Category Archives: food

Better eating trend a good economic story too

Empty McDonald's: a good thing?

Empty McDonald’s: a good thing?

I was walking through the Eaton Centre the other day and I couldn’t help but notice how much things have changed over the past few years when it comes to eating options. A new Richtree Natural Market restaurant recently opened in place of an old fast-food court at the southern end of the downtown Toronto shopping mall. That follows the $48 million refurbishment of the northern food court in 2011. In both cases, the respective options have moved decidedly upmarket. While the northern court still houses the likes of A&W and KFC, it also has a number of fancier eateries including gourmet burger and vegan options, while all customers get real plates, glasses and cutlery. Judging from the constant throngs that mob both areas, it’s safe to say that shoppers are generally spending more time and money eating at the mall.

This relates to a story recently sent my way on the “slow death of the microwave.” The author starts his thesis on shaky ground - that microwave sales have fallen 40 per cent since their peak in 2004, and that this means people are eating better - but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make a compelling case by the end of it.

The plateauing of microwave sales could be readily explained by the simple fact that it’s a mature technology. As with all such gadgets and devices, once everyone has one they don’t usually need another one for a while - and indeed, north of 90 per cent of households do have one. But the most telling statistic to back up the author’s claim is the corresponding flattening or small decline in frozen food sales, which has been happening since 2008 after 60 years of solid growth. That’s like if the current flattening of smartphone sales were to be accompanied by a corresponding drop-off in data usage - it’s not happening because the proliferation of the gadget often leads to the explosion of its usage. Such a strong correlation in microwave food consumption is difficult to ignore.

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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in economy, food, mcdonald's


Review: KFC Big Boss is a big mess

big-bossYou kind of have to wonder what took KFC so long to put together its own version of McDonald’s ever-popular Big Mac, but it’s finally here: meet the Big Boss.

In describing this creation, I’m reminded of the famous Big Mac jingle that listed its ingredients musically: “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” In fact, if you remove the beef and replace it with two breaded chicken fillets, the Big Boss is the exact same thing. It doesn’t just look like the Big Mac, it is the Big Mac - but with chicken.

Sadly for my health, a good portion of readers now expect me to routinely try these things on their behalf, so off I went to the local KFC. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 14, 2014 in food, kfc


Keurig’s DRM is doomed in fierce coffee market

keurigWhen you think of the term digital rights management (DRM), ebooks and DVDs generally come to mind. Those little technological locks, protected by law in both the United States and Canada, are what content creators use to prevent people from making copies of their goods.

It’s unusual, then, to see DRM extending to goods that are literally consumed, which is why there’s some hubbub over Keurig doing exactly that with its coffee-making machines. As parent company Green Mountain Coffee Roasters revealed during a recent earnings call, the new Keurig 2.0 machines - available later this year - will lock out unauthorized capsules so that only its own K-cups can be used.

Generic capsules have been on the rise ever since some key patents expired in 2012, a trend Green Mountain hopes to stop in its tracks with DRM. By locking down its machines, the Vermont-based company is looking to bring what it calls “unlicensed” capsule makers into the fold by forcing them to sign licensing agreements. Those fees are, after all, where the company makes its real money since this is a business that is based on the razor-blade model, where the machines are relatively cheap, the refills less so. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 6, 2014 in food


Restaurants fighting reality with cellphone bans

cellphonesA KFC outlet in Australia is engaging in an interesting experiment: it’s banning mobile phone use by customers. The restaurant, in the Sydney suburb of Northmead, is asking visitors to put their devices into a “mobile collection bucket” for the duration of their stay.

Management says it is trying to boost morale and encourage socialization among customers.

“We noticed when our customers come in and have lunch they all look pretty lonely looking at their phones,” manager Bobby Narayan told Australia’s “(This) creates a better atmosphere.”

The move follows on similar bans or experiments by more upscale dining establishments, such as the Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles, which made headlines last year by offering customers a 5-per-cent discount if they left their devices at the door. Abu Ghosh, a restaurant in Israel, is taking that to the extreme with a 50-per-cent discount for the same. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in food, kfc, mobile


Fast food 2.0: apps, robots will change everything

taco-bellComputerworld has a cool story on how mobile apps are changing fast food. By allowing customers to pre-order ahead of time on their phones, big chains are effectively making their whole processes much faster and more efficient.

Taco Bell’s test, currently happening in five Southern California locations, is particularly ingenious in that it doesn’t just allow for pre-ordering, it also charges the user’s credit card, so no transactions are necessary at the restaurant itself. Moreover, the app uses the phone’s GPS to signal the restaurant that the customer is approaching. That way, you can place your order and the preparers will only start work on it when you’re a few minutes away. Talk about just-in-time food.

As the article illustrates, doing this isn’t a big stretch for chains because it is usually just a case of taking what the cashier sees on their register and repurposing it into an app. Whether the order is coming from the front counter or from across town, it makes no difference to the people preparing the food, which is why everyone - including Taco Bell, McDonald’s, KFC, Papa John’s and others - are in the process of developing and testing such systems. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in food, mobile, taco bell


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