The goals behind this week’s roundup of bean turners are as familiar to the business as napkins and forks: cut labor costs and employer aggravation. Foster teamwork. Bag more of those all-important millennials—and the new plum, the millennial family.
The possible upsurge in neck strain was the result of how restaurateurs pursued those longstanding objectives in recent days. When cross-dressing and free diapers figure into the tactics, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
And, indeed, several of the radical approaches originated outside of the domestic market.
But strap on the neck brace and see for yourself.
Starbucks’ new services for families
The coffee giant’s outposts in the United Kingdom are adding several amenities and services aimed specifically at millennial families. Young parents worried about running out of diapers while out and about with their toddlers can relax while inside one of the cafes; the stores are starting to stock a few emergency nappies.
Baristas are being trained to warm baby bottles with the same proficiency they bring to preparing a triple-shot espresso, and nursing moms who want some privacy are directed to spots where they’ll feel comfortable.
If mom or dad is having a tough time wheeling the pram through the seating area, staffers will help them find a high chair and a place to sit.
A Starbucks representative declined to answer the question from Business Insider about if and when the new amenities would be rolled into U.S. stores.
Cross-dressing as a bonding exercise
Male employees of the Union Local 613 restaurant in Ottawa, Ontario, know that working in a restaurant can be hard. But they didn’t know how much harder it could be for women until a local news outlet aired a story about the potential for harassment. Figuring they’d both learn more about their female counterparts’ work life and make a point, the men decided they’d log a shift in short skirts and high heels.
Management not only condoned the experiment, but joined in. Co-owner Matt Fantin was one of the staff members teetering around the floor that night, with ample flesh showing.
He told a local CBS affiliate that he lasted 45 minutes in the heels. The other dressed-up men were similarly quick to opt for more comfortable footwear.
But the real surprise, the cross dressers agreed, was how their scanty apparel encouraged customers to take liberties. What usually started as joshing became more annoying, disrespectful and downright improper as the night progressed. The transgressions were overt; a CBS camera crew readily recorded a few incidents.
The restaurant has yet to say how it might change its policies to incorporate what was learned that night.
Putting the health dilemma on suppliers
This week a thunderbolt hit what are arguably the restaurant industry’s most familiar and critical suppliers, yet operators on this side of the Atlantic saw nary a flash. They don’t know that a controversial development in the United Kingdom could be the jaws of life that extract them from a familiar rock-and-a-hard-place squeeze.
The U.K. announced this week that it will start levying a new tax in two years on soft drink companies’ sugary choices. The higher the sugar content, the higher the tax.
The scheme, as the British call it, is intended to force manufacturers into shifting their product mix in a more healthful direction. Beverage trade groups say the move will have the opposite effect by reducing profits and thereby squeezing R&D budgets.
Restaurants have long complained that they’re caught in the middle on soft drinks. Politicians and health advocates want them to steer customers toward less-caloric options, but consumers still love the full-strength stuff. Shifting the pressure upstream to the manufacturer means restaurateurs can get a respite from the struggle. They can only serve what’s available on the market.
Shortest chain LTO in history?
Anyone who blinks this week might miss Starbucks’ latest limited-time offer, the Cherry Blossom Frappuccino, a Japanese drink intended to celebrate spring and recalibrate how much time customers should get to try something. It’s being offered for five days, or until March 20, the official start of spring.
Starbucks didn’t say why the window for its latest seasonal drink was so small. But it noted that the drink is a nod to the Japanese tradition of picnicking under a flowering cherry tree, which blossoms only for a few days. The chain has sold a version of the Cherry Blossom Frappuccino in Japan since 2010.
It describes the drink as “a blend of sweet strawberries and cream with white chocolate sauce and matcha drizzle, topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of matcha.”
An employee-free Carl’s Jr?
If skyrocketing wages and escalating regulatory requirements are hurting restaurants, why not forego that pain and operate without employees? That’s what Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s CEO Andrew Puzder apparently asked himself after visiting Eatsa, the fully automated West Coast concept he (and presumably plenty of other restaurant employers) have visited in their quest to stay current. Unlike the others, he admitted to a reporter that he’s intrigued by the notion of an employee-less concept and would like to try a robotic Carl’s or Hardee’s.
Puzder has been a loud and articulate critic of government’s mounting demands on employers, arguing in op-eds and on talk shows that the efforts to help employees usually backfire by forcing businesses to cut jobs. Indeed, he’s no lover of government interference in any form. Years ago, he said publicly that Carl’s was going to move out of California because of the misplaced and unnecessary activism of elected officials.
The chain is still headquartered in Carpinteria, near Anaheim.