Now we know why Agents Scully and Mulder are back on the job. The restaurant business provided enough strange developments this week to employ the intrepid investigators of the paranormal for at least two more TV seasons. Here, straight from the grassy knoll, is a sampling of the eerie moments, starting with the assertions of a “food terrorist” conspiracy involving Chipotle.
And Elvis is still alive, too
We’re not getting the real story behind Chipotle’s recent food-safety problems because the true culprits, the “Monsanto mafia,” have successfully covered their tracks, asserts a lifestyle website that claims 7 million regular readers. But they’re not fooling NaturalNews.com. It knows a conspiracy when it sees one, and now the site is trumpeting its assertions to anyone who’ll listen, and that includes such mainstream media as Eater.com.
According to Natural News writer Mike Adams, a.k.a. the Health Ranger, pro-GMO forces planted E.coli in Chipotle’s food to punish the chain for its stance against genetic modification. The proof: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that the E.coli traced to the chain was a rare genetic strain. And the strain disappeared before investigators could isolate it! Ipso facto, the bacteria was developed by evil forces and snuck into Chipotle restaurants.
Plus, writes Adams, it’s well-known that GMO proponents can’t be trusted. “We also know the track record of the biotech industry engaging in the most criminal, dirty, sleazebag tactics imaginable against any person or company that speaks out against GMOs,” he asserts.
“We have just witnessed America's first act of corporate bioterrorism in the food wars,” he concludes.
If he’s right, Adams notes, Chipotle will likely take a number of security steps to protect itself.
He didn’t connect the dots by pointing out that Chipotle is meeting with its entire staff on Monday to detail some additional safeguards.
Gives you goose bumps, doesn’t it?
666, restaurant style
Some of the scariest numbers ever posted by a public restaurant company were aired this week by Chipotle. The real fright wasn’t the 14.6 percent decline in same-store sales for the fourth quarter of last year, or even the 30 percent drop in comps for December. The hair raiser was the 36 percent plummet in comps for January, a figure that indicates the chain’s sales decline accelerated as it got farther away from the food contaminations that triggered the free fall. And that’s more chilling than any possible conspiracy.
A pesky time warp for Dunkin’ Donuts
A number of quick-service chains are trying to wean customers off the dollar deals that sustained the brands during the Great Recession, but for Dunkin’, it could be 2008 all over again. Nigel Travis, CEO of parent company Dunkin’ Brands, told TheStreet.com that it may bring back its breakfast-for-a-buck lures. “We've tried a dollar menu before, and I think we may do that in certain markets," he said.
Lest there be any confusion, the doughnut chain will not follow the lead of Burger King and Wendy’s in touting low-cost meals instead of single items priced at a buck, Nigel said.
More meatballs, no assembly required
In the not-so-distant future, tykes will nestle into Grandpa’s laps to hear of those strange days when retail stores actually made their money by selling merchandise. This week brought another example of a big-name retailer redefining itself as a restaurant operator that also peddles a hard good here and there, as reported in The Washington Post.
The Ikea furniture chain is in the process of revamping all 41 of its U.S. branches—not to push more futons or bookcases, but to sell more ready-to-eat food.
The dining area will be carved into three sections to serve three distinct types of customers, a strategy that has been followed by such restaurant chains as McDonald’s and Jack in the Box. One area will be more of a traditional restaurant for families, another will be more of a quick-service setting with an emphasis on convenience, and the last will be a sort of Starbucks with more exposed wood.
The reason for the reorientation: Sales of ready-to-eat food have been increasing faster than the revenues for the Swedish chain’s core furniture business.
It’s not the only retailer to be thinking as much about pepperoncini as it usually does about drawer pulls. Urban Outfitters recently purchased the highly regarded Pizzeria Vetri chain, and Restoration Hardware has carved space in its Chicago store for a high-art restaurant from celebrated local operator Brendan Sodikoff.
Turning the table on the kitchen staff
Back-of-the-house workers in Los Angeles may be wondering this month if they’ve slipped into some alternative universe where they’re the pampered members of the staff. They’ve watched for years as servers ended their shifts with wads of money and a glow from hearing compliments all night on the food. And who but rock stars gets the sort of attention from members of the opposite sex that bartenders routinely enjoy?
That reality is being tweaked this month in Los Angeles by famed restaurateur Phillip Frankland Lee, chef-owner of Scratch Bar and Kitchen, according to the Los Angeles Times. Through February, Lee is buying a six-course tasting dinner for any back-of-the-house worker who stops into Scratch or his other restaurant, Gadarene Swine.
The offer is suspended for Valentine’s Day, and kitchen staffers have to bring a pay stub to prove they actually work behind the scenes. They still have to pay for their drinks, and the discount is cut to 50 percent for accompanying guests. But underappreciated yet key members of the business are treated to a dinner priced as high as $120.