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This week's restaurant nightmares: Real or fake?

Recent developments in the restaurant business sound too bizarre to be true. Maybe, maybe not. Here’s a guide to what’s real and what’s bogus.

Starbucks’ alleged giveaway to African-Americans

A rumor currently raging through the internet says Starbucks is trying to make up for its racial insensitivity of 10 days ago by providing African-Americans with a coupon for a free coffee. It’s headlined, “Let’s talk.”

"We know we can do better,” the printable ticket continues. “Starbucks values all people of color and we are working on employee sensitivity training. The best dialogue starts over a cup of coffee and we'd like to buy you one." It specifies that the offer only extends to black people.

Interested parties are invited to use their phones to read a QR code for further details. If they do, a racial slur and white supremacist slogans are revealed.

The company has kept up a steady stream of assurances to the media that the coupons are fake. They’re the latest in a string of false reports regarding the self-professed lifestyle brand, which some critics blast as elitist and oh-so politically correct.

While the danger is false, the potential fallout is real. A recent study showed that 74% of job applicants will drop their pursuit of a restaurant job if they suspect their employer might be prejudiced.

McDonald’s adds ‘pot pods’ for really happy meals

Never mind that the rumors were initially quashed three years ago, before President Trump made “fake news” a phrase of the times. Purported news sites and average netizens are once again spreading reports that McDonald’s is adding smoke-catching pods to the playgrounds of restaurants in Colorado to give marijuana users a place to light up without bothering fellow patrons.

The image accompanying the stories show what looks like a mini diving bell with customers lighting a spliff. Closer examination suggests the devices could be upside-down glasses Photoshopped to look like pods.

Snopes.com debunked the reports back in 2015, not long after Colorado OK'd the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. But the hopes of pot smokers and newspeople apparently springs eternal.

What does seem to be true: Nearly half (43.4%) of patrons of legal marijuana outlets frequent McDonald’s, as revealed by a study from a group called Consumer Research Around Cannabis.

A lawsuit over lasagna

A patron of a restaurant in suburban Chicago is suing the independent for $50,000 because it served lasagna that was allegedly too hot.

The plaintiff, Theresa Thomas, reportedly suffered burns when she touched a fork to the lasagna that was served up by Osteria Ottimo Ristorante in Orland Park, Ill. The poke released a stream of red sauce that left Thomas unable to work, according to the lawsuit, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

The action, filed earlier this month, alleges that the restaurant shirked its responsibilities in part by not training servers to cool down a dish and warn the customer about the temperature of an item.

As far as we can tell, this one is real. 

Bonus true story: Value meals are a value

We leave you with a firm reassurance that one of McDonald’s value-priced meals is indeed a value, and that’s straight from a federal judge.

The adjudicator, Judge Elaine Bucklo, threw out a class-action suit that accused McDonald’s of misleading customers by designating bundled offers as Extra Value Meals. The lead plaintiff in the action had alleged that she had purchased one of the deals for $5.09. She realized afterward that buying the components a la carte would have cost her only $4.97.

Bucklo said in dismissing the action that all prices are clearly disclosed on McDonald’s menu boards, and that McDonald’s couldn’t be accused of being deceptive just because some customers chose not to compare the a la carte cost with the bundled price.

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