Having done this for a month or two, your intrepid recorder of the arrestingly bizarre has heard his share of head-turning pronouncements from restaurateurs and their fellow travelers. But we may sliding into the red zone with the revelations of recent days—some absolutely delicious, others just weird, but all noteworthy for more than their novelty.
Indeed, several were background noise to big-headline matters like nuclear war, ugly Americanism and a $2 billion example of globalism.
Here are those squeaks from the wheels turning on bigger issues.
A footnote to the Pret A Manger deal
Experts say it’s critical in the current labor market for restaurant employers to demonstrate their appreciation for each and every employee. Pret A Manger decided to do much more than give a few hugs as it’s absorbed by JAB Holdings, the private-equity giant that agreed to buy the grab-and-go chain this week for about $2 billion.
After the deal was announced, Pret CEO Clive Schlee revealed that every person on the company’s payroll at the time the acquisition is consummated will get an appreciation bonus of 1,000 pounds, or roughly $1,300.
The company employs about 12,000 people.
Burgers for nukes
Attention, U.S. burger chains: A deep-pocketed party with unmatched connections in a virgin swathe of Asia is hunting for a franchise partner. You’ll just have to put up with some god-awful haircuts and the possibility of being executed.
The intangible payback is knowing you’re playing a small and decidedly bizarre role in fostering relations between the United States and North Korea. Three agents from the CIA—the spy agency, not the culinary school—told NBC this week that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un intends to tell the Trump administration that he’s not giving up his nuclear weapons, as the White House is demanding.
But as a peace offering, the agents said, the communist government intends to open an American quick-service restaurant where President Trump or his emissaries could munch on a burger and fries during visits. The idea apparently came to Kim and his people because Trump said while campaigning in 2016 that he’d prefer to ease tensions with Kim over a burger rather than try to warm relations with another formal state dinner.
Tim Hortons wants to make Canada great again
Canadians have not been overjoyed that their beloved Tim Hortons is now owned by an American company, albeit one now headquartered up north. Fans yelped (loudly) when Restaurant Brands International, better known as the parent of Burger King, started fiddling with the menu. Then came some high-profile disputes with local franchisees, with lawsuits flying back and forth as RBI tried to ease Hortons’ penetration of the U.S. market, where it had fared poorly under its prior American owner, Wendy’s International.
News surfaced this week in Canada that Hortons has decided to intensify its focus on the brand’s home market, where the quick-service concept enjoys a loyalty that In-N-Out or Taco Bell would envy. A local newspaper reported that Timmies, as the brand is fondly known, intends to test all-day breakfast while investigating the addition of a kids menu and delivery.
The reaction from media and fans has been a loud, “Duh.” Hortons specializes in coffee and doughnuts, with a number of breakfast sandwiches also on the menu. It wasn’t exactly a leap of brilliance to decide on giving all-day breakfast a try, especially with RBI’s main competitor, McDonald’s, generating head-spinning results from its round-the-clock a.m. lineup.
Herman Cain sounds off about ‘Roseanne’
The closest that the restaurant industry has come to putting one of its own in the Oval Office was the 2016 presidential run of former Godfather’s and National Restaurant Association CEO Herman Cain. By that time, he was out of the business, but identified himself readily as a restaurateur.
Fortunately for the industry, he didn’t harp on that connection when he snagged headlines this week by jumping into the controversy over the cancellation of “Roseanne.” ABC said it pulled the plug because it was fed up with the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, and the racism she showed in a tweet about an African-American alumnus of the Obama White House.
That’s bunk, declared Cain, an African-American whose political bent is decidedly conservative. He told the Fox Business Network that the Disney-owned ABC network used the tweet as an excuse to get Barr, a known Trump supporter, off the air. Barr used her show to make the point that Trump supporters shouldn’t be regarded as extremists, but rather as dissatisfied neighbors.
“Roseanne apologized fervently,” argued Cain. “They cancelled her anyway.”