Thursday, November 20, 2008

CBS News Video: Fast Food Sales Up

According to this CBS News video, we're turning to fast food because of the recession. It saves us money, but is it making us obese?

BK Drops Special Marketing Wallets

So Good food blog has a thorough documentation of a guerilla marketing effort by Burger King.

Evidently Burger King has been dropping wallets (so far in Chicago and Orlando) with cash, a map of area Burger King locations and a message telling the finder that he can also be a keeper.

The message reads: "Attention would-be good samaritan: Don't worry about lost & found. The King wants you to keep this wallet and everything in it."

Read the rest of the story and see more photos at So Good.

Michael Phelps Signs with Subway

Subway, the world's largest submarine sandwich franchise and second largest fast food franchise with 30,000 locations in 87 countries has added a new spokesperson. None other than the man with a record 14 gold medals, Michael Phelps.

Says Subway: "Subway takes pride in being a healthy and active brand - one that can be a regular part of these world class athletes' routines," states Tony Pace, Chief Marketing Officer of the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust (SFAFT), which signed the contract with Phelps. "We knew Michael Phelps was a big fan of our sandwiches and we wanted to build on that with him to illustrate that Subway is a brand that can play a role in helping everyone - from elite athletes to weekend joggers - perform at their peak levels and make healthier, smarter choices about food, whatever the activity."

Says gold medalist Michael Phelps: "Subway restaurants have always given me the options that I am looking for - whether that's healthy sandwiches before a big meet or the tasty meatball sub that I treat myself with. I was ready to take my Subway fan-dom to the next level - I really think of Subway as a champion food option."

The first commercials for Subway featuring Michael Phelps will appear in early 2009.

No word on Jared's job security, but it is certainly safe to say that Michael is getting more gold than Jared for his endorsement.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wendy's Gourmet Mushroom Swissburger

Wendy's has introduced their new Gourmet Mushroom Swissburger for a limited time.

It is 1/4 lb. of beef topped with Swiss cheese, sauteed Portabella mushroom blend, hickory smoked bacon, pepercorn sauce, lettuce, and tomato.

And if you're signed up for WendyMail you've received a $1 off coupon for one.

But hey, don't let the mushrooms fool you!! This baby isn't about being a healthy burger.

166% of your daily value of fat, 136% of your daily value of sodium, 205% of your daily value of saturated fat, AND a whopping 4 grams of Trans Fat! It has 1810 calories, 970 from fat and 108 fat grams.

Boy, did we get that wrong! As you can see in the comments below, I was quickly called out for ersatz nutritional data on this burger. I did get my data directly from Wendy's, but am still uncertain about what happened. Some of the figures are 3 times what is now on Wendy's site. One, the Cholesterol, is actually more than what I listed before. I'm inclined to believe that Wendy's corrected their site shortly after I posted the data, but I can't be sure. Mistakes do happen. Thanks to you alert readers for catching the error.

Here's all the corrected nutritional data (as reported by Wendy's):

By the way, the 1.5 grams of Trans Fat is still rather disappointing when everyone else seems to be eliminating Trans Fat altogether.

Japan Quarter Pounder Store

The "Quarter Pounder Stores" that have popped up in Japan have been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere lately.

The black and red generic stores carry no iconic McDonald's arches are any other branding and have only 2 items on the menu, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal and the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal (both are served with French Fries and Coke or Coffee).

So what's the story on these 2 restaurants?

McDonald's has been in Japan for quite some time, of course, but their iconic Quarter Pounder with Cheese has never made it on to the menu in Japan. These 2 Quarter Pounder Stores serve as a promotional marketing announcement of the Quarter Pounder's introduction into Japan's fast food market.

The restaurants gave away Quarter Pounder t-shirts on the day they opened (November 1) and are running a promotion on their website ( for a group of 20 people to win a trip to and tour of the US.

I've received an e-mail from Junichi Kawaminami of McDonald's Japan Corporate Relations. He writes:
"McDonald's Japan is running a teaser promotion before a new product launch which is to be announced in the not too distant future in Japan. The Quarter Pounder store is a part of the promotion and is designed in a black and red colors with chic black furniture generating a fashionable atmosphere with no McDonald's logos.

"The Quarter Poudner store is run by the Quarter Pounder Secretariat Office for a limited period of time during the promotion. It is not a new restaurant concept or a new brand design that McDonald's is examining or testing.

"Two Quarter Pounder stores were opened in downtown Tokyo, Omotesand and Shibuya East stores at 11:00 AM of November 1. They serve two meal menus only:
  • Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal: 500 yen - promotional price (with French Fries and Coke or Coffee)
  • Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal: 600 yen promotional price (with French Fries and Coke or Coffee)
"On November 1st, 2nd and 3rd, first 1000 customers received "Quarter Pounder" T-shirts as grand opening gifts and 500 people lined up at the Omotesando stores afer the opening time. The Quarter Pounder Secretariat Office is running a sweepstake to win US Tour for 10 pairs/20 people to win, promoted at the stores and on its official web site.

"With this promotion, the Quarter Pounder Secretariat Office is inviting the Japanese consumers to try the authentic hamburger, Quarter Pounder, originated in the US of great taste with juicy quality beef, establishing high awareness in Japan through the media and words of mouth among those with arousing curiosity.
Neil Duckett has some great photos of the interior of the store at his blog.
The Quarter Pounder Store story also broke on A Hamburger Today, Fast Food Fever! and McChronicles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

IHOP, Syrup and Salmonella

On a recent visit to The International House of Pancakes (IHOP), I was confused when our waitress brought the maple syrup for our pancakes in 2 Styrofoam soup bowls.

As you may know, the 4 flavored syrups are always on the table at IHOP, but the warm, 'maple' syrup is brought with your meal (if it includes pancakes).

Normally, of course, the warm maple syrup is brought to the table in small, clear, glass containers with a handle and a spout.

So as our waitress set the Styrofoam bowls (dangerously full of syrup) on the table, I had to ask. Actually, I assumed it would have something to do with a deliquent dishwasher and an excessive number of broken or dirty dispensers.

But no, her response was... "oh yeah, it's 'cause of that salmonella outbreak up in Oklahoma."

I knew better than to press for more details. I'd do a little research later.

It turns out the IHOP syrup salmonella problem was here in Texas (not up in Oklahoma).

An IHOP in Amarillo has had 3 outbreaks of Salmonella recently and the latest (in October) was found to be related to the hot water bath the syrup dispensers received.

3 people were hospitalized and 34 were infected.

You can read more at the Amarillo Globe-News.

The article mentions that the warm water bath practice would be stopped at both this owners Amarillo IHOP locations, but evidently other IHOPs, as far away as Fort Worth, are also changing their procedures.

McNuggets 25th Anniversary & Fan Site

McDonald's has launched a fan-site for Chicken McNuggets today (11/18/08) at in celebration of the McNugget's 25th anniversary.

The Nuggnuts fansite links to the McNuggets Facebook site, a Nuggnut Hall of Fame and the Nuggnut Pledge, which reads:
I, [state your name], do solemnly swear, that I am totally into Chicken McNuggets. I pledge to eat lots of McNuggets, especially when hungry, in any way I see fit. I understand that it's perfectly cool to write songs about McNuggets, to take pictures of ones that look like famous people, and to videotape them dancing. I promise to tell anyone who will listen about my passion for dipping, popping, dunking, sharing, sneaking and generally just bowing down in awe to original tender, juicy white meat Chicken McNuggets, even if it makes me sound like a paid spokesperson. Which is a job I would actually love. Because I'm a Nuggnut, and proud of it. Sincerely, [your name again].
“McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets have a vocal and enthusiastic fan base,” said Marta Fearon, director of marketing for McDonald’s USA. “We knew there was no better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Chicken McNuggets than by embracing these fans and inviting them to share their passion with others.”

There's been much guessing over the years about what is really in a Chicken McNugget... it is truly considered the mystery meat of fast food.

To counter this perception, McDonald's has gone out of their way to reassure us all that the McNugget is a pure and healthy product by sending their Moms' Quality Correspondents to experience and report on the McNuggets trip "from farm to Happy Meal."

I think you should decide for yourself and even if you can't follow the chicken from the farm to the restaurant, you can at least know what's in the final product. Excluding natural and artificial flavoring components (which are considered trade secrets!) here are the rest of the indrediants in a Chicken McNugget (as supplied by McDonald's):

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent).

Hey, Chicken is listed first! And they must use a lot of it since McDonald's is anxious to point out that, "Starting in December, McDonald’s will be featured on the National Chicken Council’s consumer Web site,, as part of a “Showcase of Chicken” feature on McDonald's."

McDonald's has supplied Fast Food News with this McNuggets Timeline:
  • 1983 McDonald's introduces Chicken McNuggets to its national menu. The national launch is supported by the "McNugget Mania" advertising campaign.
  • 1984 - Chicken McNuggets are introduced in Canada, Japan, France, and Germany.
  • 1986 - McNuggets Shanghai, accompanied by a pair of chopsticks, a fortune cookie and a choice of sweet and sour, teriyaki or hot mustard sauce, was introduced to the menu as a temporary promotional item.
  • 1988 - McDonald’s introduces the promotional product Fiesta McNuggets, which came with a collective coin.
  • 2003 - McDonald's switches to Chicken McNuggets made with all white meat to enhance the quality and flavor of the popular menu item.
  • 2008 - McDonald's celebrates the 25th anniversary of Chicken McNuggets by launching an online fan community for McNuggets enthusiasts at

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chick-fil-a 2009 Cow Calendar Available

The latest annual Chick-fil-a calendar featuring the "Eat Mor Chikin'" cows is now available at your local Chick-fil-a.

The 2009 version has a police theme called "Bovines in Blue."

The 2009 calendar features monthly portrayals of notorious Bovines in Blue who have taken burger enforcement into their own hooves in an attempt to save their fellow cows’ hides. Highlights include Charsky & Hoof breaking up burger rings and foiling beef extortion plots; the ever-resourceful MooGyver who has guided countless villains toward the ways of chicken-eating; a Grill Street Blues officer questioning a burger-eating criminal; and BSI: Bovine Special Investigators reconstructing elaborate lunch scenes using fork trajectories, ketchup splatter patterns and the latest in sesame seed analysis.

The calendar costs $6.

“The Chick-fil-A Calendar is an entertaining way to leverage two of our strongest qualities: the ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ Cows and our food,” said Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s senior vice president of marketing. “Many of our customers buy the calendars year after year just for the comical Cow illustrations, but in these tough economic times, the $30 worth of food offers also make the calendar a valuable gift option. Combine it with a Chick-fil-A gift card and the Bovines in Blue will love you!”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

China's Fast Food Wars (CNN Video)

CNN has an interesting story on the fast food war going on in China.

Essentially, US chains are popping up everywhere in China, but so is local competition.

Video Link: China's Fast Food Wars

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crazy Chicken Controversy by Tyson

Some fast food chains are starting to promote healthier, organic foods. Like Organic-To-Go and Chipotle.

The reason for making the switch is so that the fast food restaurant can make certain claims like "organic lettuce", "antibiotic-free chicken", etc., to attract the health-conscious consumer.

But wait, "Antibiotic-free Chicken" -- what if that labeling is meaningless?

Tyson, the largest US chicken supplier, is suing the USDA for the right to label some of its chicken "antibiotic free" even though the chicken has been injected with antibiotics... before it is born! Wow!

Here's more from Treehugger:
In a baffling case of doublespeak, the world’s largest meat processing company Tyson Foods has publicly admitted to injecting chickens with antibiotics—but it’s suing the US Department of Agriculture in order to keep the Antibiotic-Free label anyway. And how does Tyson plan on getting around the fact that the label is a bold-faced lie? By manipulating legal jargon of course! Tyson is claiming that since its chickens are merely injected with antibiotics before they hatch, they’re not really ‘raised’ with antibiotics.

Dunkin' Donuts Has Holiday Items

If you've been in any store since Halloween (heck, even before Halloween) you've certainly noticed that the "Holidays" are here. You may not being thinking too much about your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Winter Break plans yet, but retailers absolutely are!

And in our little fast food world, the "Holiday" items are rolling in! So far, Jack in the Box and Chick-fil-a have special Holiday shakes.

But shakes don't fulfill our Holiday cravings in the morning.... Dunkin' Donuts to the rescue!

Dunkin' Donuts has a bunch of things for us, including seasonal menu items, gifts and special deals.

Dunkin's ever-expanding and highly acclaimed coffee offerings adds the Mocha Spice Latte (shown above, over some Holiday Munchkins). The Mocha Spice Latte combines cinnamon and French Vanilla flavors topped with a swirl of Mocha Swirl syrup and the traditional recipe of fresh espresso, steaming milk and whipped cream. (And for those of you spending the winter months in warmer climates the Mocha Spice Latte is available iced, too.)

As mentioned and shown above, Dunkin' Donuts and Munchkins are available now with festive holiday-themed decorations and icing. Now you can put the office in a festive, holiday mood when you pick up the office donuts in the morning!

Another new item is the brownie topped with chocolate icing, white chocolate shavings and chocolate drizzle.

The new Holiday Dunkin' Donuts deal: you can purchase a bagel with cream cheese for just 99 cents when you order a medium or larger hot coffee.

If you're looking for a holiday gift for a coffee lover (without blowing the lid off of your budget), Dunkin' Donuts has several gifts available in participating stores and at, including the Dunkin' Donuts' Coffee Lover's Gift Set (over the Munchkins in the photo above), which includes two pounds of Dunkin's Original Blend coffee and two thermal travel mugs, for $19.99.

The seasonal menu items, flavors, and deals will be available today (November 12) through December 29, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

McDonald's: Savings Seekers Send Sales Soaring

McDonald's same-store sales* went up 8.2% in October.

Part of this amazing increase in sales can be attributed to cash-strapped families and individuals who are turning to McDonald's Dollar Menu during trying economic times.

McDonald's total sales rose 5.4 percent, 9.8 percent in Europe and 11.5 percent in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region because of strong demand in Australia.

*FYI: Same-store sales are a key indicator of restaurant performance since they measure growth at existing locations rather than newly opened ones.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Deep Cleaning the Grill at McDonald's

The LiveJournal Community McDonald's Talk is often an interesting insight into the fast food lives of McDonald's employees around the world.

Recently I paid a visit and read about cleaning the inside of a grill at a McDonald's in Huntsville, Alabama.

McDonald's Talk contributor superfly915 took some before and after photos of his work and wrote:
"Over the last few days, I have cleaned the inside of the grill. I doubt that this has ever been done before at my store (and if it has, it's been a really long time)."
Here's a 'before and after' cleaning comparison:

It certainly looks like a big job and it looks like Superfly put his heart into it and did a great job.

I've lightened and tried to sharpen some more of the photos Superfly took (below) to show you just how bad this grill got before he got in there and scooped and scrubbed out all that grease.

Kudos to Superfly for getting this done, but maybe his manager might want to consider getting this done sooner next time, before it gets so gross.

Silly me, but I thought McDonald's did a thorough cleaning every night after closing that would keep something from getting this bad.

And here's a final look at Superfly's finished product... a clean McDonald's grill!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bad Economy Helps Fast Food Accuracy

It might not be the first (or last) effect you'd think of the poor US economy having on our lives, but evidently one result is an increase in fast food order accuracy.

An interesting article in USA Today points out that with more people desperate for jobs, any jobs, fast food chains are finding it easier to hire employees that speak fluent English. And fluent English speakers are key to getting your order right at a fast food restaurant.

The article quotes the CEO of CKE Restaurants (the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr.):
"It's a no-brainer. Hiring people who are fluent in English has always been something we've wanted to do. Now we can."
Fast food researcher Bob Sandleman says:
"When times are tough, people are willing to take jobs for which they're over-qualified."
Order accuracy is incredibly important to the fast food industry, it keeps people coming back. It is an important component of QSR's annual Best Drive-Thru list.

Jack's Holiday Shakes

Looks like it's time for those special fast food holiday shakes!

We wrote about Chick-fil-a's Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake last week.

Now Jack in the Box has announced that their Egg Nog and Pumpkin Shakes are back for the holidays, too.

They have returned each year since their introductions in 2000 and 2004 respectively.
"Our Egg Nog and Pumpkin Pie shakes have become real signs of the season for many of our guests,” said Teka O’Rourke, director of menu marketing and promotions for Jack in the Box Inc. “They're a delicious way to get into the holiday spirit."
They'll be available for a limited time, of course, and priced at $2.49 for the 16 oz size and $2.99 for the 24 oz size.

The 16 oz Egg Nog Shake has 730 calories, 320 of them from fat. But hey, it's the holidays and that New Year's resolution is months away! Go for the 24 oz Egg Nog Shake with 1450 calories, 610 calories from fat, 68 grams of fat (105% of the daily recommended amount) and 24 grams of saturated fat (225% of the daily recommended amount)!! Unfortunately you'll be getting 3 grams of Trans Fat with that, too. Ho Ho Ho!!

Chick-fil-a's NASA Kid's Meal

Chick-fil-a has teamed up with NASA's Kennedy Space Center for their latest Kid's Meal premium.

It's part of Chick-fil-a's longstanding "Growing Kids Inside and Out" program that aims to educate and inspire their younger customers with the prizes they put in their Kid's Meals.

Each Kid's Meal will contain one of the 4 parts shown above to create a miniature version of the Space Station.

The piece I've got, the Command Center (second from right in the picture), has 8 double sided round cards (examples below) with facts about NASA's Constellation program, the program that follows the Space Shuttle. With facts about planned trips to the Moon and Mars.

“We hope that the Kennedy Space Center premiums teach our youngest customers about space and inspire their curiosity beyond their immediate community,” said Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s senior vice president of marketing. “Through our Chick-fil-A Kid’s Meal Program, local Family Night events in the restaurants and outreach to schools and children’s groups in our communities, we aim to have a positive impact on the lives of children both developmentally and educationally.”

Chick-fil-a also wants you to remember that Men's Health magazine recently recognized Chick-fil-a as "America's Healthiest Chain Restaurant for Kids." The Chick-fil-a Kids Meal includes a choice of Chick-fil-a Nuggets or Chick-n-Strips and a variety of side choices, including Waffle Fries, dessert items.