This week’s 4 head-spinning moments: Progress?


The speed of light occasionally lagged the rate of change for restaurants in the weeks since we last looked at developments necessitating chiropractic attention for industry observers. How else to explain Chick-fil-A’s experiments with new service tech, several signs of how the delivery boom is evolving, and a twist to the wholesale abandonment of plastic straws?

Read on—quickly—to see what we mean.

Chick-fil-A tries a next-generation of service tech

Die-hard fans may soon have another reason to crow about the chicken chain’s much-lauded service. Dine-in patrons of three units in Houston are now able to summon a second round of drinks or waffle fries by pressing a tabletop button, according to the system’s supplier, an outfit called Kallpod. The request for service is relayed to the smart watches worn by employees. The operator of the stores offering the tableside service says follow-up sales have risen to more than $200 per store, from a level closer to $30. 

Beer sellers enter the delivery game

The latest paid social-media placements for one of the world’s largest brewers goes beyond the usual promises of taste and drinkability. The spots from Heineken hawk the convenience of having cold ones delivered right to the customer’s door—from a single bottle to a keg.

The brewer uses third parties such as Drizly and Minibar to haul the hooch, and those services have now been around for a while. But it’s still unusual for a beer supplier to tout delivery as the sales channel, instead of pushing for more on-premise or supermarket orders.

The direct message to users of Facebook comes as many full-service restaurant chains are trying beer and wine delivery in jurisdictions that permit the service. Researchers have noted the potential of bundling alcohol beverages into a food delivery order. Technomic, for instance, reports that 65% of consumers would order delivery more often from a restaurant if it could include adult drinks in the order. The bad news for beer suppliers entering the field is that 69% of delivery customers want to order their food and alcohol from the same provider.

Delivery dealmaking gains steam

As delivery options have proliferated, so have the come-ons to choose one source over another. Maggiano’s, for instance, is offering two orders of spaghetti and meatballs for the price of one this week, with no delivery fee, to the first 5,000 customers who place an order. 

Of particular note was McDonald’s push for delivery orders from customers watching World Cup soccer matches. Media reports indicate the burger chain used the data it’s collected on delivery to determine when at-home patrons might be most prone to order food, and then reach them through the most appropriate means, including tweets. 

The burger giant has also declared July 19 to be McDelivery Day, when customers can win McDonald’s-themed merchandise by placing their orders mid-morning via Uber Eats. 

 A snag in the shift away from plastic straws

As more restaurant operations drop the use of plastic straws, either at will or because of pending legislation, an unforeseen problem is emerging: How to make the change without disadvantage to the disabled. Or violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. Advocacy groups have spoken out with increasing frequency and fervor about the inappropriateness of paper or reusable metal straws for persons afflicted with a number of maladies. The straws can collapse, be bitten in two, or become too heated by the liquid being sucked up. 

Starbucks has said it intends to keep plastic straws on hand after it switches to a new strawless container that some have dubbed a sippy cup. Seattle, where a ban on plastic straws when into effect on July 1, has granted a one-year exemption on straws that are provided upon request to persons with a disability. 

Starbucks, meanwhile, is already piloting another way of getting single-use foodservice supplies out of the waste stream. The coffee chain has disclosed plans to levy a slight surcharge (five pence, or between a dime and a nickle) on single-use cups provided by its stores in Europe. It’s the stick Starbucks is using as a follow-up to the carrot it already offers, a discount on beverages served in customers’ reusable cups. The brand has said the use of permanent-ware cups soared 126% after it embraced the discount. 


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