Fast Food Prices Rise to Better Reflect True Costs

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“Dollar cheeseburgers and discount nuggets are getting Americans in the door at their favorite fast-food joints, but the savings end there.

Even as the recent fast-food discount wars rage on, with Burger King advertising 10 chicken nuggets for $1 and Pizza Hut offering $5 pies, fast-food items that don’t make it onto value menus are actually climbing in price. Median fast-food hamburger prices have jumped 54 percent over the last decade to about $6.95, according to menu researcher Datassential. Chicken sandwiches are up 27 percent. Both surpass overall U.S. price inflation during that same time.”

“McDonald’s Corp., the world’s biggest restaurant chain, recently started touting a $6 meal including a burger, fries, a drink and a pie, but it’s also offering plenty of items at the other end of the price scale. Its honey-barbecue glazed chicken tenders are more than $6 without any drinks or sides, and the new Bacon Smokehouse Quarter Pounder meal runs nearly $9 in Chicago.”

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Pizza Hut Says It Will Use Robots to Cook Pizza En Route

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“Pizza Hut is fusing two of America’s favorite pastimes — pizza pies and pickup trucks — in a bid to cut delivery times as fast-food competition heats up.

As part of the restaurant’s latest partnership with Toyota Motor Corp., Pizza Hut has unveiled a robot-operated mobile pizza factory in the bed of a modified Toyota Tundra. The prototype will use automated technology to cook pies on-the-go in six to seven minutes, letting the chain expand its delivery area without the pizzas getting cold.

“We’re bringing the oven closer to the consumer’s door; nobody is doing that,” Pizza Hut’s chief customer and operations officer in the U.S., Nicolas Burquier, said in an interview. “We are pretty obsessed with improving the customer experience. The more we can get closer to their homes or the point of delivery, the better and hotter the product will be.”

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7 New Restaurants at the Jersey Shore

A bone-in, rib-eye steak topped with seared scallops at Prime 13 Wood Fire Grill and Bar, which has locations in Point Pleasant Beach and Brielle.

Prime 13 Wood Fire Grill and Bar, Brielle 

“Earlier this month, two Jersey Shore restaurateurs came together to open the second location of Prime 13, a steakhouse in Point Pleasant known for its prime rib and 40-ounce rib-eye for two.

The restaurant opened in the space previously occupied by Brielle Ale House, owned by Chris, Frank and Matt Gullace. The brothers run the bar, and Gerard Tortora, owner of the Point Pleasant Beach restaurant, leads the kitchen. The menu is similar to Point Pleasant Beach: wood-fired filet mignon, dry-aged strip steak and rack of lamb with the option to add seared scallops, lobster tail and foie gras ($29.99 to $76); seafood dishes, and cocktails, plus 10 beers on tap, more than a dozen bottles, and nearly two dozen wines.”

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NYC’s New Restaurant Openings

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Oath Pizza
Oath is a pizza place on the UWS that grows some of its own produce in an on-site hydroponic garden. You can get 11-inch pizzas for $11, or half pies for $7. Come for a casual group hang with all your houseplants.

See more Restaurant openings here.

All Pizzas To Be Cooked By Robots?

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A former Silicon Valley executive with a love of pizza and robots is on a quest to make a better pie and deliver it faster than the big chains can. Alex Garden is making robots that make pizza and they are coming for Domino’s.

The future of pie delivery, argues Garden, is being pioneered by robots at his Zume Pizza, and Bloomberg got a look inside the new company. The process seems to involve a team of enormous and very expensive-looking robots preparing pies that then get baked by a giant bank of ovens en route to customers.

One of the robots (her name is Marta) expertly spreads sauce “perfectly but not too perfectly, so it looks just like an artisan product.” Another, named Bruno, then “gently, without disturbing it,” moves the pizza into an 850-degree oven to prebake. Traditional humans are still required for tasks like sprinkling cheese, driving the delivery truck, and walking sealed boxes to customers’ doors, but these seem like minor obstacles, really. After all, even Domino’s has robots that warm pies on the road and diligently hunt down customers using GPS.  Pizza seems the ripest for full automation within fast food, so it’s safe to assume the whole industry is steadily moving toward the all-robot business model.

Right now, Zume’s pies only appear to be available in Mountain View, but Garden warns his company is targeting massive chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut, which he says he’ll be able to dethrone by offering “the best-tasting pizza in the country delivered in 15 minutes for the same price as any of the other chains.”As Bloomberg points out, there’s “a lot of profit in robot-made pizza.” Just envision one of the major pizza franchises but with “virtually no” humans, Garden calmly instructs everyone. “It would be like Domino’s without the labor component. You can start to see how incredibly profitable that can be.”

Papa John’s Goes “All Natural” With Ingredients

works-ingredients.jpgPapa John’s, whose motto of “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” you likely know even if you’ve never touched a slice, is making moves to uphold that promise by removing a host of artificial ingredients from its pizzas. “We closed out 2015 announcing our commitment to serve chicken raised without antibiotics and are ringing in the New Year artificial-flavor and synthetic-color free,” said Sean Muldoon, Papa John’s Senior Vice President of Research and Development. This might lead one to wonder what made the ingredients “better” before the change, but to its credit Papa John’s is the first national pizza chain to make a move like this.

It’s unclear whether going all-natural will help Papa John’s recover from a season of poor sales and falling stocks, but it seems like management is banking on the consumer demand for transparency (or at least the appearance of transparency) in ingredients that once helped Chipotle rocket to the top. Hopefully they can do so on a national scale without the same food safety issues that plagued the Mexican chain.

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