TIME Television

Bill Murray Loved Working at Little Caesars

Back in the day, he worked alongside celebrity chef Kerry Simon

Actor Bill Murray came from humble beginnings — and so did his friend, celebrity chef Kerry Simon. They both worked at a Little Caesars pizza shop in Illinois, Murray said during a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live on Tuesday. It was the best job he ever had, Murray admitted, although it’s hard to see how anything could top Ghostbusters.

MONEY Fast Food

Millennials to Blame for McDonald’s September Slump

The fast-food chain is getting hit not only by problems in China but also by rising costs and changing tastes. Coca-Cola is suffering too.

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Lays Out Fix for Deepening Sales Decline

A McDonald's restaurant sign on March 12, 2013 in Mill Valley, California.
A McDonald's restaurant sign on March 12, 2013 in Mill Valley, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The solution? Focus on food quality, digital strategy

Another quarter, another terrible set of results from McDonald’s.

And the company thinks focusing on food quality and digital payments is the trick to shaking its longstanding doldrums.

The world’s largest restaurant chain by revenue reported on Monday that comparable sales last quarter fell 3.3% (worse than the 3% drop analysts expected, according to Consensus Matrix) and that profit fell 28%, with trouble in every single major market.

McDonald’s has been hit by a number of setbacks, ranging from Russia closing some of its restaurants, to a scandal engulfing one of its big meat suppliers in China last summer. At home, McDonald’s is dealing with aggressive competition, especially for breakfast offerings, lower income customers cutting down on eating out and menu additions that have annoyed guests by slowing service.

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson said in a statement more bad news was coming: “The internal factors and external headwinds have proven more formidable than expected and will continue into the fourth quarter.” He added that U.S. comparable sales growth would likely be negative for the 12th straight month.

In the U.S., comparable sales for the quarter ended Sept. 30, comparable sales decreased 3.3% as fewer customers came in to eat and competitors ramped up their efforts. More alarmingly for McDonald’s, its operating profit for the region fell 10% as efforts to fix its ongoing, growing U.S. problems fell flat.

So Thompson said the company’s new U.S. president,Mike Andres, is flattening the unit’s organizational structure to make it nimbler and to let restaurants respond more quickly to local needs. He is also updating its marketing to emphasize food quality, and simplifying the menu to reduce wait times.

Comparable sales in Europe—McDonald’s biggest market—were weak, falling 1.4%, more than expected, as the ongoing crisis in Russia and Ukraine hurt sales. Over in Asia, a big hit to business in China and Japan results led comparable sales to fall 9.9%

Thompson has a big job ahead of him, so he laid out some broad principles and initiatives he hopes will fix McDonald’s globally. Those include investing in updating its image and service, along with new technology to update McDonald’s for today, make better use of tech to facilitate ordering, payment and mobile offers (it will accept Apple Pay) and in what sounds like a hint of potential job cuts, a review of the company structure to determine how much fat there is and whether money can be redeployed to its digital strategy.

“McDonald’s third quarter results reflect a significant decline versus a year ago,” Thompson, CEO since 2012, said. “By all measures our performance fell short of our expectations.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Says Russian Health Inspectors Target 200 Restaurants

Inside Burger King And Subway As McDonald's Faces Growing Challenge From Rivals
A logo hangs on display outside a McDonald's food restaurant in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, April 7, 2013. Andrey Rudakov—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Russian courts also ordered 9 to close

More than 200 McDonald’s restaurants in Russia are being audited by health inspectors, the company said in a public statement over the weekend.

McDonald’s vowed to challenge a court-ordered closure of nine restaurants, according to a Russian-language statement released by the Illinois-based company, Bloomberg reports.

Health inspections of the Russian branches — there were at least 440 as of August — began shortly after countries in the West imposed sanctions against Russia during the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Regulators argue the searches are part of a widening investigation of sanitary violations, but critics in August dismissed the probes as an exercise in political retaliation.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Diet/Nutrition

How Healthy Are ‘Secret Menus’ at Restaurants?

fast food burgers
Getty Images

The answer is more complicated than we expected

For years, Jamba Juice has marketed healthy and nutritious smoothies blended with 100% fruit juice. But the website Hack the Menu points out a “secret menu” with items like “Red Gummy Bear” and “Pink Starburst“—both allegedly blended to taste like their candy namesakes. The rumored off-menu offerings sound a little sweeter, but potentially less healthy.

Jamba Juice is not alone in its reputation for having a secret menu: according to Hack the Menu, restaurant chains like Starbucks, In-N-Out Burger and Chipotle also oblige off-menu requests for those in the know. TIME looked into why restaurants might bother with a whole other menu, and whether secret menu options are always less healthy than their advertised counterparts. The answer is more complicated than we expected.

MORE: Try Ordering These Delicious-Sounding Drinks From Starbucks’ Secret Menu

Surprisingly, most nutritionists we spoke to had never heard of the concept of secret menus. Their feelings were mixed, but most said they were concerned about the lack of readily accessible nutritional information for off-menu items.

“So many consumers are looking for transparency,” said Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet. “If you want a secret menu, at least make it obvious what the calories are and [put] the nutrition analysis where it’s available for people to see.”

MORE: There’s a $10 Secret Menu Item At Arby’s Called the Meat Mountain

Excluding unhealthy items from a menu helps avoid having to disclose their lack of nutritional value. This is especially true in places like New York, where the law requires restaurant chains to display certain nutritional information in menus. That regulation doesn’t apply to items that aren’t on the menu, or those listed on a menu for less than 30 days, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wrote in an e-mail to TIME. Secret menu items “undermine the intention of the rule,” though they’re technically legal, it said.

A lack of transparency becomes a potential problem for people with allergies, who may not be aware of what ingredients are included in the item they’re ordering, nutritionists said.

“To me, the most important thing is that the staff would be educated on what the ingredients are,” said Gans.

Spokespeople for most of the chains contacted by TIME denied the existence of a “secret menu,” but acknowledged that customers can customize their orders.

“Our people are trained to make what customers want with the ingredients we have,” said Chipotle communications director and spokesperson Chris Arnold in a statement. Nachos and a quesarito, a mammoth burrito blanked inside a quesadilla, are among the items that customers order off-menu at Chipotle, according to Hack the Menu.

MORE: Taco Bell Is Adding A Quesarito To Its Menu

But despite their shroud of secrecy, secret menus don’t appear to be all bad news, nutritionists said. Some have options that appear healthy, while others allow customers to modify a menu offering in a way that makes it healthier, said Jessica Levinson, founder of nutrition consulting business Nutritioulicious. She cited an option to swap out mayo for mustard at Burger King as one such option.

Registered dietitian Judy Caplan praised efforts to offer healthy options, but said she wasn’t surprised that some fast food restaurants would offer less healthy options off the menu. While fast food has become more nutritious in recent years, and chains have recently cut calories in new menu items by 12%, there are still many customers who want unhealthy food, she argued.

“When you’re in business,” she said, “the customer is always right.”

MONEY Fast Food

Skeptical of What’s In That Big Mac? Tweet McDonald’s About It

You might be surprised to find that the videos floating around the web questioning what's in McDonald's hamburgers are actually produced by McDonald's. It's all part of a new social media campaign by the fast-food giant to address misconceptions about its ingredients.

TIME Food & Drink

Taco Bell’s New Menu Will Make Sriracha Fans Very Happy

Hot Sauce Controversy
Nick Ut—AP

The chain is testing some spicy new menu items

Hopefully you’re not on an all-carb diet, because you’re definitely going to want to hit up Taco Bell soon. The chain is now testing a new menu that incorporates a whole lot of Sriracha, the Washington Post reports.

Sadly, though, these spicy new items are only being tested in the Kansas City area, now through mid-November. Here’s what the menu includes:

  • Sriracha Beef Griller
  • Sriracha Taco and Taco Supreme
  • Sriracha Quesarito (this is a Quesarito, by the way)
  • Sriracha Nachos
  • Sriracha Quesarito Box
  • Sriracha Grande Scrambler

Diehard fans of the beloved rooster sauce might notice, however, that the condiment Taco Bell is using is more of a “Sriracha creme” sauce with a bit less heat, as one Redditor noted. In the meantime, if you’re not in the Kansas City area, you can just continue pouring Sriracha all over everything and get the same effect.

TIME restaurants

McDonald’s Addresses ‘Pink Slime,’ Other Rumors in New Ad

Company hires MythBusters co-host Grant Imahara to answer people's most disgusting questions

“Are there lips and eyeballs in there?”

“At what point in the process do we inject the pink slime?”

These aren’t the questions you’d expect from a new McDonald’s promotional video, which was released Monday and reveals the inner workings of its “beef plant” in Cargill, Calif. But addressing fast food skeptics’ grossest questions head-on is the crux of the company’s new PR campaign.

As part of this effort, McDonald’s has hired professional skeptic and MythBusters co-host Grant Imahara to answer people’s most disgusting questions about the company’s food.

The chain also held a relatively snarky Q&A on Twitter, sometimes linking to food FAQs on its website and other times calling questions it received outright “gross and totally false.”

National television spots in the “Our Food. Your Questions” campaign began airing Monday.

A new study by the WSJ and Technomic Inc. consumers in their 20s and 30s have defected to competitors (like Chipotle), and people aged 19 to 21 who visited McDonald’s every month has decreased 12.9% since 2011. So the real question is, by embracing millennial-friendly language, celebrities and social platforms, will McDonald’s win back its young base?

TIME Diet/Nutrition

What McDonald’s New ‘Transparency’ Campaign Is Hiding

mcdonalds-sign
Getty Images

"Most of the cattle we get our beef from are treated with added hormones"

McDonald’s announced today that it’s making a greater effort at transparency and engagement with its new campaign, “Our Food, Your Questions.” McDonald’s has a serious image problem and a sagging bottom line, which might explain its sudden willingness to fling the barn door open as a way to shed its reputation for serving mass-produced, unhealthy food. Showing the public how the sausage is made may win favor with some consumers, but a better strategy for the fast food giant would be to make truly meaningful commitments to sustainability.

McDonald’s realizes people have big questions about the quality and origins of their food. So the company that serves 28 million people daily in the U.S. is now promising straightforward answers. McDonald’s is releasing behind-the scenes web vignettes and infographics, which will apparently illustrate the production process behind its products like Chicken McNuggets and the McRib, and how they go from “farm to restaurant.” It also says it will listen to real customers’ questions online and answer honestly in real time.

McDonald’s has also enlisted professional skeptic and former “MythBusters” co-host Grant Imahara, who is featured in a series of videos addressing consumers’ persistent doubts and questions. “We know some people–both McDonald’s fans and skeptics–continue to have questions about our food from the standpoint of the ingredients or how food is prepared at the restaurant. This is our move to ensure we engage people in a two-way dialogue about our food and answer the questions and address their comments,” Kevin Newell, EVP-chief brand and strategy officer for McDonald’s USA, told BurgerBusiness.com.

Until now, what happened behind the curtain at McDonald’s has been invisible to most of us. But because the company’s supply chain is so long, and it sources raw ingredients from such a wide array of locations and facilities, it would be impossible for any one tour, vignette, or infographic to show more than a sliver of what goes on at the farm, factory, and processing levels.

And while it’s angling for the farm-to-table crowd, as the world’s largest buyer of beef and pork with hamburgers for as low as one dollar, McDonald’s current practices will probably still be considered factory-farm-to-table.

“McDonald’s is making important progress away from gestation crates in its pork supply chain, though nearly all of its eggs in the U.S. still come from birds locked inside battery cages so small they can’t spread their wings,” Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States, told me. “This is in contrast to McDonald’s policies in Europe and U.K., where its eggs are all cage-free.”

Online, McDonald’s answers some questions about its products. So far, I didn’t see any questions (or answers) about antibiotic use or whether its eggs are cage-free, even in its section on “sourcing and sustainability.” Here’s what they do answer. On beef hormones: “Most of the cattle we get our beef from are treated with added hormones, a common practice in the U.S. that ranchers use to promote growth.” On feeding animals GMO feed: “Generally speaking, farmers feed their livestock a balanced diet that includes grains, like corn and soybeans. Over 90% of the U.S. corn and soybean crops are GMO, so cattle, chickens and pigs in our supply chain do eat some GMO crops.”

And while it says it no longer uses so-called “pink slime” in its burgers, it does use an anti-foaming agent, dimethylpolysiloxane, in the oil it uses to cook Chicken McNuggets. It also uses azodicarbonamide, AKA “the yoga mat ingredient,” in its buns and sandwiches, saying it has many uses: “Think of salt: the salt you use in your food at home is a variation of the salt you may use to de-ice your sidewalk.” As for why its U.S. menu contains items that are banned in Europe? “Every country has different food safety and regulatory standards and, because of this, ingredients will vary in our restaurants around the world. But no matter where you’re dining with us—in the U.S. or abroad—you can be assured of the quality and safety of our food.”

Most people simply don’t think of McDonald’s as a healthy place to eat, despite its efforts to offer more menu choices. Its insidious marketing of fast foods to kids hasn’t won it any points either. With U.S. sales down, recent food safety scandals in China, and labor issues here, its rivals are eating McDonald’s for lunch and breakfast, too.

The truth is, McDonald’s is facing a marketplace where people increasingly want good food served fast, as opposed to fast food. Millennials are now driving the food bus and they’re heading straight to Chipotle and other establishments that are offering healthier options, including foods without genetically engineered or artificial ingredients and meat from animals raised without antibiotics.

An estimated 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are being fed to animals on factory farms for purposes other than treating diseases. McDonald’s producers uses antibiotics to “treat, prevent, and control disease” in its food-producing animals.

Using antibiotics to prevent disease and promote faster growth (the company has phased out the latter since 2003, though some say using them to prevent disease has the same effect)—rather than merely to treat infections—allows producers to raise many animals together in dirty, crowded spaces. And it has contributed to antibiotic resistant bacteria, which the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control now widely regard as an international epidemic.

From food safety scandals to the serious public health impacts of eating fast food, consumers increasingly want truth, trust, and transparency in their food. But transparency demands responsibility and is toothless on its own. Today’s eaters want to see where their food comes from so they can make informed choices and also advocate for change.

If McDonald’s really wants to connect with consumers, it should take a hard look at the practices behind the ingredients it uses and begin to change them incrementally. It could take a real stand for sustainability—including changing to suppliers and producers who raise meat without antibiotics. As the biggest fast food company in the nation, McDonald’s choices are no small potatoes. A change like that could mean a much happier meal.

See more at: How McDonald’s Could Serve Up a Happier Meal

TIME celebrity

Comedian Billy Eichner Is Accusing Burger King’s Latest Ad of Ripping Off His Act

Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow have weighed in

One of Burger King’s latest ads (above) features a slightly unhinged, brown-haired man yelling at innocent passersby on the street. But according to comedian Billy Eichner, host of Billy on the Street on Fuse, there’s only room for one slightly unhinged, yelling street interviewer.

Eichner, who has even gotten David Letterman to exchange a few screams, took to Twitter Sunday night to accuse Burger King of ripping off his signature schtick — in an overall unfunny rip off:

Eichner fans — including celebrities — have tweeted out their displeasure:

Burger King and Horizon Media, the ad agency credited with making the spot, did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

This isn’t the first time a big company has been accused of ripping off an artist’s act. In September, the band OKGo alleged that Apple copied the visual effects used in its VMA-winning music video The Writing’s on the Wall in a recent ad.

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