Monday, December 9, 2013

Fast food nation-states...by The Macaulay Underground & Nico (link round-up 12/9/13)

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I'm trying to write more articles and essays for other websites. At the same time, there are plenty of interesting stories I read that fit broader patterns that I believe deserve attention. 

So instead of writing out longer essays (like my Lily Allen/Juicy J piece) that connect a variety of dots, I'll be posting self-explanatory, themed link round-ups (like last week's collection marijuana law news) more frequently where I see fit. 

Ice served at Guangzhou, China KFC and McDonald's restaurants is dirtier than toilet water
CCTV reporters sent ice cubes from the Chongwenmen outlets of KFC, McDonald's and Kungfu for lab tests. The KFC ice cubes were 20 times the limit, and 13 times higher than water samples taken from toilet bowls. 
The amount of bacterial colonies found at McDonald's and Kungfu ice cubes reached 120 CFU and 900 CFU (colony-forming units) per milliliter respectively, exceeding the national limit of 100 per milliliter.
The CFU level of Kungfu's ice cubes was six times higher than toilet water, CCTV reported.
Domino's sees India becoming second-largest market
Domino's Indian franchises don't offer the same menu we see here in the U.S. — about half the items are specific to the country. The menus are tailored to Indian tastes, emphasizing vegetarian options and boosting spiciness. 
For instance, instead of a packet of Parmesan cheese, pizzas come with an "oregano spice mix" that has a dash of garlic and chili peppers. Recent additions include a Lebanese roll — a spicy roll with peas and cheese — and Taco Indiana — a folded and stuffed pizza crust that one American reviewer says is many things, but is "not a taco." 
Doyle says some of those ideas have spread to Britain. 
"There are pizzas from India that are now being sold in the U.K., like paneer pizza, chicken tikka masala pizza and keema do pyaaza pizza," he tells the Economic Times. "The crust, the sauce and the cheese can be the same everywhere, but the topping, which is where a lot of flavor comes from, varies and can easily be localized."
How the Japanese pioneered the energy drink market
It took a while for this sort of stimulation in a can to catch on in America. There was cocaine in Coca-Cola at one point, but that didn’t last long. In 1949, a chemist from Chicago invented Dr. Enuf, a caffeinated soft drink made with vitamins. Early advertisements called his drink “the answer to a housewife’s prayer, the bosom companion of a tired farmer or businessman and a shift into high gear for young Johnny or Mary.” (Although it never sold very well, the beverage still exists.) In the 1980s, other soda brands tried in vain to muscle in on coffee’s turf: Jolt Cola promised “all the sugar and twice the caffeine”; Coke started pushing “Coca-Cola in the morning”; and Pepsi introduced the short-lived breakfast product “Pepsi A.M.” 
Meanwhile, Japanese energy drinks made their way from Asia to Europe. Dietrich Mateschitz, the international marketing director for an Austrian company that sold bathroom products, discovered the supercharging tonics while on a business trip to Bangkok. In 1984, he quit his job to partner up with the Thai manufacturer of a beverage made with caffeine and taurine called Krating Daeng, and three years later he debuted a carbonated version of the same in his home country under the Red Bull label.
Pepsi and Coca-Cola using biotech companies to test new drinks
PepsiCo, in collaboration with San Diego-based biotech firm Senomyx, is in the late stages of developing a "taste modifier" that would essentially fool taste buds into thinking they are getting more sugar than delivered. The ingredient, which is called "S617" and still requires regulatory approval, would theoretically allow for PepsiCo to lower the amount of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in full-calorie beverages such as regular Pepsi, while keeping the same sweet cola taste. 
Coca-Cola, meanwhile, continues to experiment with steviol glycosides, which are the sweet, calorie-free extracts from South American stevia plants. The first cola version, called Coca-Cola Life, was launched in Argentina in the summer. In the U.S., the company is examining results from a recent test market of stevia-infused line extensions Sprite Select and Fanta Select.
U.S. fast-food workers protest for better pay
That's the message that thousands of fast-food workers rallying Thursday in about 100 U.S. cities — from Oakland to Memphis to Washington, D.C. — are trying to get across. A living wage in big cities is closer to $14 an hour, and it jumps to about $20 an hour for an adult supporting a child.

The protests are part of a growing campaign backed by a coalition of advocacy groups, religious organizations and union organizers aimed at raising fast-food wages to $15 an hour.

But not everyone agrees that raising the federal minimum wage will fix the problems of fast-food workers struggling to make ends meet. "I would oppose raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour," says Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute.

Such a hike in wages would lead to higher prices at the fast-food counter for all of us, Strain says, and employers would hold back on hiring. In addition, fast-food chains might replace people with new automated technology, which could be cheaper over time, he says.
Applebee's will install 100,000 Intel-backed tablets next year
When I wrote about the Chili’s deal, several servers reached out to me expressing concern that tabletop tablets would be a threat to their jobs. Suri admits that with technology like his tablets, such concern will always be there. E la Carte stays agnostic about how restaurants choose to use its systems, the company says, and Applebee’s insists that it won’t downsize staff after this massive rollout is completed.

“Very clearly, our intention is not to replace servers, who provide a personal connection that is invaluable in our restaurants and to our ‘See You Tomorrow’ experience,” Archer says. “This is about building on to the experience for the guest, not saving on labor.”

Companies like Ziosk and E la Carte argue that their systems are actually a net benefit for waitstaff who often receive higher tips from diners paying over the tablet. Right now, both Chili’s and Applebee’s have chosen systems that don’t allow you to order your meal over the device but only put in requests for additional drinks and dessert.

As diners become acclimated to these systems, however, the use cases will increase to include video streaming and social media interaction. When tablets become the norm at restaurants, users may start complaining that they’re being held back by being able to place a drink order but not their entrees.
Macaulay Culkin presents...The Pizza Underground?

...The recovering music nerd in me feels obliged to point out that the Jackson Browne-penned "These Days" and recently-departed Lou Reed's "Take A Walk On The Wild Side" aren't even Velvet Underground songs - but I'll let the music critics squabble over this slice of celebrity novelty.

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