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Heavier Waiters Make for Heavier Eating – WSJ January 18, 2016

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In yet another blow to our sense of self-control (to say nothing of our waistlines), it now appears that overweight waiters may inspire people to eat and drink more.

That’s the latest finding from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, which over the years has produced an array of discoveries about the unconscious factors that influence eating.Lab Director Brian Wansink has gained renown for showing that he can manipulate how much people eat by varying lighting, music, the colors and arrangement of jelly beans and the size of one’s fellow diners. In one famous experiment, Dr. Wansink and colleagues fed people soup. But some bowls were rigged up to subtly refill themselves from a large unseen reservoir. “Despite consuming 73% more,” the scientists wrote of the subjects with the refilling bowls, “they did not believe they had consumed more, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those eating from normal bowls.”

ibeatanorexia“If you have a heavy server,” says Mr. Döring, “you order more.” Diners with servers with an over 25 BMI (Body Mass Index) – and thus considered “overweight” – were four times likelier to order dessert and ordered 17% more alcoholic beverages. The disparity in ordering was particularly pronounced when diners below the BMI threshold of 25 had a server who was at or over the threshold. Or as Mr. Döring put it, “A heavy waiter or waitress seems to have an even bigger influence on the skinniest diners.”

Source: Heavier Waiters Make for Heavier Eating – WSJ

Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie | WIRED December 28, 2015

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Ear of Corn Ripening in Field

Ear of Corn Ripening in Field ca. 2000

Well before their veggie business went kaput, Monsanto knew it couldn’t just genetically modify its way to better produce; it had to breed great vegetables to begin with. As Stark phrases a company mantra: “The best gene in the world doesn’t fix dogshit germplasm.”

What does? Crossbreeding. Stark had an advantage here: In the process of learning how to engineer chemical and pest resistance into corn, researchers at Monsanto had learned to read and understand plant genomes—to tell the difference between the dogshit germplasm and the gold. And they had some nifty technology that allowed them to predict whether a given cross would yield the traits they wanted.

The key was a technique called genetic marking. It maps the parts of a genome that might be associated with a given trait, even if that trait arises from multiple genes working in concert. Researchers identify and cross plants with traits they like and then run millions of samples from the hybrid—just bits of leaf, really—through a machine that can read more than 200,000 samples per week and map all the genes in a particular region of the plant’s chromosomes.

They had more toys too. In 2006, Monsanto developed a machine called a seed chipper that quickly sorts and shaves off widely varying samples of soybean germplasm from seeds. The seed chipper lets researchers scan tiny genetic variations, just a single nucleotide, to figure out if they’ll result in plants with the traits they want—without having to take the time to let a seed grow into a plant. Monsanto computer models can actually predict inheritance patterns, meaning they can tell which desired traits will successfully be passed on. It’s breeding without breeding, plant sex in silico. In the real world, the odds of stacking 20 different characteristics into a single plant are one in 2 trillion. In nature, it can take a millennium. Monsanto can do it in just a few years.

And this all happens without any genetic engineering. Nobody inserts a single gene into a single genome.

http://www.wired.com/2014/01/new-monsanto-vegetables/

How we $pend it September 21, 2015

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“Fake” Fancy Wine Widespread November 3, 2013

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Counterfeit wine accounts for some 20 per cent of international sales, according to unofficial wine industry estimates published in yesterday’s regional French newspaper, Sud Ouest. Investigators said the design on bottles were “near perfect” and that many customers were clearly fooled.

 

This month, Laurent Ponsot, a Burgundy winemaker and famed forgery hunter, estimated that 80 per cent of auctioned wines allegedly coming from Burgundy’s most prestigious domains, including his own, are fakes.

 

Mr Ponsot famously unmasked Rudy Kurniawan, an Indonesian collector said to possess “arguably the greatest cellar on Earth” as an alleged wine fraudster, after Mr Kurniawan tried to auction Ponsot’s Clos-St-Denis vintages dating back decades before the domain started producing them. Decanter said the scale of alleged forgeries found when the FBI raided Kurniawan’s premises last year may “ultimately go down as the wine crime of the century”

via Fifth of wine sold worldwide is ‘fake’ – Telegraph.

The Science of Snobbery September 10, 2013

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Articles on this wine research recommend that serving cheap wine in fancy bottles or reaching for bottom shelf wine. Does that mean you should constantly deceive yourself into enjoying cheap wine? Or never spend more than $10 since we often mistake $10 bottles with $100 bottles? In that case, will you never spend over $10 on sushi for same reason? Or never spend over $30 at a fancy restaurant because the ambiance often tricks people into thinking a simple chicken dish is fancy?

j0178091Ordinary consumers don’t think hard and deliberately when sipping wine over a conversation with friends or listening to a concert. Even when thinking deliberatively, overcoming our intuitive impressions is difficult for experts and amateurs alike. This article has referred to the influence of price tags and context on products and experiences like wine and classical music concerts as tricks that skew our perception. But maybe we should consider them a real, actual part of the quality.

What does this all say about wine snobs? The answer is just as unclear. Due to the way that appreciation of wine, fancy food, and other aspects of high culture is often used to police class lines, studies demonstrating the limitations of expert judgment in these areas become fodder for class warfare and takedowns of wine snobs.

That’s fair. Many boorish people talking about the ethereal qualities of great wine probably can’t even identify cork taint because their impressions are dominated by the price tag and the wine label. But the classic defense of wine – that you need to study it to appreciate it – is also vindicated by Master Sommeliers. The open question – which is both editorial and empiric – is what it means for the industry that constant vigilance and substantial study is needed to dependably appreciate wine for the product quality alone. But the questions is relevant to the enjoyment of many other products and experiences that we enjoy in life

via The Science of Snobbery.

Get Fat Back In Your Diet March 17, 2013

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Listening to the doctors on cable TV, you might think that it’s better to cook up a batch of meth than to cook with butter. But eating basic, earthy, fatty foods isn’t just a supreme experience of the senses—it can actually be good for you.

The foods that best hit that sweet spot and “overwhelm the brain” with pleasure are high-quality fatty foods. They discourage us from overeating. A modest serving of short ribs or Peking duck will be both deeply pleasurable and self-limiting. As the brain swoons into insensate delight, you won’t have to gorge a still-craving cortex with mediocre sensations. “Sensory-specific satiety” makes a slam-dunk case (it’s science!) for eating reasonable servings of superbly satisfying fatty foods.

via Let Them Eat Fat: In Praise of Fatty Foods – WSJ.com.

The End of Cheap Food September 15, 2012

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Ever since the days of Thomas Malthus, who famously predicted in the 18th century that population increases would far outstrip gains in food production, those who have foreseen global famine have been proved relentlessly wrong.

Twice before, our species has been saved from starvation by science. But as we move towards a planet of eight billion people, we are in uncharted territory. Let’s hope a new Norman Borlaug is waiting in the wings.

Shortly after Malthus made his grim prediction, we saw the first Agricultural Revolution – the systematic application of science and technology to farming. New varieties of crops, an understanding of crop rotation and the development of mechanisation saw yields soar. Hunger was also averted by the development of a global trade in food, spurred by the advent of steam ships and refrigeration.

Still, the population kept rising – but along came a saviour in the form of Norman Borlaug, one of the most important human beings ever to have lived. Hitler will always be famous for killing millions; yet Dr Borlaug, an American food scientist, saved billions, and yet relatively few of us have heard of him. In the 1960s, he bred new varieties of wheat and rice and other crops, a breakthrough now called the Green Revolution. If it hadn’t been for him, then Asia and perhaps South America would have seen serious famine in the 1970s.

Now we are reaching the limits of the Green Revolution.

 

via Can science prevent the great global food crisis? – Telegraph.

Does a Canoe Tip in Quebec? September 2, 2012

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There is an old joke in the restaurant business – “What’s the difference between a Canadian and a Canoe?..Answer: “A Canoe tips!”.

Apparently some restaurants in Burlington Vermont got so frustrated with French Canadian tourist not tipping that they empowered their wait-staff to add an 18% gratuity to the bill. The link below is to the article that sparked articles and editorials around the world.

Are Burlington Restaurants Discriminating Against Québecois Customers? | Seven Days.

USA has Plenty More Fish in the Sea June 8, 2012

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On May 14th the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that a record six federal fisheries returned to health last year. After a decade of similar progress, 86% of America’s roughly 250 federally monitored commercial fish stocks were not subject to overfishing; 79% were considered healthy.

The recent recovery of species, including New England scallops, mid-Atlantic bluefish and summer flounder and Pacific lingcod, is the result. This signals another truth: given a break, the marine environment can often replenish itself spectacularly. America’s fisheries are probably now managed almost as well as the world’s best, in Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and Australia

via Fish stocks: Plenty more fish in the sea | The Economist.

MacDonald’s Weighs In On Obesity Problem June 1, 2012

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Thanx to Debbie Knowles

Tampa Claims The Cuban Sandwich Is Not From My Ami April 16, 2012

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Ah, the Cuban sandwich … the succulent pig meats fused with melted Swiss, sharp pickles, yellow mustard and crunchy bread on a hot press. So delectable, so beloved, so redolent of its home in … Tampa?

Yes, Miami, it’s true: That sister burg at the other end of the Tamiami Trail is laying claim to the sandwich that Cuban exiles made famous. (more…)

The History Behind Eating Fish On Friday April 8, 2012

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Let’s start with a quick lesson in theology: According to Christian teaching, Jesus died on a Friday, and his death redeemed a sinful world. People have written of fasting on Friday to commemorate this sacrifice as early as the first century.

Technically, it’s the flesh of warmblooded animals that’s off limits — an animal “that, in a sense, sacrificed its life for us, if you will,” explains Michael Foley, an associate professor at Baylor University and author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish On Friday?

Fish are coldblooded, so they’re considered fair game. “If you were inclined to eat a reptile on Friday,” Foley tells The Salt, “you could do that, too.”

Alas, Christendom never really developed a hankering for snake. But fish — well, they’d been associated with sacred holidays even in pre-Christian times. And as the number of meatless days piled up on the medieval Christian calendar — not just Fridays but Wednesdays and Saturdays, Advent and Lent, and other holy days — the hunger for fish grew. Indeed, fish fasting days became central to the growth of the global fishing industry. (more…)

Mona Lisa Caffineated September 17, 2011

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The Mona Lisa, one of the world’s most famous paintings, has been recreated with 3,604 cups of coffee – and 564 pints of milk.The different colours were created by adding no, little or lots of milk to each cup of black coffee.It measures an impressive 20 feet high and 13 feet wide and took a team of eight people three hours to complete.It was created for The Rocks Aroma Festival in Sydney, Australia, and seen by 130,000 people who attended the one-day coffee-lovers event.

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Elaine Kelly, from event organisers the Sydney Harbour ForeshoreAuthority, was delighted with the result.She said: “Each coffee cup was filled with varying amounts of milk to create the different sepia shades of the painting.”We wanted to create an element of surprise and a sense of fun in the way we engaged with the public.”Once we had the idea of creating an image out of coffee cups we searched for something iconic to reproduce – and opted for the most iconic painting in history.”The Mona Lisa has been reproduced so many times in so many different mediums but, as far as we know, never out of coffee.”The result was fantastic.”After much planning it was great to see if coming together so well and the 130,000 people who attended the event certainly enjoyed it.”

Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, is the 16th century portrait painted in oil by Leonardo Da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance. The work is owned by the French government and hangs in the Musee du Louvre in Paris, France, with the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. It measures 770 millimetres by 530 millimetres and has prompted debate for years over the reason for her famously enigmatic smile. Extensive scrutiny using X-ray apparatus suggests that restoration work has resulted in the original being painted over three times. Thanks to Juan Marcos.  Mona Lisa recreated with coffee – Telegraph.

Korean Virtual Subway Grocery Store July 6, 2011

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It’s the future in South Korea now: people don’t even have to go to grocery stores there any more. Tesco installed virtual grocery stores in subway stations, which are basically giant photos of grocery store aisles. Customers can then take photos of the food they want to purchase and have it delivered to their homes later. But what if your train comes while you’re still shopping? That is the kind of problem we’ll all have in the future. Here’s a video: Thanks to Marty Acevedo

via The Future : Eater National.

Why Food Will Become the Biggest Security Threat June 11, 2011

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The 19th century is the century of chemistry and that gets us chemical weapons in World War I. The 20th century is the century of physics and that gets us nuclear weapons in World War II. But the 21st century? That’s the century of biology, and that gets us biological weaponry and biological terror. My point: obsessing over nuclear terrorism is steering by our rearview mirror. If you think people are afraid of radiation (dirty nukes, etc.), that’s nothing compared to their fear of tainted food. My point: if you’re a terrorist looking to sow fear and confusion, disrupt supply chains and ruin crucial industries, you can’t do much better than to work some biological mischief on food networks.

The average farm-to-fork journey in this world is now about 1,500 miles, and it’s getting longer by the week. Global climate change will make it harder to grow food across a thick band of territory (roughly up to/down to the 35th parallel) centered on the Equator. That’s where most of the population growth and water stress problems will erupt in coming decades, and it’s also where countries all tend to be highly dependent on imported food. See your Arab Spring and realize how much of this unrest is caused by rising food prices and you’ll get the overall picture.

Mark my post: this century is all about biology, rising food demand – and thus dependencies exacerbated by climate change (see the buying-up of arable land in Africa by Arab and Asian nations), and thus biological terror comes to the fore. Forget about energy nets, because they all go far more localized with smart grids, co-located generation/distribution, etc. It’s food that will be the most vulnerable global network in the future.

via The future of Fifth Generation Warfare: Follow the food! – Battleland – TIME.com.

The Great Disruption Has Arrived June 8, 2011

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Enviroment, Food, Geopolitics.
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Why didn’t more of us see it coming? After all, the signals have been clear enough – signals that the ecological system that supports human society is hitting its limits, groaning under the strain of an economy simply too big for the planet. But we didn’t and, as a result, the time to act preventatively has past.Now we must brace for impact. Now comes The Great Disruption.It is true that the coming years won’t be pleasant, as our society and economy hits the wall and then realigns around what was always an obvious reality: You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Not ‘should not’, or ‘better not’, but cannot. We can, however, get through what’s ahead – if we prepare. (more…)

Everyday Things Under The Electron Microscope October 17, 2010

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A wood or heathland ant, Formica fusca, holding a microchip

All these 24 pictures are from the book “Microcosmos”, created by Brandon Brill from London. This book includes many scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of insects, human body parts and household items. Click the link to see all 24 pictures.

via Really funny stuff – Amazing Scanning Electron Microscope Pictures (24 pics).

12-Year Old McDonald’s Hamburger September 13, 2010

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Photograph taken by Karen Hanrahan

The McDonald’s hamburger on the right is from 2008; the one on the left is from 1996. And they both look fairly edible.

Wellness educator and nutrition consultant Karen Hanrahan has kept a McDonald’s hamburger since 1996 to illustrate its nonexistent ability to decay. Aside from drying out and bit and having “the oddest smell,” it apparently hasn’t changed much in the past 12 years.

This isn’t the first time someone kept an uneaten McDonald’s hamburger for an extended period of time for the sake of science. Or in the case of the Bionic Burger Museum, multiple burgers for over 19 years. There are even instructions on how to start your own collection of old, self-preserving burgers. Thanks to Maria Collier, who heard it on NPR

via 12-Year Old McDonald’s Hamburger, Still Looking Good | A Hamburger Today.

The Science of Pouring Champagne August 12, 2010

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The researchers say they looked at two ways of pouring Champagne: the “traditional” method, with the liquid poured vertically to hit the bottom of the Champagne flute; and the “beer-like way,” executed by tilting the glass and gently sliding in the Champagne.

The scientists at the University of Reims say pouring bubbly at a slant, as you would a beer, preserves more of the tiny gas bubbles that improve the drink’s flavor and aromas.

The study – “On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 During Champagne Serving” – appears this week in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a U.S. publication.

via Champagne fizzics: Science backs pouring sideways.

The End Of Tuna? June 28, 2010

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The high seas are owned by no one and governed by largely feeble multinational agreements. According to the Sea Around Us project of the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Center, catches from the high seas have risen by 700 percent in the last half-century, and much of that increase is tuna. Moreover, because tuna cross so many boundaries, even when tuna do leave the high seas and tarry in any one nation’s territorial waters (as Atlantic bluefin usually do), they remain under the foggy international jurisdiction of poorly enforced tuna treaties.

The essentially ownerless nature of tuna has led to the last great wild-fish gold rush the world may ever see. The most noticeable result of this has been the decline of the giant Atlantic bluefin tuna. But the Atlantic bluefin is just a symptom of a metastasizing tuna disease. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 7 of the 23 commercially fished tuna stocksare overfished or depleted. An additional nine stocks are also threatened. The Pew Environment Group’s tuna campaign asserts that “the boats seeking these tuna are responsible for more hooks and nets in the water than any other fishery.”

via Tuna’s End – NYTimes.com.

Another Blow To The “Green Revolution” May 4, 2010

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The “Green Revolution” that lifted millions out of hunger is threatened by a fungus re-appearing in wheat and now the emergence Superweeds.

Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.

Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.

via U.S. Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds – NYTimes.com.

Famine-Causing Stem Rust Threatens World’s Wheat Crop May 1, 2010

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Stem rust is the polio of agriculture, a plague that was brought under control nearly half a century ago as part of the celebrated Green Revolution. After years of trial and error, scientists managed to breed wheat that contained genes capable of repelling the assaults of Puccinia graminis, the formal name of the fungus.

But now it’s clear: The triumph didn’t last. While languishing in the Ugandan highlands, a small population of P. graminis evolved the means to overcome mankind’s most ingenious genetic defenses. This distinct new race of P. graminis, dubbed Ug99 after its country of origin (Uganda) and year of christening (1999), is storming east, working its way through Africa and the Middle East and threatening India and China. More than a billion lives are at stake. “It’s an absolute game-changer,” says Brian Steffenson, a cereal-disease expert at the University of Minnesota who travels to Njoro regularly to observe the enemy in the wild. “The pathogen takes out pretty much everything we have.”

via Red Menace: Stop the Ug99 Fungus Before Its Spores Bring Starvation | Magazine.

How The French Fry Came To India April 7, 2010

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INDIA is the third-biggest producer of potatoes in the world. The humble spud finds itself stuffed into flatbread, encrusted in cumin seeds or tucked into pancakes. But the truckloads of large, oblong potatoes that arrive at the McCain Foods plant in the Mehsana district of Gujarat face a more exacting ordeal. Ferried by a conveyor belt and propelled by water, they are sized, steam-peeled, sliced, diced, blanched, dried, fried (for precisely 42 seconds in vegetable oil at 199ºC), chilled, frozen, bagged and then boxed.

The 15kg boxes of fries that emerge at the other end of this pipeline supply the growing chain of McDonald’s restaurants in India. When McDonald’s first entered India in 1996, the food-processing industry was confined largely to ice cream and ketchup. Even importing frozen fries was complicated by the fact that such an exotic item did not appear on India’s schedule of tariffs and quotas. It took McDonald’s roughly six years and $100m to weld a reliable supply chain together.

via Agribusiness in India: Green shoots | The Economist.

The Coming VAT Tax Exemptions Quagmire April 5, 2010

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“Food of the kind used for human consumption,” to a British bureaucrat, is something “the average person, knowing what it is and how it is used, would consider it to be food or drink; and it is fit for human consumption. . . . The term includes . . . products like flour, which, although not eaten by themselves, are generally recognized food ingredients . . . [but] would not usually include . . . dietary supplements, food additives and similar products, which, although edible, are not generally regarded as food.”And so, in the United Kingdom, according to the regulations of Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue Service, crackers made from tapioca starch carry no tax; prawn crackers made from cereals do. Frozen yogurt that needs to be thawed before eating is zero rated, frozen yogurt bears the tax. Get it? If you don’t, too bad—Her Majesty’s tax collectors are not in the habit of offering an explanation for their regulations.

This process of writing regulations for the VAT man when he cometh is more than merely amusing. For one thing, it confers enormous power on faceless bureaucrats.

They can hand a competing product the advantage in the U.K. of a price 17.5% lower (in Sweden it’s 25%) than a close substitute. That invites both lobbying and corruption and sheer, inexplicable arbitrariness. Get your “sweetened dried fruit” deemed to be “held out for sale as snacking and home baking” and your product will bear a tax and have to compete on grocers’ shelves with zero-rated “sweetened dried fruit held out for sale as confectionary/snacking.” Peddle your sandwiches “as a general grocery item” and consumers pay no tax, but offer them as “part of a buffet service” and the VAT man wants his 17.5%.

via Irwin Stelzer: Small Bras and the Value-Added Tax – WSJ.com.

Chef Of The Mac September 16, 2009

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0914_mcdonaldsCoudreaut, or Chef Dan as he’s called within McDonald’s, has navigated pretty well within his straits. Since hired on in 2004, he has led the creation of the Snack Wrap, the latest iterations of McDonald’s chicken-topped salad entree, the Fruit and Walnut Salad, McCafé espresso-based coffees, and, most recently, the 1/3-lb. Angus burger. (He has blown it, too. McDonald’s dropped the too-adventurous Hot ‘n’ Spicy McChicken sandwich in 2007 after just six months on the market and disappointing sales.)

The stream of new products is paying off. While restaurant sales have been sinking industrywide since the recession hit in 2007, McDonald’s quarterly same-store sales have continued to climb. The string, which began in 2003, continues into the third quarter, with a 1.7% increase in the U.S. in August and 2.6% in July. CEO James A. Skinner credited the gains to premium coffees and the Angus burger.

via The Challenges for McDonald’s Top Chef – BusinessWeek. (more…)

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