<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Business News - Money, Financial & Corporate News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/business http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Sat, 31 Jan 2015 07:24:33 -0600 Sat, 31 Jan 2015 07:24:33 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Boeing 747-8 Picked as Next Platform for Air Force One]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:50:07 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/020810+Boeing+1.jpg

An aircraft from Chicago-based Boeing was once again selected to fly the President of the United States.

Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, said a Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One.

"The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States. The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest," James said in a statement.

Research determined that only two four-engine platforms meet the requirements for Air Force One—the Boeing 747-8 and the A380, manufactured by Airbus in Toulouse, France.

Officials say modifications will need to be made to the aircraft before it can serve as Air Force One, a process that will likely also fall in the hands of Boeing.

"This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft," Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program manager, said in a statement. "We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost."

The Air Force wants to own enough of the technical baseline to allow competition for "sustainment throughout the aircraft's planned 30-year life cycle," a release from James’ office said.

"The current fleet of VC-25 presidential aircraft has performed exceptionally well, a testament to the Airmen who support, maintain and fly the aircraft," James said. "Yet, it is time to upgrade. Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased down times for maintenance are existing challenges that will increase until a new aircraft is fielded."

The release said affordability will be a key part of the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program.

"The program will use multiple strategies, such as the use of proven technologies and commercially certified equipment, to ensure the program is as affordable as possible while still meeting mission requirements." James said. "We will insist upon program affordability through cost conscious procurement practices."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Frank Meats Patty Opens in Former Hot Doug's Home]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:54:53 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/222*120/frank+meats+patty+sign.jpg

Friday marks the day when the former home of famed encased meat eatery Hot Doug’s officially becomes Frank Meats Patty.

The new restaurant, which offered free food to its first 20 customers Friday morning, looks to give meat eaters an entirely new experience.

Frank Meats Patty is owned by the group behind Fatso’s Last Stand and Lockdown Bar & Grill, and judging by their menu, will likely aim to be a more traditional burger and hot dog locale, shifting away from the wild ingredient-filled meals, extremely long lines and unusual hours boasted by their Avondale predecessor.

But traditional shouldn’t be confused with boring.

In their menu posted online, the restaurant offers meals ranging from Single Fatso burgers to the “Ooey Gooey” burger, Char Cheddar Dogs, a Shrimp Po’ Boy, a game burger of the month (this month’s is a buffalo sausage burger with pepper jack) and more.

The restaurant also showed off on social media a new Duck Foie Gras sausage burger with caramelized onions, truffle mustard, roasted shallots, cherries and Foie mousse. Need we say more?

The transition may officially mark the end of an encased meat-eating era at California and Roscoe, but it also looks to be the start of a new meat age.



Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com
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<![CDATA[Target Launches New Plus-Size Clothing Line]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:51:24 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/240*120/AVA+VIV+Header.jpg

Target has announced plans to unveil a new clothing line designed specifically for plus-size women.

The line, expected to arrive in mid-February, was designed by Target's in-house design team and features "stylish basics along with trend-driven statement pieces that fashionistas will love," the company said in a release Wednesday.

Similar to Target’s other apparel line, the new AVA & VIV clothing will be updated monthly, with prices ranging from $10 to $79.99.

“Target is synonymous with great design, and with the launch of AVA & VIV, we’re stepping up our fashion game for our Plus-size guests,” Stacia Andersen, senior vice president of merchandising, apparel and accessories at Target said in a statement. “From stylish original prints to the attention to detail and fit, this line is meant to impress and we can’t wait to share it with our guests.”

As part of their latest line launch, the Minneapolis-based retailer enlisted the help of a blogger who once called for a boycott of the company. Chastity Garner, along with fellow plus-size bloggers Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason, were hired to help promote the line and give feedback on the newest collection.

Last August, Garner announced she was boycotting Target after the company released their Altuzarra for Target collection.

"Year after year, season after season, you put out these gorgeous designer collections and you almost never include a plus range. Every time each of these collections is about to be released it feels like a slap in the face," Garner wrote. “You may ask, ‘Is there any way I will take you back?’ I will take you back, when and only when, you include true plus sizes in your designer range collaborations. Until then, I will take my money elsewhere."

The line will be available on Target.com on Feb. 22 and will arrive in stores mid-February through March, the company said.



Photo Credit: Target
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<![CDATA[McDonald's Workers File Civil Rights Lawsuit]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 12:11:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/mcdonalds-sign1.JPG

Several McDonald’s workers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the company Thursday alleging a “widespread pattern of racial and sexual discrimination and harassment” at some stores.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia by 10 former employees, claims the company last May simultaneously fired more than a dozen black workers from three Virginia stores who “didn’t fit the profile” desired at its restaurants.

“All of a sudden, they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” plaintiff Willie Betts, who was a cook at one of the McDonald’s, said in a statement. “I had no idea what they meant by the right profile until I saw everyone else that they fired as well. I worked at McDonald’s for almost five years, I was on time every day at four o’clock in the morning to open the store, and I never had a disciplinary write-up. They took away the only source of income I have to support my family.”

The complaint claims highest-ranking supervisors regularly called one of the locations the “ghetto store,” referred to black workers as “ghetto” and “ratchet,” and disciplined them for rule infractions that were forgiven when committed by white workers. One supervisor allegedly touched female workers on their legs and buttocks, discussed sexual activities with female workers and offered better working conditions in exchange for sexual favors, according to the complaint.

It further alleges that the McDonald’s Corp. representative who conducted regular inspection visits at the stores had learned of the terminations soon after they occurred on May 12, but took no action. The stores were located in Clarkesville and South Boston, according to the suit.

“We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee – the same franchisee that just fired us,” plaintiff Pamela Marable said in a statement. “McDonald’s closely monitors everything we do, from the speed of the drive-through line, to the way we smile and fold customers’ bags – but when we try to tell the company that we’re facing discrimination, they ignore us and say that it’s not their problem.”

Several workers say they contacted their local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last year to report the harassment and discrimination.

“The treatment of these McDonald’s workers seems like it’s out of another era, but sadly the racism is a reality they are confronting today,” Rev. Kevin Chandler, president of the South Boston Chapter of the NAACP and Vice President of the NAACP Virginia State Conference, said in a statement. “The South Boston NAACP will stand with these fired workers until McDonald’s takes responsibility for the inhumane treatment these workers faced in its stores.”

Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s said it has not seen the lawsuit and “cannot comment on its allegations, but will review the matter carefully.”

“McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent Franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values,” the company said in a statement. “McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”

The complaint filed Thursday brings harassment and discrimination claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Section 1981.

“This is a problem that goes far beyond these stores in Virginia – it’s a problem with McDonald’s business model itself when workers at the company have nowhere to turn,” Kendall Fells, Organizing Director of Fast Food Forward, said in a statement. “McDonald’s has the power to fix this problem, but instead it chooses to skirt its responsibility and hide behind its franchise model.”

In response to the suit, the Fight for $15 movement launched a toll-free national hotline Thursday for McDonald’s workers across the country to report alleged incidences of harassment and abuse at their workplace. Workers can report the incidents by calling (855) 729-2869.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. Gas Prices Falling Below $2]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:36:46 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/gas-prices-461831632.jpg

Falling gas prices could drop even lower in the week ahead, with the national average dipping below $2 a gallon, according to one group that tracks prices at the pump.

But those planning a road trip may want to fill up their tanks fast, as the low prices are expect to drive away in the coming weeks.

The national average for gas prices, currently at $2.05 a gallon, is expected to drop to no lower than $1.95 a gallon by next week, the website GasBuddy said Wednesday. Prices have not fallen this low since March 25, 2009, the group said. Prices at more than 50 percent of gas stations in the United States have already hit the $2-or-less mark, Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, said in a statement.

However, as the weather starts to get warmer and people start to travel and spend more time outside, demand for gas will also start to pick up by early February, increasing gas prices, analysts say. In February, gas prices should rise 30 to 50 cents per gallon due to the increase in demand.

Nevertheless gas prices are expected to remain much less expensive than in recent years, where prices were close to $4 a gallon as opposed to the coming months where prices will be closer to $3 a gallon. 

"We should start to see the national average bottom and stabilize in the coming days or weeks, but not months," according to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, said in an interview.

Michael Green, Manager at AAA Public Relations identified two main contributing factors to the declining prices at the pump— an economic slow down and an oil game with Saudi Arabia.

The slow economic growth in Asian countries like China, Japan and in Europe, especially now with talks of Greece leaving the Euro Zone, means that the demand is weak in those countries, while the supply continues to remain high in North America, Green said.

He also said one goal of oil-producing  countries within the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, may be to create a situation where oil drops so much that U.S. production of oil will decline so that it will no longer be profitable to produce oil in America. Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest member, is hoping to regain the market share that they’ve lost, he said.

“Currently, there is more supply than there is demand so prices are low. In past years there has been more demand than supply,” Green said. “Since last April gas prices have been declining for a record 118 days in a row, which is the longest streak of daily consecutive declines.”



Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How McDonald's Fries Are Made]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 12:27:00 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds-fries.jpg

If you were wondering how McDonald’s fries are made, or what they’re made of, you’re not alone.

As the world’s largest hamburger chain tries to shed its reputation of being “junk food,” the company released a video showing the process behind the making of their popular French fries, with the help of Mythbusters' Grant Imahara.

The YouTube video is the latest in a series of videos as part of the Oak Brook-based chain's recently launched marketing campaign to address common questions about its food, such as whether the beef has worms (the company's answer: "No. Gross! End of story.")

Last month, McDonald's USA President Mike Andres outlined improvements the company is working on, including the simplification of ingredient labels. Without providing details, he said to expect some changes in early 2015. The remarks came after the company reported a 4.6 percent decline in U.S. sales for November, capping two years of struggling performance.

"Why do we need to have preservatives in our food?" Andres asked, noting McDonald's restaurants go through supplies quickly. "We probably don't."

Andres said McDonald's is looking at different cooking and holding procedures to enhance the appeal of its core items, as well as shrinking the number of ingredients it uses. He noted McDonald's restaurants go through supplies quickly, meaning it may be a relatively easy task.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Plans for Woodfield Mall Renovation Revealed]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:39:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000010660720_1200x675_386627139956.jpg Officials on Tuesday revealed plans for a major renovation at Woodfield Mall this year.]]> <![CDATA[Target 5: Investigating the Issues That Affect You Most]]> Tue, 08 May 2012 13:57:53 -0600 ]]> <![CDATA[$martMoney]]> Tue, 08 May 2012 08:08:56 -0600 ]]> <![CDATA[Plans for Woodfield Mall Renovation Revealed]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:39:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/222*120/woodfield+mall+rendering.jpg

Officials on Tuesday revealed plans for a major renovation at Woodfield Mall this year.

The nearly $14 million project, dubbed a “style evolution,” looks to give the mall modern updates and improve traffic flow for retailers and customers, according to the developer Audrey Thompson, regional vice president at Simon Malls.

“It was important for us to maintain Woodfield’s unique environment,” Thompson said.

The renovation plans include replacing much of the mall’s brick features, particularly those in Center Court, adding an elevator and replacing two existing elevators, adding two escalators, and revamping the seating areas throughout the mall.

“It will be a complete update of the center,” Thompson said. “It will improve the visibility for our tenants. It will also greatly enhance the traffic and flow for our customers and visitors.”

Thompson also noted that the renovation will include new signage for shoppers, flooring replacements and other “aesthetically pleasing finishes.”

The changes are expected to be made this year, but the mall plans to remained open during construction, said General Manager David Gott.

"We’re pretty excited because what we’re talking about today is the continuing evolution of Woodfield Mall," Gott said. "This style evolution that we’re talking about here isn’t just good news for the customers, it’s good news for the local economy."

The mall currently features nearly 300 stores and restaurants, according to its website.

The mall’s last renovation was reportedly 20 years ago, when 50 stores were added, including a three-story Nordstrom.

Last month, officials announced plans to add a Pac-Man inspired restaurant.

“Woodfield mall is the hub of our downtown,” said Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson. “We are viewed as a downtown of the northwest suburbs.”

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<![CDATA[Target to Shut Down Stores in Canada]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 11:02:32 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/453903966.jpg

Target is shutting down in Canada.

Target Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell said Thursday that the company was unable to find a realistic scenario in which the 133-store Target Canada would become profitable before at least 2021. It is Cornell's first major move since becoming CEO in August.

Cornell, who's been tasked with maintaining the retailer's momentum and reclaiming its image as a purveyor of cheap chic fashions and home decor, said it was a difficult decision "but it was the right decision for our company."

"We have determined that it is in the best interest of our business and our shareholders to exit the Canadian market and focus on driving growth and building further momentum in our U.S. business," he added.

Cornell said Target Canada worked hard to fix its operations and improve its relationship with customers, but that it didn't see the changes it was looking for over the holiday period.

Target entered Canada in 2013. While operations there improved before the holiday season due to changes in pricing and product assortment, Target still wasn't satisfied with its performance.

Target faced problems from the get go when it entered Canada. There are costly regulations, a slow economy and increasing competition. Its experience in Canada hasn't been unique, though. Big Lots Inc. and Best Buy Co. have shuttered stores there and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has seen its sales in Canada weaken.

The retailer said Thursday that it anticipates approximately $5.4 billion in fourth-quarter losses from discontinued operations in Canada. It foresees about $275 million of losses on discontinued operations in fiscal 2015.

Target expects cash costs for the exit to be between $500 million and $600 million, with most of those costs taking place in fiscal 2015 or later. The retailer said that it has sufficient resources to fund the expected costs.

Target Corp. currently has 17,600 employees at its 133 Canadian stores. It has 1,801 stores in the U.S.

The company said that it is seeking court approval to voluntarily make about $59 million in cash contributions into an employee trust. Once approved by the court, the proposed trust would give almost all of Target's Canada workers a minimum of 16 weeks of compensation, including wages and benefits coverage for employees not needed for the entire winding down of the business.

Target Canada stores will stay open during liquidation.

Target Corp. anticipates its exit from the Canada market will increase its earnings in fiscal 2015 and beyond and boost its cash flow in fiscal 2016 and beyond.

Target also announced that it now foresees fourth-quarter sales at U.S. stores open at least a year up about 3 percent. Its previous outlook was for an approximately 2 percent increase. The chain said its raised forecast was due to its performance for the holiday period including November and December. The Minneapolis company said that it had higher traffic and better-than-expected online sales during the period.

Sales at stores open at least a year is a key gauge of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Target anticipates fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.43 to $1.47 per share.

The company's stock gained $4.21, or 5.7 percent, to $78.54 before the market open.



Photo Credit: Lucas Oleniuk/ Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cadbury Changes Recipe for Creme Egg, Outrages Fans]]> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:45:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/484044769.jpg

Cadbury Creme Egg fans received some rotten news this week.

Cadbury, owned by Illinois-based Kraft, has changed its recipe for the Creme Eggs and will no longer use its signature Dairy Milk chocolate for the treats' shells.

The gooey chocolate treats, long considered an Easter candy staple, will now be made with “a standard, traditional Cadbury milk chocolate,” a spokeswoman for Kraft's Mondelez International said in a statement.

“The fundamentals of the Cadbury Creme Egg remain exactly the same – delicious milk chocolate and the unique crème centre that consumers love,” the statement read. “We have always used a range of milk chocolate blends for different products, depending on their shape or consistency.”

The change, which only applies to Cadbury eggs in the United Kingdom, sparked outrage from fans of the iconic candy.

“The product that Americans know and love and can find this time of year has not changed,” said Anna LIngeris, a spokeswoman for The Hershey Company, which manufacturers and distributes Cadbury products in the United States.

According to Cadbury’s website, the company makes about 500 million creme eggs a year, nearly two-thirds of which are consumed in the UK.

The recipe change is not the first upset for lovers of the “yolk-filled” chocolate candy, as it comes shortly after news that packages would now come with only five eggs instead of six.



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Local Company Chosen as Dessert Sponsor for Golden Globes]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 18:34:29 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000010522271_1200x675_382564419630.jpg A suburban company was chosen as one of the dessert sponsors for the Golden Globes. LeeAnn Trotter reports.]]> <![CDATA[Major Renovation Planned for Woodfield Mall]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 13:35:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/woodfield_mall_black_friday.jpg

Woodfield Mall is expected to undergo a major renovation this year.

According to reports, the suburban shopping center has applied for a construction permit for the project, which is estimated to cost at least $13.8 million.

The Chicago Tribune reports details surrounding the renovations aren’t being released yet, but the plans will be unveiled at a private breakfast on Jan. 20.

The intended upgrade is slotted to take place in 2015, but likely won’t include an addition or amusement park-type amenities, the Tribune reported.

The mall currently features nearly 300 stores and restaurants, according to its website.

The mall’s last renovation was reportedly 20 years ago, when 50 stores were added, including a three-story Nordstrom.

Last month, officials announced plans to add a Pac-Man inspired restaurant.
 



Photo Credit: WMAQ]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago-Area Bank Rolls Out Smartphone ATMs]]> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 14:02:49 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/atm-keyboard-generic-0716.jpg

Say goodbye to ATM cards and hello to your smartphone.

Rosemont-based Wintrust Financial started 2015 off with a technology statement, rolling out 190 “cardless cash” ATMs that allow customers to withdraw cash with their smartphones, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The machines will use software from FIS, a technology provider, to make the transactions possible.

According to the Tribune, customers can use their mobile app to set how much money they want to withdraw from an ATM. Once at the ATM, they sign into the app on their phone using a four-digit password, select the cardless cash option, which will open their camera and take a photo of a QR code on the ATM. Once they snap the photo, they then submit it to the app and the ATM will dispense their cash and send a receipt to their device.

In total, the process reportedly takes about 10 seconds to complete.

The new technology started for Wintrust customers at 29 machines, including one at the Madison Street branch in Chicago’s Loop, on Nov. 24 and is set to go live at all 190 ATMs by the end of February.

Experts tout the move as the future of banking. Mercator Advisory Group states in its “2015 Outlook: Banking Channels” report that they expect “increasing convergence of ATMS and mobile banking.”

BMO Harris Bank has also been testing the mobile cash technology with its employees and plans to begin using it with customers in the first quarter of 2015, the Tribune reports.
 



Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[No, McDonald's Isn't Ditching the Big Mac]]> Tue, 23 Dec 2014 16:32:59 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds+sign+new+1.jpg

No, McDonald’s is not getting rid of the Big Mac.

Following news that the world’s largest hamburger chain planned to trim its menu, a story posted on Daily Buzz Live claiming the Big Mac and apple pies were among the items being removed quickly went viral.

The hoax story cited a fake tweet from the Oak Brook-based fast food chain's account that read, “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce that the Big Mac will no longer be apart of our menu. It is our sincerest apologies.”

Despite the grammar errors, and a disclaimer on Daily Buzz Live stating “a few stories are works of complete fiction,” the piece went viral on social media, concerning eaters.

McDonald’s took to their Twitter page to dispel the rumors Tuesday.

Earlier this month, McDonald's revealed plans to trim its menu, review its cooking methods and maybe even get rid of some of the ingredients it uses to change perceptions that it serves junk food.

Starting next month, McDonald's USA President Mike Andres said McDonald's will cut eight items from the menu and reduce the number of Extra Value Meals from 16 to 11. CEO Don Thompson and Andres didn't say exactly what will get the axe, but they noted favorites like the Big Mac likely won't disappear anytime soon.

McDonald’s did not respond to NBC Chicago’s request for comment.
 


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<![CDATA[Analysis: Eateries With Most Failed Inspections]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:07:19 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Trinity-Bar-chicago-1.jpg

More than 50 licensed Chicago restaurants failed inspections at least three times each this year, a review of city data shows.

Six of the eateries -- Trinity Bar, Taj Mahal, Hana Restaurant, Fischman's Wagyu Wagon, Nueovo Leon Restaurant, and Lawndale Food Market -- each failed four separate health inspections.

While the information is readily searchable on the City of Chicago Data Portal, it was Brandon Harris, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, who analyzed the information to come up with the easy-to-read comparison.

The number of fails doesn't necessarily mean a restaurant will be forced to close. Harris said his analysis revealed "a lot of missing and duplicated values." Additionally, a restaurant can fail an inspection for not being open when an inspector pays a visit.

Still, the data can give potential diners an idea of how well an eatery operates.

For example, Trinity Bar, on the 2700 block of North Halsted Street, failed an initial annual inspection on March 6, the data shows. The problems at that time included "excessive food debris" in the cooler and food that was stored at potentially unsafe temperatures.

That failed inspection triggered follow-up visits on March 13, March 14, and March 20. Those visits also resulted in failed results. Trinity Bar finally received a passing grade during a March 21 visit.

A man at Trinity Bar said "no comment" when asked about the inspection information on Friday morning.

Harris' analysis also easily determined which restaurants were the most frequently inspected and which had two or more failures within one mile of the University of Chicago's Gleacher Center.



Photo Credit: Regina Waldroup
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<![CDATA[Is Your Office Making a Bad Flu Season Worse?]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:18:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sick-Flu_generic.jpg

'Tis the season for holiday cheer, gifts and celebration, but for office workers across the country,  it is also the season of something else: the flu.

As much as 20 percent of the U.S. population battles the flu each year, with workplaces serving as a common breeding ground for the virus. Each season, more than 11 million workdays are lost due to the flu, which translates to $7 billion in sick time and lost productivity, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

While employees may claim they’re “not that sick,” a recent Staples Advantage study found that 60 percent of workers who are infected with the virus still feel obligated to show up for work, contaminating everything from doorknobs and faucets to coffee pot handles. It’s a problem for any office but especially challenging for companies with open floor plans, which have been linked to higher levels of workplace illness.

In fact, a recent study published in Ergonomics found that employees who share an office with multiple coworkers are more likely to take short-term sick leave than individuals with their own private space. This shows how problematic the flu can be in open-office environments, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of workplaces in a 2010 survey conducted by the International Management Facility Association.

Fortunately, there are several steps businesses can take to prevent the virus from spreading in their office. These include:

1. Encouraging employees to take the day off or work from home: The Staples survey found that 40 percent of employees feel there is too much going on at work to stay home, while 31 percent said they show up sick because they think their boss appreciates it. Yet more than a third of workers surveyed acknowledged their personal productivity is less than half their usual level when they come to work with the flu – in other words, it’s not worth it. Employers therefore should have the technology in place (e.g., cloud-based file storage, VoIP phone systems, and so on) to enable employees to work from home if they feel it’s necessary. This will help discourage employees from coming into the office and exposing others to the virus.

2. Remembering the basics: It may seem obvious, but basic sanitation – even if it’s something as simple as hand sanitizer – can go a long way in preventing the spread of workplace illnesses. While larger companies often hire cleaning crews to assist with this, smaller businesses may think they’re unable to afford daily cleaning services. What some employers don’t realize is that the cost of these services – especially if they’re only used during flu season – can be offset by increased productivity that would otherwise be lost to employee sick leave. Another affordable alternative to traditional office space is a shared office, where the landlord is responsible for all cleaning duties.

3. Reevaluating your floor plan: Approximately 88 percent of employers in the Staples survey said they encourage sick employees to stay home, but even if they’re able to work remotely, some will inevitably show up at the office no matter how bad they feel. While open floor plans have been lauded for facilitating teamwork and collaboration, they’ve also given rise to new challenges that go beyond illness. People who work in open offices have reported higher levels of stress than those who work in standard offices and frequently say they’re less productive than they would be if they had a space of their own. If a company’s office layout is creating more problems than it solves, it may be time for a move or remodel.

By implementing one or more of these practices, businesses of all sizes can take a proactive approach to flu prevention, maximizing productivity and boosting employee morale.

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[Chicagoan Creates Lesbian Dating App Scissr]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:40:41 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/iPhone8.jpg

There’s Tinder, there’s Grindr and now there’s Scissr.

The new app, which was “designed by lesbians for lesbians,” aims to “create something together that’s mind blowing for lesbians,” according to its website.

Scissr, described as a new “lesbian dating app where woman can connect, share and chat about their local cultural interests and relationship needs,” was sparked by co-creator and Chicago resident Allison Ullrich.

Ulrich, the general manager of Brooklyn Boulders Chicago, told DNAInfo.com the idea was sparked by “life, reality and conversations,” which proved to her that she wasn’t the only woman who struggled with meeting other lesbian women.

She said the app, which she designed with her longtime friend Adam Beck, is intended to be like Grindr, an all-male location-based social networking app, “but classier.”

Similar to Grindr, the app uses GPS to allow users to message nearby users and indicate whether they have a “crush” on them or add them to a private “wish list.”

Users can also indicate the type of relationship they’re interested in, such as love, networking, hookup or friendship.

The app is expected to launch worldwide “soon” for iOS users.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Low-Wage Workers Continue Push for $15/Hour Minimum Wage]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:41:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chi-min-wage-protest-1.jpg

An employee at a downtown BP gas station closed the store and walked off the job early Thursday to join a group of fast food workers demanding an increase to the minimum wage.

"It was time to fight. It was time to get something done. We need to make a movement to go ahead and get that $15 living wage," said Daryel Eatmonds.

The Chicago City Council earlier this week voted to hike the minimum wage within city limits to $13 an hour by 2019, but the protesters maintained that increase isn't big enough and takes too long to be phased in.

"[The protest] was necessary. It was something we need right now," Eatmonds said.

The low-wage workers and their supports began protesting at the McDonald's restaurant at 600 North Clark Street in the city's River North neighborhood early in the morning as part of a national day of protest.

"At this point what we're looking at is just making sure workers here in Chicago can not only survive but thrive," Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said after joining the protest at about 7:30 a.m.

The City Council's vote could ultimately by trumped by action by state lawmakers. Some legislators are pushing for a law that would prohibit cities from setting a minimum wage higher than the state level.

Illinois senators on Wednesday approved a proposal to increase the state's minimum wage to $11 for workers 18 and older by 2019. That bill wouldn't impact Chicago's ordinance.

Illinois voters last month approved a non-binding ballot question asking whether the station should raise its minimum wage to $10 from $8.25 by 2015.


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<![CDATA[Jewelry Retailer Lia Sophia Closing Its Doors]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 18:32:44 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LiaSophia11.jpg

The popular direct-sales jewelry retailer Lia Sophia announced Monday it will be closing its doors this month.

“We are so proud of building Lia Sophia over the past 28 years into an outstanding company that has empowered women, and whose jewelry has been a favorite of so many,” creative director Elena Kiam wrote in a blog post on the company's website Monday. “However, given the challenging business environment, we made the painful decision to wind down Lia Sophia in the United States and Canada by December 31, and cease operations by the end of February.”

Kiam’s husband, Lia Sophia CEO Tory Kiam, acquired the business from his father Victor Kiam. Victor Kiam, former owner of the New England Patriots, made a name for himself in the 1980s as president and CEO of Remington Products, famously appearing in commercials coining the slogan, “I liked the shavers so much, I bought the company."

Victor Kiam purchased the retailer in 1986 under its original name Act II Jewelry before renaming it to Lady Remington. Following the entrepreneur's death in 2001, the brand was acquired by his son Tory Kiam and his wife Elena. In 2004 the couple relaunched the brand under the name Lia Sophia.

"Most of all, we're proud to be a family company, and to see the names of our daughters, Lia and Sophia, on every box of our jewelry," the company's website states.

Lia Sophia sold its jewelry through a network of local independent sales representatives, relying on in-home demonstrations and a direct-selling approach similar to the practices of Avon and Tupperware.

An outpouring of messages to the company’s Facebook page from customers and employees expressed a mixture of shock, disappointment and appreciation for the products and jobs the company created during its operation.



Photo Credit: Lia Sophia]]>
<![CDATA[Valerie Jarrett Shops Chicago Small Businesses]]> Sat, 29 Nov 2014 18:02:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-29+at+5.56.46+PM.png Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to President Barack Obama, was in her home town on Small Business Saturday shopping at local stores. Jarrett wants to put a spotlight on the initiative. ]]> <![CDATA[Local Shops Ready for Small Business Saturday]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 18:26:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/209*120/small+biz+saturday2.jpg

With the Black Friday frenzy coming to an end, small businesses are hoping to reign in on some of the holiday shopping madness.

Local businesses say the popularity of shopping local for the holidays is growing.

“We’ve definitely seen a jump on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday,” said Mel Nelson, owner of the M2 Boutique on Southport Avenue.

Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 by American express. In part to help small retailers during the economic downturn and it continues to grow in popularity.

The US Small Business Administration estimated that customers spent nearly $5.5 billion nationwide in 2012 at small, independent stores during the event.

“America’s small business owners are on the front lines when it comes to creating new jobs and opportunities,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “Their efforts exemplify our Nation’s founding idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, or whom you love, if you work hard, you can make it if you try. On Small Business Saturday, we rededicate ourselves to ensuring ours is a country where small businesses can thrive.”

As local shops gear up for Small Business Saturday, experts say shopping trends could be turning in favor of the “mom and pop” shops.

“Perhaps there’s an attitude change more toward people in your neighborhood helping them out,” said Shopping Deloitte Retail Expert Tom Compernolle.

And shoppers agree.

“I do think it’s great having local options where you don’t have to necessarily fight the traffic at the malls you can you know living in the neighborhood just kind of walk over,” said shopper Kristen Castelloni.

“I think people want to cheer on the small guy and not have everything look the same with the big retail boxes,” said shopper Carrie Mondschean.

In Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce said a recent study showed the benefits of customers buying into Small Business Saturday.

“For every dollar you typically spend at a local independent store about 60 percent of that stays within the community,” said Rudy Flores with the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

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<![CDATA[Website Lets Consumers Haggle on Pricing]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:56:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/greentoe-1.jpg Most consumers hate haggling, and most brick and mortar stores don't even embrace it, but an online venture can make consumers more comfortable over price negotiations. NBC Chicago's Lisa Parker reports.]]> <![CDATA[Businesses Giving Back for More Than the Holidays]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:51:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Gifts+Generic+Holiday+Shopping.jpg

Thanksgiving is near, and for many businesses, that means thanking clients, partners, employees, a community and supportive family and friends. But giving back as a business doesn't have to be just a holiday theme.

Some Chicago businesses, professional leaders, and organizations are contributing to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement and incorporating community-building and philanthropic initiatives into their missions, mantras, and even business models.

CSR is an effort companies take upon themselves to appeal to the ethical and social needs of its audience and the broader economy, population, or environment it serves, or serves within.

While CSR has become a widely recognized descriptor of business practices, the intent and impact go beyond responsibility, or obligation. Perhaps “social involvement” may more accurately depict the efforts companies large and small are taking to reduce waste in production, increase environmental sustainability, consider its impact on community, and prioritize people and society while maintaining profitability.

There’s proof that consumers are paying attention to company ideals too. According to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Social Responsiblity Report from June 2014, 55 percent of consumers will spend more for products and services from companies committed to making a positive impact.

If you’re looking for ways to give back year-round as a company, or as an employee, Chicago has several organizations and resources where you can connect with like-minded individuals and learn about how to increase your social impact.

One such group is Illinois B Corps., which represents Benefit Corporations, or companies that are “certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

Their website highlights that there are over 1,000 Certified B Corps globally, including well-known companies like Seventh Generation, method, and Patagonia, and nearly 15 in Chicago.

According to Nancy Goldstein, founder of Compass(x) Strategy and one of the Chicago B Corps' community leaders, “the group has been working on showing local business leaders how they can build a better business."

"We want to inspire people to think beyond short term shareholder gains to long term stakeholder gains. That means doing what is right for your customers, your employees, the environment, and your community,” she said.

To find events and resources about building a business that gives back year-round, see below:

Illinois B Corps
Social Enterprise Alliance
Chicagoland Environmental Network
Corporate Responsibility Group
Chicago Fair Trade


Rebecca Otis is a digital marketing strategist and consultant, speaker, and blogger that focuses on using simple marketing tactics to make a significant impact for businesses. You can find Rebecca on Twitter and Google+.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Tips to Avoid Black Friday Shopping Scams]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:59:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black-friday-employees-thanksgiving+%281%29.jpg

Black Friday shopping isn't always easy.

With many retailers planning to start Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales on Thanksgiving Day, some even sooner, the Better Business Bureau has listed the top ways for holiday shoppers to avoid scams and hackers.

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Print out your coupons to have them on hand when you go to the store, ensuring that they can guarantee the low prices they’ve claimed to have.

Only Shop at Trusted Retailers
Shoppers should start with the BBB to check on the seller's Business Review for customer satisfaction at www.bbb.org . When browsing online, look for and click on the BBB seal to confirm that it is a valid and trustworthy source.
Check Store Policies Prior to Buying
Confirming each store’s policies on returns and exchanges will help you decide where to spend your money, avoid costly restocking fees and miss short holiday return deadlines.
Use Your Credit Card
Shoppers are protected under Federal law to dispute any unauthorized charges on their credit card. Same goes for if you buy an item and it is never received. Many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which you pay nothing if someone steals and uses your credit card number.
Hold On to Documentation of Your Purchase
A printed gift receipt protects the recipient from being denied the ability to return or exchange an item at the full value you paid for it. When shopping online, the BBB recommends saving a copy of the final confirmation page you are brought to after purchasing you item. This saves you from relying on the business to email you a receipt and can serve as a back-up proof-of-purchase if need be.
Make Sure Your Personal Information is Protected
It’s worth taking the time to read the site's privacy policy to understand how your personal information will be used. If you can’t find one, consider that to be a red flag your information may be used and sold to others without permission.  Always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying.
Yes, Some Deals Are Too Good To Be
If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially those showcasing extremely low prices on hard-to-get items.  Go with your instincts. Sometimes the best deal is passing up a scam that would cost you more in the end.



Photo Credit: AP/FILE Photo]]>
<![CDATA[New Lammily Doll Aims to be "Normal Barbie" ]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:02:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/lammily+fashion+3.jpg

A graphic designer turned toy maker has created what some are calling the “anti-Barbie” and "normal Barbie."

The Lammily doll, which became available for purchase and delivery Wednesday, is intended to show what Barbie would look like if she had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body.

According to the doll’s website, she “is the first fashion doll that isn’t ‘enhanced.’”

Creator Nickolay Lamm says he started a crowndfunding campaign in March, hoping to develop a doll “with typical human body proportions.”

The idea quickly took off, as more than 13,621 supporters backed the idea, preordering more than 19,000 dolls.

But as the idea developed, Lamm created a new element to the “real life” doll—a sticker extension pack, which is set to become available in January.

The stickers, called Lammily marks, include options to give the doll face acne, freckles, moles, blush, scars, cellulite and even stretch marks.

“Lammily represents the idea of being true to yourself in a world that too often convinces us to pursue an unattainable fantasy,” Lamm wrote on his website.

New fashion options are also set to debut in January.
 



Photo Credit: Lammily.com
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<![CDATA[Best, Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:47:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black+friday3.JPG

With so many stores offering up Black Friday deals, it can be tough to decide where to go.

To make bargain hunting a little easier this year, personal finance site WalletHub has released a list of “2014’s Best & Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals.”

The list, which the company said intends to “help consumers maximize their savings this year,” is based on a survey of 5,525 deals from Black Friday ad scans from 21 of the biggest U.S. retailers, according to researchers.

The list named J.C. Penney as the top retailer for Black Friday deals, with an average discount of 65.44 percent.

Also named among the best retailers were Macy’s, Rite Aid, Meijer, Sears, Walgreens, Office Depot and OfficeMax, Ace Hardware, Kohl’s and Staples.

Sears was dubbed the best retailer for those looking for deals in apparel, accessories and appliances, Office Depot and OfficeMax had the best discounts on electronics and computers, Macy’s topped the list for discounts on consumer electronics as well as consumer packaged goods, Kohl’s had the best deals on toys and furniture and Kmart was the top retailer for jewelry discounts.

Among the stores with the not-so-great discounts were Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Amazon, Big Lots and Costco, which all had average discounts less than 32.16 percent.

In addition to traditional deals this year, several retailers are offering pre-Black Friday sales and others are extending the shopping event into a days-long affair.

Experts say shoppers are better off mapping out their Black Friday plans beforehand.

“One way of making sure that the sales are real sales is to know ahead of time what exactly we want/need to buy and what the cost is before this event and where the best prices are and then compare them to what is offered on Black Friday,” Tahira K. Hira, professor of personal finance and consumer economics at Iowa State University told WalletHub.

Hira also recommends making a list of needs ahead of time and sticking to that list to avoid overspending.

At least four major retailers were not included in the WalletHub survey as they did not provide data on their Black Friday deals. Those stores include Apple, Home Depot, IKEA and Lowe’s.
 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stores That Will Be Closed for Thanksgiving]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:45:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Nieman-Marcus.jpg

With many stores opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, some retailers are keeping their doors shut for the holiday.

Several retailers are closed on Thanksgiving to give their employees the chance to enjoy the holiday before the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

Nordstrom announced that it would be closed Thursday, Nov. 28, "to celebrate one holiday at a time."

“This is how we’ve approached the holidays as long as anyone here can remember,” Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson said.

T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have also announced they would be closed on Thanksgiving, but would offer extended hours and new merchandise throughout the holiday season.

"As in past years, T.J.Maxx and Marshalls stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so our Associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends" Rebecca Leonard, spokesperson for T.J Maxx and Marshalls, said in a statement.

Home Depot also plans to close for the holiday, tweeting "Take time to enjoy food, family and friends, and we'll see you early Friday morning."

In addition, USA Today reports at least 12 other retailers will stay closed for the holiday, including:

  • Coscto
  • Ace Hardware
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Patagonia
  • Dillard's
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Neiman Marcus
  • GameStop
  • Nordstrom
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • REI



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Onion Looks Into Possible Sale: Report]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 16:14:12 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/the-onion86426287.jpg

This is not a joke. It appears the owners of Chicago-based satirical news site The Onion are looking into a possible sale, according to reports.

Onion Inc., owner of The Onion and the entertainment site A.V. Club, has hired a financial adviser to explore options for a possible sale, according to Bloomberg, which cites people with knowledge of the matter.

The company is also reportedly working with the investment bank GCA Savvian.

Onion CEO Steve Hannah confirmed the hiring of a financial adviser in a memo to staff obtained by Bloomberg. The memo reportedly said the adviser was handling inquiries for both investment partners and potential buyers of The Onion.

The Onion released its last print edition in Chicago last year as it planned to moved to an all-digital format.

Mike McAvoy, president of Onion Inc., told Crain’s Chicago Business at the time it's sad to see the print edition no longer exist, "but it’s important to see the Onion succeed.”

The Onion consolidated its media operations and moved from New York to Chicago's River North two years ago.

The city welcomed the move, dubbing July 31 "The Onion Day."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Ways to Master the Exit Interview]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:17:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/handshake_web.jpg

When an employee leaves a company, both the departing party and the employer face many challenges, regardless of the circumstance. Employers lose a member of their staff – someone they’ve invested in – and then add on the cost of replacing the employee, which typically includes a 30 percent uptick in salary, and companies are looking at an expensive ordeal. Exits can be especially difficult in situations where the departure is unexpected or the result of a negative employee experience.

However, as difficult as it may be when an employee departs, employers can find value in the process, most notably through an exit interview.

Feedback from an exit interview has the potential to offset the cost of future employee losses by incentivizing business improvements by gaining valuable insight into areas of improvement.

Here are four tips to help employers navigate the sometimes challenging exit interview.

Treat the exit interview like any other interview. Due diligence is key. Review the employee’s work history so there are no surprises. In an effort to identify trends of exiting employees, take diligent notes. Be sure to send a thank you note afterward and invite them to an alumni group if your company has one. Encourage the employee to stay in touch – you never know when you could bump into them again!

Demonstrate empathy with employees. The key here is the tone and verbiage you use when asking questions. Disgruntled employees might find it hard to pinpoint the root of their frustration. Guide the employee to understanding their irritations by asking why they felt they didn’t have the resources they needed for a project. At the same time, its best to avoid pointed questions such as, “Why did you quit?” Instead, employers can pose more targeted questions to yield better responses: “What prompted your job search?” or “What does your new employer offer that we did not?”

Set a goal to learn about the organization’s culture. Aside from understanding why the employee is choosing to leave, gather information and feedback on the company’s culture and business practices. Ask questions about the employee’s satisfaction with his or her peers, career path and culture at the company.

Interview retirees, too. Often overlooked, retirees have valuable information and vast knowledge about his or her organization. They’re also more likely to be candid with their feedback, as they won’t be concerned with potential backlash. Questions you could ask to uncover more information about your company include, “Tell me about the core skill sets needed to succeed here,” and “What were the three best things about working here?”

Employers should remember that exit interviews can prove as useful as hiring procedures. Done correctly, exit interviews can improve company culture, hasten the vacant role filling process and improve employee retention.

Candace Murphy is an IT Recruiting Manager at Addison Group, a nationwide provider of professional staffing and search services. Addison combines a national network and localized service for broad reach with a personal touch. Specialized practices deliver the right candidate at the right time in Administration & Human Resources, Finance & Accounting, Healthcare, and Information Technology. Addison has received Inavero’s Best of Staffing award for both Client and Candidate service for the past four years. Learn more at www.addisongroup.com.

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<![CDATA[McDonald's Reveals How It Makes McRib Sandwiches]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:54:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcrib+mcdonalds+youtube.jpg

McDonald's is making good on a recent promise to answer questions, even the potentially nasty ones, about the Oak Brook, Illinois-based burger chain's food.

Case in point: A video released Monday on YouTube shows just how McRib patties are made.

"Is it real pork? Why is it that shape?" the company ponders in the video description. "Some of the biggest questions about our food revolves around the McRib, so Grant Imahara and a McDonald’s skeptic are going to Lopez foods, one of our U.S. pork suppliers, to find answers."

In the video, Wes Bellamy, who apparently tweeted a photo of a frozen McRib while noting how "disgusting" it looked, meets up with former "Mythbusters" host Imahara for a tour of the pork processing plant where McRibs are born.

The video shows the broken-down meat ready for cooking and shaping, and at the end of the process, out pops a frozen McRib puck that's not dissimilar to the one Bellamy tweeted.

But by this point, he's convinced it's not disgusting.

"It's different now that I know what actually goes inside of it," he says.

Do you agree?



Photo Credit: McDonald's]]>
<![CDATA[Shake Shack Opens First Chicago Location]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:57:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shake+shack+line.jpg

New York-based Shake Shack, as famous for its lines and web cam as its burgers and shakes, has officially opened in Chicago.

The fast-casual chain made its Second City debut at 11 a.m. at the corner of Ohio and Rush streets in the River North neighborhood, and the crowds were prepared. 

A line stretched clear down the street ahead of the location's opening.

This summer, the company announced another location to open next year on the ground floor of the new Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at Michigan and Madison.

Both locations will serve the modern-day, “roadside” burger-stand staples Shake Shack is known for: burgers, flat-top dogs made with Chicago’s Vienna Beef, frozen custard, craft beer and wine.

The original Shake Shack is so popular in New York that it has become known for long lines and a web camera that shows the real-time wait.

Leading up to the opening, Shake Shack unveiled six life-size, interactive sliding puzzles on Ohio Street. The puzzles featured artwork by artist Noah MacMillan, known in the city for the Chicago Loop District’s iconic “Float” mural.

"In the spirit of Chicago’s vibrant public art collection and in homage to Shake Shack’s roots as a hot dog cart art installation in New York City," organizers said, "the puzzles invite the neighboring community to engage with them."



Photo Credit: LeeAnn Trotter / NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Big Clippers Tax Write-Off]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 00:50:26 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_steve_ballmer_clippers_microsoft.jpg

Billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in August for $2 billion, but he could write off as much as half of that amount in taxes by 2030, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.

A tax break for owners of sports franchises would let the ex-Microsoft CEO claim about $1 billion of the team's purchase price from the taxable income he makes over the next 15 years, said the report, published Sunday in the London newspaper (paywall, registration required).

Ballmer paid the Sterling family almost four times as much for the Clippers as the previous record NBA franchise purchase, $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Ballmer bought the Clippers at a tough time for fans, many of whom were distraught at apparently racist comments made by previous owner Donald Sterling on a tape recording. Those comments kicked off a long battle with the NBA that eventually led to a bidding war, which Ballmer won.

The difference between the value of the company's assets and what the purchaser paid for it is the key to the tax breaks Ballmer may be able to take, according to the Financial Times article:

"Under an exception in US law, buyers of sports franchises can use an accounting treatment known as goodwill against their other taxable income. This feature is commonly used by tax specialists to structure deals for sports teams. Goodwill is the difference between the purchase price of an asset and the actual cash and other fixed assets belonging to the team."

Most corporations can't charge for goodwill, but sports franchises are an exception, according to the Financial Times.

Representatives of the Clippers and of Ballmer didn't comment for the Financial Times report. Ballmer didn't immediately reply to an e-mail from NBC4 Sunday afternoon.

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<![CDATA[Man Creates Off-Road Wheelchair]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:58:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tankchair.jpg 10/24/14: A man who created a "tankchair" for his outdoor-loving wife has created a business for the product to help others in similar situations.]]> <![CDATA[Which Big City is Better for Business?]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:50:26 -0600 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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