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The week in ideas, October 28, 2011

Hold on, Panera, this week somebody else lays claim to coming up with the pay-what-you-want idea. Elsewhere, restaurants get applause for helping out customers with food allergies, a crusading mom gets banned from McDonalds and a chain of gentlemen’s clubs gets an idea from the NBA lockout.

Idea #1: Cater to the allergy sensitive. AllergyEats, an online clearinghouse for food allergy sufferers, released its list of the best allergy-friendly restaurants this week. Among them: Legal Seafoods, P.F. Chang’s and Blue Ginger. The site lauded their efforts in a number of areas, including communication with guests, server knowledge of ingredients, cross-contamination protocols and meal customization.

Idea #2: Pay what you want. Ok, this isn’t a new idea. Panera is doing it. Jon Bon Jovi just opened a restaurant that’s doing it, but what did happen this week is another restaurant laid claim to being the first to have the idea, and it happened 50 years ago. Take that, modern-day do-gooders. The News Virginian reminisced this week about Hamburger Frank’s, a Waynesboro, VA, diner that allowed people to pay what they wanted… before it was cool.

Idea #3: Ban the messenger. Do you remember Erin Carr-Jordan? Week in Ideas featured the mom recently and her crusade to swab McDonald’s play areas and publicize the amount of bacteria contained there. Update: she’s been banned from eight McD’s in Arizona after she said her investigation turned up MRSA—the antibiotic-resistant bacteria—at a play park. She told the manager about it, as well as parents at the restaurant. After  she saw a kid licking the play structure she demanded it be shut down. A McDonald’s spokesperson told the Arizona Republic that some of Carr-Jordan’s tactics "have become disruptive to the employees and customers within our franchise's restaurants… We remain committed to working with an internal team on ensuring that our PlayPlaces are clean and safe for all customers."

Idea #4: Topless basketball. The Rick’s Cabaret chain of gentlemen’s clubs is not taking the NBA lockout lying down. In a move sure to excite its patrons, the chain is drafting its own league, Rick’s Basketball Association, made up of teams of its dancers. "We have all been disappointed that the NBA season hasn't gotten underway yet, and a number of players who stop by the club have told us that they'd pay to see us play in our stripper heels, so we decided to form our own league," said Gianna, a player for a team made up of dancers from the New York City club. Another New York team member, Sky, said that in designing uniforms the team decided “less is more.”

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