Tuesday, January 17, 2017

McRib Marketing - BUSINESS

Ever wonder why McDonald's only offers the McRib during the Christmas shopping season?

Well, I wonder why they chose the Christmas season, but I don't wonder about their tactics.

Some say it's meat availability. An informal 2011 study called "A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage" claims it has to do with the price of pork in the months prior to McDonald's offering of the sandwich. I won't dispute that. I can't say I've ever paid any attention to the market prices of hogs, so it could be true.

But in all honestly, we all know it's one reason --- scarcity creates demand.

A mythology and cult following have sprung up around the McRib. Many moons ago the McRib was just another sandwich among the numerous offerings on the McDonald's menu. In an effort to cut costs, the restaurant chain eliminated many sandwiches, the McRib being one of them. There was a mild public outcry, but McDonald's didn't bend. Instead, they waited...

Years later, they reintroduced it on a limited basic, gambling that its fans would flock to the restaurants to order it. They were correct. The demand sky-rocketed, so when the time period expired, they pulled it off the market again until the next year.

What McDonald's learned was that if the sandwich was on the menu all the time, it lost its allure. But if they created a "limited-time" identity, a culture of McRib-addicts would flood their establishments. -- By the way, this is the same strategy Disney uses for selling its classic movies, except they use the terminology "returning it to the vault" which allows them to charge twice as much for the same movie as they normally would.

Of course, the official McDonald's statement on this is slightly more "politically correct." :  "We like to change up our menu throughout the year by offering some limited time only items, like our Shamrock Shake in the Spring."

But does it really matter? In the end, every Christmas season I treat myself to a few McRibs with large fries (of course). It's become a bit of a tradition. People try to discourage me - not clear why they care - but I go and enjoy myself just the same.

Your local McDonald's may still have it on the menu and if you haven't had one yet, better hurry, you're running out of time, 11 months is a long time to wait for this hunk of fast food deliciousness.

Until Next Time...
If everyone tries to tell you how fake the McRib is, here's a short video to dispute that claim.

Ribly Yours,
Michael

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

True Innovation vs. Gimmick Hamburgers

Those of you who watch food or travel channels may have come across this show, or other shows like it, but recently I caught an airing of The Travel Channel's "Greatest Hamburgers of America."

I find these shows intriguing, entertaining, but mostly irrelevant. And they always leave me wondering who came up with the list, what their biases were, and how much research they actually did.

As I watched this particular Travel Channel show, though, I noticed something about many of these hamburger joints. Many of them weren't making "great" hamburgers, they were making ridiculous ones. Let's be honest, slapping an incredible amount of toppings on a patty of hamburger doesn't make it a great hamburger, it only makes it a pile of food with a piece of bun on top and bottom. Throw on the spaghetti noodles, popcorn shrimp, pulled pork, vienna sausages, etc. etc., doesn't matter, I'm not impressed. And if it's impossible to pick up or to take a bite of, then it's even less a hamburger, i.e., it's a marketing gimmick and nothing else. No culinary genius involved.

But if it's a hamburger you can pick up, take a bite of, and enjoy a unique combination of flavors that work in conjunction together, then that is true innovation, and should be lauded. 

I've listed below the fifteen restaurants The Travel Channel show featured. Each one has it's own website if you'd like to check them out, and I've made a few notes along some of them that illustrates the point I made above - there is a difference between Innovative and Gimmicky

Greatest Hamburgers in America
15. The Brindle Room - New York, NY
14. The Cowfish - four locations along the Southern East Coast - serves Burguish, a combination of sushi and hamburger, the signature entree of the Cowfish
13. Casper-Runyon's Nook - St. Paul, MN
12. Rockit Burger - Chicago, IL
11. Butcher and The Burger - Chicago, IL - regionally famous for their bison burgers. I've had bison burgers before, so I'd be curious to try one of theirs to see what distinguishes it from bison burgers available in many other restaurants.
10. Shooting Star Saloon - Huntsville, UT - Utah's oldest operating saloon and grill, famous for it's  knockworst burger
9. The Oaks Gourmet - Los Angeles, CA
8. Old Homestead Steakhouse - New York, NY
7. Lindy's on 4th -  Tucson, AZ - 10-inch tall burger; one of those I mentioned above, just a pile of ingredients thrown on a hamburger patty with some bread buried in there somewhere.
6. Grease Burger Bar - West Palm Beach, FL
5. Mission Bowling Club - San Francisco, CA
4. Louis Lunch  - New Haven, CT - claims to have invented the hamburger sandwich. I have no reason to dispute their claims, but the first time I heard the story, it reminded me of the story of how Chop Suey was invented - stranger(s) walk in, ask for something the restaurant doesn't serve, but the owner aims to please and invents a new food. This place also prides itself on no ketchup and all burgers are served on bread, not buns.
3. Dyer's - Memphis, TN --- this place also finished #3 on Playboy's A-List of America's Top Ten Burger joints. Attributes its delicious burgers to the agelessness of its grease, which is strained and reused daily since 1912.
2. Outlaws Cafe - Van Nuys, CA - this place also prides itself on no ketchup. They also don't allow knives to be used to cut the burger. Their specialty burger involves blue cheese and bacon
1. Lunchbox Laboratory - Seattle, WA - this place is famous not only for their tasty burgers, but for their mind-blowing shakes as well.

Locally, I've not nearly come close to hitting all the hamburgers joints in the St. Louis metro area, so my current choice of best hamburger in the region may one day be revised, but after nearly twenty years here, the best hamburger in the area actually comes from a roadside pub called The Defiance Roadhouse located in Defiance, Missouri, along Hwy 94. They keep it basic, without the need to gimmick the meal up with crazy names or impractical ingredients. If you ever find yourself in Eastern Missouri wine country and are craving a hamburger, the Roadhouse is the place to stop.

Until Next Time...
Here's a short video where the current ownership of Louis Lunch tells their story of the invention of the hamburger. I've also include a Man v Food video where Adam Richman visits Louis Lunch to taste it for himself.
No-Gimmickly Yours,
Michael  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Money Grabbing lawyer sues Popeyes

You may have read my blog last week about the little old woman suing Kentucky Fried Chicken. If so, you'll be happy to know that the craziness is contagious.

A professional lawyer is now suing Popeyes because he choked on a piece of chicken.

Seriously, you just can't make up this stuff.


His stupid claim is that since Popeyes didn't supply him with a plastic knife in his take-out order, he was forced to eat his beans and rice with a spork and his chicken with his hands!! (insert gasp here)
 
This about as valid as the woman suing Jimmy Johns because they put mustard on her sandwich. (gasp again).

I'm guessing this lawyer isn't doing so well in his law business so he's seeking out an alternate form of income. Or else he was so embarassed over nearly choking himself to death, he decided to take his anger out on someone. 
 
The only other thing that I can think of is that the people I've mentioned have made a habit/trade/practice of suing anyone and everyone. Serial suing is something that enough people have done that it's become recognized as a condition. They've sued their friend, neighbors, employers, and complete strangers over the slightest of grievances and will continue to do so.

The comment by a former Popeyes employee best sums up my thoughts about the lawsuit. It's a little piece of advice that our mothers gave us growing up:
“If you choke on your chicken and you have to get the chicken removed from your throat, it’s not because Popeyes didn’t supply a knife in the box. Maybe you should slow down eating.

I can only hope that some sane judge will throw this case out before Popeyes throws up its hands and writes this guy a check just to get him to go away and find his next victim.

If you get food poisoning, or fall and break an arm or leg, that's one thing, file a suit. But if you're not properly chewing your food and choke - it's your own damn fault.

Until Next Time..
Here's a short video about a couple's first trip to Popeyes --- SPOILER ALERT: They eat with their hands and don't choke due to the lack of a plastic knife.
Disgustingly Yours,
Michael   

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Watch Out For Those Specials

I wanted to do some pizza flavor experimentation the other day and needed to buy Canadian bacon from my local chain grocer. I found only one brand of Canadian bacon available and every package had a $1 "manager's special" coupon redeemable at the check-out. While I was disappointed that I only had one brand to choose from, I was happy that there was a coupon attached.

But I knew there was a catch, and I knew from past experience, this grocer (as all the others) only puts that coupon on products about to expire. Figuring I had only a day or two to use the Canadian bacon, I searched for the expiration date.

I couldn't find it.

And I immediately knew what they had done.

I peeled back the coupon and found the date underneath. This particular package of Canadian bacon had a "Sell By Date" of three days before. So I checked the next package behind it, same thing, and then the next one, same thing.

At this point I decided to call this to the attention of the meat department. I walked up to the counter and was greeted quite warmly. I said, "Do you have any Canadian bacon -- "


"Sure over here," he interrupted as he rounded the counter.

" -- that hasn't expired."

"What?" He turned and looked at me like he had never heard anything so crazy in his entire life. "That can't be right."

I explained to him what I'd done. He then looked through what I showed him and confirmed. Profuse apologies followed and he ran off to the back room to find some that weren't. After only a few moments he came back out with a different brand that didn't expire for a couple of months. I had no idea if this brand cost more or less and he wasn't sure on its price. I needed this ingredient and I didn't have time to drive to a different grocer, so I accepted this alternative.

Apologizing again and expressing his embarrassment of the situation, he vowed to get that taken care of right away.  Later, before checking out, I swung back by to check up on his promise. Needless to say, nothing had been done.

Now, because it was a "Sell By" date and not an actual expiration date, there's a good probability that no one who bought and ate that Canadian bacon got sick, but the fact that the grocer was deceptive serves as a good reminder. Maybe I'm naive, but maybe if enough people point out these things, grocery retailers will at least be a little more honest.

Maybe.

Just a little story to remind you as a consumer, "Caveat Emptor" - Buyer Beware.

Until Next Time...
Here's a short video on how to understand food expiration dates.

Emptorly Yours,
Michael

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Little Old Lady vs. Big Mean KFC - BUSINESS

Maybe you've seen the headlines, or maybe you've seen a recent tweet of mine, but in case you haven't heard, a woman is suing Kentucky Fried Chicken in the amount of $20 million for deceptive advertising. Here's the story:

Anna Wurtzburger, 64, went down to her local KFC in Hudson Valley, NY, and ordered the $20 Fill Up Meal which includes a bucket of eight pieces of chicken and sides. When she got home, she was quite disappointed in what she saw.

"They're showing a bucket that's overflowing with chicken," she told the New York Post in reference to the advertisement. "You get half a bucket! That's false advertising and it doesn't feed the whole family. They're small pieces!"

She called the headquarters to complain, they explained that they prop up the chicken so that it's visible in the ads. They also sent her $70 worth of gift certificates. She returned the gift certificates in protest, then called a lawyer and filed suit.

In an official statement, KFC said, "The guest received exactly what she requested. She purchased an eight-piece bucket of chicken and she indeed received eight pieces of chicken. Our menus and advertising clearly show our $20 Fill Up meal includes eight pieces of chicken."

I've looked, and it is clearly stated in both the advertising and the menu that the Fill Up bucket includes eight pieces of chicken. And yes, in all the pictures the chicken is shown clearly over the top of the basket. But I have a ton of questions for this woman, including:
"When you picked up your order, why didn't you notice right away that the basket wasn't overflowing with chicken?"
"Why $20 million? Did your lawyer suggest that amount? How much of that amount does he get?"
"If you really are on a fixed income, you know you could have gone to a local grocer and bought multiple full chickens for amount. Why didn't you?"

The motivation here is clear - this is a money grab. This lawyer is looking to use this case to fluff his resume, and this woman is looking to improve her lifestyle into something it never was. At the very least, it figures that KFC will settle this to make it go away, which is a still a loss for them and free enterprise.

It's these kinds of lawsuits that cause companies to put warning labels on their coffee to warn you that it's hot, or that you shouldn't take Drug XYZ if you are allergic to Drug XYZ. I fully believe in a system which allows people to bring grievances to a court to settle, but honestly this is abuse to the system and encourages other frivolous lawsuits. Should I sue Campbell's because their Chunky Soup doesn't alway leave me full like the football players who proclaim it leaves them full? At what point have we crossed the line between honest litigation and abuse?

The lesson here is, like your bag of potato chips isn't 100% full, neither will your bucket of chicken. But you will get what is advertised, and if that isn't good enough for you, then go to the grocery store instead.

Until Next Time...
For the historically minded, here is a 1985 cooking training video from KFC.
Litigiously Yours,
Michael    

Monday, October 24, 2016

Crazy Chili Recipe

I recently purchased some new cookware (thanks to The Boss), and as is common with this type of purchase, a little cookbook came with it. We all know those recipes are usually pretty standard and boring, and like many people, I frequently keep them for a little while before I lose them in a junk drawer somewhere. I find them two years later when I attempt to declutter the drawer, and they end up in the circular file.

But as I casually flipped through the pages of this latest cookware recipe freebie, I laughed out loud at the chili recipe offered up. Here it is in it's entirety:

-- CHILI --
Ingredients:
3 lbs ground beef
2 jars salsa
1 24-ounce can kidney beans
1 pack taco seasoning

Directions:
1. Place the (brand name cookware item) on the stove over medium heat
2. Brown the ground beef
3. Pour in the taco seasoning and stir
4. Add the rest of the ingredients
5. Place the lid on the pan and simmer for two hours
6. Serve

That's it!

Honestly!

I'm not making that up!

That's the Chili Recipe offered in the "cook book," and it's supposed to be the recipe used by a famous chef (btw, one whom I've never heard of).

I thought this was so ridiculous that it had to be a joke. But then I got to wondering..... I wondered if any poor soul out there taking his/her first steps into the world of cooking might actually TRY this recipe. Or maybe, someone who feels like they are a bad cook might give this whirl out of desperation. As chili, this recipe will fail on so many levels it's incredible, and I hope that whoever may try to make chili using this crazy formula comes to realize that its failure is due to the recipe and not due to their efforts. I hope it doesn't discourage them from continuing to reach out and trying to improve their overall skills.

If it wouldn't be a waste of money and perfectly good ingredients, I would attempt it just for shits and giggles.

So if one day, you find you have nothing better to do with your time and money, give this a try, and please please please, send me the details of your experience. I promise to share them with the world, and give you kudos for your bravery and sense of humor.

Until Next Time...
Here's the polar opposite --- a chili recipe from a good ol' boy in Arkansas who has won half a dozen chili contests and cook-offs around the United States..

Humorly Yours,
Michael

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Touchdown Taco Hummus

Back at the beginning of this football season I promised to publish a few heathful alternatives to the usual football snack items that tasted just as good as the junk food we all absolutely love. One of these items is Touchdown Taco Hummus. It has all the benefits of hummus plus a nice taco flavor that literally drove us wild here.

The Boss loves hummus way more than I do, so she's always taken charge of this snack dip. She uses a recipe from the guys at "Eat This, Not That" and modifies to her taste (as all cooks can and should do). I then decided that I'd make my own version from an idea off the internet and created Touchdown Taco Hummus.

As with hummus in general, the recipe is quite simple:

-- Touchdown Taco Hummus --

Ingredients
2 cans chic peas, drained and rinsed
1 large clove of garlic (or 2-3 small gloves)
1/2 teaspoon ground cummin
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1 package of taco seasoning (or 1-1/2 to taste)


Directions
Add all the ingredients into your food processor
Blend until proper consistency is acquired
(You can use the water from the chic pea cans or add an additional teaspoon or two if necessary)
Scoop into a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro, parsley, or chives. 

Most hummus recipes call for lemon, but for Touchdown Taco Hummus I put in a lime. The traditional lemon would work, but I like lime with other Mexican inspired dishes, so I kept up the tradition with this one.

The other great thing about this hummus recipe is it's a "two-for-one" recipe, because you can make it again on May 5... except you'd have to call it Cinco de Mayo Hummus.

Until next time...
Old El Paso offers up this super quick video that gives a slightly different visual version of this dip.

Tacoly Yours,
Michael