Thursday, December 29, 2005

McDonald's to serve Thai food?

According an article in The Nation (an English-language Thai newspaper), McDonald's has agreed to start serving a line of Thai-inspired menu items in the US.

Thailand's Export Promotion Department has "negotiated with the top management of McDonald’s in the US to add a Thai menu," according to department director-general Chantra Purnariksha. "Initially, the menu will be promoted in the western US, because of the large Asian populations there."

This agreement is said to be a result of Thailand's "Kitchen of the World" promotion.

I've e-mailed McDonald's media relations to confirm the story and they said they'll get back to me. I'll be following this one and will keep you posted.

UPDATE (11 Jan 2006): I received the following statement from McDonald's today:
"As a customer-focused company, McDonald’s is always looking at new ways to add even greater variety and choice for our customers. In that spirit, we talk with different companies and groups, including the Thai Ministry of Commerce. We are open to suggestions and future discussions regarding their menu concepts. However, it is very premature to speculate about any future outcomes."

Fast food and obesity in Iran

Fast food is just one Western influence that is being blamed for obesity and other health problems that are on the rise in Iran.

The founder of a group formed to combat these health problems, Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan of the Isfahan Healthy Heart Programme, says that 20 years ago Iranians were not eating fast food and now Iranians "have a high prevalence of hypertension and a high prevalence of diabetes, and smoking and high cholesterol."
[more from the BBC]

Free pizza for first twins of '06

As part of Pizza Hut's 'Pick Your Pair' promotion, the parents of the first sets of twins born in 2006 in Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will receive a years supply of pizza.

And I've got to give props to Pizza Hut's press production people for some great aliteration in a press release headline: "Pizza Hut Presents 'Pick Your Pair' Promotion; Prominent Pizza Producer Pledges Plethora of Pizza to Particular Parties of Primary Pairs."

The promotion is 2 medium pizzas with 2 toppings for $6.99 each.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Subway's new resolution

Subway is kicking off a new promotion called "Fresh Resolutions" on January 2. On their countdown site, Subway spokesman Jared describes the promotion as a way to help you achieve a "healthier lifestyle" for a "healthy new you" in the new year. He also mentions a 'fresh resolutions hot-line;' could this be a dieting helpline?

Subway will introduce an instant win scratch-off game as part of "Fresh Resolutions" with prizes including pool tables, elliptical trainers, bicycles, camcorders, snowboards, video iPods, and gift certificates for iTunes, Blockbuster and sporting goods.

Each entrant will receive a two week Bally Total Fitness guest membership. You could also win a month of daily motivational phone calls from Jared himself! No offense Jared, but I hope they offer an alternate prize for that one!


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Kids and fast food ads

Australia's television standards board is considering a ban on fast food advertising during children's television shows.

A Canadian op/ed today calls for the same thing. They quote a study that claims eliminating fast food television advertising "would cut the number of overweight children (ages 3 to 11) by 10 per cent and the number of overweight adolescents (ages 12 to 18) by 12 per cent."

Some fast food restaurants do market directly to children; kid's meals and the included toys are an example of this. In fact McDonald's, for many years, has focused its marketing strategy on kids in an effort to create 'customers for life.' (Read Fast Food Nation for more on that.)

As a result, I'm sure a ban on fast food advertising to children would cut down on their consumption of fast food, but wouldn't it be better if parents controlled what their kids eat instead of the government? Parents should know what their kids are eating, and they should educate their children about the benefits of good nutrition and the dangers of 'bad foods.' Eliminating advertising would cut down on awareness but not availability, so teaching kids about smart food choices is the most direct and comprehensive path to healthier kids.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fast food's 'holiday' references

The controversy over "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" seems to have really heated up this year. I actually got invited to a "I'll call it a Christmas Party if I Want To" party! thrown by someone who said they're sick of all the "religious correctness." Many people are being careful not to offend; many of the 'Christmas' cards I got this year did not mention Christmas at all. And of course there's been boycotts against many retailers who've been accused by Christian groups of not including specific Christmas references in their stores, websites, and holiday marketing.

With this in mind, I decided to take a look at some fast food restaurants' web sites today, with Christmas only a day and a half away, and see what sort of 'holiday' references I might find.

The following sites had no mention of the holiday season whatsoever: Burger King, Carls Jr., Chick-fil-a, Church's Chicken, Del Taco, In-N-Out, KFC, Long John Silver's, McDonald's, Panera, and Taco Bell.

One thing about that list really surprised me. I was surprised that Chick-fil-a didn't have a "Merry Christmas" on their site, since they promote themselves as a Christian company every week by keeping their restaurants closed on Sunday.

I didn't see Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza mentioned specifically anywhere, but here are some holiday references I did find:

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Charging fast food

Since fast food restaurants started accepting credit cards, there use has seen explosive growth.

Based on VISA's SpendTrak report, consumers are charging $430 million per week for fast food, up 62% from the same week last year. The average fast food ticket charged to plastic is $10.75

Consumers will have charged $37 billion in fast food this year, up from only $3.7 billion 4 years ago. Americans spend $150 billion total on fast food annually.

I'm sure it is because they've seen customers embrace the ability to charge fast food, that the chains have started to issue their own plastic in the form of 'convenience cards.'
[data and image from CardWeb]

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hardee's introduces taco salad

In contrast to other restaurants who appear to be abandoning healthier fare (because no one is ordering it), Hardee's has introduced their first salad, the Red Burrito Taco Salad.

Whether this salad qualifies as 'healthy' is up to you: 860 calories, 55 grams of fat, 60 grams carbs, 90 mg cholesterol, 1720 mg sodium, 38 grams protein. That's more calories and fat than two (2) of Hardee's Cheeseburgers.

In keeping with the marketing for their giant Thickburgers, Hardee's is calling it a "hearty entrée salad."

Selling for $3.99, the Red Burrito Taco Salad is a bowl-shaped tortilla shell filled with seasoned ground beef, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, shredded lettuce, refried beans, sour cream, hot sauce and spicy pico de gallo salsa.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

High fructose corn syrup in fast food

Inspired by a list maintained at Accidental Hedonist, I've compiled this list of items from popular fast food restaurants that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The list currently includes items containing High Fructose Corn Syrup from the following fast food restaurants: Arby's, Blimpie, Burger King, Chick-fil-a, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, KFC, McDonald's, Subway, Taco Bell, and Whataburger. More will be added as the data is collected.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is corn syrup that has been modified to increase the level of fructose. It has become a popular topic in the discussion of obesity in America. The reason for concern, is that HFCS consumption has increased dramatically since the 1970s when it was developed and so has obesity. It has not been proven that there is a link, but the average American consumed 39 pounds of HFCS in 1980 and 62.6 pounds in 2001.

So, if you're concerned about HFCS in fast food, now you can check the list. I hope it helps. I'm also working on gluten-free and hydrogenated oil lists for fast food.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Blackberry fast food finder

A new application for your Blackberry (the wireless device) called Fast Food Finder helps you find the nearest fast food restaurant. One Blackberry blog wrote they were able to "query for any of 33,000 [fast food] locations. And get a map, the address, and directions" to the nearest one. I know some Blackberry addicts and I definitely know some fast food addicts, so this looks like a great way to feed 2 addictions at once!

Quiznos up for sale

Quizno's, the #3 sandwich chain in the US, is reportedly for sale. Their maket value has been placed at around $2 billion. No official word from Denver-based, family-owned Quizno's, but it makes sense... they might be at the top of their game right now, making it a great time to cash out.

Maybe the new owners will rectify my nutrition info complaint: Quizno's, unlike #1 Subway and #2 Blimpie, does not post complete nutritional information for their sandwiches on their website. They only list data for their 3 'healthiest' sandwiches on their site.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Konopizza: the cone-shaped pizza

If anyone is going to improve on the pizza it should be the Italians, right? Well, that's just what one Italian franchise is trying to do with Konopizza, "the original cone-shaped pizza." As they explain on their website:
"For the first time it offers the opportunity to taste a very good pizza while walking around instead of while seated."
The Konopizza comes in a variety of ingredient combinations, including vegetarian and dessert styles. The one pictured is the Kapriccio, made with mushrooms, spicy salami, ham, green and black olives, capers, and oregano.

Although Konopizza has yet to cross the Atlantic they have European locations from Moscow to Madrid and even one in Kuwait City.

These cone-shaped pizzas looked a little strange to me at first, but in the process of reading (and now writing) about them, I'm starting to think they could be pretty handy. In college I adopted the 'fold-over' pizza eating technique to cut down on the messiness and this franchise seems to have simply formalized that approach.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Blimpie's new whole grain bread

In response to the new USDA food pyramid, which recommends three servings of whole-grain daily, Blimpie is introducing a new whole grain bread in January. The bread, developed by General Mills exclusively for Blimpie, has one full serving of whole grain (16.8) in the Blimpie 6-inch sub size.

QSR writes: "According to the Whole-Grains Council, sales of whole-grain bread have increased 18 percent since the new dietary guidelines were introduced a year ago. Blimpie claims to be the first national chain in the quick-service sandwich category to switch to whole-grain wheat bread."

Man accused of fast food scam

This fast food scam caught my attention not because of its similarity to extortion scams like the 'Wendy's chili finger' incident, but because the suspect wasn't out for money, just free food....apparently a lot of it. The alleged scammer weighs 500 pounds.

George Jolicoeur, 33, was arrested yesterday in Siminole County, Florida on "suspicion of scamming fast-food restaurants out of large amounts of milk shakes and tacos," according to WKMG-TV. Evidently, Jolicoeur would call or visit restaurants posing as a police officer or firefighter and ask for a refund saying there was hair in his food.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fast food flight mile cups a hot ticket

If you're up to it, a bit of dumpster diving behind a Wendy's restaurant could yield some free air travel. A promotional partnership between Wendy's and AirTran airlines has resulted in people doing just that. One pair collected 330 cups behind two Manhattan Wendy's which was more than enough for 2 free flights. The cups (for 20- or 32-ounce soft-drinks) have coupons on the side for frequent flyer miles with AirTrans. 64 coupons equals a free flight anywhere AirTran flies. Predictably the cup coupons can now be found for sale on ebay. [USA Today]


Wendy's abandons healthy options

In a move that casts doubt on the future of healthy fast food, Wendy's has pulled the fruit salad from the menu at all their North American stores. The move is a result of disappointing sales. But I don't think this comes as a surprise to Wendy's or anyone else for that matter: the American consumer has spoken and enormous servings with high calorie and fat content is what sells. The fast food companies had to prove it though. I'm betting they new sales of healthy items would be poor, but after a period of poor sales they can say they tried. Wendy's fruit cup was available for 10 months.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Fast food cards everywhere

Plastic gift cards (resembling credit cards) have become very popular with most major retailers in recent years and now that most of the fast food industry has (most only fairly recently) begun to accept credit cards they, too, are taking advantage of their magnetic stripe capabilities.

So far I've discovered these 'convenience cards' at Jack in the Box (Jack CA$H), McDonald's (Arch Card), Burger King, Taco Bueno, Sonic Drive-In, White Castle, and Starbucks. Some of the chains even have special websites for their cards and use the new web addresses in their TV ads, like and

The industry seems to have a lot of confidence in the brand loyalty-building abilities of these cards. McDonald's, for example, is putting 13 million $1 cards out there for free via Southwest Airlines and American Express.

[thanks: McChronicles & MBP]

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BK's Kong-sized burger

One of the many promotional tie-ins for the year's blockbuster film, King Kong, is with Burger King. BK is offering up their largest burger to date to help promote the film. (Although given the expected record breaking box office revenue for Kong, BK may be the bigger winner.) Their "Triple Whopper" is marketed to satisfy your "Kong-Sized" hunger. BK is also offering screensavers, desktops, and icons from the movie on their website. Other King Kong co-promoters include Volkswagen, Kellogg's, Toshiba, Chase, Nestle, the City of New York, and a concession program that will be one of the largest ever for Coca-Cola.

The Triple Whopper has a whopping 1,320 calories and 88 grams of fat. The featured beverage is a special King Kong (drum roll please) chocolate-banana milkshakes.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Do you take your Coke 'Blak'?

Coke BlakCoke has announced a new coffee-infused soft drink for 2006. Coca-Cola Blak is Classic Coke with coffee extracts added. It will be a 'mid-calorie' drink like C2. No word yet on if Coke Blak will be picked up by the fast food industry, but clearly that will depend on it's reception in America. It has been available in France since January. Cool bottle though, eh?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pizza for breakfast

I've been surprised in the past with what the fast food chefs could come up with to provide their chain with a breakfast menu, and after Subway and Chick-fil-a pulled it off I knew anything was possible.

Now it's the pizza guys' turn. Papa Johns and Happy Joe's have both tested 'speciality' breakfast items. Happy Joe's is testing their Omelet Pizza in four sizes. Papa John's has tested pizza omelets and pastry pies (shown), with the pastry pies being more popular.

Interestingly, Domino's tried the breakfast food delivery thing 20 years ago and decided the world wasn't ready (or awake) yet. But rest assured if America starts answering their doors in their bathrobes at 6am to welcome a pizza omelet into their home, Domino's will be back in the game.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Disney's 'McDownload' invention

A patent researcher at New Scientist magazine discovered a patent by Disney that outlines a plan to slowly download entertainment content to customers' portable devices while they eat their fast food.

In other words, while you're eating your Whopper (or waiting for it in the drive-thru) your wireless enabled device (laptop, PSP, cellphone, etc) could be downloading the latest Disney movie... but only part of it.

That's the key, with each visit to the fast food restaurant your device downloads only a portion of the entertainment file so that you're encouraged to come back for the rest.

Sounds to me like an electronic Happy Meal for mom. Johnny gets a little race car and mommy gets the first half of last night's Desperate Housewives.

There's no word yet on if Disney has any interested restaurants or specific plans for their idea; it's just a patent so far.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Subway sorry for any offense to Kansas

Joe and Karen Davis stopped in for a bite at a Subway in Reedsport, Oregon back in October. They apparently had no complaints about the food, but a sign in the window announcing a salmon sandwich apparently did.

The sign read: "Another reason you're lucky not to live in Kansas."

You see, Joe and Karen are from Topeka, Kansas. They complained to Subway, and today Subway apologized to anyone in Kansas who might have gone abroad, seen the sign, and been offended.

"We are fortunate to have friends in the franchisees we have in Kansas and would not do anything to offend them," their statement said.

The sign has been pulled from all Subway locations serving the salmon sandwich. (Kansas, by the way, was not one of them.) [AP]

Some Kansas Subway franchisees are also complaining that the marketing gaff is costing them money. [KC Star]


KFC-China bigger than McDonald's-US?

Yum! Brands, parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut & Taco Bell, told Wall Street analysts today that KFC is growing so fast in China that it is positioned to be “as big as McDonald’s [in the US] some day."

This is assuming, of course, that there continues to be avian-flu-free chickens in China!


Monday, December 05, 2005

Church's Chicken unveils new website

Church's Chicken has a new website design ( that is stated to be the result of "a recent shift in ownership" that has "helped precipitate a renewed focus on marketing." The site features animation and sound effects and your visit is guided by 2 characters: "S" and "O", representing Spicy chicken and Original chicken. With their plastic bodysuits, they look like two guys from the blue man group, except one of them is red.

Farnaz Wallace, Church’s Chicken chief marketing officer, says "the site perfectly reflects Church’s brand personality which is fun, cool, irreverent, authentic and unique.”

The site is also aimed at potential franchisees. “The Web site allows potential franchisees to learn about the brand quickly while having fun,” said Wallace.

Friday, December 02, 2005

BK tries value menu

The rest of the fast food big boys have been offering 'value menus' for years, but not Burger King. But now BK is getting around to giving it a try. They're test marketing at least 2 plans in 2 cities: Los Angeles stores are offering 6 items for $1, and in Minneapolis stores are offering similar items for between $.99 and $1.29.

from NRN: "Calls to restaurants in Los Angeles found that $1 products include the Whopper Jr., two tacos, a cheeseburger with barbecue sauce, onion rings, a side salad and fries. In Minneapolis, the Whopper Jr. is priced at $1.29, and mozzarella sticks are offered for the same price."