This week’s 4 head-spinning moments: Big names, bold bids, bad hair

Using boldfaced names is only appropriate after the star-driven events of the last week in the restaurant business. The industry fell one “American Idol” winner short of matching the guest list at a Sylvestor Stallone barbecue, but rare is the episode of “Entertainment Tonight” that boasts two billionaires, two heritage brands run amok, and the most advertised hands in modern history. What better place to start than with a possible career opportunity for Jared Fogle?

1. The Donald is serially dumped

Fogle might be the only person connected to the industry who’d be willing to run a restaurant inside the hotel Donald Trump plans to open next year in Washington, D.C.  Celebrity D.C. chef Jose Andres had agreed to outfit the primo space with one of his concepts, but then the helmet-haired one started blathering about the dangers he detects in immigrants from Mexico. More than 450 offended consumers signed a petition urging Andres to pull out of the deal, and he obliged, noting “more than half of my team is Hispanic.”

Instead of showing contrition, Trump’s people sent an email to the Washington Post, vowing to take legal action against Andres.

Then “Chopped” judge and celebrated chef Geoffrey Zakarian announced that he was scrapping plans for the restaurant he’d planned for the D.C. Trump International, citing a misalignment of his and Trump’s core values.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to campaign for the Presidency, apparently confident he could find a White House chef.

2. KFC and Pizza Hut’s monstrous love child

A quick recap before we continue of memorable menu moments from each of the Yum! Brands chains: KFC periodically trots out an over-the-top sandwich consisting of cheese and bacon nestled between two fried chicken breasts.  Pizza Hut is currently promoting a pizza with 28 mini-hot dogs baked into the outer rim of crust. What would happen if both brand’s yen for the extreme came together in a single product?

Wonder no more. It’s called the Chizza, as in chicken + pizza, and it consists of a pizza where the crust is replaced with a flattened layer of breaded-and-fried chicken meat. 

Lest you fear for your children, note that only KFC restaurants in Asia are currently selling the Chizza. But the Double Down twin-breast sandwich was featured in other countries before it arrived in the United States.

3. Food safety is in good hands. With Allstate

An unusual alliance between the insurer and government came to light this week in Chicago, which may be one of the nation’s most progressive cities in promoting food safety. Two years ago, sanitation officials started monitoring Twitter posts to spot multiple mentions of “food poisoning” and other indications of safety problems within restaurants.

Now the city is working with technology and data from Allstate (“the good hands people”) to predict where a safety lapse is likely to occur, using past inspections and analyses of patterns as key indicators. It may be the first practical use of Big Data in the restaurant business.

4. Paul Allen’s restaurant cause

Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s richest individuals, has spent considerable dollars from his staggering fortune on such indulgences as a Jimi Hendrix museum and professional sports teams. Now he’s devoting time and money to celebrating restaurants that pick the right fish for their menus.

Allen is the driving force behind Smart Catch, a certification program that just started in Seattle. Participating restaurants in the area are scored on their compliance with the seafood sustainability guidelines of Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  If they earn a grade of 90 percent or higher, they’re awarded a window cling to display on their front door or façade.

Restaurants that make the grade are listed on a website, smartcatch.com, and are promoted through means that range from advertising to social media.

The site also lists suppliers offering fish with high sustainability ratings, and assistance is offered to chefs who want to raise their scores and find the right species.

Forty-one restaurants in and around Seattle are currently listed on the site.


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