Tag Archives: dining in

Critics Slam McD’s Ad, Say They’re NOT Loving It

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It’s one thing – a nice thing, in fact – for McDonald’s to have eliminated artificial preservatives from its Chicken McNuggets, but it’s quite something else, critics say, for the company to imply, as a current TV campaign does, that Mickey D focuses on serving, what “we all want – what’s best for our kids!”

Adding that line to a commercial selling McNuggets has some health advocates crying foul.

“That’s the defining line that sets up the whole ad,” says Emily Mardell, a registered dietitian in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. That and the whole concept of the ad, she says, “is incredibly misleading.”

Using even stronger language, the executive director of Ottawa (Canada)’s Centre for Health Science and Law calls that marketing approach “grossly misleading. Bill Jeffery argues preservatives or no preservatives, deep-fried and salted Chicken McNuggets “simply aren’t a healthy choice for children,” according to a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) report. “What they’re advocating is so far removed from good nutrition, it’s almost kind of laughable,” Jeffery declared.

Still, McDonald’s, says the company is very serious about its campaign to promote its preservative-free McNuggets, which already have no artificial flavors or colors.

The chain started offering its reformed finger food at U.S. and Canadian locations in August.

The move is part of a bigger mission to offer menu items that better “reflect the cares and concerns of the modern day guest,” McDonald’s Canada spokesman Adam Grachnik said in an email to CBC News.

“We are on a journey to be better.”

The journey includes dropping some reportedly questionable ingredients from McNuggets like TBHQ — a preservative used for vegetable oils.

Besides the line, “We all want what’s best for our kids,” the company also promotes the menu item online with the phrase, “Because your family matters.”

But health advocates say eliminating a preservative or two doesn’t change the overall health concerns with fast food.

“It’s not a categorical shift,” says Mardell.

“These are still foods that are high in fat, high in sodium. They’re not the types of foods that you want in the everyday or even in routine intake for children.”

According to McDonald’s own numbers, just four McNuggets contain nine grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium — one-quarter of the recommended daily sodium requirement for kids ages four to eight.

McDonald’s serves up its Chicken McNuggets with its own dipping sauces that contain preservatives. And the above-cited sodium numbers don’t include the accompanying dipping sauce, one of which, the barbecue, option has the highest sodium count at 300 milligrams — as much as four McNuggets.

And the fact the company’s commercials don’t mention that the dipping sauces still contain preservatives prompted the CEO of a major U.S. restaurant chain, Panera Bread, to also suggest McDonald’s is misleading customers.

“I was offended watching this commercial,” CEO Ron Shaich told Business Insider. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ Sure, you’ve got McNuggets that are preservative-free, but what are you dipping them in? Sauces that are filled with that stuff!”

McDonald’s Grachnik also listed an improvement the company made last spring: adding leafy green vegetables like kale to its salads. But in February, CBC News revealed McDonald’s crispy chicken caesar kale salad entree with dressing has more calories, fat and sodium than a Double Big Mac. At 1,400 milligrams, the sodium amount nearly meets an adult’s daily recommended intake.

“Putting kale into the menu doesn’t mean you’re getting a healthy choice,” Toronto registered dietitian Shauna Lindzon told CBC News at the time.

When you add the accompanying dressing to the crispy chicken caesar salad with kale, it has more calories, salt and fat than a Double Big Mac.

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When you add the accompanying dressing to the crispy chicken caesar salad with kale, it has more calories, salt and fat than a Double Big Mac.

Bill Jeffery of the Centre for Health Science and Law says it’s nice to see a big company moving towards antibiotic-free chicken. But he still finds himself underwhelmed by McDonald’s changes.

“This isn’t about improving the health of their customers,” he concludes. “They’re just going to try to appeal to people’s emotions about health.”

Despite all the criticisms, McDonald’s is standing by its message of making positive changes to its menu. “We are proud of these big changes, even as we seek to do more and make the food people truly love to eat at McDonald’s even better,” said Grachnik.

‘Patient Sandwiches’ Earn ‘Curious’ Tweet in UK

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With the best of intentions, a hospital in Northwest England posted a notice recently that “patient sandwiches” had become available. Shortly thereafter, a clever Tweeter declared, “I always wondered what they did with the left over body parts after surgery.”

Hardly surprisingly, the tweet went viral.

The Bolton News, under a headline reading ‘hospital food goes from bad to worse with ‘Patient Sandwiches’ now being served’, said the notice announcing the new food offering “suggests that patients should have major concerns about what is in hospital food. After all, hospital grub already had a bad reputation before the tweet revealed that ‘Patient Sandwiches’ are now being served.”

The tongue in cheek tweet, written by a patient at a Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust hospital has had around 800 likes and been retweeted more than 380 times.

All else aside, this incident stresses the fact that what one says may, at times, be only somewhat as important as how they say it.

I’m reminded of the old advertising exec’s advice to the man opening a retail fish store. He’d prepared a sign saying “Fresh Fish Today.” The ad exec said it was too wordy. “Does anyone,” he asked, “want to buy fish that aren’t fresh? Eliminate that word. And,” the exec added, “isn’t it fair to say that a potential customer walking into your shop has every reason to expect the fish you are selling today are fresh? Eliminate the word ‘today’.” In the end, the sign read simply “Fish.”

Similarly, the hospital’s announcement of an addition to its menu for patients – not a new addition, as there’s no such thing as an ‘old’ addition – kind of overshot its mark when it said ‘patient sandwiches,’ as patients were, in fact, clearly the intended beneficiaries of this menu adjustment. Would it not, therefore, been enough to note that ‘sandwiches’ had been added to the menu? (Not the menu choices, as a menu is, by definition, a list of things one can choose amongst or between – depending whether its an English menu or an American one!)

 

 

 

Veggie Burgers Highlighted in NYT

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The veggie burger at the NoMad Bar in New York City uses grains, fresh vegetables, quinoa and lentils, “to replace the texture of meat,” chef Daniel Humm said, with eggs, cream cheese and Dijon mustard to hold it together. (CreditAlex Wroblewski/The New York Times)

When a laudatory 1,300-word article is published about you in The New York Times, it’s a pretty good bet you’ve ‘arrived’ – long after the likes of well-liked blogger Vegan Miche began singing your praises.

‘You’, in this instance, is the veggie burger – a contradiction in terms that, hardly surprisingly, appeals to many carnivores as well is vegetarians, vegans and other special-diet followers.

The Times noted that, until relatively recently, the veggie burger was “a culinary nobody, mushy and maligned. But when a chef as decorated as Daniel Humm turns his attention to perfecting a veggie burger, the signal is clear: That second-fiddle vegetarian staple has arrived.”

Mr. Humm has a restaurant in Manhattan called Eleven Madison Park. It has three Michelin stars, so it’s a pretty good bet his “carefully constructed” version veggie burger – it uses grains, fresh vegetables, quinoa and lentils “to replace the texture of meat,” he told The Times – also employs “eggs, cream cheese and Dijon mustard to hold it together.”

He added that, “Nothing goes into the burger that doesn’t serve a purpose.”

His mission was to make this item “to be able to stand next to our beef burger and our chicken burger, not be a dish we just put on the menu for the sake of it,” he added.

He offers it up at his NoMadBar, which is steps away from Eleven Madison Park.

The Times article continued (today, August 31):

After decades as an amateur player eager for a big break, the veggie burger has made its ascent, becoming a destination dish and hashtag darling as never before.

The newest generation of veggie burgers has moved from the edges of the menu — at best an interesting challenge for chefs to tackle — to its center, a dish to offer not just for the sake of meat-avoiding customers, but to make memorable in its own right. To do that, they are turning to a vast arsenal of ingredients and techniques to get the flavor, texture and heft they’re seeking.

April Bloomfield created a veggie burger inspired by soondae, a dark Korean blood sausage commonly stuffed with noodles, rice or vegetables, to serve at Salvation Burger, which is set to reopen this fall after a fire damaged the kitchen. (Her version is made with sweet-potato noodles, lentils, carrots, carrot juice and garam masala.)

Chef Brooks Headley, formerly a pastry chef at Del Posto in New York, has a restaurant, Superiority Burger restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village, that is built around his veggie burger, “arguably the most acclaimed burger of any kind in New York recently,” The Times said.

The Times article went on and on, and included links to an assortment of veggie burger recipes. They did a good job of highlighting what an increasing number of people will be striving for as they increasingly build ‘healthful eating’ into their lifestyles. (Butchers, beware!)

Meal Kits, Aimed at Busy Home Cooks, Slowly Gain A Following

 

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Meal kits, the food industry’s latest attempt to reinvent itself and in the process hopefully boost profits with a ‘value-added’ product, have, in a few short years, already been tried, sometimes repeatedly, by a slowly growing segment of the U.S. population — some three percent within the past  year, according the NPD Group, a market research firm.

A small step for meal kits, a giant leap for Millennials’ attention-getting ability.

They, to a large degree, are the target market for the several national and numerous local meal kit-offering  services – they and others who might be prepared to push the cost of a prepared-at-home meal from, say, $4 per person to $10 or more by having all of a meal’s ingredients pre-measured, pre-packed and delivered, with clear cooking instructions included.

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Peach Dish is one of several national meal kit providers.

Those using meal kits, NDP Group says, in a new report entitled Thinking Inside the Box: A Fresh Look at Meal Kit Delivery Services, “are generally satisfied, and two out of three kit users are extremely or very satisfied; But price may be a barrier for continued use and adoption by others.”

Their study says that saving time is the top reason used for using meal kits, and consumers also say that using them “makes dinner easier to prepare”; And many add, the kits provide variety beyond the usual repertoire of someone who’s been working all day, is tired, and wants to simply through together a familiar dish or two, using well-tried recipes.

But the freshness of meal kits’ ingredients appeal a lot to young adults, many of who truly have limited recipe repertoires and limited time and/or patience for venturing further afield, cuisine-wise. And they certainly don’t have either the time or interest to shop often for a specific meal, so their ingredients are bound to be less fresh than the kits’, which are selected, prepped, packed and delivered daily.

But the kits’ cost is a concern of many users, because while they are used to replace a home-created meal, their per-person is closer to that of a restaurant meal.

Oddly, price didn’t come up as an issue in a laudatory Forbes article on meal kits in March of this year.

“Every single meal turned out as expected and given the potential for user-error in my house, that is an impressive statistic,” said author Katie Kelly Bell, who said she “scouts the world for the best experiences in food, wine and travel.”

That reinforces the belief of Darren Seifer, NPD Group’s food and beverage industry analyst.

The cost issue aside, he said, “there are opportunities for continued growth – for meal kit providers to market around the reasons their customers are satisfied, for manufacturers to get in the kit box, and for foodservice operators to leverage their ability to provide on-demand delivery and meal variety.”

 

 

2016 Restaurant Trends Imagined

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What’s trending – or likely to be this year – in the U.S. restaurant industry? Marina Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods magazine, has some thoughts on that. Early last month, she published them.

Her predictions include:

  • The Sriracha effect – “Chefs are scouting the world for other assertive flavorings to employ” in ways similar to the movement, over the past couple of years, of a flavorful, not-particularly-healthy sauce (too much salt; too much potassium, particularly for the 10% of U.S. adults with with Chronic Kidney Disease [CKD]) from ethnic environments onto table tops in all sorts of middling-taste restaurants;
  • Elevating peasant fare – She cites long-time-favorites meatballs and sausage as up-and-comers, along with ‘multi-ethnic dumplings, from pierogis to bao buns’;
  • Trash to treasure – Meaning that rising meat prices (even as the popularity of red meat falls off) will lead to more consumption of ‘under-utilized stewing cuts, organ meats and “trash” species of fish’. She also sees the trash to treasure movement extending to such exciting new side-of-the-plate items as “a veggie burger made with carrot pulp from the juicer”;
  • Burned – She sees ‘smoke and fire’ [are] showing up everywhere on the menu – in charred or roasted vegetable sides,  in desserts with charred fruits or burnt-sugar toppings, in cocktails featuring smoked salt, smoked ice or smoky syrups.” (Not anywhere I eat, you don’t!);
  • Negative on GMOs – She imagines some diners will seek out eateries advertising themselves as GMO-free while others demand GMO labeling on menus. Either will, if either of those trend predictions has legs, prove to be “a big issue for the supply chain,” she says, since many crops have been modified to increase productivity.” (Fortunately, there’s a growing tendency in some areas for field crop farmers to employ off-season cover crops to naturally replenish their soil and increase productivity that way, even as they reduce the use of fertilizers and soil additives.);
  • Modernizing the supply chain – This, she says, is a multi-pronged issue: On one hand, “climate destabilization, mutating pathogens and rising transport costs, among other challenges, will lead to increasingly frequent stresses on the food supply chain.” At the same time, “consumer demand for ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ fare [will] also challenge a distribution system based on consolidation, centralization, large drop sizes and long shelf life.” More than likely, she hit that one on the head – except for the ‘rising transport costs’ issue: With oil prices having dropped by 50% in the past year or so, both road and rail transport costs should have dropped, not gone the other direction. If they haven’t, some producers and recipients of long- and short-hauled food need to be applying some pressure where it’s needed – on their transporters!
  • Fast food refresh – She anticipates consumers gravitating to ‘better’ fast food – “QSR plus” concepts, as she puts it, “with fresher menus and bright units [exploiting] a price niche between fast food and fast casual.” She also sees more ‘build your own’ formats “springing up in more and more categories [and] more and more quick-service eateries adding amenities like alcohol.” There is, of course, good money to be made with alcohol sales, but there are high insurance costs associated with that business; And there’s the risk that if yours has a reputation as a ‘family friendly’ place, the mere presence of alcohol could put off some of your best customers. An interesting compromise to be attempted soon by a new restaurant in my town is to get the insurance then offer a BYO wine opportunity – but no beer or wine table service. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
  • Year of the worker – Mayer sees mandates to boost minimum wages reverberating up and down the workforce, with experienced staffers seeking more, in proportion to less-experienced colleagues. She also anticipates already-hard-to-find skilled workers becoming more scarce, and lower-level workers being replaced by automation in the back of the house and technology in the front of the house. (So long as restaurants steer clear of the ‘Bionic Bar’ concept launched recently on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem-of-the-Sea, one of the world’s largest-ever cruise ships. The Bionic Bar features drinks mixed by a pair of robot arms. A New York Times story said many passengers were underwhelmed by their taste compared to human-prepared drinks.) She also anticipates companies will devote more resources and attention to training and retention.
  • The delivery revolution – Mayer says “proliferating order-and-pay apps and third-party online order and delivery services make ‘dining in’ easier than ever.” Not quite true: As long ago as the late 1960’s, a Greenwich Village restaurant took phone orders for and delivered, piping hot, a splendid steak dinner (with baked potato and salad) accompanied by a patented device called The Korker, a corkscrew substitute – for roughly eight 1960’s dollars per person! Nothing offered today could be easier, and it would be hard to top the quality and service of that long-ago restaurant named Dan Stampler’s Steak Joint. a NYC favorite for 25 years.

Before taking over as Editor-in-Chief of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, Marina Mayer spend four years as managing editor and executive editor of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery and Dairy Foods magazines. I wrote for the latter, and a predecessor of the former, in the 1980’s.