Ideas for making U.S. restaurants a little more pleasing to families and kitchen staffs cropped up this week in such far-afield places as Sweden, Miami’s South Beach and a small town 34 miles outside of Atlanta. Here’s a travel guide.
1. Tip relief from the statehouse
If legal complications are thwarting efforts to close the pay gap between servers and back-of-the-house employees, why not change the laws? It’s easier said than done, but restaurants in Illinois are giving it a try. At the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Florida last week, Kevin Boehm of Boka Group revealed that his Chicago-based multi-concept operation is joining with other restaurateurs in the state to press for the unambiguous legalization of sharing tips with the kitchen staff. They’re lobbying for legislative permission to channel 5 percent of a tip pool to the back of the house, Boehm said, though he acknowledged that it’ll be a tough sell.
2. Fostering family time in a QSR
One of the ideas preoccupying consumers in cyberspace this week is a notion that was put forward by a Chick-fil-A franchisee in Suwanee, Ga. To foster family interaction during dinner at the restaurant, guests are being challenged to silence their handhelds and place the devices in a “cell phone coop” that looks like a takeout box. If the party can make it through the meal without opening the coop, everyone in the group is rewarded with a free ice cream cone.
3. Virtual Happy Meals
Fourteen McDonald’s restaurants in Sweden will switch for a limited time starting Friday to a Happy Meal container that does more than keep a burger and fries hot. Children and their parents can unfold the box and re-form it into a pair of virtual reality goggles, a visual aid that enables customers to see a computer-generated 3D image.
In the instance of the Happy Goggles, patrons can download games to their phones. The goggles turn the games into a 3D experience that supposedly feels more like real life.
Google has largely pioneered the technology on a mass basis in the United States, where a set of pre-made goggles from a third party costs about $15.
About 3,500 sets of Happy Goggles will be distributed in Sweden in the pilot offer.