Chocolate Chip Cookies

December 31, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Centives signs off 2013 with Jon Michaud’s article that looked at the history of chocolate chip cookies:

  • The recipe for chocolate chip cookies was first published in 1938. It celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.
  • It was invented by Ruth Wakefield who ran a restaurant in the United States that was famed for its deserts.
  • Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use the recipe for the bargain price of $1 (which, she says, was never paid).
  • The cookie soared in popularity during the Great Depression – it offered an inexpensive hand-held serving of richness and comfort that millions were having to live without.
  • The Second World War further contributed to its popularity as they became an important part of care packages that were delivered to troops abroad.
  • In fact it was the War that caused the cookie to go from Northeastern treat to a Pan-American phenomenon.
  • In 1963 Chips Ahoy launched its line of packaged chocolate chip cookies.
  • Famous Amos and Mrs. Fields opened their first stores a decade later.
  • The next milestone in the history of the cookie was the 1984 debut of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – it soon became the company’s top brand.

Read more about the enduring appeal of the cookie, the ideal way to bake a cookie, and how the place where it was invented burned down and is now occupied by a Wendy’s over here.

Source: The New Yorker

Via: Kottke

From the entire Centives team a Happy 2014! We hope you have an excellent (and delicious) year ahead.

The Rise Of Mexican Food

December 30, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Mexican food is the future of American cuisine write The Associated Press and Venessa Wong:

  • Salsa has overtaken ketchup to be America’s number 1 condiment.
  • Tortillas outsell burger and hot dog buns.
  • Tequila recently entered the top 10 liquors in the world.
  • Yum! Brands’ top chain isn’t Pizza Hut or KFC but Taco Bell.
  • Just like Pizza and Spaghetti are now thought to be more American food than Italian food, soon too Mexican food will be seen as an established part of American cuisine.
  • There are other similarities between Mexican and Italian food. They have both seen rapid adoption because they’re easy to cook at home.
  • The ingredients for the food are also more widely available than ingredients for Indian or other cuisines.
  • Mexican food also appeals due to its health benefits – there is an abundance of salsa and vegetables.

Read more about the rise of Mexican food and how tortilla chips compare to potato chips over here and here.

Source: The Associated Press; Businessweek

The Indian Fast Food Market

December 17, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Over a couple articles Lily Kuo took a look at the Indian fast food market:

  • Fast food restaurants alter their menus to suit the Indian market.
  • McDonald’s, for example, doesn’t offer any beef or pork products in an effort to be sensitive to the Hindus and Muslims of the country.
  • Krispy Kreme just announced its entry into the market and has found a way to make its “Original Glazed” donuts without any eggs.
  • Coffee might have the most promise. The average Indian consumes 100 grams of coffee a year. The average American consumes 4.5 kilograms.
  • Domino’s has been the most successful. It holds 20% of the Indian fast food market (ahead of Subway and McDonald’s), and India is the chain’s largest operation after the United States.
  • Pizza in general does particularly well in India, perhaps because it’s easy to make it vegetarian.

Read more about Burger King’s dilemma, other ways that chains have adapted to the Indian market, and more over here and here.

Source: Quartz

Shame At Checkout

December 13, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Joshua Gans wrote about why people are afraid to order what they truly want:

  • In the 1980s laws changed in Sweden so that liquor stores moved from a “clerk retrieval” system to a “self-service” format. Sales spiked – especially of difficult to pronounce drinks.
  • It seems that people were unwilling to order drinks that were difficult to pronounce before because they were afraid they would be judged if they got it wrong.
  • When a regional pizza chain in the United States launched an online ordering system it found that customers ordered more complex pizzas.
  • They may not have been ordering such pizzas on the phone because they didn’t want to put the person taking the order through the ordeal of a complex order.
  • They also ordered pizzas that had more calories – perhaps they were afraid of being judged for ordering unhealthy food over the phone.
  • Overall the pizza chain found that profits per customer increased 21.4%.
  • This doesn’t mean that the humans need to be taken out of retail. Self-checkout lanes at supermarkets show that when used in the right way a human presence is preferable.
  • However stores should consider options such as allowing customers to order things on tablets while waiting in line.

Gans calls this the “Double Bacon Extra Cheese Problem “. You can read more about it and details about the case studies over here.

Source: Slate

Against Menus

October 3, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

We’ve previously outlined a critique of the children’s menu. Turns out that adult ones aren’t that great either, at least according to Geoffrey Gray:

  • Menus don’t provide enough of the information that we need. Most just list the ingredients – not how they’re cooked – which isn’t really enough information for patrons to know what they’re about to get. Instead they usually have to clarify with their server.
  • They also provide a lot of information that we don’t need. Advertizements for the Chef’s new cookbook; information about the locally sourced farms from which the ingredients come from, and other tidbits that don’t help customers make their dining selection.
  • Customers read the menu to find out what they would like to order. Restaurants, however, design it to sell the items with the greatest markup.
  • The menu kills conversations. As soon as one shows up on the table people stop focusing on one another and on the menu instead.

In the full article Gray talks about the history of the menu and provides a five step framework to create a useful menu. Read it here.

Source: New York Magazine

The History Of The Children’s Menu

August 12, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Michele Humes presented “a brief history of the children’s menu”:

  • Before 1919 children didn’t really eat at restaurants. These were meant for adults who could engage in “boozy grown-up fun” in a child free environment.
  • Then prohibition happened and restaurants desperate to find a source of revenue that could replace alcohol started offering children’s menu to cater to a new class of customers.
  • At the time a book by a pediatrician called “The Care and Feeding of Children”, was the seminal text about raising children. It stated that they should not be given “fresh fruits, nuts, or raisins in their rice pudding” and that items such as pastries, ham, bacon, tomato soup, or even lemonade were forbidden.
  • These rules against…good food seemed to have been laid down because the pediatrician behind the book “believed there was moral danger in sensual pleasure, and damnation in indulgence”.
  • The popularity of the book meant that restaurants soon began to advertise their meals as being “approved” by pediatricians.
  • Since then our views about raising children have become more enlightened but parents have become attached to the low prices on the children’s menus, while kids appreciate having the booklets that can also be used as clown masks or have cut out paper airplanes.
  • Times may have changed but the bland and unhealthy food on children’s menus hasn’t.

Read more about the hotels that pioneered the children’s menu, how it has evolved over the years, and more over here.

Source: Slate

Whatever Happened To McDonald’s?

April 13, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Just under a year ago McDonald’s was a darling of business analysts. Yet it’s now facing tough times writes Julie Jargon. What happened?

  • McDonald’s outlets are gaining an increasing repetition for rudeness and slow service.
  • According to one study, McDonald’s is among the least friendly of the major fast food chains – only Burger King is worse.
  • To deal with these issues McDonald’s is trying out a ‘dual point’ ordering system where customers order on one end, grab a ticket, watch for their number to flash on a screen, and then head over to pick up their order. The person who gives them their order is meant to thank them and ask to see them again.
  • The fast food chain is also trying out software that will help its many independent stores understand the optimal number of staff required on hand at any given time.
  • Instead of having cashiers and cooks do all the work, the company is also looking into creating specialized runners who do nothing but fetch the components of a meal and put it together for customers.

Read more about McDonald’s woes, its financials, and what executives have to say over here.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Taco That Shows The Future

March 13, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

The Doritos Locos Taco is a taco with the standard Taco Bell filling…wrapped in a shell of Doritos Nacho Cheese. It might save the country writes Daniel Gross. Or at least show the way forwards:

  • Taco Bell sold more than 1 million Doritos Locos Tacos every day in 2012.
  • This is why Taco Bell grew faster than other more famous chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s.
  • Taco Bell had to hire an additional 15,000 employees to deal with the growth.
  • This demonstrates that it’s possible for companies to grow within America selling products to Americans.
  • It also demonstrates the importance of intellectual property and brand licensing. No other chain can make a Doritos Taco, giving Taco Bell a monopoly on the product.
  • Taco Bell’s current CEO is an Australian…whose trying to sell Mexican food to Americans. This shows the transformative effects of globalization in America.

Read more about how you can see the future of the United States in this one taco, why Taco Bell hasn’t tried expanding to other countries, and how Taco Bell feels about horsemeat over here.

Source: The Daily Beast

How Cutlery Affects The Taste Of Food

May 29, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Fuchsia Dunlop reported on some fascinating findings in the field of food science: the material that our cutlery is made of can affect how we taste our food:

  • Copper and Zinc have a bold and assertive taste.
  • Silver, in contrast, has a dull taste to it.
  • Stainless steel adds a metallic taste to food.
  • Gold is good for deserts because it has a smooth, creamy quality to it and doesn’t taste metallic.
  • Copper and Zinc are good for eating mangoes – the acid in the mango strips away some of the surface of the metal, allowing the metallic taste to accentuate the flavour of the mango.

To read much more about the taste of metals, the methodology of the study, other quirky things that can affect how we perceive our food, why black cod and grapefruit should never be mixed with copper or zinc, why some chefs may soon make you eat different meals with spoons made of different materials, and the spoons that might soon be specially designed for stirring coffee, click here.

Source: Financial Times

Via: Marginal Revolution