Entries in Restaurants (11)


New York Restaurants Have Informal Ban on Food Photos

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The days of simply dining and enjoying have changed.  More and more restaurant-goers are pulling out their smartphones or digital cameras and taking photos of elaborate entrees and dishes at New York City restaurants.

This growing trend is commonly known as foodstagram, a photo taken on a cellphone and quickly posted online.

"With the advent of social media, it just became that people like food porn," said Steven Hall, PR representative for Bouley restaurant.  "People really love looking at pictures of food."

But some restaurants are cracking down on snap-happy guests.  The New York Times reports that owners of upscale restaurants like Fat Duck, Le Bernardin and Per Se "discourage flash photography" by their guests.

Gerald San Jose, media manager for Per Se, said the restaurant "does not have a no-photography policy, although if guests do photograph, Per Se asks that they refrain from using flash and be discreet so as to not disturb the experience of other guests."

Le Bernardin agrees, saying, "Flash photography disturbs other diners."

So far, the informal ban has not made its way to the New York State Restaurant Association, which includes 5,000 restaurants in the New York metro area.  Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the NYSRA, says the issue is not something that's on the organization's radar.

"At our level, it's not something we're looking to regulate or weigh in on in any way," said Moesel.  "Some restaurants would encourage people to share the dishes that they serve there, while others might want to make sure the dining experience is more private."

Private yes, but off limits?  Not entirely.  Although more and more guests are taking photos of their plated inspirations, Hall said he believes it depends on the setting, but "there is such a thing as the right time and the right place."

"People have kind of forgotten their manners," said Hall.  "Your food is getting cold, your ice cream is melting, all so that they can get the lighting for their picture.  It disrupts the flow of service."

One establishment that does ban photos altogether -- not in the name of food but for the sake of privacy -- is SoHo House New York in the city's Meatpacking District, an exclusive members-only club.

In an email to ABC News, Jacki Spillane of SoHo House said, "SoHo House New York does have a no photography policy within the Club.  SoHo House is a private members club, we have this policy to respect and maintain our members' privacy."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Burlington, Vermont Restaurants Add Gratuity to Foreigners' Bills

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(BURLINGTON, Vt.) -- It costs money to speak a foreign language in Burlington, Vt. -- especially if you go out to eat.

Anne-Marie Humbert discovered this the hard way, after a gratuity fee was tacked onto her restaurant bill three different times at different restaurants.

The last time it happened, the French-born Humbert, her husband, Steve Hulsey, and her nephew were eating at Splash at the Boathouse, and speaking French.

At the end of the meal, they glanced at the bill and wondered why it was so hefty.  Then, they realized that an 18 percent gratuity had been tacked on -- common for parties of five or more, but generally not added to the checks of smaller groups.

"Three times in less than a year I thought, 'There's something going on here,'" Humbert, who lives in neighboring Williston, Vt., and has been in the state for 30 years, told ABC News.  "It was not a mistake."

So she asked the server why the tip was added on and was told it was because she had been speaking a foreign language.  Burlington, which is less than 100 miles from Montreal, gets a large number of Canadian tourists over the summer.

"They explained to us that they get pretty bad tips from people from Quebec and Europe, and that they had a policy to add gratuity to get what they needed," she recalled.

Barb Bardin, the owner of Splash at the Boathouse, would not comment when contacted by ABC News.  But she told Seven Days, that her restaurant has no official policy regarding mandatory tips.  That said, she often tells her wait staff to decide what to do.

"Because the servers really have such a hard time with it, I just leave it up to them," Bardin told Seven Days, adding that she tells her staff, to "do what you feel is appropriate for you."

Splash is not the only Burlington eatery to automatically include gratuity on checks.  Humbert had a similar experience at Asiana Noodle Shop, twice.

The first time she paid her bill and said nothing.  The second time she asked the server what had happened and was told that it was an error, which was subsequently fixed.

Owner Sandy Kong told ABC News that she usually only adds on 18 percent to a group of five or more and for customers that aren't good tippers.

"But some Canadians come in, they spend like $100 or $150 and they leave the wait staff maybe a $1.00 tip," she said.  "It happens pretty often.  I realize that the Canadians think it's discrimination, but on all the receipts it's printed out on bottom -- 'we suggest an 18 or 20 percent tip.'"

Like Bardin, Kong lets her servers decide whether to add on a gratuity.

Part of the problem, perhaps, is that Burlington restaurants have no uniform code on how much to charge foreigners in tips, so it varies from spot to spot.  What's more, many cafes and restaurants in Europe and Canada automatically include a gratuity in the bill, and many tourists expect it to be similar in the States.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Generation Y Are You Dining Out So Much?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Members of Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials, may not have a lot of disposable income but that doesn’t mean they can’t live the good life every now and then.

In fact, research firm Technomic says that 42 percent of this crowd, who began being born around 1982, will visit upscale casual-dining restaurants at least once a month.  That’s compared to 33 percent of their immediate Gen X predecessors and 24 percent of Baby Boomers.

So what gives?  While it’s true that members of the older generations make more money, especially during these tough economic times, millennials aren’t typically saddled with things like mortgages, kids, double car payments or adult children forced to live with their parents.

Therefore, they’re a little freer to enjoy a nice restaurant, even as 43 percent who go out at least once a month are more apt to use coupons and discounts.  Millennials will also take advantage of combo meals more often than older people.

Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are also inclined to be homebodies because they’ve developed a talent some younger folks haven’t yet -- namely, how to cook for themselves.

As for the future, over half of millennials who’ve encountered a weak job market think the country’s financial situation will improve during the coming year, as opposed to 38 percent of the older crowd.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Best Chain Restaurants in the US

Emile Wamteker/Bloomberg News(NEW YORK) -- Travelers often scoff at chain restaurants, preferring instead to seek out local flavor and unique dining experiences in the cities they visit.

[See Travelers’ Picks for the Best Restaurants in the U.S.]

But if you’ve ever been on the road, far from home and lonely, there’s a good chance you’ve come across a chain and breathed a sigh of relief. Then you parked your car in the vast lot and waited for your table while sipping a frozen daiquiri and admiring the bartender’s flare.

You’re not alone. Hey, there’s a reason there’s a Red Lobster (and a Bubba Gump Shrimp and an Applebee’s) in Times Square. And who could forget the Olive Garden review that went viral?

Consumer Reports knows we Americans love our chain restaurants. It also knows not all chains are created equal. And that’s why they asked 47,500 diners to rank 102 of the nation’s most popular eateries. Nine ranked especially well, according to Consumer Report’s criteria: taste, value, service, mood, noise, menu, and cleanliness.

  • Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
  • Black Angus Steakhouse
  • Bob Evans
  • Bravo Cucina Italiana
  • First Watch
  • J. Alexander’s
  • Le Peep
  • Elmer’s
  • Fatz Eatz & Drinkz

If you’re not familiar with all of these, here’s how a few more big-name chains fared:

Most healthful dishes: First Watch and Legal Seafood

Worst tippers (highest percentage below 15 percent):
Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cheddar’s, Country Kitchen, Don Pablo’s, El Torito, Joe’s Crab Shack, Logan’s Roadhouse, Lone Star Steakhouse, McGrath’s, Shari’s and Shoney’s.

Best tippers (tips 20 percent of more): The Capital Grille and Morton’s.

Best mood (ambiance):  McCormick & Schmick’s, Ruth’s Chris, Chart House, Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy and Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano.

Lowest-rated family restaurants: Friendly’s and Waffle House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pizza Hut Tries to Bite into Subway’s Sales

Image credit: Pizza Hut(NEW YORK) -- It’s a battle of sandwich versus sandwich.  Pizza Hut is taking on Subway in its marketing campaign promoting the launch of the new P’zolo sandwich.

With advertising that says “See ya subs” on Chicago subway trains covered in P’zolo advertising, the Pizza Hut chain isn’t being discreet.  The New York Times reported other lines that said, “Say so long to the footlong” and “More bang for your 5 bucks.”

The P’zolo sandwich comes in Meat Trio, Buffalo Chicken or Italian Steak options with ranch or marinara dipping sauce.  Its pricing rivals the Subway sandwich: $3 per sandwich or 2 for $5.  Subway is known for its $5 footlong sandwich.

This isn’t Pizza Hut’s first foray in the sandwich market.  It sold the P’zone, a pizza-flavored calzone, as its first attempt to lure sandwich shoppers.

How many calories will a P’zolo cost you? Pizza Hut has yet to post the nutritional content of the sandwich.  Subways range from 300 to 500 calories for their footlongs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Uno’s Chicago Grill Revamps Casual Dining With Healthier Options

Cynthia McFadden/ABC(BOSTON) -- Uno’s Chicago Grill, home of the original deep-dish pizza, is flipping casual dining on its head.

The idea: prepare some of the less healthy items in a more nutritious way -- like pizza with multigrain crust -- and other healthy alternatives.  As a result, the company has been recognized by Health magazine as the “Healthiest Chain Restaurant,” a surprising honor for a pizza restaurant.

Company CEO Frank Guidara told ABC's Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden they are constantly trying to upgrade the quality of what they serve.

“Every item on (our) menu has gotten a review in terms of ingredients, and they are the healthiest ingredients,” he said. “Like a French fry. Our French fries, we were the first to make them with trans fat-free oil. If you want a French fry, have Uno’s.”

“A third of all meals are eaten at casual dining restaurants,” Guidara continued. "When I joined Uno’s my attitude was casual dining restaurants are terrible.  I don’t even eat in casual dining restaurants.  Why would I take over a casual dining company?”

The bottom line answer is that “healthy” turns out to be good for business.  In fact, Uno’s had a banner year last year making $390 million dollars, says Guildara. Pizza alone is a $30 billion industry, with over three billion pies sold in the U.S. every year, according to the National Restaurant Association. That’s 46 slices a year for every person. But Uno’s is determined not to be your grandmother’s pizza joint. Its menu now features a wide array of non-pizza choices.

But despite many positive changes, the way the company deals with calories raises concerns for some customers.  Calories counts are not listed next to food items on the menus.  Guidara had kiosks installed in the front of each restaurant listing in detail all the nutritional content of each dish -- including calorie counts -- but the information is not always clear.  For example, a small cheese and tomato pizza is listed as 580 calories. However, this is actually 580 calories per serving, and there are three servings per pizza. In other words, if you eat the whole pizza, it’s over 1,700 calories.

Guidara concedes such listings may be confusing and says some changes may be needed.  But he points out the nation’s obesity problem is in part propelled by the amount some consume.  He hopes that by listing the portion sizes some customers consider sharing meals or taking portions home. In essence, he insists, it’s about providing choice.

At Uno’s, Guidara says, they want to make sure there is something healthy and tasty on the menu for everyone.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Burger King Tests Out Delivery

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Fast food restaurants like Burger King and McDonald’s have always been known for their convenience, but now Burger King is taking the term “fast food” to another level. Starting this week, the chain is offering delivery from 10 locations in the Washington, D.C., area.

For an additional $2, you can get your burger, fries or anything else you want without leaving your desk. Delivery is available between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m., which means the breakfast menu isn’t an option. They also aim to get you your food within 30 minutes, but you also have to be within a 10-minute drive of the restaurant.

And don’t worry that your food won’t be of the same caliber if you opt for delivery over drive-thru. The burgers are delivered in strategic packaging, with the top part of the bun covered to prevent it from becoming soggy during travel. John Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer for Burger King, told USA Today they used “proprietary thermal packaging technology” to guarantee “that the Whopper is delivered hot and fresh, and the French fries are delivered hot and crispy.”

Six more locations in Virginia plan to start delivery the week of Jan. 23, and if all goes well, Burger King hopes to expand the service to other areas over time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Friendly's Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy; Closes 63 Restaurants

Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WILBRAHAM, Mass.) -- Friendly's announced Wednesday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection due to the country's struggling economy and the rising prices of commodities.

The nationwide restaurant chain said 424 locations will remain open for business, while 63 others have been closed as part of the company's restructuring plan.  The majority of these closures took place in Massachusetts, where 29 restaurants have been shut down.

[Click here and scroll down to see if a Friendly's restaurant near you has closed]

In a statement Wednesday, Friendly's Chairman and CEO Harsha V. Agadi said, "Thanks to our dedicated employees and franchisees, we have made a lot of progress, but our Company continued to face significant financial challenges.  This was exacerbated by the weak economy and rapidly rising commodity costs that have impacted the entire restaurant industry."

"The strategic decision to pursue a financial restructuring will allow us to proactively and quickly improve our financial position and ensure we have the resources to build a better and stronger Friendly's for our loyal guests, retail customers, suppliers and other business partners," Agadi added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fast Casual Restaurants Thrive as Fast Food Chains Struggle

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fast food is undergoing a facelift and the doctors behind it are some of America's most popular chefs.

Celebrity chefs from television shows like Iron Chef, Top Chef and The Chew are whetting America's appetite for more sophisticated foods.

"We're seeing people interested in all sorts of tastes ... Mexican, Asian, Indian is really big right now," said Blair Chancey, editor of QSR Magazine.

While fast food chains and family restaurant chains are seeing their lowest sales all year, something right in the middle is sizzling: fast casual. It's a little more expensive than fast food, a little less than those family restaurants and the food is definitely different.

In the last year alone sales in the fast casual sector reached $18 billion. According to a new study, millions of Americans are no longer just looking for speed, they want quality. They are in search of fresh, natural and nutritious meals -- exactly what Chipotle's founder says his restaurant strives to offer.

"Just because it's fast doesn't mean it has to be a typical fast-food experience," Chipotle founder Steve Ells said.

Part of Chipotle's mission is to serve chickens that are fed a vegetarian diet as well as naturally raised pork and beef, he said.

Chipotle set the standard for fast casual success and now many other chefs are trying to cash in on the growing market.

In California, Jonathan Kaplan, creator of the Flip video camera, is turning from tech to taste. He is starting a chain of grilled cheese restaurants called The Melt.

"Americans want high quality, but they want it to be an affordable value and inexpensive, and that's what I think the fast casual industry is trying to do," Kaplan said. "There's really a niche there where restaurants are able to offer high-end quality ingredients, artisanal breads, really high-quality cheeses, but they can do it at a fast casual price point."

Even the founder of Dominos, Tom Monaghan, at the age of 74 is leaving pizza behind for the gourmet burger. His soon-to-be opened establishment in Florida will deliver burgers in 10 to 15 minutes. He said he will be able to do so by limiting choice. The restaurant will offer only two burgers -- no sides, no drinks.

"My philosophy is not to try to be all things to all people -- to do one thing and do it extremely well, better than anyone else can possibly do it and I'm hoping that will spell success," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Zagat Survey Ranks Top Fast Food Chains

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Subway is considered the most popular “Mega” fast food chain, while Starbucks finds itself rated the number one “Quick Refreshment” stop, according to Zagat’s latest annual National Fast Food Restaurant Survey.

The survey divided restaurant chains into four categories: Mega Chains with over 5,000 outlets; Large Chains with up to 5,000 outlets; Quick Refreshment outlets that focus on specific food items such as beverages and ice cream; and Full Service outlets.  The survey involved 6,064 diners.

Here are the results, listed in order:

Popular Favorites
-- Mega Chains: Subway, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell
-- Large Chains: Five Guys, Panera Bread, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out Burger
-- Quick Refreshment: Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Culver’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Stone Creamery

Top Overall Rated Chains
-- Mega Chains: Wendy’s, Subway, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC
-- Large Chains: Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy’s, Panera Bread, Chipotle
-- Quick Refreshment: Pinkberry, Red Mango, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Culver’s, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Zagat also asked respondents to name the best fast food chain for a variety of categories.  Their answers are listed below:

-- Burger: Five Guys
-- Fried Chicken: KFC
-- Grilled Chicken: Chick-fil-A
-- Fish: Long John Silver's
-- French Fries: McDonald's
-- Coffee: Starbucks
-- Milkshakes: Dairy Queen
-- Ice Cream/Custard: Ben & Jerry's
-- Smoothies/Frozen Yogurt: Red Mango
-- Breakfast Sandwiches: McDonald's
-- Salads: Panera Bread
-- Value Menu: McDonald's
-- Overall Value: McDonald's
-- Child-Friendly: McDonald's
-- Drive-Thru: McDonald's
-- Wings: Buffalo Wild Wings

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio