<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Inc Well | Small Business Advice for Chicago Entrepreneurs]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/inc-well http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Sat, 25 Oct 2014 14:20:25 -0500 Sat, 25 Oct 2014 14:20:25 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Why Employees Are Calling in Sick to Work]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:27:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sick-Flu_generic.jpg

It might not come as a surprise that employees calling in to work sick aren’t always sick, but a new survey has revealed some surprising excuses employers say they’ve been given.

The survey, conducted by Chicago-based CareerBuilder, shows 28 percent of employees have called in to work sick when they were feeling well.

While almost half of employees say they have a “paid time off” program that allows them to use their time off however they choose, 23 percent of those workers say they still feel obligated to make up an excuse for taking a day off.

But the creativity of some excuses has some employees raising their eyebrows.

From putting a casserole in the oven to “accidentally” getting on a plane to having a "lucky night" and not knowing where they were, the unbelievable reasons employees called in to work are quite surprising.

While the outrageous excuses might come as a surprise, not every employee is playing hooky. A majority of workers feel they do not have the luxury to take a sick day and more than half of employees said they have gone into work sick because they felt the work wouldn't get done otherwise, the survey noted.

Though the majority of employers say they give their employees the benefit of the doubt, 31 percent of those surveyed said they have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth. Some asked to see a doctor’s note, some called the employee, and some even drove past the employee’s house.

Nearly 1 in 5 employers have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse.

How are these employees being caught in a lie?

Nearly 24 percent of employers say they caught an employee lying about being sick by checking social media. So think twice next time you post a photo of your adventures to Facebook or tweet about your day off.

<![CDATA[Which Big City is Better for Business?]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 21:50:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+generic.jpg

New York and Los Angeles may be bigger than Chicago, but bigger isn’t always better when it comes to running a business in the nation’s three largest cities.

Chicago outranks both New York and LA in terms of overall quality of life, a key metric for employers looking to recruit top talent. According to the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, which considers everything from housing and education to cities’ social, political and economic environments, the Windy City ranks 42nd globally, compared with 44th for New York and 59th for LA.

Chicago, which was recently named one of the top cities for fast-growing companies, is also more affordable than its coastal counterparts. Not only are average real estate costs lower – $22.62 per square foot in Chicago vs. $29.61 and $55.28 for LA and New York, respectively – but the value of a dollar is higher in Illinois than in California and New York, giving businesses, and the people who work for them, more purchasing power.

Here’s an infographic with more information on how “the big three” stack up:

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.

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<![CDATA[Microsoft Tech Conference to Come to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:15:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/mccormick+place+chicago.jpg

A mega-tech conference is coming to Chicago this spring, officials announced Thursday.

Thousands of Microsoft’s brightest minds will unite at McCormick Place for the company’s Ignite event.

“Ignite is really the signature event we have for our business customers,” said Microsoft General Manager Julia White. “We are really happy it will be here in Chicago for the first time.”

It’s a major coup for tourism and technology in the city.

Microsoft says it will combine five of its annual tech conferences into a singular one event, set to be hosted at McCormick Place.

“The desirability of Chicago in general—the food, the entertainment, the sports—made it really ideal,” White said.

The conference is scheduled for May 4-8. It could bring as many as 20,000 people to the city and an estimated $47 million in spending.

“This is a testament to what has happened at McCormick Place and all the other strengths—our airport, our hotels, our entertainment, our restaurants and it plays to Chicago’s strengths,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The announcement was made at 1871, one of five startup incubators in Chicago. The newest, the Chicago Innovation Exchange, opened Thursday morning in Hyde Park.

The city’s growing tech sector is another reason Microsoft chose Chicago.

“We are recognizing it for what it is—a real technology hub,” White said. “Ignite is the first great partnership but I think there will be more.”

The Microsoft announcement comes on the heels of news that next year Chicago will host both the NFL Draft and the James Beard awards, events that were previously in New York.

So far, Microsoft's agreement with the city is for one year only.

“My goal is to make it an annual conference so they keep coming back,” Emanuel said.

<![CDATA[Emanuel Brings Microsoft Ignite Conference to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:32:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/microsoft3.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to rack up tourism successes for the city. 

On Thursday, Emanuel announced that Microsoft would bring its "Ignite" conference would head to Chicago during the week of May 4-8, 2015. 

Ignite plays as something of a meta conference for Microsoft, who will combine a series of smaller conferences  -- TechEd, Microsoft Management Summit, The Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project -- into one. 

The conference, which will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center, is expected to draw upward of 20,000 tech entrepreneurs, engineers and investors. 

It could be worth up to $47 million in revenue for the city. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dow Drops 460 points, Rebounds]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 18:57:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009257445_1200x675_343121476001.jpg What caused the stock market to take a big slide today. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.]]> <![CDATA[Suburban Teen Creates App That Shoots Up the Charts]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 22:43:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009185795_1200x675_339892291645.jpg 10/9/2014: A suburban Chicago teen helped create the "Impossible Rush" app that's become a worldwide hit. Lauren Jiggetts reports.]]> <![CDATA[Teens Develop Brain-Teaser App, Garner Worldwide Attention]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 08:13:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/impossible+rush+app.jpg

Fifteen-year-old Austin Valleskey doesn't have his drivers license yet...but he already has a worldwide successful app.

A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

And a few hours is all it took for Valleskey to create a prototype for Impossible Rush- a brain-teaser game.

"We didn't think much of it. We just wanted people to have fun with it," Valleskey said.

And people did.

The pair contacted a marketer who agreed to buy the app and the game's popularity skyrocketed.

With over 500,000 downloads at its peak, the app was ranked 16th in the U.S., 7th in Sweden and 18th in Australia, according to Business Insider.

Valleskey said he was in disbelief.

"It passed up Skype, Tinder, Netflix, all of these huge companies. It was crazy cool to me!" the teen told NBC Chicago Thursday. "It's a great thrill."

The young teen says he taught himself computer programming just one year ago during a road trip to Florida.

His parents shared his latest excitement.

"It's been just so much fun to see the success he's had with it," said Michael Valleskey. "He's learning so much going through this process."

Valleskey says he's already working on developing another app.

<![CDATA[New Restaurant Set to Replace Hot Doug's]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 16:58:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/hot-dougs.jpg

While the closing of Hot Doug’s may have marked a somber moment in the encased meat world, there’s a new meaty menu set to go up on the walls of the former sausage superstore.

Frank Meats Patty is expected to move into the iconic Avondale space located at California and Roscoe as early as Dec. 1, Chicago Eater reported.

Hot Doug’s closed its doors for good last Friday, marking the end of a legacy in the city’s hot dog realm.

Owner Doug Sohn said he has to vacate the building by Nov. 1 and announced plans to auction off the decorations for charity.

Then comes Franks Meats Patty, owned by the group behind Fatso’s Last Stand and Lockdown Bar & Grill.

While the new eatery will have a lot to live up to following in Hot Doug’s shoes, but general manager of Lockdown Bar & Grill Bob Corbett says they’re going to be much different.

"We're not trying to be Hot Doug's,” he told Eater. “I stood in line there for years like everyone else."

The expected fast-casual gourmet burger and hot dog joint will boast a menu similar to Fatso’s with a few adjustments. It will feature new Chicago-related décor, later hours and delivery services.

But there will be one piece of Hot Doug’s that could make things easier for fans—the new meat will be cooked on the same grills.

Eater reports that the group is purchasing Sohn’s kitchen equipment.

"If you serve good food and keep the prices fair, people will come in," Corbett said in the interview. "As long as the customers know I'm not trying to be Doug."

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Jordan Brand Standalone Store Planned for Chicago]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 15:32:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/MJ+Bobcats+Retirement.jpg

Chicago sneakerheads will soon have a one-stop shopping option for snagging the latest Air Jordans.

Flight 23 at Footaction, a Jordan Brand-only store, plans to open a 36,000-square-foot retail store at 34 S. State St. next June, the Chicago Tribune reports.

It will be the second specialty store for the brand in the country after a New York location opened earlier this year.

The store will only stock Michael Jordan-brand shoes and merchandise and will be located in the space currently occupied by Forever 21.

The company signed a 15-year deal for the Chicago store, according to the Tribune.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Allstate Raising Rates in Illinois]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:12:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Allstate_tag_4color_hor.jpg

Allstate is upping its rates for customers in Illinois.

The Northbrook-based insurer will be increasing its car and home insurance rates in the state by an average of 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Allstate spokeswoman Shaundra Turner Jones said the increase equates to an average of about $3 a month per auto policy and $10 a month per home policy.

“The reason for this change is to keep up with rising costs,” she said in a statement. “Customers are encouraged to talk with their local agent about discounts for which they may be eligible to help offset these increases, including our Full Pay discount and Easy Pay discounts, among many others. Customers can also work with their local agent to migrate to higher deductibles as a way to help keep premium costs lower.”

The increases, which are larger than ones implemented by the company in other states, both take effect this month-- The homeowners’ hike takes effect Oct. 27 while the car increase begins Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The insurance company is reportedly Illinois’ second-largest property and casualty carrier, following State Farm.

<![CDATA[Determining the Best Lease for Your Business]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:48:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/For+rent+generic+sign+722.jpg

As the No. 2 city in the country for fast-growing small businesses, Chicago has become the go-to place for entrepreneurs looking to launch new business ventures.

But before they can bring their big ideas to fruition, small business owners have to find a place to house their companies. One of the most common questions that come up when leasing office space is whether it’s better to sign a long-term or short-term lease.

This is especially important for small businesses whose success, or failure, could be at least partially dictated by this decision. While there’s no right answer – every company’s needs are different – there are certain advantages to each that, when carefully analyzed with the help of a commercial broker, can help steer businesses toward the best option.

Benefits of a long-term lease include:

  • Stability – If you find your dream location, a long-term lease (typically five years or more) ensures you’ll be able to stay there for an extended period of time, even if your building is sold. Short-term tenants (one to five years) risk being forced out of their space unexpectedly, inconveniencing customers and employees and jeopardizing the future of their business.
  • Predictability – Tenants that sign a long-term lease know how much their rent will increase from year to year, regardless of market conditions. By comparison, companies that sign a short-term agreement could see their real estate costs soar each year, hampering growth.
  • Tenant Improvements/Concessions – Landlords are often more willing to give tenant improvement allowances and other concessions like free rent to tenants that sign long-term leases. These aren’t off the table for short-term tenants, but they may be more difficult to negotiate.

Short-term leases are attractive for the following reasons:


  • Flexibility – Tenants that need to scale up or down, or move to a new location altogether, are easily able to do so with a short-term lease. Conversely, long-term tenants would either need to sublease or transfer their lease to another tenant in order to relocate.
  • An “Easy Out” – It’s estimated that eight out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months of opening. Unlike long-term leases, which leave tenants on the hook for unpaid rent if they ever go out of business, short-term leases allow entrepreneurs to cut their losses and move on if a business venture fails to take off.

One alternative to a traditional short-term lease is shared office space, which allows businesses of all sizes to rent space on an annual or month-to-month basis. In addition to offering amenities like conference rooms and cafeterias, as well as a full support staff to assist with back-office functions, these centers make it easy for tenants to add space as their businesses grow or reduce their footprint during down periods.

Another option is to sign a short-term lease with several renewal options. For example, a tenant who inks a three-year lease could have an option to renew for an additional year or two – often at a higher rate – after the initial term expires. Doing so allows tenants to have the best of both worlds by remaining in their existing location if business is going well or relocating to another location (without penalty) if they run into problems with their landlord or simply want a change of scene.

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.

<![CDATA[Employee vs. Independent Contractor: Avoid Misclassification]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:41:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/Money_generic.jpg

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, companies have been creatively looking to “trim the fat” when it comes to expenses.

The recession, coupled with increased business regulations and health care reform has led businesses to continue expense-minimization efforts.

One way this has been achieved is by classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The cost advantage of this is that you aren’t responsible for providing them with certain perks (healthcare benefits) and you don’t have to pay employment taxes on their wages. But because this is a way of avoiding certain taxes, this is something that is highly monitored and regulated by the IRS. We all know that Uncle Sam needs his money and that the IRS is there to ensure that businesses are giving their just due to the government.

With that being said, companies found to be misclassifying their employees are leaving themselves open to receive a hefty civil fine of up to $25,000 per event PLUS potential back employment taxes.

So how do you know if you’re misclassifying your employees? Here are the three factors that the IRS uses:

  • Behavioral Control – To what extent do you control how the worker performs the work? If you are directing how work is accomplished, providing training, giving instructions, etc. the worker may be seen as an employee. This factor is all about asking how much autonomy does the worker have and how much are you controlling the “who, what, when, where, and how” of his work.
  • Financial Control – To what extent do you control the financial aspects of the work? If you are purchasing the tools necessary for the work to be done and/or reimbursing the incurred expenses of the worker, the worker may be seen to be an employee. Likewise, the IRS looks to see if the independent contractor is able to realize profits or losses in the performance of duties. If the worker can incur no losses, he/she can be viewed as an employee.
  • Relationship of the Parties – How do the parties view the relationship? Here the IRS looks at how permanent the relationship is, if the worker receives any benefits (i.e. insurance), and what business relationship was intended (as shown by written contracts).

These three factors are all taken into account and the IRS looks at the whole situation to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Being aware of the test the IRS uses can help you in avoiding the misclassification of workers and the penalties that comes along with it.

Jamal Jackson, JD/MBA is a corporate attorney licensed in the State of Illinois. He is the Managing Partner of Jackson Corporate Law Offices, Co-Founder of Initiative Consulting Group, LLC, and a Public/Motivational Speaker engaging audiences in the topic areas of Business, Leadership, and Legacy (www.JamalEJackson.com).

<![CDATA[Blackhawks to Unveil Renovated Mag Mile Store]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 15:03:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/495205527.jpg

With just two days until the Chicago Blackhawks officially kick off hockey season, the team is giving fans even more to look forward to.

The team is set to unveil their newly renovated Chicago store on Michigan Avenue in a ribbon-cutting event late Tuesday afternoon featuring Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz, President and CEO John McDonough, GM Stan Bowman and Captain Jonathan Toews, alongside Alderman Brendan Reilly.

"This is an incredible opportunity to engage with our fans on the Magnificent Mile, a world class location on one of the most iconic streets in the world," McDonough said in a statement. "We envision the Blackhawks Store will become a must-visit destination for locals, tourists and fans alike."

The store is located at 333 N. Michigan Ave. in an art deco building designed in 1928. The renovation and expansion of the store was expected to cost $48 million. Included in that cost is the renovation of office suites above the store and the restoration of some of the building's historical features.

The updated store will grow to 362,210 square feet and will have four levels of retail space, including restaurants.

"We are up for the challenge of restoring one of the city's most important Landmark buildings in one of the most highly-regarded locations in Chicago," Don Vitek, SVP of Wirtz Realty, said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend Web: October 5]]> Sun, 05 Oct 2014 09:06:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009114130_1200x675_338009155769.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski shows us the latest technology in hearing aids made by Beltone., in Illinois.]]> <![CDATA[Groupon Gets Into the Grocery Business]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:20:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/205*120/Groupon_snap.jpg

Chicago-based Groupon has unveiled a new app that offers users a way to get cash back from their grocery bill.

Snap by Groupon features cash-back offers on a variety of items such as food, personal care and household goods.

Different items are featured each week that are available to receive a certain amount of cash back after purchasing. When a user accumulates $20 in cash back, they're eligible to receive a check from Groupon.

The company is offering cash back on 31 items this week, including $1 cash back on any gallon of milk, $3 on Huggies diapers and $1 for any Glad trash bag products.

The free app is available on iTunes and the Google Play store.


<![CDATA[Fans Line Up for Final Hot Doug's Taste]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 10:44:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hot-dougs-line.jpg 10/03/14: NBC Chicago's Regina Waldroup was outside Hot Doug's Friday morning talking to hot dog and sausage lovers hoping to get in on the last of the action.]]> <![CDATA[McDonald's Launches Squid Ink Burger]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 17:24:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/2D274906915346-mcdonaldssquidinkburger.blocks_desktop_small.jpg

Trick or treat?

McDonald’s isn’t letting Burger King have the only spooky burger.

McDonald’s Japan has launched a Halloween-themed “Squid Ink Burger,” sporting black-dyed buns and a “squid ink sauce.”

The burger, which costs $3.40, also features two beef patties, cheese and fried onions.

The company said the squid ink sauce was added to a chipotle sauce with a smoked flavor and pungent taste to give it “the flavor of squid ink.”

It is the second black burger to hit the market in Japan after Burger King Japan launched the Kuro Burger.

The Kuro Burger, "kuro" meaning "black" in Japanese, features bread and cheese colored using bamboo charcoal and a black sauce, which has a soy and a garlic base, turned a shade of ebony using squid ink.

The Kuro Burger, also dubbed the “goth burger,” is scheduled to end in early November.

While both burgers were launched as limited-time Halloween treat, they might be too spooky for many to bite into.

Photo Credit: McDonald's Japan]]>
<![CDATA[Where to Satisfy Your Hot Dog Craving Post-Hot Doug's]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 20:17:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Hot-Dog-Generic.jpg

There may never be another chocolate hot dog or Anna Kendrick fire dog again, but for Hot Doug’s fans looking for their Chicago hot dog fix, there’s still hope.

As the sausage superstore reaches its final day, GrubHub has put together a list of some of the most popular hot dog restaurants in the area to help cure the meaty mourning fans will likely experience.

The delivery app service looked at Chicago restaurants with at least one hot dog ordered per day and compiled a list of the top 10 with highest ratings.

1. Johnny’s Beef and Gyros
2. Tom & Jerry’s (Formerly Wilbur’s)
3. Fatso’s Last Stand
4. Slim’s
5. Duff’s Dogs
6. Jay’s Beef
8. The Original Luke’s on Harlem Pizza
9. The Haute & The Dog
10. Huey’s Hot Dogs

In addition to the highest-rated hot dog eateries, they also put together a list of restaurants with the most hot dog orders.

1. Barnelli’s Pasta Bowl and Portillo’s Hot Dogs
2. Slim’s
3. Choppers
4. Chicago’s Dog House
5. Munchies Gyros & Pizza
6. Huey’s Hot Dogs
7. Fatso’s Last Stand
8. Al’s Beef
9. Hamburger Heaven Express
10. Byron’s Hot Dog

While the end of Hot Doug’s marks a somber day in the encased meat world, fans can rest assured that delicious Chicago hot dogs aren’t going away anytime soon.

Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[7 Key Tips for Developing an Internal Training Platform]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:15:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Happy+People.jpg

An internal learning and development platform can help a company prepare for a prosperous future, increase employee skill sets, motivate team members, groom future leaders and help sustain values and culture. In fact, the fast growing millennial workforce rates excellent training programs as a top factor when considering an employer, according to a PwC report. The net net: without a training program, companies run the risk of slowing employee development, or worse, missing out on top talent.

Below are seven tips every business should consider when building its own learning and development program.

1. Get backing from senior leadership. Commitment to the learning investment is crucial for driving the program. Make sure your leaders understand that an early investment in people development will allow scalability of the business. Also, that this is an opportunity for them to become role models of continuous learning and champions of this initiative.
2. Designate an advisory council to establish a vision and plan. Training platforms are successful when team members throughout the company are willing to put the time in to establish a mission for the initiative. An advisory council of internal subject matter experts and cross-functional department representatives should take ownership of making recommendations to senior leadership about the overall vision of the learning platform, and guide development.
3. Inventory your learning content. Thousands of pieces of learning material are developed throughout the startup years. Deciphering which pieces can support your mission and vision might be a painstaking process, but it’s necessary. Get a good grasp on what you have before thinking about what additional content should be developed.
4. Give yourself some time to plan. After a company understands what it has at its disposal, it’s time to figure out next steps in leveraging the content. This piece takes time. Will onboarding be involved? Will learners have a suite of trainings to choose from? Think about what you want the program to look like in the future and set milestones.
5. Find the shared value between overall business and individual learning needs. What does the business need team members to know? What do team members need to grow in their careers? Refer back to your business goals and ask your learners where they want to go in their careers to shape a successful learning curriculum. Provide industry trainings to help employees understand the market as well as learning opportunities specific to their role within the company.
6. Select learning solutions that work for your team. Good corporate learning management systems make knowledge accessible and organized, and significantly impact your program’s success. Look at what systems you have, and figure out how they could work for you. There could be an opportunity to leverage existing investments to cut costs.
7. Keep the content evergreen. Establish learning coordinators who can work with each department to update content and keep the course material fresh. Learning coordinators should be closely tied to each department to maintain knowledge and designate an iterative approach to updating content.

The creation of the program is just the beginning, and there are many ways to evolve a learning program to meet an organization’s needs over time. For example, you could offer customized courses for team members in specific departments or at a certain level; include courses to better educate your team members on your industry or product(s), so employees are always up to speed; or leverage the program to assist in HR initiatives like management training or onboarding new team members.

As more and more companies place an emphasis on corporate culture and employee engagement, a learning and development program is quickly becoming a “must have.” While it might feel like a heavy lift at first, the benefits will pay off in dividends.

Dorie Blesoff is chief people officer at Chicago-based kCura, an e-discovery software developer. In her role, Dorie works closely with the human resources department to help create a stronger platform for recruiting team members and growing their skills, while also continuing to make kCura a great place to work. Dorie has helped to implement various development initiatives across the company, including the company’s internal education platform, kCura U.

<![CDATA[10 Tips for Creating Great Content for Your Business]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:22:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/computer+generic1.jpg

Inspiring people to read and share your content is not as hard as you might think, nor does it require sophisticated writing skills or an inordinate amount of time. Yet many small business owners believe those three myths and it’s causing them to miss out on opportunities to engage customers and grow their business.

To prove those myths wrong, here are 10 shortcuts to creating great, shareable content.

1. Use photos and videos to tell your story. A funny or heartwarming image with a catchy headline will get your message across and increase the likelihood of your content getting shared on social media.
2. Ask open-ended and specific questions to initiate conversations. For example, a sports pub may ask Facebook fans to weigh in on the upcoming World Series. The responses will keep the content engine humming while allowing you to further engage customers between visits.
3. Run contests. For example, a yoga studio may ask newsletter subscribers, “What is the most challenging pose and why?” In exchange for their answers, random names may be put into a drawing for free classes. The answers, along with profiling the winners, are terrific fodder for future issues.
4. Proactively answer the most frequently asked questions from customers.
5. Curate other people’s content and add your own opinion. Just be sure to give credit and a link to the original source.
6. Enlist industry experts to participate in a Q&A or write a guest post.
7. Issue a survey. The results and responses will have a long shelf life in your email and social media marketing efforts. Added content bonus – let customers know about the changes you’ve made as a result of their feedback.
8. Read the news and follow conversations on social media to spark fresh content ideas.
9. Develop an editorial calendar that looks at least six months ahead so you’re not wasting time pulling together content at the last minute.
10. Dont be afraid to recycle content. While nobody wants to read the same material twice, you can reuse the kernels of good ideas by putting a fresh twist on an angle or using different formats to reach your audience such as Tweets or LinkedIn posts.

Great content is one of the most effective ways to stay at the top of your customers' minds. Now that you know the myths and shortcuts, there’s nothing stopping you from generating more business through content-driven email and social media.

Steve Robinson is Constant Contact’s educational marketing expert in the Midwestern United States (IL, IN, KY, OH, & MI). He has over 30 years experience supporting small business, with a background in small business marketing, management & development. He has helped thousands of small businesses, associations, and nonprofits develop and implement effective email marketing, social media, online survey and engagement marketing strategies. Steve has twice been named to Crain’s Chicago Business’ Who’s Who in Non-Profit Management and currently writes a guest blog for nbcchicago.com’s Inc.well Blog. Steve draws from this experience to be a valuable resource to Midwestern small businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Steve has educated more than 40,000 small businesses on behalf of Constant Contact since joining the team in 2007 and has presented at @Midwest, Techweek Chicago, & for the City of Chicago Treasurer’s Office Online Marketing Contest to name just a few.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hot Doug's Owner Doug Sohn Reveals Plans for Auction]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:13:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Doug_Sohn.jpg

Fans sporting a Hot Doug’s tattoo may already have a piece of the famous encased meat eatery with them forever, but for those not brave enough to ink their love for the Avondale hot dog stand, there may be another way to walk away with a sausage souvenir.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hot Doug’s owner Doug Sohn said he plans to auction off meaty memorabilia for charity. Details on when and where have not yet been revealed, but fans are sure to be chomping at the bit to take home part of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

Sohn also left some hope for fans as he prepares to serve his last Hot Doug’s meal Friday.

In the interview, Sohn noted that a pop-up restaurant isn’t off the table following the shocking closure of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

"I haven’t ruled that out," he said. "Like a one-night charity thing. Not saying I would, but I’d consider that."

Lines at the Avondale restaurant are longer than ever leading up the “permanent vacation.”

The hot dog stand has generated what some have called "cult fandom."

A man even proposed at the restaurant and had owner Doug Sohn ordain his wedding, and a number of followers got tattoos when it was announced that Sohn would give free meals for life to the questionable souls who inked their loyalty.

The restaurant will even live on in a movie as filmmakers plan to document its final days.

<![CDATA[Chicago's Only Olive Garden Opens on NW Side]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 02:06:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Olive_Garden_chicago.jpg

Chicago residents won't have as far to travel for an unlimited pasta bowl.

Olive Garden restaurant opened its only eatery in Chicago's city limits Monday, setting up shop in the Avondale neighborhood at 3555 West Addison St.

Gov. Pat Quinn and other elected officials were on hand to tout the approximately 170 new jobs they say the restaurant is expected to bring to the community.

Officials say the new 7,780-square-foot restaurant can host more than 240 guests.

Photo Credit: Olive Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Jewel-Osco Reports Another Possible Data Hack]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:43:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP985800088575.jpg

Jewel-Osco revealed Monday that hackers attempted to obtain payment card information at some of its stores in late August and early September.

The intrusion is separate from an earlier incident reported by the company in August, and used a different type of malware, according to information posted on the company's web site.

Company officials say the hackers may have captured "account numbers, expiration dates, other numerical information and/or cardholder names," but it's not known whether they were successful in capturing the customer data.

Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa Jewel-Osco customers who used a credit card from June 22 through July 17 or between Aug. 27 and Sept. 21 are encouraged to monitor their credit and debit card accounts and promptly contact the bank in case of suspicious activity.

Federal authorities have been contacted and third-party forensics experts are investigating the intrusion, according to Jewel-Osco officials.

Jewel customer Alan Rebok said Tuesday that he plans to cancel his account after erroneous activity appeared last week.

"I tried to use my ATM card and it said maxed out. The next day it worked and then I heard the stories this morning and I'm like, 'Oh wow,'" he said.

Officials have not yet confirmed if any customer information was in fact stolen as a result of the breach.

"I think every business needs to think about beefing up their cyber security," said customer Nate Lucero.

The company is offering free consumer identity protection services to anyone affected. Call 855-865-4449 for more information. Customers also can call the Illinois attorney general's office identity theft hotline at 866-999-5630.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Madigan Opens Investigation Into Jimmy John's Breach]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:42:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jimmy-johns-store.jpg

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday warned residents who made purchases with their credit or debit cards at Jimmy John's to immediately be on the lookout for unauthorized charges on their accounts.

“Identity theft is a serious threat to consumers," Madigan said. "It’s critical to start incorporating extra precautions in your daily routine to limit the damage done as a result of a data breach.”

Madigan has opened an investigation into the security breach at 216 of the Champaign-based company's restaurants.
Jimmy John's said Wednesday that stores in 37 states, including Illinois, were affected by the breach that occurred between June 16 and Sept. 5.

It appears customers' credit and debit card data was compromised after someone stole log-in credentials from a point-of-sale vendor, and used the information to remotely access the systems at the individual stores, company officials said.

The security issue has been contained and the company said customers can continue using their credit and debit cards securely at Jimmy John’s stores. Third-party forensic experts have been brought in to assist with the investigation.

The restaurant chain is offering credit protection services to customers impacted by the breaks. Call 1-855-398-6442 for more information.
Madigan said Illinois residents also can call her office’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 for assistance.

Affected Chicago-area stores include:

    Chicago, 3234 W. Foster Ave.
    Chicago, 6451 W. Diversey Ave
    Chicago, 3328 North Clark St.
    Chicago, 1101 S. Canal St. Ste.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 18W 048 22nd St
    Glen Ellyn, 850 Roosevelt Rd.
    Homer Glen, 14110 Bell Rd.
    Naperville,19 W. Jefferson Ave.
    Lombard, 1235 South Main St
    Lombard, 2770 S. Highland Ave.
    Evergreen Park, 9451 S. Kedzie Ave.

<![CDATA[Jimmy John’s Warns of Possible Security Breach]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 16:15:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jimmy-johns-store.jpg

Jimmy John’s is warning its customers of a "possible security incident involving credit and debit card data."

According to a letter posted on the company's web site, the problem was detected at approximately 216 Jimmy John's corporate and franchised stores between June 16 and Sept. 5 of this year.

Company officials say it appears that customers' credit and debit card data was compromised after someone stole log-in credentials from a point-of-sale vendor, and used the information to remotely access the systems at the individual stores.

The security issue has been contained and the company says customers can continue using their credit and debit cards securely at Jimmy John’s stores. Third party forensic experts have been brought in to assist with the investigation.

The Champaign, Illinois-based sandwich chain says cards affected by the breach include those swiped on certain dates at these individual stores.

Chicago-area stores include:

  • Chicago, 3234 W. Foster Ave.
  • Chicago, 6451 W. Diversey Ave
  • Chicago, 3328 North Clark St.
  • Chicago, 1101 S. Canal St. Ste.
  • Oakbrook Terrace, IL 18W 048 22nd St
  • Glen Ellyn, 850 Roosevelt Rd.
  • Homer Glen, 14110 Bell Rd.
  • Naperville,19 W. Jefferson Ave.
  • Lombard, 1235 South Main St
  • Lombard, 2770 S. Highland Ave.
  • Evergreen Park, 9451 S. Kedzie Ave.
<![CDATA[New Program Offers Personalized Action Figures]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 11:49:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ironman3-722.jpg

Want to make your kid a super hero? Now you can.

Hasbro and 3DPlusMe teamed up to put together Super Awesome Me, a program that allows kids of all ages to see their face on a customized Iron Man or Captain America action figure.

The initiative launched Friday as part of Disney Consumer Products’ Marvel Super Hero September at 10 Wal-Marts and 2 Sam’s Club stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston. The event runs through Sunday.

The designated locations, which includes the Orland Hills Wal-Mart located at 9265 159th St., will have special in-store scanning stations where customers can choose between the two super heroes and a 3D face scanner will capture their likeness, printing a personalized 12-inch plastic action figure.

The toys will cost $45 and will be available for pick up at Wal-Mart stores or shipped to Sam’s Club members in four weeks.

See the full list of locations here.

Photo Credit: Industrial Light & Magic]]>
<![CDATA[Doug Sohn on Final Hot Doug's Customer: "It's Me"]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:34:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Doug_Sohn.jpg

If you were hoping to be the very last person to receive a hot dog from famed encased meat eatery Hot Doug’s when it closes in October, think again.

While you may be waiting in line for quite some time as demand for meat treats from the “sausage superstore” continues to grow, owner Doug Sohn says there will always be someone behind you—him.

In a recent interview with Crain’s Chicago Business, Sohn said “I get to decide and it’s me.”

Sohn plans to come out from behind the counter and order from guest cashier and friend Paul Kelly, who even has a bratwurst named after him on the menu.

As for what Sohn plans to order, he said it likely won’t matter—he’ll be getting the Paul Kelly.

Lines at the Avondale restaurant are longer than ever following the shocking news that Hot Doug’s would be closing Oct. 4.

Sohn said he hasn't thought about what he'll do once he closes down.

"I think it's time to do something else. That's it, and I don't know what that is. I didn't think it all the way through," he told NBC Chicago.

The hot dog stand has generated what some have called "cult fandom."

A man even proposed at the restaurant and had owner Doug Sohn ordain his wedding, and a number of followers got tattoos when it was announced that Sohn would give free meals for life to the questionable souls who inked their loyalty.

Zachary Pozulp is infamous for being the customer who once ordered one of everything on the menu.

"I'm just filled with this overwhelming feeling of sadness, which is, in a way, sad I would say, for me, but it's going to be a loss," Pozulp said. "This place is an institution; I've been coming here for years. This is the place that anybody who comes to visit me, I always bring them here, this is the place."

The restaurant will even live on in a movie as filmmakers plan to document its final days.


<![CDATA[UPS to Bring 3D Printing Services to Chicago]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:54:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/3d_printers_UP.jpg One of the most compelling new technologies in recent memory will soon be readily accessible in Chicago.

UPS announced Monday that 3D printing services will be available at its UPS Store Northcenter, located at 4044 N Lincoln Ave.

3D printing is the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file by fusing materials such as small bits of glass, metal, plastic or ceramic.

Home 3D printers are already on the market for several hundred to several thousand dollars, but UPS says its store model -- the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus -- is a professional grade product that is much more precise and reliable than the home products.

The Chicago location is among 100 UPS stores across the country that will begin carrying the printers. An exact date for the printer's Chicago debut was not released.

Photo Credit: UPS]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Analysis Ranks Best and Worst Airlines]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:24:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/United-Continental-merger.jpg

Apparently, United Airlines travelers are uniting over their disappointment with the airline via Twitter.

According to recent data from text analysis startup Luminoso, the Chicago-based company has received some of the most complaints via social media.

An article on re/code reports Luminoso “used natural language processing technology to analyze more than 157,000 tweets directly mentioning five airplane handles” during the month of August to look at five major airlines, including United, jetBlue, American Airlines, Virgin America and Delta Airlines.

The results showed Virgin Airlines passengers were most pleased with their travels, followed by
jetBlue, Delta and American, while United Airlines customers complained more than others.

United had the lowest overall rating, with last-place rankings in categories like “delays/ cancellations” and “luggage,” but the results don’t necessarily mean United Airlines is the worst carrier.

The analysis is only a reflection of social media users’ sentiments over a short period of time, the study explains, and the results can easily be affected by weather or other news.

While the study may not show customer satisfaction on a large-scale level, it is clear that social media is being used by customers more frequently, and companies should pay attention to the feedback they receive on these sites.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cannabis Food Truck Heads for Chicago]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:24:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/medical+marijuana+stock+cannabis.jpg

In a strange turn of events, this new food truck might leave you with the munchies.

A cannabis food truck will be in Chicago Wednesday as part of a two-week “Cannaball Run” tour focused on educating medicinal marijuana patients on cooking with cannabis.

MagicalButter’s Samich Truck will showcase cannabis cooking demonstrations (THC-free), alcohol infusions and decarboxylation for those with medicinal marijuana prescriptions.

The truck will be stationed along the Mag Mile, at 505 N. Michigan Ave., at 5:30 p.m.

The event is part of the ArcView Investor Conference, which will host 200 investors interested in investing in the budding cannabis industry.

Earlier this month, Illinois residents with last names beginning with letters “A” through “L” began applying for medical marijuana.

The application process runs through Oct. 31. Other patients can begin submitting applications on Nov. 1.

Aspiring medical marijuana businesses can submit permit applications from Sept. 8 through Sept. 22.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[3 Tips to Give Your Startup an Early Boost]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:45:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/instant+office+new+office.jpg

The city of Chicago goes by many different names – The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, City by the Lake, but what about the City of Startups? Though some might not know, Chicago has made a name for itself as an ideal place to start a business.

The city has taken great action, especially in the past three years, to create a supportive ecosystem for startup companies. With the help of organizations like World Business Chicago, public policy is adapting so businesses can flourish and jobs can be created.

If you're looking to join the ever-growing business community in Chicago, here are some tips to help boost your startup in the early days:

  1. Specialize Early. To come out on top in today’s highly competitive marketplace, it is imperative for startups to specialize early. Markets are highly saturated, and without a unique offering or key differentiator, new companies are guaranteed to crash and burn. Finding that niche, however, can be a challenge when faced with today’s ever-evolving consumer behavior. Businesses that know their strengths from the very beginning are the ones who can carve out their place and establish a solid foothold in the market. Focusing on core competencies is the key. By concentrating on what the company does best instead of spreading efforts throughout multiple verticals, the focus can be on perfecting products and services, which provides customers with the most value, therefore cementing the company’s position in the market.
  2. Prepare to Scale. A critical first step on the road to long-term, aggressive growth is cultivating a top-notch team. Without a carefully crafted and well-balanced staff, startups cannot and will not scale to their full potential. A shared vision and supportive, motivational work environment leads to heightened productivity and drive. The customer will always be king, but part of creating the most comprehensive customer experience is ensuring the employee experience is as fulfilling and supportive as possible. Once a business model and team worth betting on has been established, the startup will begin to evolve and gain steady momentum. At a certain point in a startup’s growth trajectory, it is important to bring on a board of advisors. This can propel a hyper-successful startup out of a growth plateau. A board of advisors acts as a sounding board – a group of mentors and the curators of the company’s vision. Lack of expert guidance can be the difference between a startup that amplifies its upward trajectory and one that fades into depths of mediocrity.
  3. Get Involved. It is important to remember that the growth of a startup depends as much on external efforts as it does on internal efforts. Specializing and preparing operations and staff are extremely important, but so is getting involved in local industry and businesses associations. Networking in the community helps in a number of ways for growing startups, including expanding the network of contacts, identifying possible mentors and sourcing potential employees. Perhaps the most important benefit is the simple brand awareness that comes with networking. The more connections startup executives can make and places their company’s name can be seen, the more awareness they build within the community of potential customers.

Scaling a startup in today’s ever-evolving and highly competitive market is an immense challenge. Startups that specialize early, prepare operations and staff and network within their community will have a distinct advantage over the competition.

Robert Nathan (@logisticsnerd) is co-founder and CEO of Load Delivered Logistics LLC, an innovative supply chain and logistics management company based in Chicago. He is a board member of the Supply Chain Innovation Network of Chicago (SINC) and one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ 40 Under 40. A regular on the industry speaking circuit, Nathan shares his passion for logistics and technology at conferences and events around the country.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Airline Celebrates O'Hare Launch With $29 Airfare]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:32:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_042914_frontier.jpg

To celebrate the launch of its domestic service from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Frontier Airlines is offering discounted tickets for one day only.

The fares go as low as $29 for one-way tickets from O’Hare to Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.      

The airline's inaugural flight to Washington took off Monday, and Frontier soon will offer non-stop flights to the above seven cities.

Frontier said the special demonstrates the company's commitment to "low fares done right."

Tickets must be purchased by 10:59 p.m. Monday for domestic, nonstop travel on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from Sept. 22, 2014, through Jan. 28, 2015. They can be purchased at FlyFrontier.com or by calling Frontier's reservations centers.

Blackout dates apply, and previously purchased tickets cannot be exchanged for special-fare tickets, according to the airline.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Is Giving Away Free Coffee Every Morning for Two Weeks]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:14:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds13.jpg

McDonald’s is kicking off its second national Free Coffee Event Sept. 16 and cutting off the free java on International Coffee Day, Sept. 29.

In a statement released last week, McDonald’s announced that participating restaurants across the country will give guests a free small McCafé coffee for a two-week period during regular breakfast hours.

“We know our guests are busy, especially during the morning, and a free cup of coffee goes a long way in helping get their days started," said Greg Watson, the McDonald’s executive who oversees menu innovation.

McDonald’s costumers can also “sip and tell” their embarrassing pre-coffee moments on social media using the hashtag #SipandTell and @McCafe for chances to win custom gifts and other surprises.

Starting in early 2015, McCafé fans can drink their coffee at home, too. The fast-food chain recently announced it would collaborate with Kraft to offer McCafé ground, whole bean and single-cup coffees in grocery stores nationwide, joining retailers like Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks in selling branded packaged coffee.

McDonald’s first-ever Free Coffee Event was launched in March 2014, when the company gave away millions of cups of free coffee across the country.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend Web: Healthcare Technology]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 08:45:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008810346_1200x675_329007171867.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski explores the many abilities of Macpractice, software on a Mac platform designed to help doctors, dentists and other professionals manage their business and client files.]]> <![CDATA[UAW Strike After Failed Contract Negotiations]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 10:28:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/uaw+strike+indiana.jpg

Hundreds of workers walked off their jobs at the Lear Corp. seat factory in Hammond, Indiana Saturday morning after negotiations over a new factory contract failed to find a compromise by the 6 a.m. deadline.

The more than 750 members of the United Auto Workers Local 2335 say they’ve been without a contract for more than a month after a contract signed in 2009 expired.

Several workers blame the Michigan-based auto part supplier’s two-tier work system where workers hired in recent years, the second tier, can only make up to $16 per hour, while veteran employees can make almost $20 per hour. Second tier workers also do not get vision insurance.

Last month, union members voted 96 percent to 4 percent to authorize a strike, but continued working in hopes that an agreement would be reached, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.

Union representatives said no workers were in the plant on 165th Street Saturday morning as picketers protested outside.

“We want our two tier to go up to one tier,” said worker Sherry Franciski. “We all want to be equal and continue to work for our families and our children and our husbands and wives.”

On Friday, UAW Local 2335 posted to Facebook that "negotiations took a turn for the worst."

"The Company is pushing and proposing demands on the Union, and not substantiating those demands with the proper information. Your bargaining committee has outstanding information requests to the company that have not been fulfilled yet," the post read. With these outstanding information requests coupled with the company’s outlandish and unrealistic demands, they have put our membership in an unfortunate position...It is not our desire or wish for this to happen, but there comes a time when we need to stand up and take a position; positions that are important to all of us, our families and our futures."

Earlier reports indicated the company has offered workers essentially the same terms as it did in the past, but the union was concerned with rumored layoffs and said the two-tier system allows workers to get paid less for doing the exact same job.

The factory has recently been thriving, producing nearly 70 seats an hour for Ford vehicles and others produced at the nearby Chicago Assembly Plant.

A spokesperson for Lear Corp. could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

<![CDATA[McDonald's Expands "Build-Your-Own-Burger" Test]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 21:18:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/179*120/mcdonalds+burger.jpg

Amid reports that younger generations are favoring fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, McDonald’s is expanding its fast and casual way of ordering.

The Orange County Register reports that the world’s largest hamburger chain quietly served up the “build your own burger” ordering test to four more California restaurants.

The initial ordering test began in 2013 at locations in California and Illinois.

Earlier this year, Kevin Newell, U.S. brand and strategy officer for McDonald’s, said in an interview that the offering was a “huge driver,” but it remained unclear if the test could translate across the company’s broad network of restaurants.

McDonald’s culinary executive Dan Coudreaut told the Register the Oak Brook-based company is looking to see if customers will accept the new ordering system and that officials are hoping to see if customers are “willing to pay more” and give more time for a premium fast-casual style burger.

The program reportedly allows dine-in customers to choose from 22 different ingredients, including caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms, red onions, pepper jack cheese, thick cut apple-wood smoked bacon and sliced jalapenos.

A touch-screen tablet is used as a self-checkout option.

The Register reports a standard build-your-own burger costs 90 cents more than a Big Mac, with extra add-ons increasing the cost. The finished product, which takes approximately six minutes to make, is delivered by a server dressed in a black and white pin-striped apron.

It was not immediately clear if the company plans to expand the burger ordering system nationally.

News of the expansion comes after a report that millennials are choosing to eat at restaurants like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Five Guys Holdings LLC, dubbed “fast-casual” eateries.

The report indicates younger diners are seeking out healthier options and customizable menus.

McDonald’s has already attempted to make waves in the younger market, once a prominent audience for the chain, by introducing healthier options and debuting apps and mobile pay options.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Trademarks Term "McBrunch"]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:49:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds8.jpg

Craving a McGriddle at noon? Enter the “McBrunch.”

McDonald’s has filed a federal trademark registration for the term “McBrunch,” indicating a possible new meal program for the world’s largest hamburger chain.

While McDonald’s has not yet announced plans for a “McBrunch,” company spokesperson Terri Hickey said speculation about the concept is “entirely premature.”

“We routinely file intent to use trademark applications as a regular course of business,” Hickey told NBC Chicago. “We can’t share details at this time as to how the trademarks may or may not be used.”

News of the “McBrunch” was first reported by BurgerBusiness, which claims the Oak Brook-based fast food chain filed a trademark registration for the term in July.

This comes after a report that millennials aren’t munching on McDonald’s as much as they used to.

The company has also been working to build its breakfast component, stating that the meal program makes up roughly 20 percent of U.S. sales.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[2 Chicago Writers Join List of World's Top-Earning Authors]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:55:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Gone-Girl-Ben-Affleck.011714_copy.jpg

Two Chicago writers have joined the ranks of Forbes' top-earning authors in the world.

Veronica Roth, author of the “Divergent” trilogy, tied with three other top authors (Jeff Kinney, John Grisham and Stephen King) for sixth with a listed earning of $17 million.

Gillian Flynn, whose thriller “Gone Girl” hits the big screen next month, tied with ”The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green for No. 12 with a listed earning of $9 million. Green also made his debut on the list.

"In a ranking long-dominated by stalwarts like crime writer James Patterson and romance author Nora Roberts, these fresh ink spillers, two of whom write young adult fiction, rank thanks to the increasing commercial appeal of teen literature for readers of all ages," Natalie Robehmed writes for Forbes.

The top spots still go to well-known names. James Patterson leads the pack with $90 million, followed by Dan Brown with $28 million, Nora Roberts with $23 million and Danielle Steel with $22 million.

JK Rowling finished No. 8 with $14 million, and George R.R. Martin ranked No. 9 with $12 million.

<![CDATA[DiGiorno Under Fire for #WhyIStayed Tweet]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:01:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pizza-generic-close.jpg

DiGiorno Pizza is under fire for a recent tweet using the hashtag #WhyIStayed, which went viral after video of Ray Rice apparently punching his fiancee sparked new dialogue on domestic violence.

The trending hashtag emerged a day after the video was released. The hashtag, along with #WhyILeft, demonstrates the complicated decisions victims face and was used as women and men wrote about their trauma and fear.

The pizza retailer, owned by former Northbrook-based Nestle, joined the domestic violence discussion by tweeting “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”

The tweet sparked saucy backlash from Twitter users with many calling it “insensitive” and “inappropriate.”

The tweet has since been removed and DiGiorno has offered individual apologies to the many users commenting on their post.

“A million apologies,” one reply read. “Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting. Deleted immediately.”

The company later tweeted an official apology.

“We heard from many of you, and we know we disappointed you,” the tweet read. “We understand, and we apologize to everyone for this mistake.”

Apparently, DiGiorno wasn't the only cheesy company sparking controversy over tweets surrounding Ray Rice and domestic violence.

Chicago's Cheesie's Pub & Grill tweeted Tuesday "TINDER TUESDAY = 20% off tabs! It's a knockout deal... We're calling it the Ray Rice ;)."

The company has also issued an apology and since deleted the tweet.

"We would like to apologize for the previous tweet, referencing Ray Rice. This tweet was posted by a disgruntled ex employee who had Twitter access. In no way, shape or form do condone his behavior. We also apologize to anyone who was directly offended by this tweet."

Cheesie's said social media security precautions are being put in place to prevent similar instances from happening and announced plans for a charitable fundraiser to benefit a center for domestic violence.

<![CDATA[Weekend Web: Samsung Debuts New Phones]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 10:41:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008713221_1200x675_325973571982.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski shows us two brand new cell phone models by Samsung. The models are the Samsung Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge.]]> <![CDATA[Motorola Offers Sneak Peek at Wearable Technology]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 11:10:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/moto-3601.jpg

Chicago-based smartphone maker Motorola Mobility unveiled what it believes will be the next big wave in wearable technology Thursday.

The company is marketing the Moto 360 -- a timepiece that will work with your Android phone and offer voice-based access to information on your wrist.

"Part of what we are doing is allowing people to go through life with their heads up -- a quick glance to see your heart rate, quick glance to see your directions or something allows you to focus on the people and the world around you," Motorola Mobility senior vice president Jim Wicks said.

The watch was designed at the company’s Merchandise Mart global headquarters.

"One of the things we see as a company is that technology is becoming more personal, and whether it is a smartphone or a wearable like this, I think it's important that devices react and respond to consumers," Wicks said.

Designing new wearables is also about challenging Apple for smartphone supremacy. Next week, Apple is expected to unveil its latest iPhone, and possibly its own smart watch.

"Apple has done and will do what consumers expect at the very least, which is make it faster, lighter, thinner, more powerful, better screens, better resolution and more importantly. better software. And all of that will create what I would consider an exceptional experience for those who are in the Apple camp," said Tim Bajarin, Motorola's president of creative strategies.

Samsung also showed off its latest large-screen smartphones Thursday, the Galaxy Note 4 and the Note Edge, which features a wraparound screen and special mini apps.

It's more options for consumers, something Motorola is counting on.

"Our focus is all about giving consumers the power to choose, and we think with this generation of products we are going to emphasize that more and more," Motorola COO Rick Osterloh said.

Photo Credit: Motorola]]>
<![CDATA[50 Protesters Detained in Minimum Wage Rallies]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:49:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds_arrests_9-4.jpg

Protests on Chicago's South Side and in Cicero resulted in 50 arrests Thursday.

Nineteen protesters were detained and cited Thursday morning after blocking an intersection at West 87th and South State streets in a continued fight for an increased minimum wage.

The assembly was among about 150 such protests planned around the nation. The fast food industry workers and their supporters want the ability to form a union and a minimum hourly pay of $15 per hour.

"We're definitely on the upward movement because we feel justice is on our side. They keep saying, 'Wait.' We can't wait. ComEd raised their rates three months ago. Food prices are constantly going up, and so we feel that we cannot wait. We're struggling to put food on the tables for our kids," said Douglas Hunter. "We work at a McDonald's at a restaurant where we can't even afford to eat the food that we sell, and we think this is ridiculous in a country as rich as America."

Protesters began gathering early Thursday morning with an official event kicking off at about 8:30 a.m. It started peacefully but some then blocked the roadway and ignored officers' calls to disperse. Some were seen being placed into squad cars.

Around 300 protesters held another rally later in the day in Cicero at 29th and Cicero Avenue.

Cicero Police say 31 people were arrested and charged for disrupting traffic and placing themselves in harm's way. The protesters reportedly sat in the center of the road and blocked traffic.

A city-issued news release said Cicero Town President Larry Dominick and other local leaders support the state's efforts to raise the minimum wage and offered to work with the demonstrators to find a safter place to protest, but organizers refused.

The "Fight for 15" campaign has the support of The Service Employees International Union and several politicians, including Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who planned on join a protest outside a McDonald's restaurant near West 29th Street and South Cicero Avenue after midday.

In a statement, McDonald's corporate spokeswoman Lisa McComb said the company supports paying "fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace," adding that any increase needs to be considered in a broad context that considers "the impact of the Affordable Care Act and its definition of "full time" employment, as well as the treatment, from a tax perspective, of investments made by businesses owners."

"It's important to know approximately 90 percent of our U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws," McComb said. "McDonald's does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for city contractors and subcontractors to $13/hour.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports raising the state's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to at least $10 per hour. He vowed to live this week on minimum wage, telling reporters he's eating graham crackers for dinner.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this year to raise the wage for federal contractors.

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