Peter Romeo

Editor at Large

Articles by
Peter Romeo

Page 363

What were they thinking?

This has been a week of jaw-dropping restaurant blunders. Consider, for instance, Wendy’s inadvertent lapse into pimp-speak during an otherwise routine promotion.

Jean Birch's read of chains' yesterday—and tomorrow

The restaurant business changed during the 20-plus years that Jean Birch logged at several major chains, but she seems to doubt that casual dining was paying full attention.

Forget Edward Snowden, the Syrian revolution, Egypt’s echo-revolution, or who’ll win “America’s Got Talent.” The big news last week for anyone in this business has to be the closing of Brennan’s.

Technomics’ 2013 Trends & Directions conference abounded in business-building ideas. Here’s a sampling.

The McDonald’s at JFK International Airport had an inventory discrepancy after I recently ate there. If it reconciled sales of the just-added Strawberry Pie with how many pies were still on hand at the end of the day, the count would have been off by one. So would the tally of satisfied customers, because I never got the pie—despite a wait of easily 30 minutes (hey, the restaurant was by my gate.)

If you’re unfamiliar with a restaurant creation called the Cronut, there’s probably not a bit of black clothing in your wardrobe. And don’t embarrass yourself by asking youngsters on the staff if Daft Punk is sort of like The Sex Pistols.

One of the downsides of my job is watching the very public divorce of a chain and a top executive whose proven abilities have earned your respect for years. Few of those breaks have been as painful to witness as Wednesday’s parting of Cosi and its CEO for just a short stretch, Carin Stutz.

If you’ve ever wanted to start a “Jerry Springer”-style show for the restaurant industry, this is the week to do it. Insults and chairs will be flying before you can say, “I caught my spouse cheating.”

Did the industry sneak off to Colorado or Washington for a few now-legal bong hits? How else could the business have brainstormed jaw-droppers like these?

I’m worried about McDonald’s. The pronouncements and decisions flowing out of headquarters in recent months have been real head-scratchers, from the ouster of the ketchup-blooded Jan Fields to the recent observation from CEO Don Thompson that Europeans control their weight through walking.

In a matter of months, restaurateurs will need to notify employees of their new health insurance options under the Affordable Health Care act, officers of the National Restaurant Association alerted attendees at the Restaurant Leadership Conference. In a short, focused presentation, CEO Dawn Sweeney and chairman Phil Hickey stressed that operators need to learn their obligations and options now to contend with one of the greatest challenges ever faced by the industry.

Mike Roberts’ is doing what he’s always done: following the customer. It’s tempting to see Guest Editor Mike Roberts’ new LYFE Kitchen and its array of socially responsible attributes as a departure from his old job as Global President and COO of McDonald’s.

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