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Food

Menu launches off to a slow start in the new year

Taste Tracker: Chipotle abd Smoothie King tap into health; Wienerschnitzel, Crumbl and Pinkbox invite indulgence; Taco Bell tests chicken wings and the Patty Melt returns to Sonic.

Operations

COVID surge shuts down restaurants yet again

This time, operators simply can’t find enough healthy employees to staff their kitchens and dining rooms for service as the highly contagious omicron variant runs like wildfire through restaurants.

State of the Plate: Chefs are smoking everything in the latest menu trend, from brisket to cocktails and even ice cream.

As pandemic concerns persisted, investors bet against casual dining and fast-casual and kept their fast-food shares.

The strategy represents a new era for the chain as it emerges from bankruptcy and a decade of shrinking sales and unit counts.

The Bottom Line: The burger giant, which had been refranchising in recent years, is buying out franchisees as it prepares to recruit new operators into the system for the first time in many years.

Reality Check: The best thing you could give restaurateurs this year is a break from the near past.

Surging COVID cases among employees and customers are forcing restaurants to temporarily shut down during what is typically a busy holiday season. And the new year brings more uncertainty.

Taste Tracker: Grimaldi’s and Papa Johns riff on pizza; new takes on Mexican icons at Taco Cabana and Dickey’s; Jack in the Box and Wings Over spin chicken sandwiches; and winter flavors stand out across the board.

Sweet & Sour: The debut column from Nancy Kruse and Peter Romeo focuses on the good, the bad and the ugly from the year that was.

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