burger King kicked off the promtion tonight with a TV ad during American Idol. It was the first of 10 ads (Adweek).


Free Wendy's Frostys this weekend

Coming off the whole finger fiasco in California, Wendy's will be offering free Junior Frostys this weekend (May 13-15) at all US locations. No purchase is required. Wendy's held this promotion previously in the San Francisco area to help lure customers back after the finger incident. Wendy's estimates it will give away 14 million Frostys.


Monday, May 09, 2005

KFC animal welfare experts quit

NRN is reporting that "two animal-science experts, who have urged KFC Corp. to do more to ensure that its chickens are slaughtered humanely, resigned from the chain's animal welfare advisory council after being asked by the company to sign a confidentiality agreement."
related: KFC operator roasts Pamela Anderson 'inaccuracies'


Jack's new breakfast burrio

Jack in the Box’s new Meaty Breakfast Burrito features a warm flour tortilla filled with ham, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, shredded cheddar and pepperjack cheeses and served with a side of fire-roasted salsa. It supplies 480 calories and 29 grams of fat for $1.99.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Detroit considers fast food tax

Detroit's mayor is hoping that a 2% tax on fast food purchases (on top of the state's 6% sales tax) will barely be noticeable to consumers. Critics claim the tax would unfairly target the poor. Others call it a 'fat tax.' Detroit ranked #1 in '04 and #3 in '05 in Men's Health's list of America's fattest cities. (Editorials: [1] [2])

Friday, May 06, 2005

Super Fast Pizza

What's the fastest way to get a pizza to someone's home? Start driving as soon as you get the order and cook it on the way, of course. That's the idea behind Super Fast Pizza of Fond Du Lac, WI. Their special vans carry 10 varieties of pizza which can quickly be popped into the van's 600 degree ovens.
Local news reports that "the results are a cross between a supermarket-bought frozen pizza, a delivery from a chain such as Domino's and eating at a pizzeria where the pie comes straight from the oven. They're not for fussy pizza connoisseurs, but they will satisfy a quick craving."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Fat is in... in Fast Food that is

SHNS.com has posted an expose on some of the recent fast food menu additions that seem to fly in the face of the government's attempts to curb obesity. Some examples:
  • Pizza Hut's new "Full House XL" pizza totals 2,240 calories
  • Burger King's 730-calorie "Enormous Omelette the King of Breakfasts" and 1,090-calorie "Ultimate Double Whopper"
  • Hardee's "Monster Thickburger, the mother of all hamburgers" with 1,430 calories
  • Ruby Tuesday's "Ultimate Colossal Burger" with 1,781 calories

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Texas considering 'fast food lawsuit' law

One day after a similar CA bill failed, Texas House members will today begin debate on legislation nicknamed 'the cheesburger bill' that would ban obesity related lawsuits against restaurants and food manufacturers.
"If someone basically overeats or they're just not using self-discipline, that should not be the basis for going after a bunch of people with money." -Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale (AP)
update 5/6/05: Bill passes in Texas House
also, Cheeseburger provision passes in Minnesota

Bill shielding fast-food sellers fails in CA

The California bill designed to protect restaurants from obesity lawsuits died in committee yesterday in the California Senate. Similar bills are on the books in 18 states. (KXTV-Sacramento and AP)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Fast food & a fast net connection

When it isn't enough that just your food is served up fast, McDonald's is now making it possible to also quickly serve up web pages (on your wireless enabled laptop)... for a fee. So now the question becomes "Wi-fi with that?" instead of "Fries with that?"
"Most walk-up [DSL] service is $6 an hour," said Michael Hansen, McDonald's regional systems manager. "So, at $2.95, we're 25 percent of that." (NBC 5, Dallas)

15 pound burger

There's a different kind of burger war brewing, where only size matters. A Pennsylvania pub that lost it's claim to the biggest burger record last year has reclaimed the crown.

"Dubbed the Beer Barrel Belly Buster, the burger comes with 10.5 pounds of ground beef, 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, three tomatoes, two onions, a cup-and-a-half each of mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, mustard and banana peppers - and a bun." (AP)


A confirmed finger find this time

This time there doesn't seem to be any debate about the veracity of the customer's claim or the origin of the finger. This finger was found in custard from Kohl's Frozen Custard in Wilmington, NC. The employee accident that caused the finger loss has been confirmed by the store manager, but the question remains how employees failed to stop everything and look for the missing digit!
"I thought it was candy because they put candy in your ice cream ... to make it a treat. So I said, 'OK, well, I'll just put it in my mouth and get the ice cream off of it and see what it is.'" -Clarence Stowers (finger finder) [CNN]

UPDATE: May 6, 2005: The man who found the finger refused it return it to the owner so that it could be reattached.
UPDATE: May 12, 2005: And now, finally, he offers to return it.

Monday, May 02, 2005

KFC operator roasts Pamela Anderson 'inaccuracies'

A Canadian KFC operator has responded to the recent accusations of Pamela Anderson, a Canadian, in a PETA video regarding apparent mistreatment of chickens at KFC suppliers.
Bitove said KFC buys its chickens from the same places that sell to grocery stores and to other restaurants in Canada, and company officials "regularly and randomly audit our suppliers to augment government oversight and better ensure that chickens are treated ethically." -CJAD 800 Radio


Leading nutritionists on fast food payroll

Some prominent nutritionists have begun consulting or sitting on advisory boards for large food companies. Dr. Dean Ornish consults for McDonald's, but Dr. George L. Blackburn director of the Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine at Harvard Medical School resigned his post at McDonald's with complaints of McDonald's emphasizing exercise instead of reducing fat in menu items.
"These advisers' dual roles have created a deep split in the scientific community. Some critics say that working for a large food company compromises the credibility of scientists' research and makes them look like part-time company representatives."
NY Times (also available from the IHT without registration)

Bill would shield fast-food sellers from blame in obesity lawsuits

SACRAMENTO (AP) – "Californians couldn't blame restaurants hawking triple-decker cheese burgers, super-sized fries and giant shakes for their weight problems – at least not in court – under a bill awaiting a vote this week in an Assembly committee." -update-

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Fast Food Nation: the movie!

Variety is reporting that Eric Schlosser's non-fiction book Fast Food Nation is going to me made into a movie to be directed by Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused).

It will be interesting to see how this scathing critique of the fast food industry will be turned into a "fictionalized thriller".

The cattlenetwork.com also has some words about that "that plotless little book that blamed most of mankind’s ills on the devilishly clever world domination agenda put together in a smoke-filled back room by Ronald McDonald" being made into a film.

Is Your City a Grease Trap?

Men's Health magazine asked this question and graded 101 US cities:
"We generated our grease-stained grades by analyzing the percentage of people who say they eat at fast-food restaurants two to three times a week..., the number of McDonald's per capita...and, finally, the percentage of folks who are clinically obese and the percentage who prefer almost anything to fresh produce."
Boston, Providence, RI, and Rochester, NY came out on top (less fast food and obesity), while Dallas, Las Vegas, and Houston rounded out the bottom of the list.

Soup Nazi : now franchising

According to the rules I'm not supposed to use the 'N' word, but its true, the original soup phenom of NY (and spoofed on Seinfeld) is now offering franchise opportunities!

"Super Size Me" follow-up book

Last year Morgan Spurlock brought us the Oscar nominated documentary Super Size Me. This year he's put pen to paper: Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America will hit bookshelves on May 19th.

Bootleg Burger Battle Is A Whopper

Apple Valley, Minn. (WCCO) A fast-food giant is trying to shut down a former franchise owner who really, really wants to have it his way.

Girish Dharod operates eight Burger King restaurants in several Minnesota cities, including Rochester and Apple Valley. The signs and menus all look familiar, and the food tastes like regular Burger King fare, yet there's something missing.

That's because Burger King recently cut off its franchise contract with Dharod, who is now running the restaurants outside the company's sanction.

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