According to a report inThe Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s Corp. is testing and rolling out new products, remodeling restaurants and experimenting with new technology as it prepares for a global economic recovery.

The corporation plans to open about 1,000 new restaurants and remodel 2,300 existing ones around the world next year, executives told analysts gathered at its headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., Thursday.

The restaurant industry overall has been losing customers throughout the economic downturn, but McDonald’s has managed to grow and gain market share. However, rising unemployment has had a damping effect, with same-store sales at McDonald’s U.S. restaurants flat last month, compared with 5.3 percent growth in October 2008.

McDonald’s plans to spend $2.4 billion on capital projects next year, including the remodeling program to spruce up stores. Executives hope that will give the chain more latitude to increase prices and add premium products, as it has recently said that it’s losing pricing power. The company has introduced new specialty coffee drinks and Angus burgers and supported them with heavy advertising.

It’s continuing to roll out products as the economy starts to rebound. McDonald’s is currently testing Mac snack wraps (the ingredients of a Big Mac in a flour tortilla, instead of a bun), smaller salads and à la mode desserts. McDonald’s plans to roll out frappes and smoothies by mid-2010. It also is in discussions with franchisees about whether to roll out a dollar breakfast menu nationally.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Web site, iPhone application help consumers get their chicken-wing fix

Connoisseurs of chicken wings can rest assured that their cravings will be satisfied no matter time of day or location — assuming they have access to the Internet or have a Mac iPhone and the Kluckr application. Kluckr, you see, is a Web site and iPhone app that lists more than 20,000 restaurants that serve chicken wings in its database.

Of the 20,000 places, Mark Gilmor, who runs Kluckr Communications, says about half are currently rated in appropriate categories, including heat, variety, service, value and atmosphere.

Since launching last month, Gilmor told that the Kluckr Web site has had four times more traffic than the company originally projected. In three weeks, the Kluckr iPhone app has sold to about 1,000 people, at 99 cents apiece.

Members of Kluckr get some nice perks as well. They are invited to chicken wing parties organized by the company. Gilmor explained to CNBC he believes Kluckr can get to 100,000 downloads by October 2010 as word of the app spreads and more information fills the Kluckr database.

Gilmor says Kluckr gets 70 percent of the revenue for every iPhone app sold, but there's also a second revenue stream.

“There are plenty of brands that we think will want to align with us,” Gilmor said.

Source: and

Niman Ranch welcomes new executive chef

Alameda, CA — Niman Ranch, the largest network of U.S. family farmers and ranchers raising livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably, today announced that Chef Andrew Hunter formally of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide has been retained as Niman Ranch’s executive chef.

Chef Andrew comes to Niman Ranch with more than 20 years of culinary experience. He began his training at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in various segments of the industry including fine and casual dining, and research and development.

Most recently, Andrew was vice president of Culinary Development for Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, where he was responsible for translating Wolfgang’s signature fine dining vision into profitable fast casual menu concepts for 90-plus Express and Bistro restaurants throughout the United States, Canada and Japan. Andrew helped implement a first-of-its-kind humane farm animal treatment program created in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States. Andrew is currently president of Culinary Craft, a company specializing in culinary development services for chefs, restaurateurs and retailers.

Andrew also will be featured in the pages of The National Provisioner in a new column titled “Chef’s Perspective.” The monthly feature, which debuts in the December 2009 issue, will offers tips and insight to readers on how to sell more meat to chefs and how to work with chefs. Andrew also invites readers to write in with any questions, which he will answer every month through the column.

Source: Niman Ranch