As if the presidential race hasn't been enough of a circus, the restaurant industry added its own dash of bizarreness and questionable behavior to the social discourse. Here are a few of the more arresting moments.
Starbucks gets punked…
Hours before the coffee chain was about to begin its annual shareholders meeting, a gathering of considerable notoriety in the brand’s hometown of Seattle, jokesters tried to derail the event by sending carefully crafted cancellation notices. It was no spur-of-the-moment thing.
The hoaxsters had set up a bogus website, opened an email account and set up a legitimate-looking Twitter handle, @SBUXshareholder. They bombarded Starbucks shareholders with alerts just prior to the meeting’s start that the gathering had to be cancelled for undisclosed “business reasons.” The communications were patterned after the messages Starbucks had actually sent would-be attendees with logistical information about the meeting.
Those legitimate messages apparently countermanded the bogus directives to stay away. The perpetrators have yet to be identified.
…and politically jabbed
Starbucks’ support for such controversial political issues as partner benefits and universal healthcare doesn’t please all shareholders. A conservative group forced the addition of a proxy proposal that would protect Starbucks employees from any type of retribution from the employer for harboring conservative political sympathies.
The National Center for Public Policy Research argued in collaborating materials that Starbucks employees of all political persuasions needed the protection—an irony, given that Starbucks announced an initiative during the meeting to register associates to vote in the November election.
The company has yet to reveal whether or not the measure passed.
Jared returns to foodservice
Convicted sex offender and former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle is back in the foodservice business, albeit in a much different setting. Reports from the Colorado prison where the media star is serving a 15-year sentence say Fogle’s assigned job is working on a cafeteria line, feeding fellow inmates. Ironically, he had been making sandwiches, but has since been promoted to a hot-food station. The job is regarded as a plum assignment, which may have figured into a recent attack on Fogle by a fellow inmate who professed he was looking for some notoriety of his own.
‘Have you met Jared?’: Four Seasons co-owner pleads guilty
Julian Niccolini, the suave co-owner of New York City’s landmark Four Seasons restaurant, pleaded guilty yesterday to misdemeanor assault charges stemming from an alleged sexual harassment incident last year, The New York Times reported.
Niccolini had been accused of touching a woman without her permission during an event about 10 months ago in the restaurant. As part of the deal he took yesterday, Niccolini admitted that he had put his hands on the 28-year-old woman, whom he apparently knew.
The deal in effect puts Niccolini on probation for a year rather than requiring him to serve jail time. But the criminal charge does go on his record, which could complicate the restaurant’s efforts to renew its liquor license if it should move as expected from its perch in the famed Seagram Building. Niccolini and partner Alex von Bidder have been at odds with the building’s owner, Aby Rosen.
Political incorrectness triggers a spending binge
Betty Rivas is hardly the only restaurateur to support the presidential bid of Donald Trump, but she may very well be the most famous one at this point in the race. That’s because Rivas is Mexican and outspoken, showing up at a Trump rally last weekend with a sign proclaiming, “Latinos Support D. Trump.” The statement of support from a quarter often critical of The Donald was noticed by Trump himself, who pulled Rivas onto the stage.
Rivas’ political sympathies made an impression on others, too. She reported receiving death threats from Trump opponents who disagree with his stand on Mexican immigration. She also cited social media posts that asserted her restaurant, Sammy’s Mexican Grill, was rife with E.coli.
The latest twist was the reaction of supporters. Rivas reported midweek that customer traffic had tripled, and local media verified that the place was packed on a weekday night.
Meanwhile, Rivas showed that she’s open-minded. In addition to attending the Trump rally, she also showed up (apparently sans sign) at a Bernie Sanders rally with her son, a Sanders supporter.
This week's head-spinning restaurant moments included a suggestion in court that the "b" in IHOb stood for "bad news for Applebee's." That's just one of the long-shot gambles that came to light as oddsmakers considered the likelihood of restaurants charging into sports betting and who'll win the chain vs. independent bout.