It’s fitting that Head Spinners ends the year with arresting indications of the restaurant industry’s good cheer this holiday season, though there is that nasty business about polar bear throats being slit. We’ll get to that, but, first, let’s look at why you may burst into a rousing chorus of “Jingle Bells” at any moment.
Paying it forward—for six hours
A drive-thru customer at a Lakeland, Fla., McDonald’s was feeling so good about the holidays that she decided to pay for the order of the car behind her. That second customer was so touched that she decided to do the same thing for the carload behind her. That patron, in turn, decided to do the same.
And thus was the chain reaction began. It continued for almost six hours and extended to 250 customers.
Granted, that 251st patron must have been a Grinch. But for six hours, a McDonald’s was a McHappy Land.
Welcoming all customers
A grass-roots movement has taken hold in the industry to counter hostility against Muslims in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. Restaurants are posting signs in their windows that read, “Hatred has no business here.” The placards expressly say that the place stands with “our Muslim community members,” and that “all are welcome.”
A few places here or there posted the signs, following the lead of the Common Roots restaurant in Minneapolis, and now the idea is catching on. A group called The Main Street Alliance, a self-defined political voice for small businesses, digitized the sign and is now offering free downloadable versions via the group’s website.
But no good deed goes unpunished. The profession of openness has been greeted by some anger by some, who’ve accused the restaurants of fueling controversy and being misguided. “[Donald] Trump wouldn’t eat in a shithole like that,” one critic said in a post on Common Roots’ Facebook page. “I know I never will.”
There’s no confirmation that the commentor was the 251st person on the McDonald’s line.
Last minute gift: Pepperoni socks
If you’re out of gift ideas for that someone who has everything, consider a stop at PizzaHutSwag.com, the official apparel site of the Yum! Brands chain. Where else can you get a pair of pepperoni socks (Calm down: They’re regular socks, but with a pepperoni-pizza design), a pizza hut, a pizza-themed longboard (that’s a skateboard, for those of you of a certain vintage), a Pizza Cuddles blanket and a pepperoni scarf.
The ailing brand has thoughtfully set up the e-commerce site as a tribute to its die-hard fans. The sales might not hurt, either, given Pizza Hut’s recent comps.
Now, about those bleeding polar bears…
Credit: Bunches and Bits/Flickr
First Starbucks ignites a firestorm by leaving the usual Christmas icons off its holiday cups, and now it draws accusations that it’s inhumane to polar bears, or at least cutesy cookie versions of the majestic beasts.
Each of the oversized cookies, which you can see here, is adorned with a whimsical holiday scarf of red frosting. Or is that the mark of a mob-style hit? Did Starbucks subdue those cookie bears by slitting their throats???
So some consumers are alleging online, hopefully tongue-in-cheek.
“A polar bear with it's [sic] throat slit? That's a holiday you don't forget,” one Twitter user posted.
“Starbucks is getting dark this Christmas. Polar bears look like they got Catelyn Stark'd,” observed another, referring to a “Game of Thrones” character whose throat was cut.
Who’d have known polar bear cookies would be more controversial than pepperoni socks?
News flash: Restaurants use commissaries
This just in: A polished-casual restaurant chain is prepping some of its food in commissaries.
An “investigation” by a Washington newspaper revealed that such items as soups, sauces and dressings are being prepared in a central prep facility and then shipped to the branches of the high-end Fig & Olives restaurant.
The pre-packaging even extends to risotto, which is flash-frozen—frozen!—before being shipped to the units for reheating and presentation. The Washington Paper report did not specify if the risotto is prepared in a sous vide process, and certainly didn’t point out that many high-end chefs view that prep method as a way of preserving the freshness of an item that might otherwise be batch-cooked and held all dinner service. But it sounds as if the article might have been talking about sous vide.
The ridiculous gifts just keep coming. In this case, outrage was stoked by ignorance on the part of the public. Did consumers think Starbucks slit the throats of polar bear cookies at the unit level?
Bring on the eggnog!
Head Spinners will return on Jan. 8 with more poisoned-pen observations.
In the meantime, may your restaurants be filled and your polar bear cookies remain safe. A happy holidays from me and all the elves and sled-pullers behind Head Spinners.