Tuesday, February 28, 2006

BK's value menu is back

As we reported late last year, Burger King has been test marketing its first value menu since 2003 and is now rolling it out nationwide. The value menu has 10 items ranging in price from $1 to $1.39.

The 7 items priced at $1 are Whopper Jrs., four-piece chicken tenders, small fries or onion rings, side salads, 16-ounce soft drinks and apple pies.

BK had trouble with their value menu from '99 to '03 when people stopped buying their more expensive and profitable menu items. But with well established discount menus at Wendy's and McDonald's they really don't have a choice.

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Prime rib sandwich from Quizno's

Quizno's is now serving a Prime Rib Sandwich on their trademark toasted bun. It's said to be "thinly-sliced prime rib with melted mozzarella cheese, sauteed onions and mild peppercorn sauce." Quizno's sandwich is shown on the left with the "double portion of meat" option.

I've not had Quizno's prime rib sandwich, but I did have a prime sandwich not long ago at Mustache Pete's in Cambria, CA. (Both the restaurant and the town are definitely worth a visit by the way.) And I can tell you that there is no way that Quizno's comes close to Mustache Pete's (pictured at right). What an incredible sandwich... and none of this "thinly-sliced" pieces stuff; Pete's is a slab-thick slice of heaven!

Arby's touts 'natural' chicken

Arby's announced today that they'll be serving '100% all-natural chicken' in an effort to serve "chicken that truly tastes like chicken" with "the first and only complete product line made with all-natural chicken" in the fast food industry. They will promote their 'natural chicken' line with TV ads featuring comedienne Joan Rivers and wrestler Hulk Hogan.

In their press release, Arby's uses the following line to prove its chicken is more natural than its competitors: "Other leading fast food companies offer chicken breast sandwiches with up to 29.3 percent of solutions made of various elements including water, seasoning (salt, spices and spice extract), oil, modified food starch, sodium phosphates." That list of ingredients is lifted exactly from McDonald's ingredients listing for their chicken breast fillet.

But Arby's never explicitly states that their chicken is completely free of these other ingredients other than describing it as "100% all-natural chicken." I wasn't convinced so I referred to Arby's own ingredients listing and found this: "Arby's Natural Chicken Tenders: Seasoned with salt, hydrolyzed corn and soy protein, flavor contains less than 2% (autolyzed yeast extract, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, enzyme modified egg yolk, thiamine hydrochloride)."

That doesn't sound like 100% all-natural chicken to me!

For the sake of comparison, I've listed the ingredients for Wendy's and Burger King's chicken below (McDonald's is above, exactly as it appeared in Arby's press release, and by the way, I've got to say that it is 'enlightening' to know that McDonald's chicken is only 70.7% chicken!)

Wendy's: Chicken Breast with Rib Meat: water, modified potato starch, seasoning (salt, flavor, maltodextrin, modified corn starch, contains less than 2% of citric acid, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, chicken broth, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, soy sauce solids. [wheat, soybeans, salt], yeast extract), sodium phosphate.

Burger King: Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Seasoning (Maltodextrin, Salt, Sugar, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Spices, Natural Flavors, Onion Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Chicken Fat, Chicken Powder, Chicken Broth, Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate, Citric Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Dehydrated Garlic, and Artificial Flavors.), Modified Corn Starch, Soybean Oil, Salt, Sodium Phosphates.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Clinton touts healthier fast food

Former President Bill Clinton is encouraging fast food restaurant chains to offer low-fat burgers and fries rather than salads and carrots in their efforts to give kids healthy meals.

Clinton has teamed up with Arkansas Governor Huckabee to battle childhood obesity there and they are working with the fast food industry to come up with healthy alternatives. Instead of offering salads to children, the restaurants could offer healthier versions of what kids are already eating, said one of the former President's advisers.

After all the free advertising Clinton gave to the quick service industry, McDonald's in particular, with his proclamation of love for the fast food burger during his presidency, the least they could do is lend him an ear now.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

KFC's 'secret code' TV ad

KFC has been promoting a new TV ad that aired for the first time last night and will run through March 3 during prime time. They want you to watch to ad in order to see the 'secret code' embedded in the ad and get a coupon for a free Buffalo Snacker sandwich. They even encourage you to record the ad so you can play it back.

Relax. Here's the secret code: "Buffalo" Just go to the KFC site and enter it at the bottom of the page. Be warned though, there is no guarantee you'll get the coupon: the website has been really busy and has not even let me register. (And there are only 75,000 coupons available, so it's first come, first served.)

By the way, I agree with Adrants, the TV ad is really bad!


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Automated ordering at Taco Bell/KFC

The appearance of self-serve kiosks and elimination of more low-wage jobs has begun. This photo was taken at a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant in Morrisville, NC.

The self-serve kiosk with an LCD touch-screen is not a supplementary way to order when lines are long at lunchtime, it is the ONLY way to order.

I'm telling you now, it won't be long before we don't interact with a human at all when we buy fast food; in the restaurant or in the drive-thru. What will future generations of kids' first McJob be? Blogging?
[via realtechnews; photo via flickr]

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Will lottery winner endorse fast food fish?

The as yet unidentified winner of the record-sized Powerball lottery has been offered an endorsement deal by fast food fish chain Long John Silver's.

Long John Silver's is offering to make the new lottery winner a spokesperson for their new Buttered Lobster Bites: 'bite-sized pieces of langostino lobster prepared in a buttery breading.' LJS says, "Our customers tell us they crave the taste of lobster, but they don't want to spend $20 to get it." A portable snack box of the Lobster Bites is $2.99.

Wow, who needs a lottery winner, when you've got me blogging like a spokesperson myself... and that's the point, isn't it. Long John's doesn't expect someone who just won $365 million to care about the money they'd get as a spokesperson, they just want the news coverage. Doh! That's what I just gave them!

Of course who knows, maybe the lottery winner will want not only the money, but the long-lasting public exposure and respect that comes with hawking bits of buttery fast food lobster. [press release]

McDonald's now denies allergens

It has been just a week since McDonald's announced that their fries were not gluten free, as they had claimed for years. In those 7 days at least 3 lawsuits have been filed against McDonald's. They have now changed their mind again. McDonald's released a statement today stating that a top allergen expert had tested their fries and deemed them gluten and allergen free.

McDonald's statement:
“We understand the concern that individuals in the Celiac community and others with food allergies may have regarding foods that meet their individual needs. That is why we are eager to provide them with the most factual information we can.

“Scientific evaluation by one of the world’s leading experts on gluten sensitivity and allergenicity, Dr. Steven Taylor of the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program of the University of Nebraska, has confirmed again that our fries are gluten free and allergen free.

“Based on this analysis, we believe the lawsuits filed are without legal merit.”

-Jack Daly, Senior Vice President, McDonald’s Corporation
This back-and-forth by McDonald's is fishy. And if it isn't fishy it is at the very least irresponsible and symptomatic of some serious corporate confusion.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Deconstructing McRib

With McDonald's announcement of McRib's "Farewell Tour" I got the idea that I should do a little McRib research before it disappears forever.

I've since concluded that McRib isn't going anywhere and that the announcement is just a marketing ploy, but I've undertaken my 'experiment' nonetheless.

I've posted the (scary?) photos of my McRib Deconstruction, along with some historical and nutritional information here.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Carl's Jr. ad parodied in film

Carl's Jr.'s (in)famous ad for the Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger featuring Paris Hilton washing a Bentley will be parodied in the upcoming film Date Movie. The movie is full of parodies, much like the Scary Movie films.

Unfortunately for Carl's and their ad agency, I doubt it was taste of the burger or the creativity of the ad that got the screenwriters' attention... just Paris.

The parody of the Carl's ad, actress Sophie Monk does the car washing. You can catch a glimpse of the parody in the trailer for the film.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bush speaks at Wendy's HQ

President Bush promoted his health care plan in a speech at Wendy's headquarters in Dublin, Ohio today. He praised Wendy's for allowing their employees to use the new, controversial 'health savings accounts.' [WLWT-TV]


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fast food ice vs. toilet water

Jasmine Roberts, a 7th grade student at Benito Middle School in Tampa, Florida, examined the amount of bacteria in ice served at fast food restaurants as part of her science fair project. She compared the amount of bacteria in the ice with the amount of bacteria in the toilet water of the same restaurant.
"My hypothesis was that the fast food restaurants’ ice would contain more bacteria that the fast food restaurants’ toilet water."
She was right.

Jasmine tested ice from the self-serve dispensers inside 5 fast food restaurants, as well as ice from drinks served at the drive through. She also collected samples from those restaurants' toilet bowls.

She found that the ice that came from the self-serve machines had more bacteria than the toilet water at 4 of the 5 restaurants. 3 of the 5 cups of ice from the drive-through windows had more bacteria than the toilet water.

When ask if the project will change her fast food ordering habits, Jasmine said, "After this, I definitely don't get ice." [Tampa Bay News]

Monday, February 13, 2006

Now McDonald's admits allergens in fries

Less than a week after admitting that their french fries have a third more trans fat than they had previously reported, McDonald's is now admitting to potential allergens in the fries.

They've added "Contains wheat and milk ingredients" this month to the french fries listing on its Web site.

Evidently, their potato suppliers remove all wheat and dairy proteins, such as gluten, which can cause allergic reactions, but the flavoring agent in the cooking oil is a derivative of wheat and dairy ingredients. So it all comes back to the oil... trans fat, wheat, dairy, gluten... it's all in there!

Calling their fries "gluten free" when they weren't will be upsetting to the many people with gluten allergies including the 2 million Americans with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten.

Update (2/19): Three lawsuits have already been filed against McDonald's following their disclosure: a vegan, a person with celiac disease and a person with a gluten allergy (...all walked into a bar... oh wait, this isn't a joke!) have sued McDonald's.

I'm not a big fan of lawsuits, but these come closer to having merit than the 'obesity lawsuits.' McDonald's should be 'punished' in some fashion for their lies. In a perfect world the market would punish them because people would stop eating at McDonald's because they didn't trust them, but that rationale doesn't seem to work anymore.

But I'm not sure a vegan should win the lottery (so to speak) in a lawsuit against McDonald's over this. Anyway, what self-respecting vegan eats anything from McDonald's anyway, I wouldn't think they'd be a fan of all those chemical additives.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Chick-fil-a's remote drive-thru

A new Chick-fil-a store in Houston has the city's first fully manned, double drive-through. The fascinating feature of this drive-through is the second, or 'remote' lane.

In the 'remote' lane you pull up to the window of a booth that is not part of the main building. There is a person to greet you at this drive-through window, but how does the food get to this booth you ask? The food is transported in a basket on a conveyor belt along the roof from the main restaurant to the booth; the food & drinks are kept upright by a gyroscopic mechanism.

This new Chick-fil-A is huge, with 165 seats inside and patio seating for 32.

An article in the Houston Chronicle also tells of the restaurant's "breathtaking design...bold, sweeping lines and risk-taking use of windows."


Fast food litter tax in Oakland

The Oakland city council has passed a plan to tax fast food restaurants (and some other businesses) for the littering of wrappers and such that originated at their establishment. The money raised will be used by the city to clean up litter around local schools.

The city's main complaint seems to be the 'trails' of fast food wrappers leading from fast food restaurants to local schools.

Mind you, this is not aimed at litter left on the streets by the fast food restaurants themselves...the targeted litter is left by the students (and others) that bought the food, but the restaurants will have to pay.

Maybe some community responsibility lessons for the students would be a better solution.
[more from SJ Mercury News]

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More trans fat in McD fries

McDonald's has increased the amount of trans fat they're reporting for their french fries instead of decreasing it as they promised to do in 2002. They've admited that they've been under-reporting the amount of trans fat in their fries by a third.

McDonald's now reports 8 grams of trans fat in a large order of their fries as opposed to the 6 grams previously reported.

"It makes it harder to trust McDonald's if they suddenly have strikingly different (trans fat) numbers," Michael Jackson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In 2002 McDonald's promised to reduce the amount of trans fat in their fries by half. In 2004 they were successfully sued for not fulfilling this promise and ordered to spend 1.5 million to promote their failure and donate $7 million to the American Heart Association.

Trans fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil in an effort to extend the shelf-life of products such as cooking oils. They are reported to increase levels of 'bad cholesterol' thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.

The six grams of trans fats previously reported by McDonald's was already slightly above the FDA's estimates for the average daily intake of trans fats in the average adult American's diet.

McDonald's french fries are among its products highest in trans fats. The only McDonald's products having more than eight grams of trans fats are its deluxe breakfast with 11 grams and the 10-piece chicken select strips, which has nine grams...at least according to what they're reporting.

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McDonald's unveils nutrition labeling

McDonald's is using the Olympic festivities in Torino as a backdrop to their official unveiling of their global nutrition labeling program. The 26 McD's in the Torino, Italy area are the first in the world to feature McDonald's new product labeling.

The new labels feature a standard nutrition information label and a new icon and bar chart that provides information on a menu item’s nutrition value and how it relates to daily nutrient guidelines. McDonald's says, "the icons represent the five elements that experts agree are most relevant to consumer understanding of nutrition – calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates and salt (sodium)."

In the U.S., restaurants in four test markets currently feature packaging with nutrition information, and the national rollout begins in February 2006 and will continue throughout the year.

I've posted photos of the new Big Mac box in this post, click on them to see full, larger views.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Arby's offers 'crustless' sandwich for kids

Arby's is the first fast food restaurant to introduce sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Their new Kid's Meal menu includes Market Fresh Mini Ham & Cheese and Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches served on honey wheat bread with the crusts cut off.

They're also introducing a healthy option for their Kid's Meals. Mom's can now request a fruit cup with red seedless grapes and diced apples as a side instead of french fries for their child's meal. A great idea. Sure, kid's probably wouldn't order it, but it's usually mom that's doing the ordering anyway.


Super Bowl ads calorie tally

If you ate each of the fast food items advertised during the Super Bowl XL you'd consume 3325 calories, 178 grams of fat, 1665 calories from fat, and 6910 mg of sodium.

That includes Burger King's Whopper (with cheese) at 745 calories, Taco Bell's Crunch Wrap Supreme at 560 calories, and Jack in the Box's Bacon and Cheese Ciabatta Burger at 1140 calories.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Monday, February 06, 2006

BK Whopperettes Super Bowl ad

Burger King's ad during Super Bowl XL featured the 'Whopperettes.' It was essentially a 1-minute musical production featuring dancing hamburger ingredients. Unfortunately, the new-ish Burger King 'King' character, whom I consider pretty darn creepy, was in the ad, too. You can watch the BK Whopperettes ad here.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Olympic specials at McDonald's Japan

McDonald's Japan has introduced some new menu items in celebration of the Winter Olympic games in Torino, Italy.

Tomato-stewed chicken hamburgers, bite-sized cheesy-potato balls, and espresso-flavored shakes will be available in Japan until March 9.

I'd try those cheesy-potato balls. They look interesting. Too bad we don't get special olympic food in the states...at least not yet.


Friday, February 03, 2006


Acronyms aside, it appears that the number 2 burger chain is about to go public. Currently owned by Fort Worth, Texas based Texas Pacific Group (along with Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners), Burger King is planning to offer stock for sale in late February or early March.

Texas Pacific bought BK from the drinks producer Diageo three years ago for $1.2 billion in cash and $300 million in debt.

The cash generated by the IPO could be used to improve existing restaurants and create new menu items in a bid to compete with #1 McDonald's.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Burgerville eliminates trans-fat

The Oregon & Washington burger chain, Burgerville, has annouced they have switched to trans-fat free cooking oil in all of their 39 locations. French fries, halibut, chicken strips and Walla Walla sweet onion rings, will now be prepared with a trans fat free canola oil.

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Crunchwrap back for good

Taco Bell has announced they will bring back their Crunchwrap Supreme and make it a permanent member of their menu.

The Crunchwrap "takes popular Taco Bell flavors and makes them portable by wrapping it with a tortilla, creating a unique hexagon shape, sealed on all sides to avoid spills....a crunchy tostada shell, seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, lettuce, juicy tomatoes and cool sour cream. The product is wrapped in a flour tortilla and grilled to seal in all the flavors for maximum portability."

This could easily be the inspiration for the SNL Taco Time parody.