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This week’s 5 head-spinning moments: Yard-sale shopping tips

If you should find yourself at yard sales this weekend, poke around for these items. The week’s events suggest there are restaurants that could use them. Desperately.

1. A joke book for IHOP. 

It may not be exactly what the family chain needs, but you so seldom see an actual millennial for sale. The pancake specialist made the sort of “blunder” that many venerable chains fear more these days than hearing a stranger introduce themselves with, “Hi, I’m from the IRS.”

IHOP tried to push its pancakes with a wink via social-media and instead started the 140-character equivalent of a griddle fire.  The flashpoint was a tweet showing a stack of pancakes food-styled in the opinion of some to suggest a breast (a blob of butter was purportedly the nipple). The caption:  “Flat but has a GREAT personality.

ihop tweet

The chain yanked the post, but the match had been set to griddle grease. Twitterheads blasted the post as sophomoric and sexist. Others defended IHOP, noting that it was just a joke, and only a mildly suggestive one at that.

Like many familiar restaurant brands, IHOP has been striving to suspend a somewhat doughty image via an assumed hipness in social media. Sometimes those efforts backfire. So look for some garage-sale salve as well.

2. A pin for Chipotle.

The high-flying brand clearly needs to deflate its ballooning ego. Co-CEO Steve Ells suggested this week to investors that the chain’s insistence on using purer ingredients was the reason California recently banned the routine use of antibiotics and growth hormones by livestock growers.

It’s ironic because industry leaders have complained about Chipotle’s aloofness from politics on legislative and regulator issues of crucial importance to the restaurant business. The one area where Chipotle has been outspoken is indeed in the area of food integrity, a stand that has drawn the ire and fire of industry watchdog Rick Berman. But Chipotle was not identified as a visible proponent of the first-in-the-nation California law.

3. A ruler for Subway.

Indeed, a garage sale by retired nuns could have a material effect on the sandwich chain’s costs.  It will need a slew of 12-inch rulers to abide by the settlement it proposed to a federal court this week to end a class-action lawsuit filed over the promised length of sandwiches. If the deal is approved, units will have to measure sandwich breads to ensure that a Footlong is indeed a foot long, and that a six-inch sub shouldn’t be retagged A Really Big Sandwich of At Least Four Inches.

4. A megaphone would be appreciated, too.

The world’s largest restaurant chain just isn’t getting traction with what was apparently intended to be a new signature for the brand, the Simple $6 Menu. The roster of bundled meals (a six-or-thereabouts-inch sub, chips and a drink) is being promoted as a possible way of easing the chain’s reliance on a permanent and hyper-popular deal, the $5 Footlong (known in some legal circles as the sometimes-11-incher.) It’s hard to build checks when you’re known for a five-buck lunch. It’d be like a dollar store actually charging $1.50 for a bunch of items.

We can probably all sing along to the $5 Footlong jingle. But how many of us even knew about the Simple $6 Menu?

5. A LivingSocial coupon for trash-talking lessons.

A LivingSocial coupon for trash-talking lessons, useable by the fast-food executives who were asked in the past week about the impact of McDonald’s all-day-breakfast rollout. Given a chance to bash the competition, Sonic CEO Cliff Hudson and Dunkin’ Brands chief Nigel Travis showed a diplomacy seldom seen outside of the U.N.   

Both agreed the offer of an Egg McMuffin during lunch and dinner hasn’t drawn consumers away from their brands, which decided long ago to make a breakfast item at any time a customer asked for it.

Hudson went so far as to say that a smarter move might have been offering lunch and dinner items at breakfast, an option that’s helped Sonic’s sales. Because many of the drive-in’s units are in blue-collar areas with midnight-to-8-a.m.. shifts, some patrons enjoy eating dinner in the morning.

But the gloves didn’t exactly come off. Maybe buying the pair two hockey-game tickets from Craigslist would be a thoughtful move.

Bonus head spinner.

Hudson remarked to investors that Sonic is feeling heightened competition from one of its competitors, but declined to say which one it is. In a later cable-TV broadcast, however, he revealed the resurging brand is Burger King. He did seize the opportunity to note that McDonald’s and Wendy’s aren’t killer rivals, suggesting there’s true snarkiness there just waiting to be stoked. 

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