MONEY Fast Food

All-Day Breakfast and 4 Other Tests McDonald’s Hopes Will Juice Sales

McDonald's Breakfast Menu
Helen Sessions—Alamy McDonald's Breakfast Menu

After falling behind the times and engaging in a few failed experiments, McDonald's is trying to innovate with the likes of all-day breakfast, table service, and hot new flavors.

It shouldn’t seem like big news that McDonald’s is testing out the idea of selling Egg McMuffins 24/7—in a single city no less. But word spread quickly yesterday that “industry sources” said that all-day breakfast would be tested in San Diego-area McDonald’s this spring, and after a barrage of coverage McDonald’s confirmed the rumors were true.

“We know our customers love McDonald’s breakfast and they tell us they’d like to enjoy it beyond the morning hours. So next month, we will begin testing all-day breakfast at select restaurants in the San Diego area,” McDonald’s explained in statement released to the press on Monday. “We look forward to learning from this test, and it’s premature to speculate on any outcomes.”

McDonald’s may not be willing to speculate on the implications of all-day breakfast, but there are plenty of people who are more than happy to do so. Citing several analysts and observers weighing in on just how “craveable” McDonald’s Egg McMuffin and other breakfast items are, Slate described the arrival of all-day breakfast at McDonald’s as the “One Big Menu Change That Could Save Its Business.”

Breakfast has come to be seen as the most important meal of the day for fast food largely because it’s the only part of the day that’s seen steady sales growth in recent years. Today’s time-crunched, on-the-go culture has led more people to swing by the drive-thru each morning. And because of our hectic schedules, odd work hours, and changing tastes, consumers are more likely to crave coffee and breakfast sandwiches at all hours of the day—not just up until 10:30 a.m., when McDonald’s usually shuts down breakfast operations.

More people basically wear pajamas all day nowadays—that’s what yoga pants and leisurewear are, aren’t they?—so it sorta makes sense there’s increasing demand for breakfast all day as well. QSRMagazine.com recently cited a 2015 survey showing that 7 out of 10 consumers want restaurants to serve breakfast during all business hours, and the demographic most interested in having breakfast items available for dinner are the all-important millennials.

McDonald’s franchise owners have explained that all-day breakfast is problematic if not impossible because of the logistics: The grills needed for hot cakes and Egg McMuffins aren’t available during busy lunch and dinner hours because they’re already being used for burgers and such. But McDonald’s has been testing late-night menus in which Big Macs can be made alongside Sausage McMuffins and other breakfast items, and what with the company’s struggles in the marketplace (with millennials especially), the company seems to think it’s worth giving all-day breakfast a shot at revitalizing sales.

All-day breakfast is not the only way McDonald’s is trying to boost—or perhaps even revolutionize—the business. Here are four more interesting experiments McDonald’s is trying out right now.

Table Service
The McDonald’s at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, is allowing customers to place orders via digital kiosk or with a waiter that comes around to their table. Yes, there are actual waitstaff at this McDonald’s, and once orders are ready they’ll bring food out to customers’ tables.

Shakin’ Fries, Shakin’ McNuggets
Tests involving seasoned French fries surfaced at McDonald’s in a couple markets last spring. Dubbed Shakin’ Fries, they’re fries that come with your choice of flavor seasoning (garlic parmesan, zesty ranch, spicy buffalo), along with a special mixing bag where customers can literally spice things up. More recently, McDonald’s has been testing the sales of Shakin’ Flavors with McNuggets. The concept plays into two notable restaurant trends at the same time—one in which food is customizable, the other involving more variety of spices, the hotter the better.

Build Your Burger
Another customizable option being tested by McDonald’s is the “Build Your Burger” program spotted at restaurants in southern California early last fall. The menu option is being expanded to a handful of states in 2015, and customers are being asked to pay up for the right to mix and match exactly what they want on burgers and, in some cases, chicken sandwiches as well. A customized burger with medium fries and a medium drink has been priced at $8.29 at some locations. For that, customers can personalize what the burger comes with, including a choice of buns (artisan or brioche) and toppings (spicy mayo, classic ketchup, cheeses, guacamole, jalapenos, bacon, etc.). McDonald’s employees hand deliver the order to customers’ tables as well.

The Corner
Taco Bell, KFC, Denny’s, and Cracker Barrel are all experimenting with more upscale fast-casual restaurant concepts, so why not McDonald’s? Late last year, the fast-food giant opened a new restaurant in Sydney, Australia, called The Corner, and at first glance you’d never guess McDonald’s was involved. Described as a “hipster café” and a “super healthy test concept, The Corner is a prototype featuring craft sodas, tofu, pulled pork, cold-drip coffee, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, and the like. There is a tiny “McCafe” logo on bags that hold orders, and even if the restaurant itself is never duplicated, if they’re popular enough some of the menu items may one day appear in McDonald’s around the world.

MONEY deals

$1.31 Ice Cream Cones at Baskin-Robbins on 3/31

ice cream cone
James F. Quinn—KRT/Newscom

To celebrate its 70th birthday—as well as its famous "31 flavors"—Baskin-Robbins has a sweet deal on March 31: One-scoop ice cream cones and cups are $1.31, while two-scoop sundaes are $3.31.

Thirty-one has always been a magical number for Baskin-Robbins. Originally, the ice cream chain came up with 31 different flavors with the idea that there would be a different flavor for each day of the month. There are actually far more flavors available today—more than 1,000 varieties have been created over the years.

In any event, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Baskin-Robbins, and naturally the brand decided that March 31 would be the perfect day to host a special promotion. Participating Baskin-Robbins shops all over the country are offering discounted prices of $1.31 for one-scoop cups and cones and $3.31 for classic two-scoop sundaes.

While these prices are the equivalent of discounts in excess of 50% off, some customers aren’t exactly blown away by Baskin-Robbins’ generosity. At the Baskin-Robbins Facebook page, some have pointed out—quite bitterly—that Dairy Queen recently gave out free ice cream cones, and that Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day is coming up on April 14. By comparison, the Baskin-Robbins offer is a bit stingy.

What’s more, tons of commenters recalled not long ago, when Baskin-Robbins’ promotion for one-scoop cones and cups was a mere 31¢. “What happened to .31 cent scoop night?” one commenter chimed in. “Bummer.”

MONEY Advertising

The True Purpose of Heineken Light’s New Money-Back Guarantee

Heineken Light
Heineken

It's easy to make a promise when you're pretty sure no one will ever take you up on it.

Heineken Light just introduced quite an impressive-sounding guarantee, in which customers will get their money back if they think that it’s not the best-tasting light beer on the market.

The new guarantee is being promoted with a couple of commercials featuring Neil Patrick Harris. The humor in the one 15-second spot embedded below stems from the fact that Harris isn’t quite sure how anyone would actually get a refund.

“Not me, I won’t” give you your money back, the actor and Oscars host says in the commercial. “Someone will give you your…” he stammers and then stops, before clarifying, “someone at Heineken, I’m guessing,” while looking around bewildered. In other words, he has no clue how the money-back guarantee would work in real life. Ha!

If you’re interested, have a look at the ad yourself:

What’s funny in a different way about this commercial is that the ad brings to light how virtually no consumers understand the nitty-gritty of money-back guarantees—mainly because almost no one ever gets their money back from them.

It’s easy for Heineken to make this promise concerning its product, because people simply “won’t return the beer — too much hassle and humiliation,” Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and frequent Money.com contributor explained via email. “The whole point of the ad is to make a big statement about quality/taste — guarantees are one of the strongest possible ways to demonstrate confidence. Heineken cleverly reduced the ‘huckster’ quality of a money-back guarantee by adding a dribble of irony and self-mockery through Neil Patrick Harris’ delivery.”

Money-back guarantees have been around for decades. An old Journal of Retailing study succinctly sums up a few of the key reasons why stores and manufacturers roll them out, especially when it comes to newer, higher-end products:

Such a guarantee may increase a retailer’s profits. They may increase the sales volume by encouraging shoppers to try new products. In addition, they may allow the retailer to charge higher prices because the reduction in risk from the product’s being a poor match with their tastes may increase a consumer’s willingness to pay.

Overall, these guarantees tend to provide far more benefit to retailers than they do for consumers. They’re the “commercial equivalent of a date pulling out his or her wallet with no intention of paying,” as a colleague at Time.com once put it.

It’s not just retailers and product manufacturers that make use of money-back guarantees as a means to instill confidence and drum up business. A small Canadian newspaper just introduced a money-back guarantee for subscribers, while a pastor in Pennsylvania recently told his congregation that he’d be happy to give donations to the church back to anyone who doesn’t feel blessed.

“We’ve never had one person ask for their money back, which means that God is true to his word and that we’re seeing the blessings of God being poured out in people’s lives,” said the pastor, Robbie McLaughlin of Hope City Church in Harrisburg.

It’s hard to say how many people take companies up on their money-back guarantees because this information is rarely shared with the public, if it’s tracked at all. Walmart introduced a much-heralded fresh produce money-back guarantee in 2013. But as one retail insider noted, it’s somewhat of an empty promise, because the likelihood of anyone employing the guarantee for a refund is small: “How many customers are going to return to Walmart and stand in a customer service line to return a $3 produce item?”

Some money-back guarantees come with substantial fine print, as well as loopholes that can make it extra difficult to get your money back. For instance, a MousePrint.org study on the money-back guarantees highlighted how Federal Express’s promise was undercut by a line of fine print explaining the “guarantee can be suspended, modified or revoked at our sole discretion without prior notice to you.”

One of the best-known money-back guarantees comes from Hampton Hotels, which has had such a guarantee for more than a quarter-century, and which claims to have given away “millions of dollars in free room nights” over the years to guests who weren’t fully satisfied with their stays. Even with those refunds factored in, the company says the guarantee has been great for business. One reason is that most people with complaints “merely wanted the management to know about the problems,” according to a company press release celebrating the guarantee’s 25th anniversary, and they didn’t actually ask for their money back. Most importantly, the guarantee has served as “key driver of incremental business for the brand, with about 75 percent of all hotel guests aware of the offer and about half reporting that it has some influence on their hotel choice.”

MONEY online shopping

7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

repairman arriving at front door
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

What do autographed vintage Air Jordans, environmentally friendly baby wipes, cheap wine, and plumber recommendations have in common? You can find them all at Amazon.com.

On Monday, Amazon announced the official launch of Amazon Home Services, a marketplace and recommendation tool to help people find, schedule, and pay for services like home cleaning, lawn care, and handyman jobs. The new service is obviously competing in the same space as user review tools like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Porch, and customers with verified purchases made through Amazon will be able to review services as well. Amazon also says all of its professionals are handpicked and fully insured, and if anything goes wrong with a job it promises to “work with customers and the pro to ensure the job gets done right or provide a refund.”

Amazon’s entrance into the sphere of contractors and professional home services may seem a little out of left field. But the move makes total sense in light of the company’s overarching mission—to become the destination for anyone wanting to find and purchase pretty much anything.

Here are a few other seemingly odd retail categories that Amazon has ventured into recently. They haven’t all been successful. In fact, some have basically been flops. But when you’re trying to take control of the marketplace for selling everything under the sun, a few misfires and false starts should be expected.

Fine Art
Amazon Art launched in the summer of 2013 as a marketplace selling tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works—including some originals from masters like Monet and Norman Rockwell, with list prices into the millions of dollars. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some in the highbrow art world have been skeptical about the idea of one-click ordering, say, a Rembrandt.

Renowned economist Tyler Cowen pointed out the absurdity of being asked to pay $4.99 for shipping for a “mediocre Mary Cassatt lithograph” listed at $185,000, and wrote that he hoped Amazon Art was “a doomed venture.” The New Yorker noted that actually selling and profiting from high-end art may not be the point for Amazon: “Regardless of whether Amazon Art revolutionizes the art world, it will contribute to the perception that Amazon is working to create: whatever it is you’re looking for, you only need to remember one U.R.L.”

Fresh Flowers
About the same time Amazon was getting into fine art, it quietly launched The Amazon Curated Flowers Collection, in which the e-retail giant would be selling and shipping flowers directly to customers. Apparently, the venture didn’t work out. Recode reported that the Collection was kaput within a few months, and now the only flower bouquets that can be ordered through the site come from third-party vendors.

Diapers & Baby Wipes
Another venture that seems to have not worked out as well as Amazon wished was its recent entrance into the diaper business. Last December, the company began selling Amazon Elements, its own brand of high-end, environmentally friendly diapers and wipes. Less than two months later, bad feedback from customers pushed Amazon to discontinue the diapers and take them off the market, at least until design improvements could be made. Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, meanwhile, are still listed for sale at the site, where they get a 4.5-star rating.

Collectible Coins
Amazon’s Collectible Coins marketplace hit the site last May, allowing shoppers to search, browse, and buy thousands of rare and historical authenticated coins from dozens of dealers. Like Amazon Art, the coins purchased via Amazon can be priced into the millions, and Amazon gets a cut of every sale—reportedly 5% to 20%.

Sports Memorabilia
Among the wide selection of autographed sports collectibles currently up for sale on Amazon is a pair of 1985 Air Jordan sneakers ($48,788 + $4.49 shipping) and a baseball featuring Lou Gehrig’s signature ($71,264.99, with free shipping!). Amazon got into sports memorabilia in 2012, and it has a section for entertainment collectibles as well.

Wine
The Amazon Wine marketplace was introduced in 2012 in about a dozen states, with shipping on up to six bottles priced at a flat $9.99. The service has since expanded for delivery to more than a dozen other states, and the site—no stranger to price wars—has been competing aggressively on wine promotions, notably with 1¢ shipping on many orders.

MONEY Autos

Police All Over the U.S. Are Issuing Fewer Traffic Tickets

traffic violations
Jeffrey Coolidge—Getty Images

Drivers appear to be catching a break from cops, who are writing fewer tickets of late. But don't think for a second the decrease is because police have become softies all of a sudden.

The Nevada Supreme Court says it could be completely broke by May 1. The primary reason the court won’t have enough cash to operate? Not enough people are breaking the law. Or rather, not enough people are being caught breaking the law.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported that the number of traffic and parking citations has plummeted in Nevada, from 615,267 in 2010 to 484,913 last year. That’s a dip of more than 21% over five years. The state court system’s budget relies on millions of dollars in funding from such citations, so when significantly fewer tickets are issued, it can wreak havoc on the court’s ability to do its job, and even just keep the lights on.

In mid-March, Nevada Chief Justice James Hardesty raised the problem to a group of state lawmakers, asking the legislature to provide emergency funding to make up for the shortfall in citation revenues. The court’s budget is currently running $700,000 short. As for why the number of tickets issued by police has steadily declined, Hardesty doesn’t think it’s simply because a broad swath of drivers has suddenly seen the error of their ways and stopped speeding.

“With all due respect to the citizens of Nevada, I don’t think anyone is driving better,” Hardesty said to lawmakers. “I think the truth is that we’re seeing less traffic violations because law enforcement’s priorities have changed and it has changed dramatically.”

What, then, are the new priorities? The Review-Journal noted that police have put new “emphasis on violations that could cause crashes,” with citations up for drunk driving and cellphone use behind the wheel. Understaffing may be a factor as well.

In any event, the decrease in traffic citations is hardly limited to Nevada. Speeding tickets are down sharply in Wisconsin, from 294,000 convictions in 2004 to 156,000 in 2013. In Washington, D.C., police officers issued 76,832 traffic tickets last year, down from 81,161 in 2012 and 116,509 in 2010. Citations issued on interstates in Ohio are down as well, especially on busy I-70, where the monthly number of tickets is down 25%. Over in Pennsylvania, the number of tickets issued by state police was down 22% in September 2014 and 11% in October compared with the same months the year before.

Speed Limits Up, Revenue Down

What’s to explain the decline in tickets? In some cases, it’s a matter of not having the funds to keep police out on patrol looking for violators. Police in Wisconsin, for instance, say that federal grant money that used to support anti-speeding campaigns has dried up.

What’s interesting—or perhaps sad, in a which-came-first, dog-chasing-its-own-tail sorta way—is that budget tightening is often blamed for why ticket issuance is down, at the same time a decline in citations is pointed to as a prime reason for budget shortfalls in the first place. Understaffing due to budgetary constraints has been blamed for the sudden and dramatic decline in ticket revenues in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York as well in recent years.

Higher speed limits that are more in line with how people actually drive also appear to have handcuffed the need to issue speeding tickets. When Ohio upped its speed limit to 70 mph in 2013, it became the 37th state to OK speeds of 70 or above. In light of that, it’s no coincidence that speeding tickets have dropped 7% on Ohio’s 70 mph stretches, and they’re down 25% on rural areas of I-70 where the limit is 70 mph.

In some cases, especially in D.C., there are indications that police are writing fewer traffic tickets because automated red-light camera systems are doing the job for them. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, traffic tickets were supposedly down steeply last fall partly because police were occupied in a seven-week manhunt for alleged cop killer Eric Frein. What many drivers might find alarming is that even as citations were down during this period, ticket revenues were up significantly compared with the year before. How could this be? The average traffic fine simply got more expensive, hitting $125 in 2014, up from $114 the year before.

The cynics among us may think that police are writing fewer tickets mainly because they have little incentive to write more tickets. This certainly seems to be the case in parts of Illinois, where police issue traffic tickets at a tiny fraction of the rate their citation-happy brethren in law enforcement do across the border in Missouri. The most infamous example of this is Ferguson, Mo., where the killing of an unarmed Michael Brown by police inspired months of protests, and where police are known to write more and more tickets to fund local budgets. Nearly 12,000 traffic tickets were issued in Ferguson (population: 21,111) last year. Across the border in Illinois, where municipalities see very little of the money taken in from traffic fines, police in cities of similar size like Alton (population: 27,690) and Edwardsville (population: 24,663) handed out only 6,653 and 3,128 tickets, respectively, in 2013.

“None of us want an officer to have a financial incentive to write citations,” Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keevan said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

For that matter, traffic tickets aren’t supposed to be about money, right? They’re supposed to exist in order to incentivize drivers into behaving better behind the wheel and keep roads safer. The purpose of lower speed limits is supposed to be to save lives as well. With that in mind, one might assume that since speed limits have risen, and since police seem to have grown lax in their approach to writing tickets, roads would become more dangerous. But the statistics don’t bear this out.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 30,057 car crashes in which someone died on American roads in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. That’s the second-lowest fatal car crash total ever (2011 had slightly fewer), and it marked an all-time low for the death rate per 100,000 vehicle occupants.

In other words, roads today are safer, not more dangerous, and it’s hard to argue that writing more tickets is going to make anyone safer.

MONEY Sports

Crazy Long Shot March Madness Bet Looks to Pay Off Big Time

150326_EM_CrazyBet
David Richard—AP Kentucky's Andrew Harrison is congratulated by Willie Cauley-Stein (15) during the second half of a college basketball game against West Virginia in the NCAA men's tournament regional semifinals.

Before the college basketball season started, at least 39 people placed a bet at a Nevada sportsbook with 50:1 odds. It's looking like quite a brilliant wager right about now.

The bet in question is that the University of Kentucky would go undefeated through the entire season and win the national championship in the NCAA March Madness tournament. After Kentucky completely dominated West Virginia in a 78-39 rout on Thursday night, the Wildcats stand at 37-0. All they need is three more wins and they’ll go down in history as the best college basketball team ever, or at least the one that had the best season ever.

There have been teams that have run the table in the past, with undefeated regular seasons followed by national championships. But it hasn’t happened in decades. The last squad to do so was Indiana in 1975-1976. Teams played fewer games back then—Indiana’s record was 32-0, including the tournament—so Kentucky has already won more games this year. The great John Wooden-coached UCLA Bruins teams of the 1960s and ’70s had four undefeated seasons and won an amazing 88 games in a row, but again, times have changed and teams play more games nowadays.

Because the season is so long, and because no team has gone undefeated in nearly four decades, gamblers were initially given long-shot odds that Kentucky could accomplish the feat in 2014-2015. Last summer, the William Hill sportsbook in Nevada began accepting bets that would pay off 50-to-1 if Kentucky won every game, including the tournament. According to ESPN, at least 39 people took those odds, including one $500 bet that will pay off to the tune of $25,000 if Kentucky wins its final three games.

Another gambler bet $2,550 on Kentucky to zip through this year with zero losses, but that wager was placed in September, when the odds had shrunk to 20:1. That bet will pay off $51,000 if Kentucky comes through.

Kentucky has had some close games this year, including back-to-back overtime games in January, against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. So it’s indeed possible that John Calipari’s super-talented squad could lose. But as NCAA March Madness entered the Sweet Sixteen this week, sportsbooks listed Kentucky as the overwhelming favorite, with 1:1 odds. Arizona was a distant second at 13:2, and all the other contenders were even bigger long shots. In other words, casinos have been practically begging gamblers to bet on any team other than Kentucky.

Yet even if Kentucky does run the table, there are those who will argue—fairly convincingly—that this year’s team is not the best ever. Not by a long shot. In fact, Vegas oddsmakers say that the 2014-15 Kentucky team would be the underdog in theoretical matchups against several notable college squads from the past, including the undefeated 1976 Indiana team, UNLV circa 1991 with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony, and even the 2012 Kentucky team that won the national championship and had six players drafted into the NBA—but that didn’t go undefeated for the entire season.

MONEY deals

Here’s What the World’s Largest Coupon Looks Like

Fast food icon, Jack, of Jack in the Box, makes a rare public appearance to celebrate capturing the Guinness World Record title for the world's Largest coupon on Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2015 in Los Angeles. Fans can get their own Buttery Jack Burgers at their local Jack in the Box by sharing shots of the #WorldsLargestCoupon.
Jordan Strauss—Invision via AP Fast food icon, Jack, of Jack in the Box, makes a rare public appearance to celebrate capturing the Guinness World Record title for the world's Largest coupon on Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2015 in Los Angeles.

At 80 feet tall and 450 times the size of a regular coupon, it's kind of a big deal. And yes, it's a valid coupon—good for a free burger!

This week, the fast food restaurant chain Jack in the Box unveiled a huge—quite literally—new offer. The company needed more than a dozen people to carry the freshly made coupon, which measures 80 feet tall by 25 feet wide, down the streets of Los Angeles. It was then draped down the side of the W Hotel in Hollywood, where it could be admired as the “Largest Coupon” according to Guinness World Records.

The coupon is valid through April 1 for a buy-one, get-one-free Buttery Jack Burger, which features “garlic herb butter melted on top of a new, quarter-pound signature beef patty, tucked inside Jack’s gourmet signature bun.”

You might be thinking it’s a bit impractical to bring an eight-story-high coupon into a restaurant. And you’d be right. But all you need is a picture of the coupon on your phone to get your free burger, and it’s easy enough to locate a photo on social media with the hashtag #WorldsLargestCoupon.

MONEY Millennials

5 Big Myths About What Millennials Truly Want

150119_EM_MillennialMyth
Jamie Grill—Getty Images

We've heard a ton about millennials—where they want to live, what they love to eat, what's most important to them in the workplace, and so on. It's time to set the record straight.

In some ways, it’s foolish to make broad generalizations about any generation, each of which numbers into the tens of millions of people. Nonetheless, demographers, marketers, and we in the media can’t help but want to draw conclusions about their motivations and desires. That’s especially true when it comes to the young people who conveniently came of age with the Internet and smartphones, making it possible for their preferences and personal data to be tracked from birth.

Naturally, everyone focuses on what makes each generation different. Sometimes those differences, however slight, come to be viewed as hugely significant breaks from the past when in fact they’re pretty minor. There’s a tendency to oversimplify and paint with an exceptionally broad brush for the sake of catchy headlines and easily digestible info nuggets. (Again, we’re as guilty of this as anyone, admittedly.) The result is that widely accepted truisms are actually myths—or at least only tell part of the story. Upon closer inspection, there’s good reason to call these five generalizations about millennials into question.

1. Millennials Don’t Like Fast Food
One of the most accepted truisms about millennials—easily the most overexamined generation in history—is that they are foodies who love going out to eat. And when they eat, they want it to be special, with fresh, high-quality ingredients that can be mixed and matched according to their whims, not some stale, processed cookie-cutter package served to the masses.

In other words, millennials are huge fans of Chipotle and fast-casual restaurants, while they wouldn’t be caught dead in McDonald’s. In fact, the disdain of millennials for McDonald’s is frequently noted as a prime reason the fast food giant has struggled mightily of late.

But guess what? Even though survey data shows that millennials prefer fast-casual over fast food, and even though some stats indicate millennial visits to fast food establishments are falling, younger consumers are far more likely to dine at McDonald’s than at Chipotle, Panera Bread, and other fast-casual restaurants.

Last summer, a Wall Street Journal article pointed out that millennials are increasingly turning away from McDonald’s in favor of fast casual. Yet a chart in the story shows that roughly 75% of millennials said they go to McDonald’s at least once a month, while only 20% to 25% of millennials visit a fast-casual restaurant of any kind that frequently. Similarly, data collected by Morgan Stanley cited in a recent Business Insider post shows that millennials not only eat at McDonald’s more than at any other restaurant chain, but that they’re just as likely to go to McDonald’s as Gen Xers and more likely to dine there than Boomers.

At the same time, McDonald’s was the restaurant brand that millennials would least likely recommend publicly to others, with Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, and Jack in the Box also coming in toward the bottom in the spectrum of what millennials find worthy of their endorsements. What it looks like, then, is that millennials are fast food regulars, but they’re ashamed about it.

2. Millennials Want to Live in Cities, Not Suburbs
Another broad generalization about millennials is that they prefer urban settings, where they can walk or take the bus, subway, or Uber virtually anywhere they need to go. There are some facts to back this up. According to an October 2014 White House report, millennials were the most likely group to move into mid-size cities, and the number of young people living in such cities was 5% higher compared with 30 years prior. The apparent preference for cities has been pointed to as a reason why Costco isn’t big with millennials, who seem to not live close enough to the warehouse retailer’s suburban locations to justify a membership, nor do their apartments have space for Costco’s bulk-size merchandise.

But just because the percentage of young people living in cities has been inching up doesn’t mean that the majority actually steer clear of the suburbs. Five Thirty Eight recently took a deep dive into Census data, which shows that in 2014 people in their 20s moving out of cities and into suburbs far outnumber those going in the opposite direction. In the long run, the suburbs seem the overwhelming choice for settling down, with roughly two-thirds of millennial home buyers saying they prefer suburban locations and only 10% wanting to be in the city. It’s true that a smaller percentage of 20-somethings are moving to the suburbs compared with generations ago, but much of the reason why this is so is that millennials are getting married and having children later in life.

3. Millennials Don’t Want to Own Homes
Closely related to the theory that millennials like cities over suburbs is the idea that they like renting rather than owning. That goes not only for where they live, but also what they wear, what they drive, and more.

In terms of homes, the trope that millennials simply aren’t into ownership just isn’t true. Surveys show that the vast majority of millennials do, in fact, want to own homes. It’s just that, at least up until recently, monster student loans, a bad jobs market, the memory of their parents’ home being underwater, and/or their delayed entry into the world of marriage and parenthood have made homeownership less attractive or impossible.

What’s more, circumstances appear to be changing, and many more millennials are actually becoming homeowners. Bloomberg News noted that millennials constituted 32% of home buyers in 2014, up from 28% from 2012, making them the largest demographic in the market. Soaring rents, among other factors, have nudged millennials into seeing ownership as a more sensible option. Surveys show that 5.2 million renters expect to a buy a home this year, up from 4.2 million in 2014. Since young people represent a high portion of renters, we can expect the idea that millennials don’t want to own homes to be increasingly exposed as a myth.

4. Millennials Hate Cars
Cars are just not cool. They’re bad for the environment, they cost too much, and, in an era when Uber is readily available and socializing online is arguably more important than socializing in person, having a car doesn’t seem all that necessary. Certainly not as necessary as a smartphone or broadband. Indeed, the idea that millennials could possibly not care about owning cars is one that has puzzled automakers, especially those in the car-crazed Baby Boom generation.

In many cases, the car industry has disregarded the concept, claiming that the economy rather than consumer interest is why fewer young people were buying cars. Whatever the case, the numbers show that the majority of millennials will own cars, regardless of whether they love them as much as their parents did when they were in their teens and 20s. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Gen Y Consumer Study, more than three-quarters of millennials plan on purchasing or leasing a car over the next five years, and 64% of millennials say they “love” their cars. Sales figures are reflecting the sentiment; in the first half of 2014, millennials outnumbered Gen X for the first time ever in terms of new car purchases.

5. Millennials Have a Different Attitude About Work
As millennials entered the workforce and have become a more common presence in offices around the world, much attention has been focused on the unorthodox things that young people supposedly care more about than their older colleagues. Millennials, surveys and anecdotal evidence have shown, want to be able to wear jeans and have flexible work hours to greater degrees than Gen X and Boomers. Young people also want to be more collaborative, demand more feedback, and are less motivated by money than older generations.

That’s the broad take on what motivates millennial workers anyway. An IBM study on the matter suggests otherwise, however. “We discovered that Millennials want many of the same things their older colleagues do,” researchers state. There may be different preferences on smaller issues—like, say, the importance of being able to dress casually on the job—but when it comes to overarching work goals achieved in the long run, millennials are nearly identical to their more experienced colleagues: “They want financial security and seniority just as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers, and all three generations want to work with a diverse group of people.”

What’s more, IBM researchers say, millennials do indeed care about making more money at work, and that, despite their reputation as frequent “job hoppers,” they jump ship to other companies about as often as other generations, and their motivations are essentially the same: “When Millennials change jobs, they do so for much the same reasons as Gen X and Baby Boomers. More than 40 percent of all respondents say they would change jobs for more money and a more innovative environment.”

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Amazing Facts About Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup

150325_EM_MacaroniKetchup
Alamy—Alamy

The merger of Kraft Foods and Heinz combines hundreds of well-known brands into one monster Big Food conglomerate—none more notable than the iconic products Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup.

When you heard about the new merger of Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Co., chances are you thought about each brand’s best-known product—Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup, respectively. Well, here are a handful of things you might not know about these two ubiquitous items, which have been mainstays in American pantries and supermarket shelves for decades.

Heinz sells more single-serve ketchup packets annually than there are people on earth. The Heinz Company’s trivia page reveals that it sells 11 billion single-serve ketchup packs per year. “That’s 2 packets for every person on earth,” the site explains. The company also sells 650 million bottles of Heinz Ketchup annually in 140 countries, and uses two million tons of processed tomatoes per year, more than any other business in the world. (It uses tomatoes not only for ketchup, but in tomato sauces and other products.) Oh, and the famous “57 Varieties” on ketchup bottles? It means nothing. Henry Heinz thought it was a lucky number, so he used it in advertising and put it on the company’s products, which now number into the thousands.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has always been dirt cheap. Kraft began selling boxes of macaroni and cheese in 1937, during the heart of the Great Depression, and the main sales pitch was that you could feed a family of four for 19¢. Consumers bought eight million boxes in the first year, and 50 million boxes were sold during World War II, when meat and dairy were in short supply, and when one food ration stamp was valid for two boxes of mac ‘n cheese. At Ranked, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is currently listed at #3 among voters weighing in on “The Crap You Eat in College, Ranked” (after pizza and Ramen noodles), in which this is the criteria: “Must be cheap, fast and easy. Bonus points for gross.” It’s also been described as “One of America’s Favorite Drunk Foods.”

The fastest recorded time for eating each is about the same. The unofficial record for downing a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (once it’s cooked and mixed, of course), is 33.8 seconds, while the Guinness world record for drinking a full bottle of ketchup is only slightly quicker, at 32.37 seconds.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is sold in at least 50 varieties. The company’s current product list shows at least 50 macaroni and cheese varieties sold in stores, including 18 different flavors that come in the classic blue box format, including SpongeBob and Star Wars shapes, Garlic & Herb Alfredo, Three Cheese Jalapeno, and Cheddar Explosion. That’s just in the U.S., mind you. Different products are sold in other countries, or at least they’re sold under different names, as in Canada where macaroni and cheese is marketed as Kraft Dinner. Speaking of which …

Canadians love both iconic products—especially together. Among the thoughts that the beloved Canadian band Barenaked Ladies had when creating a certain crowd-favorite song about striking it rich:

If I had a million dollars
We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner
But we would eat Kraft Dinner
Of course we would, we’d just eat more

And what goes with Kraft Dinner? That’s right: ketchup. In the song, the band jokes that if and when they have big bucks they’ll “buy really expensive ketchups… That’s right, all the fanciest Dijon ketchups.” But everyone knows the ketchup of choice up north, and all over the world for that matter, is Heinz.

The classic (Canadian) comedy troupe “Kids in the Hall” also played up the curious food combo in the sketch below, in which a pair of poor street performers are rewarded for their dedication to macaroni and cheese and ketchup with several years’ supply of both:

One exasperated Canadian writer even declared Kraft Dinner “our de facto national dish” a few years back because it is so popular in the country. Finally, today, in light of the Big Food merger, the Canadian press was compelled to point out that many people “like Heinz ketchup with their Kraft Dinner.” So the deal especially has some natural synergy to it north of the border.

MONEY Food & Drink

10 Cult-Favorite Foods Brought Back from the Dead by Popular Demand

Don't give up hope if some heartless corporate type decides to kill off your favorite soda, cereal, or fast food indulgence. It'll surely make a return to the marketplace if popular demand, well, demands it.

When Burger King brought back chicken fries to its menu last summer, the company explained that the decision was made due to a widespread campaign of fast food fanatics clamoring for their return via online petitions and social media. “Guest outcries reached a point where they could no longer be ignored,” reads a BK statement in August, which also noted that chicken fries, which hadn’t been available since 2012, would be back on menus nationally only for a limited time.

Apparently, while the “limited time” window seems to suffice for the Shamrock Shakes, McRibs, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes of the fast food world, a merely temporary return for chicken fries just didn’t cut it. This week, BK announced that the breaded and fried chicken strips were becoming a permanent part of the menu, to the delight of the fanatical tweeting masses.

Not everyone is happy about the return of chicken fries. Among the disappointed are those who are passionate about bringing back some other food or drink item they’ve craved desperately since it disappeared. For instance, the Beefy Crunchy Movement Facebook page, which has over 16,000 likes, voiced disgust that BK listened to its fans by making chicken fries permanent, yet Taco Bell has ignored the passionate calls for the return of the burrito featuring Flamin’ Hot Fritos inside. The Beefy Crunch Burrito was brought back by popular demand in 2013, but it disappeared quickly and hasn’t been seen in nearly two years.

Other Taco Bell fans have demanded the return of the extra-spicy Volcano Menu, while still other fast food customers have focused their passion on bringing back items ranging from McDonald’s hot mustard sauce to KFC Chicken Little sandwiches. Yes, KFC currently has Chicken Littles on the menu, but the supposedly “new and improved” version is quite different from the one sold decades ago, and critics have bashed the new item as little more than a “misappropriation of the Chicken Little’s good name.”

What’s interesting—and quite revelatory about human nature and our most passionate cravings—is that there’s quite a long history of failed healthy fast food items, yet there doesn’t seem to be much of a movement to bring any of them back to menus. Instead, campaigns to bring back beloved food and drink from the dead overwhelmingly lean toward those heavy in salt, sugar, grease, calories, and caffeine. Here’s a list of cult favorites that disappeared for a while and recently resurfaced after the people have spoken.

  • Burger King Chicken Fries

    Burger King Chicken Fries
    Burger King

    The same week that BK announced the return of chicken fries, word also spread that it was significantly scaling back availability of its once-hyped low-calorie French fries dubbed Satisfries. This juxtaposition seems to get to the heart of why consumers head to fast food establishments in the first place.

  • French Toast Crunch Cereal

    150326_EM_COMEBACK_FRENCHTOASTCRUNCH

    Amid plummeting cereal sales, General Mills recently decided that bringing back French Toast Crunch would be a way to boost business. “We have been overwhelmed by the consumer conversations, requests and passion for the cereal to come back,” a company statement explained of French Toast Crunch, which was sold from 1995 to 2006, and has been back on store shelves as of January. General Mills also periodically plays the nostalgia card by offering Boo Berry, Franken Berry, and other “spooky” cereals around Halloween, sometimes with retro-look packaging.

  • SURGE Soda

    150326_EM_COMEBACK_SURGE
    AP—AP

    Coca-Cola said that last fall it brought back SURGE, a Mountain Dew-like soda popular in the ’90s, due to a “passionate and persistent community of brand loyalists who have been lobbying … to bring back their favorite drink.” A SURGE Movement Facebook page had 129,000 likes at the time, and it’s now pushed to over 215,000 likes. The initial batch of rereleased SURGE sold out almost immediately.

  • Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger

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    Neilson Barnard—Getty Images for Wendy's

    The “it” fast food item of 2013 was undeniably the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s, which like most new chain restaurant menu products was first introduced as a limited-time purchase. It wasn’t gone for long, however. “You said ‘bring it back.’ So we did,” Wendy’s tweeted to the world last summer, less than a year after the 680-calorie Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger disappeared from menus. “Then you said keep it on the menu.” Indeed, it’s now part of Wendy’s permanent menu.

  • Chocodiles

    Twinkies Chocodile
    Hostess

    At one point, a box of chocolate-covered Twinkies known as Chocodiles was selling for $90 on eBay. That alone should tell you how badly consumers were jonesing for the oversugared sweet that hadn’t been widely available for years. It also explains why the manufacturer, Hostess, brought Chocodiles back last summer. “In the past Chocodiles seemed to be shrouded as much in mystery as in chocolate, inspiring an obsession among fans that was truly the stuff of legends,” William Toler, president and CEO of Hostess Brands, said at the time. “Now, fanatics will once again be able to satisfy their cravings and a new generation will be able to experience the magic for the first time.”

  • McDonald’s Chicken Selects

    150326_EM_COMEBACK_SELECTS
    Bloomberg—Getty Images

    The recent return of Chicken Selects to McDonald’s menus has been heralded as a potential savior for the fast food giant, which has been suffering from lackluster sales for years. “Although they are back by popular demand, they will only be available for a limited time,” McDonald’s warned. Alas, the return of Chicken Selects was not combined with the national reappearance of what many consider the perfect dipping sauce, hot mustard.

  • Pepsi Made With Real Sugar

    150326_EM_COMEBACK_PEPSI
    Alamy—Alamy

    Last summer, PepsiCo rolled out three flavors of Pepsi (regular, vanilla, cherry) sweetened with real sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. In the past the company has also made and marketed “throwback” versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, which use real sugar and feature old-school logos on cans, and it recently introduced another soda with real sugar, DEWShine. Have the masses actually been begging for Pepsi and Mountain Dew made with real sugar? It’s not clear they have. But Mexican Coke has been a cult favorite among hipsters for years, supposedly because it uses real cane sugar.

  • Tim Hortons Chocolate Eclair

    Tim Horton's Chocolate eclair
    courtesy of Tim Horton's

    The Canadian donut-and-coffee chain asked customers which “classic” menu item of yore they’d like to see return in 2014 to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, and the top vote-getter, with 40%, was chocolate éclair. The éclair won out even though one Toronto Star reviewer called the whipped cream “fake and disgustingly sweet.”

  • Olive Garden Braised Beef and Tortelloni

    150326_EM_COMEBACK_OLIVEGARDEN
    courtesy of Olive Garden

    Casual sit-down dining chains have steadily been losing business to fast-casual superstars like Chipotle and Panera Bread. So when a critical mass of Olive Garden customers mounted a social rallying cry to put the braised beef and tortelloni entrée back on menus, the company listened. It returned to Olive Garden last spring, to the rejoicing of many on the restaurant brand’s Facebook page.

  • Miller Lite (Packaging)

    150326_EM_COMEBACK_MILLERLITE
    Scott Boehm—AP

    Miller Lite never went away. Like many macro brews, Lite sales have dropped steadily, coinciding with the rise of craft beer. But Lite has never been taken off the market. What’s it doing in this list then? One thing about Miller Lite has been brought back from the past—for about a year now it’s been sold in vintage-looking cans featuring the original logo—and the old-school approach has yielded greatly improved sales. Another old-school beer, Coors Banquet, has similarly been able to drum up sales because of it’s been packaged in throwback “stubby” bottles that some drinkers can’t seem to resist.

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