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RIP Danny Evins, Founder Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

17 Jan
cracker barrel

Long time American restaurant chain founder, Dan Evins dies at 76.

If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel you are missing out! The restaurant chain was founded by Dan Evins in Lebanon, TN in 1969. Evins wanted to open a restaurant that offered Southern style cooking and hospitality to people who were on the road. A country store where you can buy knick-knacks, clothes, and other sundries accompanies the restaurant for the added convenience of anyone who is in the middle of a road trip.

Evins spent his life building the chain into a quality national brand as CEO from 1969 to 2001 and chairman until he retired in 2004. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. now operates more than 600 restaurants in 42 states. The restaurants have somewhat of an older feel to it as they were inspired by the general stores of Evins’ youth, but the company has managed to mix a bit of the old with the new with healthy and seasonal menu offerings in addition to traditional Southern classics. The prices are totally reasonable too. I love coming here for breakfast or brunch, their fruit and nut multi-grain pancakes are the absolute best!

Dan Evins passed away over the weekend at age 76, but his legacy lives on in his restaurants. It is rare that such a large chain exhibits such consistent quality of food and service, I have never had anything but a delicious meal at Cracker Barrel and I’ve been to at least 20 different locations being a bit of a road traveller myself. So thank you Mr. Evins and condolences to your family and the Cracker Barrel team.


‘Lady Chinky Eyes’ Blows Whistle on Papa John’s

10 Jan
Minhee Cho's Papa John's receiipt

My name is not 'Lady Chinky Eyes'

Minhee Cho got an unpleasant surprise at a Papa John’s in New York City on her receipt after she visited the restaurant last Friday night. The cashier wrote in this description of her, “lady chinky eyes” in place of her name. Ms. Cho swiftly made use of her social media account and posted a picture of the receipt on her Twitter page; now the image and the story have gone viral.

In the restaurant industry it is commonplace to describe the person to whom an order belongs so that the person preparing the order knows who the cashier rang it up for. However these usually read, “woman with red scarf” or “tall man with mustache.” Most of us don’t even notice that any judgement has been passed on us because honestly how many of us really look that closely at our food receipts?

Who knows whether or not the Papa John’s employee intended to passively insult Ms. Cho or if it was just a poor choice of words used to describe an Asian woman. Believe it or not, sometimes “chinky eyes” is a compliment to someone for having a sexy slant to their eye shape. But then I suppose that makes the employee not only potentially guilty of racism, but also sexual harassment so nevermind.

In the meantime, the employee has been fired and Papa John’s has utilized their social media accounts to address the company’s stance on the incident.  A post Papa John’s official Facebook page reads:

“We were extremely concerned to learn of the receipt issue in New York. This act goes against our company values, and we’ve confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately and that the employee is being terminated. We are truly sorry for this customer’s experience.”

They have also responded on its Twitter feed, tweeting that “We have issued an apology, are reaching out to customer & franchise employee is being terminated.”

I wonder how often workers sneakily insult customers in manners like this. Last year, also in New York a Starbucks customer had the word, “bitch” written on her cup after she said she and her friends were teasing an employee over a small mistake they had made with their order.

The way I see it, the lesson here is two-fold: 1) Don’t passively vent your frustration about a customer on materials that you then hand to them and 2) social media is the swiftest form of justice ever seen! One minute you’re posting that you’ve been mistreated at place of business and the next you’re receiving an official public apology from the CEO.

Either way I’ll be paying closer attention to my receipts from now on!

Restaurant Resolutions

3 Jan

Adam Richman visited food trucks across the country on one of the episodes. Here he is talking to Wafels and Dinges owner, Thomas Degeest

Happy 2012! Now that we’re in a new year, everyone is setting new goals for themselves and restaurants are no different! The restaurant resolutions for 2012 are looking to move towards healthy and sustainable food choices but also the mobile or even pop up restaurant fads are still going strong.  With the help of sources like, Restaurant News here are some trends that we should be looking out for this year:

American Regionalism –  Shows like “Man vs. Food” and its host, Adam Richman have put us on to the variations of cuisine you could find across the United States. With buying local also trending at the moment, it has been even more interesting to see what people around the country are doing with food from “their own back yards.” 

Double Sided Menus – We’re all looking to indulge every once in a while but lately there has been a push for restaurants to provide healthier options. After the NRA implemented the Kids Live Well campaign and First Lady Michele Obama and Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA’s new food icon, MyPlate, restaurants have felt the heat and have started to change up their menus. Consequently we get double sided menus. So this year, according to Mintel Menu Insights restaurantss will continue to feature indulgent items, but will be balanced by healthier options.

MyPlate replaced the Food Pyramid on June 2, 2011

Slow Things Down A Bit – Yes we want to eat, but what happened to the dining experience? All too often I have felt rushed out of a restaurant because they wanted to turn over tables. In 2012 restaurants are anticipated return to ‘more time-intensive preparation methods’ where they might have taken some short cuts in the past. To start you’ll notice words like “handmade” or “home style” popping up more on menus; lowering the risk of the dreaded sauce from a can on your spaghetti when you’re dining at an Italian restaurant, a big no no!

Have you seen any restaurants starting to change their ways yet? What other changes or trends do you expect to become popular for 2012?

White Castle Goers “Crave” Beer & Wine

22 Dec

"Would you like a six pack with that sack of 10?"

I have always thought of White Castle as the kind of place you go after the party. It’s open late so you can swing by on your way home from a night out and hopefully those greasy balls of goodness they call hamburgers will soak up the alcohol and make tomorrow more managable. White Castle sliders are the perfect late night snack: quick, cheap, and delicious . . . and you’re usually too tired to be bothered with things like nutritional value. In fact White Castle so excels in this nitche there’s even a movie about it.

But now a White Castle in Lafayette, IN has decided to serve beer, starting at $3 and wine, for $4.50. They are not the first fast food restaurant in America to offer alcoholic beverages. Earlier this year Burger King opened the Whopper Bar in Miami’s South Beach, offering beer and Starbucks has been testing beer and wine at a few locations on the west coast since 2010. 

Large fast food chains are always looking for opportunities for growth, especially in this more health conscious environment they need to retain and increase sales. So it’s no surprise that White Castle would consider selling alcoholic beverages. So far customers have had a positive reaction in Indiana, but White Castle, like many other fast food chains would probably face challenges trying to sell beer and wine on a wider scale.

Usually fast food places cater a lot to families and small children and a lot of the staff that works at these establishments is under the age of 21. So logistically, there would have to be some re-marketing strategies implemented to help with people’s expectations as well as training staff to serve alcohol. I don’t know how I feel about this new development, but I can see beer and wine being sold at Starbucks before I could see it on the menu next to a Whopper Jr. or a Crave Case.

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So Hungry We Could (Literally) Eat a Horse

8 Dec

Horse meat might become US next product export, Congress lifts ban on horse meat.

Congress recently lifted a ban on the inspection of horse meat for human consumption in the United States, essentially making horse meat eligible as food. The ban was lifted in part because of the recession and the effect it has had on the welfare of horses in this country. Last June there was a federal report stating that animal rights organizations were experiencing a spike in incidents of horse neglect and abandonment since 2007.

Basically as people began to struggle economically and since the maintenance of a horse is a large expense, corners were being cut in terms of horse care and in some cases animals were being inexpertly put down. In some states, data showed that investigations for horse abuse increased more than 60 percent.

Those that would advocate for the humane slaughter of horses for human consumption say that lifting of the ban argue that if slaughterhouses existed for horses, they would be a place where an unwanted animal could be disposed of in a humane way and they would not go to waste. Dave Duquette, president of the nonprofit, pro-slaughter group United Horsemen, said that while no site has been picked yet he’s got investors who have expressed interest in financing a horse meat processing plant. The horse meat industry is apparently big business in Mexico and in Canada and we could see some of that profit.

The last slaughterhouses in the U.S. were in Illinois, were owned by foreign companies and closed in 2007, but Duquette’s plant would be American-owned.  Since horse meat is not a common menu item here in the states, most of the meat would be shipped to countries in Europe and Asia. I know, it kind of makes you think twice about eating meat while travelling abroad.

 Animal rights activists are threatening a massive public outcry anywhere a slaughterhouse may open. Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States predicted, “Local opposition will emerge and you’ll have tremendous controversy over slaughtering Trigger and Mr. Ed.”

But who’s to say that a horse has any more rights than a cow, a chicken, or a pig when it comes to being food for ‘human consumption?’ Who knows, horse meat might be delicious and it’s got protein right? Well as someone who has been dabbling in vegetarianism as of late I’ll pass, but far be it from me to keep the people in France or Japan from satisfying their cravings for horse burgers!

For me it comes down to this: I don’t think that any one animal is “better” than another in terms of which ones are ok to call “food.” Of course I have preferences for which animals constitute food to me, but the world is a big place. There are many different cultures and different resources available to all of us. And telling people what they can and can not eat is in a way like telling them how they can and can not worship.  So since I’m not totally against the idea of eating meat, I guess if people want to eat horses or deer or even cat or dog, that’s their business. But I do believe that no animal (food or not) should be abused or killed in a matter that is inhumane or unprofessionally handled.

What do you guys think?

Food Truck Frenzy, Still Going Strong?

1 Dec
line at food truck

Restaurants are crying that they are losing business to their mobile counterparts, do you eat food from a truck?

Food trucks are such a popular trend that some say they are a real threat to brick-and-mortar restaurants. Here in New York City, I’ve definitely seen a rise in the amount of food trucks taking up space on sidewalks and a growth in the size of the lines waiting at them. But to me, there is something about the idea of eating food cooked outside from ingredients that have been sitting in truck all day that is off-putting. I know that there are no guarantees that a kitchen at a sit down restaurant is any cleaner, but I imagine that it is. And I know that food trucks are convenient, faster, and possibly cheaper than eating at restaurant, but I like sitting down at a table to eat.

However, it seems that there are a lot of people who don’t agree with me. Particularly when it comes to grabbing a quick lunch bite. In San Francisco, “Off The Grid” a convergence of food trucks of a variety of different cuisines, sets up shop in the busy downtown area and neighboring restaurant owners say they’re eating into their lunch business. 

The irony of this is that so many food truck vendors aspire to have more stable roots, as in the form of a brick-and-mortar restaurant but don’t yet have the capital to make the investment. Lots of mobile food vendors who have found success and attracted loyal customers with their trucks end up opening actual sit-down eateries. And for most of them having a permanent location has always been the goal. Food trucks limit chefs in the amount of customers they are able to serve and they don’t have the same ability to be creative that they would in a kitchen. Also a restaurant’s income is less threatened during inclement weather, while the revenue of food trucks can drop 15-20 percent if it rains. Winter is just around the corner too. It will be interesting to see if mobile food vendors and their customers can survive the cold!

Take our poll and tell us what you think:

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Will Tablets Revolutionize Your Dining Experience?

2 Sep
presto e la carte

Presto E La Carte the new tableside tablet streamlines the dining experience.

Ever since Apple launched the iPad, tablets have been embraced by people of all ages across the country. Even if you’re skeptical of tablets and their practicality, it has been predicted that within eighteen months a tablet could easily make its way into your hands. This prediction, even if you’re not a tablet owner, may be more likely to become true than ever because tablets are poised to become a regular fixture on the tables of your favorite restaurants.


The Presto by E La Carte, a company founded out of MIT, is a new tablet dedicated to the restaurant and hospitality related industries that will allow consumers to order, pay a bill, and even play games right from their table without having to wait for a server. Currently in beta testing in San Francisco and Boston, the Presto reported an increase in the average bill by 10-12% because consumers can easily act on their impulses and sudden cravings as well as a 7 minute decrease off the duration of the average meal, allowing restaurants to turn over tables faster. Other major benefits include an eighteen hour battery life. The cost for each tablet owned by an establishment is estimated at $100 per month.

So far, Presto E La Carte has signed 100 eateries with a waiting list of 150. Co-founder Rajat Suri states within three to five years, you will see this technology on eighty percent of restaurant tables. There are just too many advantages for restaurants not to do it. Suri claims that the tablet will not replace actual wait staff, it is only meant to support them but what effect will the tablets have on diner’s proclivity to tip?

Have you come across the Presto E La Carte during one of your dining experiences? We want to hear your feedback!