Woe to the restaurant that won’t change with the times (In-N-Out fans, be quiet. Isn’t that a diet soda on the fountain bar?). But some of those adjustments can be real head-scratchers. Consider, for instance, the special instructions a Sonic Drive-In felt obliged to provide for hardcore slackers. Or the fad Starbucks helped to spark by sending a leprechaun’s pot of pixie dust to baristas. And then there’s the ongoing controversy over a symbol that most of you sport and likely never contemplate.
Here are some recent accommodations to the times that turned our heads.
1. Sonic asks patrons to be (not smoke) a do bee
A policy update by a Sonic Drive-In in Gulfport, Miss., became an internet sensation after a customer posted the heads-up on social media. No longer will a server pass an order to a car if the inhabitants are sitting in a cloud of marijuana smoke.
“If you are smoking weed,” an exterior sign proclaims, “you will not be served. Please show some common courtesy and smoke and air out before pulling up to order.”
2. McDonald’s to try paper straws
A small but profound change in McDonald’s operations will be tried next month when 1,300 stores in the United Kingdom change their policy on straws. As a positive environmental move, units will only provide a drinking straw if the customer requests it, according to media reports. And the one they’ll be handed will be made of biodegradable paper, not plastic.
The change addresses a movement gaining momentum on both sides of the Atlantic: Many environmental advocates have targeted plastic straws as the next ecological villain to be eradicated. A ban on the plastic version will go into effect in Seattle in July. Scotland’s ban takes effect next year. And legislation drafted by California lawmakers would require restaurants to provide any sort of straw only upon request.
McDonald’s has not revealed plans to expand the U.K. test to this side of the pond.
3. Glitter food is now a thing
Purists need to brace themselves for this one: The hottest trend in craft beers this spring, according to a recent post on the enthusiast site CraftBeer.com, will be glitter beer.
For the uninitiated: These are brews that sparkle with the sort of glitter a kindergartner once sprinkled on some wet Elmer’s for an outstanding piece of refrigerator art. Now, in an edible form, it’s showing up in beer and a host of other products, from gum to doughnuts to all sorts of libations. It is—dare we say it?—a thing.
And for that, you have to lay some blame on Starbucks. Its much-lamented but eagerly purchased novelty beverage, the Unicorn Frappuccino, required baristas to suspend their allegiance to coffee tradition and liberally mix in blue and pink “pixie dust.” That concession to the fad was followed by the Crystal Ball Frappuccino, which featured sparkly candy gems.
4. FDA’s new food safety power
As authorities were investigating an E. coli epidemic that now extends to seven states, the Food and Drug Administration was turning heads with the newfound might it flexed to combat food contaminations. For the first time ever, the watchdog agency ordered a manufacturer to recall a food that is believed to pose a public health threat.
If that sounds incorrect, consider what food safety experts have lamented for years. The FDA’s mandate as set by Congress is ambiguous, and has been interpreted to mean the agency can call attention to a problem and try to find its cause. But it can’t order a manufacturer or retailer to yank a product. In every instance where a product was pulled off menus or grocery shelves, a fairly routine development, the seller did so voluntarily.
Until now. Earlier this month, the FDA ordered a recall of all products containing kratom produced by a company called Triangle Pharmanaturals. Kratom is a controversial herb that acts either as a stimulant or sedative, depending on the amount that’s consumed. The FDA asked Triangle to pull its products and announce a recall, but the company refused, a rare occurrence, but one that’s not been unknown, even in situations involving restaurants. But this time the FDA acted unilaterally, “the first time the agency has issued a mandatory recall order,” it told the media.
5. Is the wheelchair icon discriminatory?
A controversy simmering for years burst into view this week because of new media coverage. Our bet is that most restaurateurs are oblivious to the dispute. But they may not remain blissfully ignorant for long.
At issue is what symbol is used to designate an accommodation to the disabled. Right now, the universally recognized icon is a stark stick-drawing-like depiction of a person in a wheelchair.
Some feel the image suggests persons with a mobility handicap are not as vibrant and active as anyone else. They’re lobbying to have the old symbol replaced with a new icon showing a wheelchair user in motion, leaning forward. And they’re hell-bent on seeing the change made sooner versus later.
It that sounds like a distant matter for discussion, consider that New York and Connecticut are already mandating the new image in all situations where an accommodation icon is required.