Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Say wha?

This could be a breakout week for chiropractors. With heads snapping left and right to catch the extraordinary restaurant news, we’re probably one neck strain away from a whiplash epidemic.

Consider, for instance, how many crania swiveled like desk chairs to make catch the incredible story that arose from France. After working hard for years, a brasserie there was awarded a coveted star from the Michelin guide. It’d be the equivalent of a U.S. restaurant getting a “semi-orgasmic” rating in every Zagat category.

But ears were cocked because this wasn’t a little-restaurant-that-could story. A one-star rating assumes that a place maintains a certain level of service, even if traffic rises. Le Lisita staffed accordingly and realized it had to raise prices to temper the wallop to margins.

Instead, the restaurant decided to cede the star.

I vaguely remember a restaurateur saying that a star in a Michelin-like rating system can bring an additional $40,000 in business. This place publicly attested that it wanted to keep prices at a level that wouldn’t give loyal patrons a case of sticker shock.

But that’s only the start of the week’s Ripley’s news. You may well have seen the results of a new survey that found Subway to be the top choice by far of quick-service consumers who want to dine more healthfully. That, to be honest, is a yawner of a data point.

Far more interesting is what brand finished second: McDonald’s. Not Chipotle or its fresh-ingredient brethren in the burrito sector. Not Panera or the other New Generation sandwich concepts. A brand once synonymous in many minds with unhealthy eating has become a viable option to the careful-dining crowd.

Finally, consider how much latte must’ve been spitted by New York Times readers when they came to the end of a recent story about Robert Gates, the outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense. The longtime public figure (and onetime director of Brinker International) was asked what he’d do immediately after his retirement was official. “Go to Burger King,” he said.

Give that man a crown.

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