Category Archives: Fried Foods

“Smart” KFC in Beijing Is Not Quite Smart Enough

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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!

Micky D is giving Canadians, but NOT Americans, waffle fries

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Product tests aren’t for everyone. They are, being tests, put out to small markets, or a small sector of a market, to gauge customer reactions.

Now while Canada is hardly a ‘small market’, McDonald’s sales there – and I’m guessing at this – are probably a tiny fraction of what that company moves through its thousands of U.S. locations. So, what better place than Canada, where people and their tastes are similar to Americans’, but they – the people and their tastes – are just a bit different, to test market something.

Recently, according to AndNowYouKnow.com, a website focused on trends and developments in the produce industry, Micky D has been testing its version of waffle fries in the country north of the U.S.

Chicago-area-based McDonald’s is offering a couple of other potato-based items: The hash brown potato with bacon pieces, and fries flavored with garlic from Gilroy, CA, the U.S.’s garlic growing/processing capital.

It took me years to get around to getting there, and I knew I’d made it from a mile or more out, when that wonderful just-pressed-garlic smell permeated our car, when the windows were just cracked!) Though I didn’t try more than one, lore says that all of the restaurants in this town feature garlic-enhanced dishes in every category, from starters to desserts. The one I was insure did! (Some places barely ask you if you want fresh garlic on your salad: It’s considered to be an ingredient!)

Coming Election Cited For Slower Fast Food Sales

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A growing number of restaurant chain executives says consumer uncertainty about the upcoming election is negatively impacting sales in their stores. Some  chains, according to a recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News, have seen sharp sales drops in recent months.

Among the latest executives to blame the election was Greg Creed, Yum! Brands Inc. CEO. Yum owns and operates KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut stores across the U.S. and, to a lesser degree, abroad.

“It goes without saying that people are trying to decide who to choose and what the impact will be on the economy, and I think people are maybe just hunkering down a little bit,” he said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call last Thursday.

Earlier this summer, The Wendy’s Co. CEO Todd Penegor also cited the uncertainty. “When a consumer is a little uncertain around their future and really trying to figure out what this election cycle really means to them, they’re not as apt to spend as freely as they might have even just a couple of quarters ago,” he said.

In August, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. CFO William Matt struck a similar chord. “What we also see is that there is a little more uncertainty with the consumer,” he said. “We’re not too sure what’s causing that, but our speculation would be, we think there is a rather unusual election going on and we think that unusual election is causing some uncertainty.”

Well, we (at FoodTradeTrends.com) know something else that is pulling fast-feeders sales down: The growing shifts, among consumers, for healthier fare, for organic foods, and for more nutritious foods.

We’ve reported on this before – particularly on how Millennials are opting for healthier foods and for eating at home as many as six, seven nights per week – and we will be reporting on it more in coming weeks.

We’ll also be watching restaurant sales, to see if they do go up after the election – regardless of who wins!

 

Taco Bell’s Menu ‘Among Healthiest’ Of Fast Food Chains

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Taco Bell has subtly become one of the healthiest fast-food chains, Business Insider has reported.

The shift, from a chain traditionally known for fried, cheesy specialties to which the term “healthy” was never attached, has been accomplished over the past four years since the arrival there of dietician and product developer Missy Nelson. Since then, Taco Bell has pledged to cut artificial ingredientsand switch to cage-free eggs. The brand has introduced the lower-calorie Fresco menu, the high-protein Cantina menu, and a vegetarian menu certified by the American Vegetarian Association. Across all offerings, there has been a 15% reduction in sodium.

In the same time frame, the taco chain has also premiered the Doritos Locos taco, the waffle taco, and, most recently, the uber-cheesy Quesalupa.

Clearly, nutrition-savvy advances can coexist with products that few would put on their diet plans.

Taco Bell’s game plan for adding healthy options while releasing craveable hits is simple.

“We just really encourage people to customize to however it fits their lifestyle,” Nelson says.

From top to bottom, Taco Bell, especially in its online and mobile ordering platforms, has been subtly organized to promote this sense of choice — whether to pig out or to eat healthy.

Not eating meat? Click “Vegetarian” to see all the veggie and vegan options. Want to cut calories? Simply hit the “make it Fresco” button to cut cheese, rice, and sour cream and add pico de gallo.

“It’s one click and it automatically does it for you,” Nelson says of the Fresco option. “Now we’re seeing a huge increase in Fresco-style orders through our mobile ordering.”

Then comes the endless options to customize.

It’s a system that can be used to create a monster burrito, filled with bacon, potatoes, and spicy ranch. But it can also be used to shave some calories and fat off your meal. And no matter what you order, it’s equally easy to figure out the nutritional information with the customizable nutrition calculator.

Nelson also says tiny details, such as the font style and the phrasing on the online list of ingredients, have been tweaked to make it easier for customers to read and understand the menu.

By positioning its nutrition strategy around choice, Taco Bell gets to keep less-than-healthy options on the menu. It also frees the chain of the need to directly compete with health-obsessed fast-casual chains like Chipotle when it comes to nutrition.

“Us touting ourselves as a health halo — it’s not authentic and it’s not real,” Taco Bell spokesman Alec Boyle says.

Instead of running ad campaigns focused on health and freshness, the company prefers to make nutritional information available to those who want to make healthier choices. That ranges from providing online FAQs for customers searching for the best way to eat healthy at Taco Bell to having more in-depth conversations with “influencers” who are interested in the topic.

Nelson has led the chain in making some changes that affect the entire menu, such as the move toward cutting sodium and simplifying ingredients.

Overall, however, the onus at Taco Bell is on customers to be healthy. The fast-food chain has provided taco lovers with surprisingly useful nutrition tools — now, they just have to use them.

Less Spuds, Less Days, Keeps Oncologists Away

 

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A recent Harvard study has shown that high consumption of potatoes – as few as four servings a week – might expose you to risks of higher blood pressure. Eating a single serving of spuds per month could, the study says, significantly lower your high blood pressure risk.

And it not just the consumption of potatoes that counts: It’s how they are prepared. Baked, boiled and mashed potatoes are the ‘least risky’, exposing you to ‘only’ an 11% greater risk of high blood pressure, but eating spuds that have been fried raises your HBP risk 17%. Oddly, potato chips, which usually are either fried or baked, don’t seem to affect your blood pressure, even though the extra fat they contain does present other health issues.

The study was led by Dr. Lea Borgi, of the renal division at Boston’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital. She and her colleagues tracked the potato consumption of more than 187,000 men and women who had participated in three studies over a period of 20 years. During each of those studies, participants tracked their consumption of various foods on questionnaires. When the studies began, none of the participants were found to have high blood pressure – but some could, of course, have developed it for other reasons during the time they were diet-monitoring.

At least one dietitian not involved with the new study – Samantha Heller, a senior clinician at New York City’s New York Medical Center – has said potatoes may be less to blame than are the assorted things people heap on potatoes. Things such as butter (which is high in fat), or catsup (high in sugar), and, among other things, bacon bits (high it sodium as well as fat).

A far healthier alternative topping than most, my favorite, is a sprinkle of olive oil topped by however much cumin you’re comfortable with. Cumin is said to aid in digestion, improve immunity and treat piles,insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthmabronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer, according to the website organicfacts.com.

HealthDay quoted Dr. Borgi as saying potatoes have a higher glycemic index, which measures how carbohydrates raise blood sugar, than most other vegetables, and a high glycemic index could help explain her study’s findings.

Borgi pointed out that this study didn’t prove potatoes cause high blood pressure, only that they seem to be associated with an increased risk. Nevertheless, she and her team suggested that replacing one serving a day of potatoes with a non-starchy vegetable might lower the risk of high blood pressure.

Because of their high potassium content, potatoes have recently been included as vegetables in the U.S. government’s healthy meals program, the researchers noted.

But the inclusion of potatoes in the U.S. government’s healthy meals program doesn’t mean that, despite warnings from nephrologists and dieticians working with kidney patients suggest the latter should be able to consume potatoes like individuals without troubled or diseased kidneys.

The potassium they contain can pose a risk for kidney disease sufferers, because they need to carefully control their potassium levels, and eating potatoes – unless they have been soaked for some time in water that will leach out that mineral – is something they should avoid doing, more than a tiny bit, anyway.

Potatoes have been a staple in human diets for centuries, long before high blood pressure was the problem it is today.

Heller noted that, “Americans ate, on average, close to 50 pounds of potatoes per person in 2013, the bulk of which came from french fries, As a dietitian, I am not sure I can even classify commercial french fries as potatoes. They have been transformed into sticks of grease, salt, trans fats and who knows what else,” she said.

Borgi added, “Our findings have potentially important public health ramifications, as they don’t support the health benefits of including potatoes in government food programs.”