Bay Area Restaurants Can ‘Buy’ A Retest on a Failed Inspection




Restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area are being given an opportunity, if they fail a health inspection, to buy a second chance to pass. The $191 fee doesn’t assure they’ll pass; it simply gives them the ability to fix their deficiencies and get re-tested.

A report in Restaurant Business said local health inspectors believe the program, which allows a re-inspect within 30 days of a failed inspection, will encourage operators to fix problems quickly, and encourage a dialog that will help them alter standard operating procedures at least partly responsible for the failing grade.

Got Wings?


National Chicken Council

More than 110 million individuals in the U.S. are expected to tune in to next Sunday’s Super Bowl, a sports tradition that has, over the past half century, seen other-than-Bowl related activities creep to a crawl from coast to coast. One thing that is sure to speeding up, meanwhile, is viewers’ consumption of chicken wings.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) anticipates wing consumption will be up 6.5% from last year’s 1.3 billion wings to an astonishing 1.33 billion. That’s enough bone-bearing poultry pieces to stretch, if laid end to end, around the world nearly three times.

And collectively, they will weigh 166.25 million pounds – 32 times the weight of the NFL’s 32 football teams.

The National Chicken Council estimates that 75% of the wings consumed during the Super Bowl period – which actually kicks off with parties galore on the day before the event – will come from restaurants or foodservice outlets, bars and pizza places and 25% will be sourced from supermarkets and other food retailers. The latter’s wing sales spike during the week leading up to the game. With sales skewing toward households with three or more consumers.

Wherever you get them, says Tom Super, Senior Vice President of communication for the NCC, “that’s a lot of freaking wings!”

It’s Settled: The UK’s Best Chippy Is Kingfisher’s Fish & Chips in Devon


Photo: National Fish and Chip Awards

After seven months of magnifying-glass scrutiny of everything from the fish and chips themselves to responsible sourcing practices, the observations of mystery shoppers, and more, the Kingfisher Fish and Chips shop in Devon has captured top honors at the UK’s National Fish & Chip Awards this week in London.

The judges said the overall enthusiasm of the owners, identified simply as Craig (Maw) and his “partner,” Nikki was a important factor in the decision to declare, as The Mirror newspaper put it, that they had “battered” their competition. It didn’t hurt that, beyond their menu staple (a number of species of them!), they offer whole lobster (at £15), chicken wings, racks of ribs, burgers, and a range of “barista” coffees.

The item photos on their web site make you want to hop on whatever mode of transport you need to get there and… go!

By the way, there’s a video link in the Mirror story recounting the history of fish and chips. It’s a couple of minutes long, and well worth your time.

“Smart” KFC in Beijing Is Not Quite Smart Enough


No one is paying any attention to the “smart” machine at the left of the photo. (Amy Hawkins, The Guardian)

Even in China, where lack of privacy is pretty much taken for granted, KFC is running into some resistance its efforts to employ a machine able to recognize facial characteristics to pre-select food choices for customers before they have a chance to choose for themselves.

The Guardian’s Amy Hawkins “test-drove” the machine at a KFC in Beijing’s financial district. Though the store was busy, she was the only customer interested in ordering through the machine, which was created by Baidu, the search engine company often called “China’s Google.”

Maybe the machine is too closely oriented to Oriental features to be able to make sense of Amy’s Western ones. Maybe that’s why it was a decade off on her age. Maybe that had something to do with why she was offered the same thing – a crispy chicken hamburger – as the 20-something male who demonstrated the machine to her.

If you don’t like the machine’s recommendation, you can click through an assortment of other food options until you find what you want, they pay for your order through your smart phone and pick up your food at the counter.

The device, in what’s being billed as “China’s first smart restaurant,” is going to need to get a good deal smarter if KFC follows through on its plan to install them in the company’s 5,000-plus stores across China.

A press release from Baidu said that “a male customer in his early 20s” would be offered “a set meal of crispy chicken hamburger, roasted chicken wings and [a] coke”, while “a female customer in her 50s” would get a recommendation of “porridge and soybean milk for breakfast.” Fortunately, most Chinese would be too polite to bash the machine’s brain if it offered the “porridge and soybean milk” option to a lady in her 20’s!

Applebee’s, IHOP Join Forces on New Detroit Eatery


DineEquity, the owner of both the Applebee’s and IHOP franchises has agreed to a franchisee’s plan to open a restaurant offering IHOP’s breakfast-oriented menu in the morning and Applebee’s evolving menu – their focus will be more steak-focused – the rest of the day. DineEquity also suggested in a press release that the new place, which will be in General Motors’ Renaissance Center development in Detroit, may feature a bar – a key Applebee’s profit center.

The new facility – construction is due to start in April – will occupy 12,000 sq ft and will seat 300. It will be run by Livonia, MI-based Team Schostak Family Restaurants, a franchisee of Applebee’s, Del Taco and Mod Pizza. This will be Team Schostak’s first project with IHOP.

DineEquity has spend more than $70 million in its attempts to turn around the fortunes of Applebee’s, which, no doubt because it hadn’t innovated or changed – upgraded itself – in any significant way for years – started losing the public’s attention half a decade or so ago. My family (my then-wife and I) went to one fairly regularly for a while when we first moved to Virginia, in 2011, but then… it got boring. We went a couple of more times, and noticed on each occasion that there was less traffic than before. So we weren’t the only ones becoming disappointed/disengaged from the franchise.

One of the most exciting things DineEquity has done as part of its turn-round effort is to install wood fire grills, and spend a lot of time training their cooks to work differently. A big ad campaign – launched last summer in California, where a lot of emphasis was put on wood fire grills being used to give salads “a smokey twist” – is expected to draw former and new customers in.

Hmm, I’ve never had a smokey salad. ‘Might be worth a try; And I’m always up for a wood fire-grilled steak!