Thursday, September 29, 2005

Portobello mushroom burger at Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr. introduced, yesterday, their new "Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger." The hamburger has "Portobello mushrooms sliced and sautéed with garlic and parsley" on their 1/2 pound burger with swiss cheese. Their advertising tag line for this burger is: "skip the dinner jacket and go for the drive-thru." I don't know about you, but I've never suddenly felt underdressed just because somebody put some mushrooms on my burger, but hey, what do I know?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Food pyramid game for kids

In an effort to be at least a tiny bit as attractive to kids as the slick offerings of the fast food giants, the USDA unveiled today a game for kids that highlights the elements of the government's new food pyramid.

"In the MyPyramid Blast Off game, kids load a rocket ship with the right combination of healthy foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat or fat-free milk and lean meat. Load up with the wrong kind of fuel, or too much of it, and you can't blast off to Planet Power." [AP]

Ronald McDonald's gender switch

In Japan, McDonald's long-time mascot Ronald McDonald has been replace, in Japan at least, by a slim, sexy female mascot. Is this the Paris Hilton effect...did McDonald's take notice of Hardee's sexy Hilton ads? "In the Japanese TV commercial," notes Britain's Guardian newspaper, "the foxy female version, with shoulder-length straight auburn hair in place of Ronald's frizzy mop, smolders at the camera in a flowing yellow dress, and later a red and white striped bikini with thigh-length leggings and red high heels." [Times]

Thursday, September 22, 2005

McDonald's 'My First' McJob ads begin

Instead of launching an ad campaign celebrating its 50 years in the fast food forefront, McDonald's has opted to dispel the McJob image of working at McDonald's with a series of TV ads. In the commercials former employees talk about the opportunities given to them with their first job at McDonald's. But I'd have to agree with the Chicago Sun-Times column entitled Ex-McDonald's workers make sorry ad. [more-- FreePress]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Where's the beef for fingertip tipster?

When Anna Ayala claimed to find a finger in her Wendy's chili in March, Wendy's damage control team offered a $100,000 reward for information about the fraud. Now, Mike Casey, the man who claims he blew the case wide open for Wendy's (he employed the man who lost the finger and Ayala's husband) says he hasn't seen a dime of the reward.

Casey says, "I did what they wanted and they offered it, so I think I have it coming." And Wendy's says they're still trying to determine whether or not Casey is the tipster.

Ayala faces up to nearly 10 years in state prison when sentenced Nov. 2. Her husband faces up to 13 years behind bars. [AP]

UPDATE 9/28: Mike Casey will split the reward with an anonymous tipster. [CNN]


Wendy's prez quits

Wendy's International Inc. President Richard Mueller suddenly resigned from the troubled fast-food chain Monday in what analysts believe signals sluggish sales and waning support within the Wendy's franchise community. more @ MarketWatch


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Fast food switch from yellow to red onions

Bob Hale (pictured at left) took a risk a decade ago, pulling up his yellow onions and planting red ones instead. "Color is the new thing," he predicted. He was promptly ignored by the others farmers here at the heart of the nation's onion belt.

But Hale was proved right in 1997, when Pizza Hut took the plunge and switched from yellow to red onions on all its pizzas. Two years ago, Subway, the nation's largest selling sandwich chain, embraced red, saying they added a splash of color to subs. Now, large and small chains are experimenting with the brightly pigmented onion, a highly temperamental plant that takes far more skill to grow than its yellow cousin. [USA Today]

Chick-fil-A tests new spicy sandwich

Chick-fil-a is test marketing a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, pepper jack cheese, habanera peppers and smoky chipotle sauce. The sandwich also comes with a lime wedge, which Chick-fil-A claims is a "first for any quick-service restaurant chain." The test marketing of the new spicy chargrilled chicken sandwich is limited to Southwest Florida. [R&I]


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

McDonald's school PE program

USA Today is reporting that McDonald's, the company that gave us Happy Meals and supersized fries, is jumping into gym classes.

The fast-food giant is launching a new national physical-education program Tuesday aimed at third through fifth graders and includes games and activities from countries around the world.

McDonald's says 31,000 public elementary schools with 7 million students have agreed to try Passport to Play this year. It's up to individual PE teachers how much they use the new activities such as boomerang golf from Australia; Japan's Mr. Daruma Fell Down, a game similar to red light, green light; and Holland's korfball, which combines elements of basketball and football. Each time students complete a game from another country they will get a stamp in a pretend passport — one of the educational materials that will carry the golden arches logo.

Critics charge the fast-food company has no business in gym classes. "It is a travesty to have a PE program branded by McDonald's," says psychologist Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. "It further commercializes schools and gets the company even more publicity with children."

Monday, September 12, 2005

White Castle: Honey Chipotle Chicken Sandwich

White Castle has introduced their "lastest crave," the Honey Chipotle Chicken Sandwich. It will be available beginning in September and into October at all White Castle locations.
"The sandwich with a touch of sweet and a touch of heat will have to be savored quickly since it will only be around for a limited time."


Friday, September 09, 2005

Couple pleads guilty in Wendy's case

SAN JOSE, California -- A Nevada couple pleaded guilty Friday to all charges related to planting a human fingertip in a bowl of Wendy's chili in a scheme to extort money from the fast food restaurant chain.

Anna Ayala, 39, and Jaime Placencia, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiring to file a false claim and attempted grand theft. The Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy's International Inc. claimed the scheme cost it $2.5 million in lost sales because of bad publicity. Ayala faces up to nearly 10 years in state prison when sentenced November 2.


Fast Food Nation the film

As reported here in May, Eric Schlosser's non-fiction book Fast Food Nation is being made into a feature film by director Richard Linklater (and starring Catalina Sandino Moreno). According to Cinematical & Austin 360, filming has begun in Austin, Texas, but the filmmakers are using a "working title" for the film of "Coyote" presumably to disguise its real theme from the fast food restaurants where they'll be filming.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

KFC's 'Flavor Station' ad campaign begins

KFC's biggest advertising campaign has begun: Flavor Station. This is KFC's attempt to set itself apart from other fast food restaurants offering various chicken products (strips, nuggets, even BK's chicken fries) that are offered with a variety of dipping sauces. The difference: KFC's chicken is served pre-dipped in the sauce of the customer's choice. We didn't know that people were annoyed with the painstaking extra step of having to dip a morsel of chicken in a sauce, but nonetheless their prayers have been answered!
The concept lets consumers choose among four lunch items - chicken wings with bones or without, popcorn chicken and strips of chicken. They then choose among three heated sauces - honey barbecue or two new sauces, fiery buffalo and sweet and spicy - and the chicken is fully immersed in the chosen sauce when delivered.
KFC's advertising agency has created a television spot depicting people in different work situations - an office, a factory, a construction site - who eat Flavor Station chicken and shout, "with KFC's Flavor Station, I'm in charge." The tagline is, "Be the boss, choose your own sauce." They've also created a web site to promote the campaign at:

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fast-food chains try going small

Two of the biggest burger chains -- Wendy's and Burger King -- are developing restaurants with smaller kitchens and seating areas that operate profitably in small towns, cost less to build and fit into cheaper parcels of land. Popeye's is looking to follow suit, and even Applebee's, a sit-down restaurant, is looking to reduce square footage in rural area restaurants. YUM! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W and Long John Silver's) hasn't started downsizing there restaurants per-se, but they're accomplishing the same thing by putting mulitple restaurants in one location. [AP]

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Hundreds Of Fast-Food Restaurants Closed by Hurricane Katrina

DES MOINES, Iowa (Dow Jones)--Hurricane Katrina left hundreds of fast-food restaurants closed or damaged in its devastation.

More than 200 McDonald's Corp. (MCD) restaurants remained dark in the storm's path as of midday Wednesday. Burger King Corp. said about 120 of the 180 restaurants initially hit were still closed.

"We're assessing damage to our restaurants, but transportation, power and the lack of communication make it difficult," said McDonald's pokesman Bill Whitman.

McDonald's has dispatched an assessment team to the Gulf Coast to "get a firsthand account of what we need to do to help our people as well as others in the disaster area," he said. The company also has contacted the American Red Cross, although Whitman indicated that McDonald's hadn't determined what assistance it might render.

"Our first priority is to locate all of our employees and insure their safety," he said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York City, the chain trucked in food and water to the Ground Zero area, for residents as well as those involved in rescue and recovery.

Burger King has marshaled a half dozen semitrailer trucks loaded with everything from canned goods and water to bug spray and diapers to assist those in what a spokeswoman called "the Burger King family." That would include franchisees - most of the restaurants along the Gulf Coast are franchised – and their employees.

Those trucks are "staged" and waiting for word that it is safe to enter the storm's zone.
"We also will provide cash assistance" for emergency housing and similar basic needs, said Edna Johnson, a senior vice president at the Miami-based hamburger chain.

More than 4,000 restaurant workers have been affected by the storm, she said, adding that "we're still trying to account for all" of them.

Because of operating difficulties and disrupted supply lines, many of the Burger Kings operating in the ravaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were serving a limited menu.

Johnson said at last count 57 Burger Kings were closed in Louisiana, 52 in Mississippi, 15 in Alabama and six in the Miami area.

Among restaurants hardest-hit in and around swamped New Orleans was AFC Enterprises Inc.'s (AFCE) Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits chain, which has 43 stores in that market, according to the company's Web site. It also has eight restaurants in and around Biloxi, Miss. All told, Popeyes operates at 153 locations in Louisiana and 56 in Mississippi.

Popeyes spokeswoman Alicia Thompson said the Atlanta company was pulling together information on the situation and couldn't elaborate.

"With so many employees in the New Orleans market we've been making sure they're OK," she said. "Now we're starting to assess, as much as we can, where we are."

Other chains hit by Katrina's fury include Sonic Corp. (SONC), which said it has about 60 drive-ins affected in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A spokeswoman said the Oklahoma City company was seeking to determine the extent of damage and wasn't prepared to comment further. Sonic has about 3,000 stores nationwide.

There was no immediate word on storm damage to restaurants in the Yum Brands Inc. (YUM) portfolio, which include KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W and Long John Silver's.

Unlike some other retailers that may be able to eventually capture sales postponed because of the storm, restaurants have no such opportunity. Once a meal period is passed, revenue is lost, and so an economic impact is inevitable for franchisers and their franchisees, who pay a percentage of every sales dollar rung up.

from Cattle Network News.

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Please donate to help Katrina victims

Please donate what you can to help the victims of Hurrican Katrina:
American Red Cross
Catholic Charities