Monday, November 29, 2010

News roundup from the long weekend

Holiday cheer…
Mall restaurants should be in a jolly mood after watching retail neighbors host 8.7% more shoppers on Black Friday than they did a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation. Presumably some of those shoppers rested their tired feet while munching a sandwich, salad or slyder. The 212 million bargain hunters went home with wallets lighter by $364.34 on average—$22 more then they typically spent last year on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. The NRF termed the turnout an “encouraging” sign for the rest of the year.

But a touch of the Grinch
But there’s at least one “bah, humbug!” for restaurants this year. The NRF projects that sales of restaurant gift cards will hold at last year’s depressed levels. The association didn’t cite a reason, but a survey of consumers found a high percentage who believe they can get more for their buck by buying merchandise on sale.

Natural instinct
“Natural” is emerging as the menu descriptor of the moment. Panera Bread Co.’s newest menu item is a chili made with brisket trumpeted as “all-natural.” It’s served with chunks of cornbread on top. The introduction follows Wendy’s rollout of what it’s touting as natural-cut French fries, with the skin left on.

Something fishy to the BK deal?
The Securities Exchange is investigating the $4-billion purchase of Burger King Holdings for evidence of insider trading, according to HuffingtonPost columnist Dan Dorfman. The veteran deal-watcher reported Friday that the SEC and another watchdog group are asking brokerages for information about customers’ purchase of BKH shares prior to the announcement of the takeover by the Brazilian private equity group 3G.

Random scuttlebutt
Nation’s Restaurant News is being sold to Penton Media, the parent of Restaurant Hospitality and Food Management magazines, according to a blog posting on MediaBistro…Jack in the Box should spin off its Qdoba burrito chain to focus on its core business, asserts stock-picker Ryan C. Fuhrmann.

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