Monday, February 23, 2009

A news round-up

The start of the business week brought the usual flood of news reports from the restaurant industry. Most are merely in-box cloggers, but here are a few worth noting:

A huge I.O.U. for the business: The restaurant industry has a serious debt problem, according to a story posted today by USA Today. The article notes that 20 restaurant and retail companies are on S&P’s list of concerns that are struggling to keep up with their debt-service payments. And it quotes Thomas Reuters as saying that public restaurant companies on average owe 83 cents for every $1 of shareholders’ equity.

Simpler permitting for Gotham: New York City willstreamline the processes that typically delay the opening of a local restaurant or other small business, City Council speaker Christine Quinn promised yesterday. She specifically cited such time-saving steps as having necessary pre-opening inspections conducted on the same day, rather than arranging separate appointments with each agency.

There's no better price: The Quiznos sandwich chain announced it will give away 1 million sub sandwiches “as part of its effort to offer better prices for a better world.” The offer is in addition to the franchised chain’s promotional contest to award free subs for a year to a “hometown hero” nominated by visitors to a new website,

Even Chipotle's giving it away: Subscribers to the Arizona Republic found a collapsed brown paper bag slipped into yesterday's edition. It entitles them to a free burrito at Chipotle, a chain you wouldn't expect to be in need of that sort of traffic help these days.

Alabama restaurants to go dry: Restaurants in Alabama’s Shelby and Houston Counties will likely have to cease selling alcohol on Sundays because of a change in policy by state regulators and the apparent unwillingness of lawmakers to address the situation. Liquor licenses for the two jurisdictions allow establishments to sell alcohol only Monday through Saturday. But most got around that stipulation by also obtaining a permit to operate as a supper club on Sunday. Now state authorities say they’ll not honor the club license, and county lawmakers aren’t rallying to the industry’s defense.

Hey, Elliott Ness is dead: Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s Cumberland and Perry Counties are reconsidering Prohibition. Some 25 towns there reportedly forbid or severely limit alcohol sales. Apparently there’s still some bad blood about permitting the direct election of senators and giving women the vote.

Size does matter: Carl’s Jr. is offering a 42-oz. soda in a Rob Dyrdek-themed “collector’s cup” as part of its tie-in with the pro skateboarder and reality TV star. The bucket-sized, reusable cup is free with the purchase of a large (?) drink or a combo meal.

Size does matter II: Concept sibling Hardee’s is making a pitch for big eaters with the rollout of new breakfast sandwiches made with Texas toast. The oversized bread holds egg, cheese and breakfast meats, and sells for about $1.69 a la carte or $3.69 in a combo.

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