<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Business News - Money, Financial & Corporate News - Inc. Well]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/business en-us Sat, 29 Aug 2015 09:42:30 -0500 Sat, 29 Aug 2015 09:42:30 -0500 NBC Local Integrated Media <![CDATA[Major Expansion, New Stores Open at Aurora Outlet Mall]]> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 07:41:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shopping+bags+getty.jpg

Attention, shopaholics! A whole slew of new stores opens at the mega outlet mall in Aurora Thursday.

Chicago Premium Outlets will open more than 30 new and expanded stores to shoppers starting at 10 a.m. The list of new stores includes Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, The Limited Outlet, Abercrombie & Fitch Outlet, Tommy Hilfiger Kids and UGG Australia. The unveiling will also include 2,200 new parking spaces and new amenities, the mall said.

In April, Chicago Premium Outlets announced an initial list of new retailers that would reside in the outlet mall as part of the multi-million dollar expansion. In total, the mall was expected to hold more than 170 stores by the time the expansion was complete.

Among the newly announced stores are the first Midwest outlets for eclectic lifestyle designer Robert Graham and luxury skincare company Clarins.

Other stores that will make their debut at the outlet mall include:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch Outlet
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • bebe
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • Corningware, Corelle & More
  • Expess Factory Outlet
  • Finish Line
  • Fragrance Outlet
  • The Limited Outlet
  • The Luggage Factory
  • Mountain Warehouse
  • Old Navy Outlet
  • Quicksilver
  • Tommy Hilfiger Kids
  • UGG Australia
  • Vans
  • Vince



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CEO Spotlight Powered by Bizcast]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 05:23:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CEO-spotlight-opt-2.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[New Streeterville Target Could Be Equipped With a Bar]]> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 04:52:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/target+express.jpg

A new Target store set to open in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood is on track to become the first ever Target store to service alcohol to customers.

A spokesperson for the Minnesota-based retailer confirmed to NBC Chicago that Target is seeking a liquor license for the store, but declined to elaborate on any future plans.

The new Streeterville location is scheduled to open in October in the former Fox & Obel store, located at 401 E. Illinois St.

The store was expected to be a TargetExpress location and is smaller than most regular Target stores.

Earlier this month, Target announced that CityTarget and TargetExpress stores across the country would be renamed as "Target" stores and be rebranded with the company's logo. The retailer noted that the Streeterville store will still be a "smaller, flexible format" store, however. 

New details on the Streeterville store and pending liquor license are expected to be released in the coming weeks, the Target spokesperson said.



Photo Credit: Target]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Vows Never to Eat Oreos Again, Citing Move to Mexico]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:48:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/donald+trump+oreo.jpg

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeated his claim Tuesday evening that he would stop eating Oreos, citing the cookie maker's decision to close a plant in Chicago and move it to Mexico.

"I'm never eating Oreos again," Trump said, before adding that he would consider it if he could find some that were made in the U.S.

Trump's claim is partly true.

Oreo's parent company Mondelez International Inc. said last month that it decided to invest $130 million in building four new production lines at a plant in Mexico, which will replace nine older production lines at its Chicago plant.

That will mean the number of jobs at the Chicago plant will go from about 1,200 to about 600, said Laurie Guzzinati, a Mondelez representative. But the plant in Chicago will remain open.

Guzzinati said the decision to invest in the Mexico plant came after discussions with union representatives for workers at the Chicago plant. She said the company determined that the new production lines would cost $46 million less per year in Mexico than in Chicago, and said labor was "one of many factors."

Guzzinati noted that Oreos continue to be made in some U.S. plants, including in New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia.

The Mondelez plant in Salinas, Mexico, opened in late 2014, and the four additional production lines are expected to be completed by mid-2016. Two of those lines will make Oreo cookies, Guzzinati said.

Mondelez, which also makes Chips Ahoy cookies and Trident gum, has said its "supply chain reinvention plan" is part of its broader push to slash costs and improve productivity.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Burger King to McDonald's: Let's Make a McWhopper]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:15:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP0910251102942.jpg

This probably isn't what the United Nations had in mind when it established the International Day of Peace: Burger King is asking McDonald's to join forces to create a "McWhopper."

In full-page newspaper ads Wednesday, Burger King says it's calling for a truce with McDonald's so that they can create a mashup of their most famous burgers — the Big Mac and the Whopper. Burger King says it wants to serve the concoction for a single day at a popup location in Atlanta, a midway point between the headquarters of the two chains.

Burger King is tying the publicity stunt to a nonprofit called Peace One Day, which says it promotes Peace Day. The United Nations created the International Day of Peace in 1981 to coincide with its annual opening session in September. It then designated Sept. 21 as the annual "day of non-violence and cease-fire" in 2001.

In a comment posted on its Facebook page, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said the proposal was inspiration for a good cause, then took a dig at the ploy by Burger King.

"Let's acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war," Easterbrook said.

He added "P.S. A simple phone call will do next time."

The proposed mashup of the Big Mac and Whopper would include elements of each, such as flame-broiled beef patty and a middle bun, according to a website Burger King set up. Burger King notes on the site that it's open to discussing the proposal, but that details would have to be worked out in time for Peace Day.

"Proposals like McWhopper make noise," Burger King says in a video on the site.

Burger King said the ads asking McDonald's about the proposal were to run Wednesday in The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune, the latter of which is based near McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Burger King, based in Miami, is owned by Restaurant Brands International, which also owns Tim Hortons. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks CEO Asks Employees to be 'Sensitive']]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 19:41:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP434850230768.jpg

After a turbulent day of trading at the stock markets, the CEO of Starbucks told all employees of the global coffee chain to do their part in calming nerves caused by the chaos.

CEO Howard Schultz sent a memo to his 190,000 employees Monday cautioning them to be extra "sensitive" to customers affected by the stock market plunge.

"Today's financial market volatility, combined with great political uncertainty both at home and abroad, will undoubtedly have an effect on consumer confidence and perhaps even our customers' attitudes and behavior," Schultz wrote.

"Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and — as you always have — remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let's be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations."

Despite the "financial market volatility," Schultz also assured employees that Starbucks will be just fine, saying his confidence in the company and its employees "has never been greater."

This latest move by Starbucks marks another of the company's "social good' initiatives.

Under Schultz's leadership, Starbucks has taken up several such initiatives, including the recent controversial "Race Together" campaign in which baristas wrote the phrase on paper cups to encourage them to discuss diversity and racial inequality. The campaign was discontinued after some customers expressed opposition.

In 2012, Starbucks also asked baristas to write "Come Together" on coffee cups in the D.C. area to encourage unity during fiscal cliff talks.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Target to Test New Cafes in 14 Stores]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 08:54:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/target-store-sign.jpg

Target customers will soon have new dining options at some stores.

Beginning in October, the retailer plans to roll out a new café concept at 14 test stores, a Target spokesperson confirmed to NBC Chicago Tuesday. 

While the company didn't reveal further details on the test, USA Today reports Target plans to add fast-casual restaurant Freshii to nine stores and Pizza Hut, featuring artisan pizzas, to three stores. Two Minneapolis stores will also replace their cafes with a D’Amico & Sons, a local pizza chain.

Target reportedly has cafes in 1,700 of its 1,800 stores.

Target’s Chief Stores Officer, Tina Tyler, told USA Today the change is less about drawing more customers to the cafes and more about showcasing the brand’s health and wellness values.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Expert to Investors: 'Don't Panic']]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 05:35:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/topNews-AP_320394854692.jpg

Monday’s manic stock market day was unsettling news for investors around the world, and in Chicago, but some experts say it’s not time to panic-- yet.

Seized by fears that the Chinese economy is not as healthy as it appeared to be, investors sold with abandon at the opening bell and sent the Dow Jones industrial average down almost 1,100 points, the biggest decline on record in a trading day. Then the market staged a dramatic comeback and almost erased its losses, coming within about 115 points of break-even. By late afternoon, stocks were sinking again — and the Dow was down 588 points at the closing bell, a 3.58 percent rout.

“Chine waved the white flag and said their growth isn’t as good as they thought,” said Brian Battle with Performance Trust Capital Partners. “So there has been a selloff in Asia and it finally made it here to the U.S.”

But Steven Esposito, a senior vice president with the wealth management division of Morgan Stanley, said investors shouldn’t panic.

“What you don’t want to do is let emotion control your investment decisions,” he said. “Look at your portfolio. Make sure it’s well-diversified. It may be time to upgrade a few of your positions, or pull back, but most of all, don’t panic.”

Many investors pick and choose stocks based on a company's business outlook, but there is an entirely different class of trader that relies on technical indicators to make investment decisions. Many of their screens were flashing "sell" this week.

The S&P 500 and the Dow have broken through a few key technical levels recently. One important one is their 200-day moving averages, which the two indexes pierced on Thursday, helping to fuel selling. Both indexes dropped 2.1 percent that day, before further tumbling on Friday. The good news is the last time the S&P 500 broke through its 200-day moving average, in early July, it bounced back from those levels after a few days.

Esposito acknowledged the news is “troubling” but said having a long-term plan is key.

“You shouldn’t panic because everyone else is selling,” he said. “Make sure you have a long-term plan and stick to it. These are very troubling times. Don’t try to be a trader, be an investor.”

Some experts believe the volatility is healthy and say stocks have gone too long without a correction. 

The U.S. economy is looking healthier lately. Employers have been on a hiring spree, and that has helped push the unemployment rate to a low 5.3 percent.

Investors will get another clue on the economy on Thursday when the government releases its estimate of economic growth in the April-June period.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Chipotle to Hire Thousands of Employees in One Day]]> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 19:57:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/207*120/Chipotle+Sign.jpg

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. plans to hire thousands of employees in one day during an event scheduled to take place at restaurants across the country next month.

The company's National Career Day is scheduled to take place from 8-11 a.m. on Sept. 9 at every Chipotle across the country, according to Chipotle's website.

Chipotle says that in the last year, the company has promoted more than 10,000 people, who once started as hourly crew members, into management roles, and the upcoming event will help “draft the next wave of our future leaders.”

Management teams at each U.S. restaurant location will hold open interviews for up to 60 applicants, with the intent of hiring 4,000 new employees. 

"We are constantly looking for great people to join our team," Monty Moran, co-chief executive officer at Chipotle, said in a statement. "Regardless of your background or experience, you can succeed at Chipotle if you have a passion for making the people around you better."

The move is the latest employee initiative at the company and follows news that Chipotle would expand benefits to all employees, including tuition reimbursement for students.

Last month, Chipotle implemented a new benefits package that included paid sick days, paid vacation days and tuition reimbursement for part-time employees.

“We are always working to attract and retain the very best employees we can, and to helping develop our people so they can achieve their full potential,” Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s communication director, said.

The hiring event, which hints at the potential to put employees "on the path to developing rewarding careers," adds Chipotle to the long list of fast food chains taking extra measures to attract and retain employees.

Earlier this year, Starbucks announced it will pay for a full four years of Arizona State University's online degree program for its employees. McDonald’s unveiled a similar college reimbursement program in April. The fast food giant also announced an increase in pay and paid sick days for its employees.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Debuts Later This Year]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 09:58:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pumpkinspice.JPG

After much hype surrounding Starbucks’ new pumpkin spice latte recipe, it appears fans of the beloved fall drink will need to wait a little longer to place their orders.

The drink is expected to be released nationwide Sept. 8, according to CNBC and staff at multiple locations throughout the country and in Chicago.

The drink will debut early for Starbucks Gold card members, who will be able to sip the beloved beverage as early as Sept. 4.

Last year, the latte was released for early access customers on Aug. 26 and was launched nationwide on Sept. 2, the day after Labor Day. It should be noted that Labor Day falls later this year.

Starbucks Corp. said Monday its version of the concoction this year will be made with real pumpkin and without caramel coloring. The change comes after blogger Vani Hari, known as the Food Babe, criticized Starbucks last year for the drink's ingredients and its lack of transparency around the issue.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has called the pumpkin spice latte the company's "most popular seasonal beverage ever." In late 2013, he said sales of the drink were as strong as ever "despite the proliferation of knockoffs and copycats." The company even has a Twitter account set up for the drink, which has more than 82,000 followers. 

Starbucks did not immediately respond to NBC Chicago's request for comment. 



Photo Credit: Courtesy of Starbucks]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Named Top Choice for Breakfast Eaters: Reports]]> Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:33:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcmuffins-generic-AP.jpg

Looks like consumers are lovin’ McDonald’s breakfasts -- even during lunch.

McDonald’s, which recently revealed plans to offer all-day breakfast this year, is apparently the top choice for breakfast eaters and so-called “breakfastarians.”

According to two separate surveys, McDonald’s was picked as a go-to breakfast eatery for both morning breakfast eaters and those who eat breakfast at any time of day, also known as “breakfastarians.”

Of all major dining chains that serve breakfast, McDonald’s had the top purchase consideration among consumers who typically eat breakfast out twice a day, according to the report from YouGov BrandIndex, a brand perception research service.

The world’s largest hamburger chain was followed by Subway, IHOP, Burger King and Starbucks.

In another report by Instantly, which surveyed more than 10,000 consumers, McDonald’s was selected by more than 40 percent of respondents as their “go-to” fast food restaurant for breakfast.

The Oak Brook-based chain topped Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr., Burger King and Del Taco for the top spot among breakfast eaters.

McDonald’s is expected to dish out breakfast all day nationwide later this year, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing an internal memo sent to franchisees and employees.

The company began testing the option in its San Diego market in March and expanded the test to Nashville over the summer.

McDonald's has long been the fast-food leader in the mornings, with its popular Sausage Biscuits, Hotcakes and other items pulling in roughly 20 percent of the company's U.S. sales. But the chain has faced stiffer competition in recent years, with competitors such as Starbucks and Subway rolling out breakfast sandwiches as well.

McDonald's, which has more than 14,000 U.S. locations, has also said it plans to step up its marketing of breakfast as it faces intensifying competition. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Walgreens to Lay Off 270 Corporate Workers in Chicago]]> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 06:11:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/walgreens+sign+edit.jpg

Walgreens reportedly plans to lay off 270 Chicago employees as part of a plan to eliminate 370 positions from its corporate support offices.

The layoffs are part of the company’s restructuring and cost-reduction plan put in place last year, company spokesman James Graham told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Employees will be notified throughout the month, with no additional staff cuts expected in the near future, Graham said.

Earlier this year, the nation’s largest drugstore chain closed about 200 stores nationwide as it expanded on the $1 billion cost-reduction plan.

The Deerfield, Illinois company said it planned to reorganize its corporate operations and streamline its information technology and other functions. It expected the moves to add $500 million to its estimated cost savings from its three-year plan.

Late last year, Walgreens completed a nearly $16 billion deal to purchase the remaining stake of European health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots that it didn't already own. The company was renamed Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. 

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<![CDATA[Toby Keith's Bar Says it Paid Taxes, Wants to Stay in Rosemont]]> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:05:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP483260167176.jpg

The management of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill has responded to an eviction suit from the village of Rosemont, saying the restaurant paid taxes and and wants to stay in Rosemont.

General manager Larry Vanni told the Daily Herald everything the bar and restaurant owed has been paid and the company hopes to convince Mayor Brad Stephens to drop the eviction suit and let the popular venue stay in the entertainment district.

The village had earlier filed the lawsuit against the bar claiming it owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and rent.

Stephens told the Daily Herald he’s already begun talking to other potential users for the space, but said “those are just talks at this point.”

He also told the paper he doesn’t regret pushing for the bar and restaurant to come to the entertainment district, saying they were one of the “hottest concepts in the country” at the time.

The Rosemont venue first opened in the space in 2012.

Since its opening, other locations have closed, including some in Cincinnati, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Orlando and Houston.

Vanni reportedly said the Rosemont location is one of the most profitable locations for the chain, noting that its revenues were being used to try and keep others afloat.

Stephens told the Daily Herald he is waiting for the August rent check to clear before he’ll consider dropping the suit but whether or not the venue can stay in Rosemont for 2016 remains to be seen.

The restaurant’s lease reportedly expires Dec. 31.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cookie Store Offers Last Chance for Maurice Lenell Cookies]]> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 06:08:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*128/313_Swirl_-no_box.JPG

Fans of Maurice Lenell cookies may want to stock up while they can.

The Cookie Store and More on North Harlem Avenue will sell the last of the legendary cookies, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The Cookie Store and More opened in 2010 to serve as the unofficial outlet for the brand, but it now reportedly has a “Last Chance for Maurice Lenell” countdown sign hanging in its front window.

As of Thursday, the sign said 18 days until supply runs out, the Tribune reported.

The Maurice Lenell Cooky Company closed its Norridge factory in 2008

Consolidated Biscuit Co., which bought Lenell's equipment and trademarks and promised to continue making the cookies, told the Tribune the equipment used to make the cookies has aged and the undertaking became hard to justify. The company also said the Food and Drug Administration, and customers, wanted a revision to the recipe to remove partially hydrogenated oils, but they say that revision “changes the whole cookie.”

Consolidated Biscuit Co. has since stopped production of the beloved old-fashioned treats, and all that remains at the Cookie Store is what's left on the shelves.



Photo Credit: Maurice Lenell]]>
<![CDATA[Motorola Mobility Cutting 500 Jobs in Chicago]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:04:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/smartphones1.jpg

Motorola Mobility has announced plans to cut 25 percent of its 2,000 Chicago employees, a spokesman for the company said Thursday.

Will Moss, senior director of corporate communications for Motorola Mobility, said the layoffs are part of an overall restructuring by parent company Lenovo.

Lenovo on Wednesday announced plans to reduce 3,200 people in its “non-manufacturing workforce around the world” following a 3 percent decrease in revenue from the previous year.

“Lenovo saw severe challenges in its main markets,” the company said in a release. “It faced significant declines in the global PC and tablet markets, as well as slowing growth and increasing competition – especially in China – in smartphones.”

The company said it plans to reduce expenses by about $650 million in the second half of this year and about $1.35 billion annually.

“To build long term, sustainable growth, we must take proactive and decisive actions in every part of the businesses,” Yuanqing Yang, Chairman and CEO of Lenovo, said in a statement.

Moss said the Merchandise Mart will continue to be the mobile device maker's headquarters and “the hub of our global R&D and design.”

“We’ll still have a substantial workforce there,” he said.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[400 Youths to Be Hired at Chicago Job Fair Thursday]]> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 04:30:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP584464016824.jpg

More than 400 young employees are expected to be hired at a job fair at Chicago’s McCormick Place Thursday.

The 100,000 Opportunity Job Fair and Forum at McCormick Place will kick off the official start to the 100,000 Opportunity Initiative, a national program where a group of U.S. companies will commit to engaging 100,000 young people in jobs, internships and apprenticeships by 2018.

More than 4,500 young Chicagoans are slated to attend the fair, which is said to be the “first of its kind.”

“We believe that for young people to get their foot in the door in industries that have career trajectories and with companies that provide tuition is all a part of our initiative at Chicago City of Learning to help our youth level up professionally and academically,” Nichole Pinkard, a DePaul University professor and founder of the Digital Youth Network, said in a statement.

At least 29 private companies will be a part of the event, including Starbucks, JC Penny, Potbelly, Hyatt and others with plans to hire more than 400 youths between the ages of 16 and 24 on the spot at the fair.

The event is also expected to feature appearances by Common, Chance the Rapper and “surprise local and national celebrities and heroes.”

The event is ticketed and applications must be filled out before attending. Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 24, part-time students or not enrolled in school, not currently working.
 



Photo Credit: AP/File]]>
<![CDATA[Mag Mile Apple Store Plans Move: Report]]> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 11:43:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Apple_ipad-chicago-11-1.jpg

Apple Inc. reportedly plans to plug in at a new location in Chicago. 

The California company’s flagship store in Chicago currently sits at 679 N. Michigan Ave., but Crain’s Chicago Business, citing sources familiar with the North Michigan Avenue retail market, reports that the company will likely make 401 N. Michigan Ave. its new home.

Crain's reports the new location will be mostly below ground but will be accessible from the street through a glass structure on Pioneer Court. 

A potential move was first reported by the business publication last August, with Topshop and Saks Fifth Avenue stores among the initially scouted locations.  

Apple's Mag Mile storefront is 11 years old and could be seen as outdated when compared to other flagship stores like one of the company’s New York locations, which has customers walk in through the glass box.

Apple would be a valuable tenant for many landlords in the area.

The company’s North Avenue location on the city’s North Side has been hailed for its retail value after moving into the site of a former gas station in the wildly congested North & Clybourn corridor.

Greg Merdinger, a veteran Chicago developer, tells Crain’s the store “made the location,” turning it from good to great.

Apple Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.

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<![CDATA[Kraft Heinz Slashing 2,500 Jobs in US, Canada]]> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 19:53:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-120340053.jpg

Kraft Heinz says it is cutting about 2,500 jobs as part of its plan to slash costs after the food companies combined.

Spokesman Michael Mullen says affected workers are in the U.S. and Canada and were to be notified in person. About 700 of the cuts were coming at Kraft's Northfield, Illinois, headquarters. The company would not specify where other cuts were taking place.

"We appreciate the many contributions our colleagues have made to our Company, and we are committed to treating all impacted individuals with the utmost respect and dignity throughout this process," Mullen said in a statement. "We regret the impact this has on employees and their families."

The Kraft Heinz Co. said it has a total of around 46,600 employees.

The job cuts are not surprising, given the reputation of the company's management on Wall Street.

The combination of Pittsburgh-based Heinz and Kraft earlier this year was engineered by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, which has become known for its tight cost controls.

Bernardo Hees — a 3G partner — is CEO of the merged Kraft Heinz.

Hees had already overseen cost-cutting at Heinz since the ketchup maker was taken over in 2013 through a previous partnership between 3G and Berkshire. That means the cuts announced Wednesday mostly affect people on the Kraft side of the business.

Together, the two U.S. food giants own brands including Jell-O, Heinz baked beans and Velveeta that are facing sales challenges amid changing tastes. Their combination was nevertheless seen as attractive because of the opportunity to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year by combining functions like manufacturing and distribution.

Executives say they expect to save $1.5 billion in annual costs by 2017.

In a statement, Mullen said Wednesday the job cuts were part of the company's process of integrating the two businesses and "designing our new organization."

"This new structure eliminates duplication to enable faster decision-making, increased accountability and accelerated growth," Mullen said. He said employees will be given severance benefits of at least six months.

Already, Kraft Heinz had been belt-tightening in recent weeks.

In a memo to employees dated July 13, Hees outlined a variety of "provisional measures" the company was taking to avoid unnecessary spending. That included instructing workers to print on both sides of paper, reuse office supplies like binders and file folders, and turn off computers before leaving the office.

Corporate donations to charities also had to be approved, as did memberships in industry associations, the memo said.

At its office in Northfield, where Kraft was based, the company also stopped providing free Kraft snacks like Jell-O. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Announces Plans for 1,000 Jobs in Illinois]]> Mon, 10 Aug 2015 10:48:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/amazon+warehouse.jpg

The Seattle-based online retailing giant Amazon.com has announced plans for a warehouse in Joliet that will create 1,000 full-time jobs when it opens.

Amazon made the announcement Monday. The company plans a nearly 500,000-square-foot fulfillment center where workers will process items such as books and electronics.

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk says in a joint news release with the company that city officials are excited about prospect of what he calls "quality jobs for a diverse community" in the region.

Will County Center for Economic Development CEO John Greuling says his group looks forward to "a long successful partnership" with Amazon.

Amazon's employment website says its warehouse workers must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, and must be able to lift up to 49 pounds.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Cuts 225 Jobs in Push to Revive Business]]> Thu, 06 Aug 2015 15:25:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds-Blitz-Box.jpg

McDonald's says it is cutting about 225 corporate jobs as part of a push intended to revitalize its flagging business.

The world's biggest hamburger chain says the cuts include about 135 positions at its corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, where it says it has about 2,100 employees. An additional 90 positions are being cut overseas, the company said. It says employees were notified last month.

The move comes as McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook has vowed to reorganize the company so it can react more quickly to the changing fast-food industry. As sales have struggled, McDonald's has conceded that it failed to keep pace with changing tastes. In its flagship U.S. market, the company last month reported its seventh straight quarterly decline in sales at established locations.

McDonald's also cut 63 jobs in December and 65 more in January at its headquarters, said Jeff Mochal, a McDonald's spokesman. The previous cuts were related to the removal of a management layer between U.S. franchisees and the corporate office, he said.

The latest round of cuts in July, which affected a variety of positions for global operations, brings the total number of job reductions since late last year to more than 350.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Target to Rename State Street Store as 'Target']]> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 07:17:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/loop+target+new+chicago.jpg

State Street’s CityTarget store is about to become… a Target.

The retailer announced in a blog post Tuesday that the State Street store, and 13 other CityTarget and TargetExpress locations across the country, would be renamed as “Target” stores.

“Big or small, our stores have one thing in common: They’re all Target. Guests can walk into a Target store of any shape or size and find great merchandise, helpful team members, clean, bright aisles and incredible value,” the Minnesota-based company wrote. “What better way to stand behind that promise than with our own Bullseye?”

The Loop store first opened in 2012 in the historic Sullivan Center location once occupied by Carson Pirie Scott.

The 124,000-square-foot store, two-floor location features a pharmacy, groceries, apparel, accessories, toys, sporting goods, electronics and Chicago-themed merchandise.

The renamed stores will be rebranded with the company’s name and logo beginning in October.

The company also noted that it has six new stores scheduled to open in October, including one in Chicago that will be a “smaller, flexible format” store.

“Rest assured, they will all be Target,” the company wrote.  

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<![CDATA[Comcast Hires 200 Employees in Chicago Area]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:15:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/comcast-lobby.jpg

Comcast has announced that it is hiring about 200 new employees in the Chicago area.

The announcement comes as part of an intiative to “enhance the customer experience.”

The new hires will join 75 existing Workforce Operations employees to create two new centers, including a ‘Technician Support Center’ and ‘Technician Logistics Center,’ the company said in a statement.

The workers will schedule, monitor and support technicians in the field, who do installations and make service visits to customers’ homes and businesses.

The new employees will work out of the company’s Elmhurst facility and serve customers in the Chicago area and Illinois, as well as other Midwest and Southeast states. 



Photo Credit: Philadelphia Business Journal]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Asks Fans to Build "Ultimate Chicagoland Burger"]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:05:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*129/Mcdonalds+fries.jpg

McDonald’s has asked for Chicagoans to help create “the ultimate Chicagoland burger.”

The Oak Brook-based food chain began a contest Monday where burger enthusiasts and foodies can submit their “dream burger” for a chance to have their creation added to menus at Chicago-area McDonald’s restaurants.

Customers can build custom burgers via burgerbuildoff.com to put it up for online voting. The public will vote for their favorite burgers and the top 10 entries will move on to the final round, where a panel of judges will pick the top two recipes.

The recipes will be rated based on taste, creativity, visual presentation, product name and overall consumer appeal.

The top two burgers will then be added to menu boards at local restaurants and the burger that is purchased most will be dubbed the Chicago Burger Build Off Champion. The creator of the burger will also win a check for $5,000 and a trip for four to Universal Orlando Resort.

McDonald’s said the competition was created to help design a burger that is “distinctively Chicago—reflecting the city’s rich food heritage.”

“Throughout our history, McDonald’s has built all kinds of legendary burgers,” Edward Schmitt, Jr, president of MOCNI and a McDonald’s restaurant owner/operator, said in a statement. “Chicago is home to some of the world’s most delicious and celebrated foods, so we are excited to give our customers a chance to help create a burger that is as big and bold as our great city.”

Customers have until Aug. 23 to submit their creations online.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cannabis Conference Returns to Navy Pier]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 11:20:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/732453081.jpg

A cannabis conference will return to Navy Pier this weekend.

The My Compassion Cannabis Conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

The conference debuted at the venue last year and is being touted as the “nation’s premier cannabis health and wellness event.”
Open to the public, vendors feature plant growing tips, industrial hemp products, vaping pens and presentations on cannabis science, human health and business growth.

Accurate Biometrics, a Chicago company, will also offer fingerprinting for the medical card application.

Passes to the event cost $42 per day, $100 for three days and packages for $199 or more.

Last year, Illinois became the 20th state in the union to permit the use of medical marijuana.

The number of Illinois medical marijuana patients currently sits at more than 2,600.

In June, Illinois sent about 100 approval letters to patients who qualify to use marijuana, bringing the total to 2,600, the Illinois Department of Public Health said. About 22,600 people have started the application process on the program's website. Of those, only about 3,200 have submitted a complete application, 100 more than last month.

At least one company hopes to have marijuana growing this summer. Others are still months away from planting. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Could Soon Offer All-Day Breakfast Nationwide]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 11:03:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/4707047541.jpg

McDonald’s could soon dish out all-day breakfast nationwide.

The Wall Street Journal, citing an internal memo sent to U.S. franchisees and employees Tuesday, reports that the fast food giant could begin offering breakfast all day later this year.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company began testing all-day breakfast in March in its San Diego market. The test was expected to expand to Nashville this summer.

The memo, sent by LeAnn Richards, a franchisee from Arizona who heads a task force studying all-day breakfast, told franchisees to be ready for the potential launch of all-day breakfast as soon as October, WSJ reports.

McDonald’s, however, would only confirm that the company is testing the possibility of all-day breakfast.

“Serving all-day breakfast is likely the number one request we hear from McDonald’s customers,” the company told NBC Chicago in a statement. “We’re testing it out in a few markets to learn more about this possibility. We know your mouth is watering, but there’s no news on this yet.”

McDonald’s breakfast currently ends at 10:30 a.m. in most markets.

McDonald's has long been the fast-food leader in the mornings, with its popular Sausage Biscuits, Hotcakes and other items pulling in roughly 20 percent of the company's U.S. sales. But the chain has faced stiffer competition in recent years, with competitors such as Starbucks and Subway rolling out breakfast sandwiches as well.

McDonald's, which has more than 14,000 U.S. locations, has also said it plans to step up its marketing of breakfast as it faces intensifying competition.

As for extending its breakfast hours, the world's largest hamburger chain is known for treading extremely carefully when discussing any tests or potential changes. Such matters are considered sensitive in large part because they would require the support of the company's network of franchisees.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's' 'Secret Menu' Not So Secret Anymore]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:02:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/167*120/51122973.jpg

The mythical “secret menu” at McDonald’s may not be a myth at all.

According to a McDonald’s manager who conducted a recent Reddit AMA, customers can in fact order secret menu items, but the items really aren’t that secret.

Reddit user OrchidHibiscus, who claims to be a manager at a McDonald’s in Glasgow, Scotland, said McDonald’s didn’t specifically develop a secret menu, but menu items can be customized into “grill orders.”

Customers can add or take out ingredients from current menu items to make them into what they want—including something off a so-called “secret menu.”

"Order one and the workers might not know it by name ... but if you explain what it is, and are willing to pay for all the ingredients, it's just another 'grill order' that we can make up," OrchidHibiscus wrote.

The user referred to rumored secret menu items like the Land, Sea and Air Burger, which is a combination of a Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken.

A website called #HackTheMenu claims to have a list of “secret menu items” from McDonald's, including an “All American,” a “Big McChicken,” “Biscuits and Gravy,” and a “Chicken McGriddle.”

McDonald’s addresses the possibility of a secret menu on its website saying, “We have no secret menu – or do we?”

“Actually, our customers are pretty clever when it comes to customizing their orders with our menu items, so you may have seen some of their creations online,” the company wrote. “But we have no official secret menu of our own.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Offers One-Hour Delivery to Prime Members in Chicago]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 12:53:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_252663736_amazon_prime_day_rebajas_ofertas_black_friday.jpg

Amazon has expanded its Prime Now service to Chicago.

The service launched Friday in select Chicago zip codes and will expand to additional zip codes in the city soon, the company said.

Prime Now boasts “ultra-fast service” and “provides one-hour delivery on tens of thousands of daily essentials through a mobile app.”

The service is available in the city from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, Amazon said. Two-hour delivery is free and one-hour delivery is available for $7.99.

Prime members will be notified via the Prime Now app when the service is available in their area.

The service is also currently available in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Indianapolis, Manhattan and Miami.
 

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<![CDATA[Chicago Brew Among Nation's 13 Best Craft Beers: Report]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 10:11:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/goose-island-pale-ale.jpg

A Chicago brew has been named on a list of the best craft beers in America.

The limited-release Bourbon County Stout by Goose Island made the list of top 13 craft beers in the nation by Forbes, coming in at no. 8.

The list was put together by Matt Canning, a beer concierge at Hotel Vermont. Though Canning acknowledged his bias toward Vermont beers, which was clear as seven of the 13 on the list were from Vermont, the Goose Island brew was the only one from the Midwest to make the cut.

“This beer has a cult following that includes this Beer Concierge. This pitch-black viscous brew is aged in bourbon barrels and released only once a year. Chocolate, caramel, and smoke on the nose—and rich oak from the barrels on the finish,” Canning wrote.

But be careful, he warned, “this beer is 14% ABV.”

The top beer on Canning’s list was Susan by Hill Farmstead, which he called an “exceedingly drinkable IPA.”

Beers from Quebec, California, Maine and New York also made the list.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dunkin' Donuts to Test New Hot Teas in Chicago]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 08:18:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DD+Premium+Hot+Tea+Packaging+Lineup+resize.jpg

Dunkin’ Donuts will soon test a new product in the Chicago market: Hot teas.

Beginning in October the coffee and doughnut chain will test five teas in participating locations in Chicago, a spokesperson for Dunkin' Brands Inc. told NBC Chicago. 

The flavors include a "Bold Breakfast" black tea, a "Cool Mint" herbal infusion, a "Chamomile Fields" herbal infusion, a "Hibiscus Kiss" herbal infusion and a "Harmony Leaf" premium leaf tea. 

Chris Fuqua, vice president of marketing, told Crain's Chicago Business the “tea market is one that’s evolving relatively quickly” and noted it is “one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world.”

The company plans to test the new products in Chicago but could broaden its use if test results prove promising.

The move could allow the chain to compete with fellow coffee giant Starbucks Corp.

Starbucks has long been active in the tea market and sells Teavana brand tea.
 



Photo Credit: Dunkin' Donuts]]>
<![CDATA[Kraft Business Headquarters to Move to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 21:18:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kraft-headquarters-wikipedi.jpg

Kraft Heinz says it is relocating the headquarters of the Kraft business from Northfield, Illinois, to downtown Chicago early next year.

Spokesman Michael Mullen said in an emailed statement on Thursday that the company signed a long-term lease agreement to have employees on five floors of the AON Center.

Mullen said the move brings Kraft back to its roots, as Chicago was where founder J.L. Kraft first started selling cheese to local merchants in 1903.

“You have a Fortune 50 company saying that when they think of their future, it’s with Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel told NBC Chicago of the move. “It brings hundreds and hundreds of jobs and economic opportunities that come with it and it keeps the momentum going.”

Heinz will keep its headquarters in Pittsburgh.

"Kraft started in Chicago and I could not be more pleased that the company is returning to its roots – recognizing the talent we have, the growing and vibrant business community that we have, and the opportunities that exist in Chicago to connect with more customers and companies," Emanuel said in an earlier statement.

Earlier this month Kraft shareholders approved the sale of the company to ketchup maker H.J. Heinz, creating one of the world's largest food companies with annual revenue of about $28 billion. The deal was first announced in March.

The combined company will have in its stable brands that, in addition to Kraft and Heinz, include Jell-O, Oscar Mayer, Velveeta and Ore-Ida.

Shares of Kraft Heinz Co. gained $1.26 to $77.97 in morning trading.

Emanuel said to expect more big moves of this kind for the city.

“We are not done on the corporate recruitment, just so you know," he said. "We are on it all the time. We are [currently] active with four or five companies."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[General Mills Plans to Close Facility in Illinois]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 10:20:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*121/110439859.jpg

General Mills says that it has tentatively decided to close an Illinois plant over the next few years, but will consult first with the union that represents the facility.

The food maker is looking to get rid of excess cereal and dry dinner capacity as part of its ongoing effort to meet consumers' changing tastes.

Big packaged food makers have been stung by shoppers' interest in foods they see as healthier or more natural. Cereal sales also have suffered because of the popularity of gluten-free or high-protein diets.

General Mills said in a regulatory filing Thursday that if the facility is closed, it may impact about 500 jobs. The company plans negotiations and consultation with the union that represents workers at the West Chicago, Illinois, facility, before closing it.

General Mills Inc. — which makes Cheerios cereal, Yoplait yogurt and other packaged foods — anticipates taking about $70 million in charges in fiscal 2016 related to the planned action. It expects the plant to be closed by the end of fiscal 2019, with a total cost of about $120 million.

General Mills is also closing a snacks manufacturing plant in Joplin, Missouri. The move will result in the loss of about 120 jobs. The company expects about $11 million in charges in fiscal 2016 tied to the action. The closing is targeted to be completed by fiscal 2018's end. The total cost is expected to be approximately $12 million.

The company's stock added 20 cents to $57.01 in morning trading Thursday. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks to Open New Concept Store in Englewood]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 06:18:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP584464016824.jpg

First Whole Foods, now Starbucks -- Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood will soon see another major business development.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to announce Thursday that Starbucks plans to open a new concept store in the area designed to hire and train underserved youth.

The store will open next to a Whole Foods Emanuel credits with turning the violence-stricken neighborhood into an “economic and job creation anchor for the South Side.”

The new Starbucks will be the first of its kind and joins Whole Foods as part of the “Englewood Square” development, which broke ground last year and is expected to open in 2016.

The businesses are part of more than $362 million in planned and completed public and private investment projects underway in Englewood, according to the mayor's office. Emanuel expects those projects will create or retain more than 4,140 jobs.
 



Photo Credit: AP/File]]>
<![CDATA[Eataly Now Delivers]]> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 23:37:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Eataly_caviar-service_WEB+2.jpg

You can now get Eataly’s fresh Italian fare delivered straight to your home or office.

The popular eatery has teamed up with premium food delivery service Caviar to give Chicagoans the option to order the counter goods straight to their door if they can’t stop in the 65,000-square-foot River North storefront.

“Choose from a selection of panini, focaccia, pastry, salumi and formaggi, chips, and sodas, and order on your smartphone or computer.,” the company announced on their website.

The service will also include group-sized offerings such as platters of panini, focaccia, vegetables, and salumi and formaggi.

Delivery can take anywhere from 50 to 70 minutes.

Those who try the new service before Wednesday will receive a voucher for a complimentary glass of wine during their next visit.

For more information and to see the full delivery menu, visit their website here



Photo Credit: Eataly]]>
<![CDATA[What You Could be Doing to Keep Yourself From a Promotion]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:08:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/87552094.jpg Do you find yourself questioning why you haven't gotten a promotion lately? A recent study from CareerBuilder sheds light on the physical and behavioral factors that can hurt your chances at getting a raise.

Photo Credit: www.jupiterimages.com]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago 'Cloud Tax' Adds Cost to Streaming Services]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 21:51:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Netflix-Logo.jpg

Chicagoans paying to stream movies, TV shows and music from sites like Netflix or Spotify will now be charged a so-called “Cloud tax” to use the services.

A 9 percent tax will be added to the streaming services in the city under June rulings by the city Finance Department.

The rulings, which took effect July 1, cover an “amusement tax” in the city and a “personal property lease transaction” tax and extend the city’s tax laws to certain online services.

The amusement tax allows for the taxing of charges paid “for the privilege” of watching, listening or playing electronically delivered movies, music or games.

The tax does not apply to the sale or permanent download of shows, movies, videos, music or games, but instead applies to rentals or “temporary” streaming options.

The personal property lease tax covers the use of databases for everything from real estate listings to car prices to stock prices.

The rulings apply to both residents and businesses.

A spokesperson for Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune the rulings “are consistent with the City’s current tax laws and are not an expansion of the laws.” She also said that “in an environment in which technologies and emerging industries evolve quickly” such rulings are often needed to “clarify the application of existing laws.”

The move has sparked debate among some businesses and officials in the city.

“As these two rulings demonstrate, bad times make for bad tax administration,” Michael Wynne, a partner and attorney at the Reed Smith law firm’s Chicago office wrote on the company’s website. “With these two rulings, the Department has expanded the scope of its tax ordinances to their absolute limit, if not further. If any state or local governments were wondering how to tax transactions occurring in the Cloud when legislative authority for such taxation is absent, the Department has just sketched a roadmap.”

Spotify and Netflix could not immediately be reached for comment.  



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Minimum Wage Increase Takes Effect in Chicago]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:58:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/minimum-wage-cash.jpg

Minimum wage employees in Chicago will begin earning $10 an hour Wednesday as the first part of a yearly incremental minimum wage increase takes effect in the city.

The $1.75 hourly bump is part of a plan aimed at raising the minimum wage in the city to $13 an hour by 2019.

Wednesday’s pay hike brings the minimum wage in Chicago up from Illinois' $8.25 rate, which is already $1 higher than the federal rate. After that, the wage will go up by 50 cents in 2016 and 2017, and by $1 in 2018 and 2019. City officials estimate more than 400,000 Chicago workers will benefit.

The plan was overwhelmingly approved by the City Council in December.

Chicago is the latest major city to give minimum wage employees a raise. Last year, Seattle officials approved a phased-in $15 wage. In California, San Francisco voters approved a $15 in November, while Oakland OK'd an increase to $12.25.

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<![CDATA[Willis Group Joins With Towers Watson in $18B Deal]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:28:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+getty.jpg

The insurer Willis Group Holdings PLC will tie up with Towers Watson in an all-stock deal valued at about $18 billion.

The combined company will be called Willis Towers Watson and will have about $8.2 billion in revenue and approximately 39,000 employees. Willis shareholders will own approximately 50.1 percent, and Towers Watson shareholders will own about 49.9 percent of the business.

The company will be based in Ireland, where Willis has its headquarters. Towers Watson is based in Arlington, Virginia.

Willis and Towers expect between $100 million and $125 million in cost savings within three years of closing.

Shareholders of financial services company Towers Watson & Co. will receive 2.6490 Willis shares for each Towers share. They will also receive a one-time cash dividend of $4.87 per Towers share.

Willis expects to enact a reverse stock split that would result in one Willis share being converted into 0.3775 Willis Towers Watson shares. If the reverse stock split is approved by shareholders, Towers Watson shareholders will receive one share of Willis Towers Watson for each Towers Watson share.

The deal is not contingent on Willis shareholders approving the reverse stock split.

Towers Watson Chairman and CEO John Haley will serve as CEO, while Willis CEO Dominic Casserley will become president and deputy CEO.

The new board will have 12 members, with six directors being nominated by each company.

The boards of both companies unanimously approved the deal, which is targeted to close by year's end. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mariano's Opens Largest Store Yet in Chicago Area]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 07:39:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/215*120/mariano%27s+glenview+west.jpg

Mariano’s will open its largest store to date in the Chicago area Tuesday.

Mariano’s Glenview West, a 90,602-square-foot supermarket, will be the Midwest grocer’s 32nd location and the biggest so far in the Chicago area.

The new location will feature many “firsts” for the chain, including a cheese cellar, a full bar of vegan, raw vegan and vegetarian foods, and a Curation Center, which will showcase “artisanal products from around the globe.”

Though the store is called Glenview West, it actually has a Northbrook address: 2323 Capital Dr.

The store will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.  



Photo Credit: Sky 5/NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's to Supersize Quarter Pounders: Report]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 08:14:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/McDonald%27s+Quarter+Pounder+with+Cheese.jpg

McDonald’s is reportedly beefing up its quarter pounder.

The world’s largest hamburger chain could roll out a supersized quarter-pounder patty within the next month, CNBC, citing an internal document, reports.

The new patty is expected to weigh 4.25 ounces before cooking and will be shaped differently. The current patty weighs 4 ounces before cooking, according to McDonald’s’ Twitter

CNBC reports that the change is intended to improve the “taste, texture and appearance of the burgers” and will result in a “juicier and more flavorful burger.”

The Oak Brook-based chain would not comment on the news, but said in a statement that more details would be shared soon.

"As CEO Steve Easterbrook has shared, we’re always innovating around McDonald’s food, drinks and restaurant experience based on customers’ preferences, and that includes hotter food and reviewing cooking procedures, and we’ll share more details soon," the statement read.

The move comes just months after beef prices reached record highs and less than two weeks after the burger chain revealed plans to shrink its number of U.S. restaurants for the first time in more than 40 years. 



Photo Credit: McDonald's]]>
<![CDATA[Cold Stone Creamery to Open in River North]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:51:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*160/11391771_10152917147235920_4577845062640611823_n.jpg

Residents of Chicago’s Near North Side will soon be within arm’s reach of ice cream creations from Cold Stone Creamery, as the company announced a new downtown location set to open this summer.

In an effort to bring the brand back as a city mainstay, franchise group Chicago Scoops will open the doors to its second storefront at 20 W. Ohio St. in early August, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The group opened its first Cold Stone in 2014 at 1316 S. Halsted St. in University Village.

Chicago Scoops President Kyle Welch told the Tribune the University Village shop was the first of 24 stores that opened in the group's first year of operation.

Welch told the publication previous Cold Stone stores run by other franchisees had been closed for years and "the people want it back."



Photo Credit: Facebook/ColdStoneCreamery]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Debuts New Pork Sandwich]]> Sat, 27 Jun 2015 19:51:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/happy+meal+new.jpg

McDonald’s has a new pork item on its menu.

The world’s largest hamburger chain has debuted a new pulled pork sandwich in at least one Midwest market.

The McDonald’s of Northern Indiana, which operates in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan, tweeted about the news Wednesday.

The new sandwich joins the McRib as another pork option on the Oak Brook-based chain’s menu.

It’s not clear how many restaurants will offer the new sandwich or how long it will be on the menu. McDonald’s could not immediately be reached for comment.  

Wendy's and Burger King also sell pulled pork sandwiches, CNBC notes.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Flight Attendants Sue Boeing, Claim Toxic Fumes in Aircraft]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 23:29:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/boeing-building-Getty.jpg

Four flight attendants have filed a lawsuit against Boeing, claiming toxic air from an engine leaked into their plane and made them seriously ill on a 2013 flight.

A lawyer for the four said Tuesday that Boeing has known for decades about the potential danger of drawing warm air off jet engines to heat airplane cabins.

Boeing Co. declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in an Illinois state court in Chicago.

Similar allegations have been raised before. In 2011, Boeing settled a case brought by an American Airlines flight attendant; terms were sealed.

In April, a British coroner reported that samples from a British Airways pilot who died in 2012 were "consistent with exposure" to toxic fumes in cabin air. The airline said research shows that the level of dangerous fumes in planes isn't high enough to pose a health risk.

So-called bleed air is used to heat the cabins on most commercial planes, although Boeing's newest aircraft, the 787 or Dreamliner, uses a different system.

The Federal Aviation Administration says studies have shown cabin air is as good as air in offices and homes, but a spokeswoman said the agency is concerned that contaminants can get in if equipment fails. Airlines are required to report incidents involving fumes, and FAA says from 1990 to 2010 there were about 900 of those. U.S. airlines operate about 9 million flights a year, according to government figures.

Boeing has repeatedly said that independent, industry and government researchers have found that cabin air meets health and safety standards.

But lawyers for the flight attendants suing Boeing say that company documents suggest Boeing knew of the risk that bleed air could contain dangerous byproducts of burning engine oil. They said that a Boeing engineer tried but failed to draw management's attention to the issue, concluding in a 2007 email: "Bottom line is I think we are looking for a tombstone before anyone with any horsepower is going to take interest."

The women were working for Alaska Airlines when they say that all four became sick and two passed out during a Boston-to-San Diego flight. The one-year-old Boeing 737 jet made an emergency landing in Chicago, and all four were taken to hospitals, according to the lawsuit.

Even weeks later, "I knew something was seriously wrong with me. I just was not the same person," one of the flight attendants, Vanessa Woods, said on conference call with reporters Tuesday. She said she suffered from fatigue, tremors, memory loss and concentration problems and was unable to return to work.

Lawyers for the women said they weren't aware of any passengers who got sick. They attributed that to the women having been on the plane longer, before passengers began boarding, and that the air might have been more toxic higher in the cabin where standing flight attendants would breathe it. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[McDonald's Unveils Bike-Friendly Drive-Thru Packaging]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 13:14:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds+drive+thru.jpg

McDonald's has launched yet another campaign in the hopes of rescuing its unhealthy image and boosting sales after continual slumps.

The Oakbrook-based fast food chain has unleashed its new packaging for cyclists ordering Big Macs at the drive-thru. The McBike is packaged so cyclists can hang it on their handlebars without spilling anything, even a soft drink. 

The new packaging was designed by the ad agency Tribal Buenos Aires in Argentina. It was first launched in Copenhagen, Denmark, and then in Medellin, Colombia. According to Tribal Buenos Aires, the McBike will next hit Amsterdam and Tokyo. No word yet on when or if it will make it to drive-thrus in the U.S.

The new packaging is one of McDonald's many recent attempts to increase sales. In March, the fast food company cut the use of antibiotics in its chicken products after backlash from customers about the safety of their food.

Not all changes are meant to shed the company's old image, however. In January, McDonald's started a new ad campaign to bring back the "lovin'" in its "I'm Lovin' It" slogan. 

In the U.S., the company has struggled to regain its former dominance of the fast food industry. Last week, the Associated Press reported that Mcdonald's was shrinking in the U.S. for the first in its history, as more restaurants were set to close than to open this year.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Noodles & Co. President and COO Kinsey Resigns]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 10:53:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/022109+Noodles+and+Company.jpg

The restaurant chain Noodles & Co. announced Monday that President and Chief Operating Officer Keith Kinsey is resigning to become CEO of a casual dining restaurant business.

Noodles' didn't identify where Kinsey was going in its news release, but Crain's Chicago Business reported that he was going to join Portillo's Restaurant Group, a seller of hot dogs and other food.

Kinsey has worked at Noodles & Co. since 2005. He's served as president since July 2012 and COO since November 2007. He previously served as chief financial officer from July 2005 to July 2012.

Kinsey's responsibilities will be reallocated to other members of Noodles & Co.'s management.

He will also step down from the company's board, Noodles said.

Noodles & Co., based in Broomfield, Colorado, had 455 locations in 33 states and the District of Columbia as of March 31. It went public on June 28, 2013. At the time it was the best performing IPO since April 2012, with a first-day gain of 104 percent to $36.75. The stock has declined since then, closing at $16.58 on Friday.

The shares added 15 cents to $16.73 in Monday morning trading. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[Illinois Unemployment Holds at 6 Percent]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 17:48:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/unemployment7.jpg

Illinois' unemployment rate held steady again in May as the state added temporary and government jobs but lost manufacturing positions.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced Thursday that the May unemployment rate was 6 percent. That's the same level as it was in April and just higher than the 5.5 percent May national rate.

According to the department, professional and business services firms added a net 6,900 jobs in May. Many of those companies provide temporary workers. Leisure and hospitality employment rolls grew by 3,300 jobs and government employers added a net 2,300 jobs.

The state's manufacturers lost more jobs than any other sector, 2,500 in all. Trade, transportation and utilities companies cut a net 2,300 jobs.

The number of unemployed people dropped .3 percent in May to 392,000.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[McDonald's to Shrink in US For 1st Time in Decades]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 07:15:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/185*120/53038460.jpg

The burger chain that put "supersize" into the American vernacular is slimming down: For the first time in more than 40 years, and perhaps ever, McDonald's says the number of U.S. restaurants it has will shrink.

McDonald's plans to close more restaurants in the U.S. than it opens this year, according to the world's biggest hamburger chain. That hasn't happened since at least 1970, according to an Associated Press review of McDonald's regulatory filings.

Becca Hary, a McDonald's spokeswoman, declined to provide a specific figure but said the reduction would be "minimal" compared with its total of about 14,300 U.S. locations.

Still, the contraction is symbolic of troubles under the Golden Arches and how it's trying to regroup.

The company enjoyed rapid expansion for much of its history by offering consistent food at affordable prices. It even thrived during the recession, when its Dollar Menu drew in people trying to save money and new products like McCafe coffee drove up sales.

But since then, chains like Chipotle that market themselves as serving better food and ingredients have chipped away at McDonald's dominance. A new breed of "better burger" chains such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries is taking away customers, too.

McDonald's past success led to "a natural overconfidence," said John Gordon, a restaurant industry analyst with Pacific Management Consulting Group.

"McDonald's is such an internally focused organization, it's a situation where you don't have a fresh perspective coming in," Gordon said.

McDonald's executives have also conceded that an overly complicated menu led to inaccurate orders and longer wait times, and that they failed to keep pace with changing tastes.

CUTTING THE FAT

In April, McDonald's said it would close about 700 underperforming locations around the world this year, including in the U.S. CEO Steve Easterbrook, who stepped into the role on March 1, also later laid out plans to restructure the company to remove layers of bureaucracy and move more nimbly.

In any given year, some underperforming McDonald's restaurants will close. But previously, the number of closings has been outweighed by new restaurants that open.

The U.S. store closings will be a mix of franchised and company-owned locations, Hary said. She noted that the closings are part of a strategic review intended to set the stage for the future growth. The company did not provide a list of locations expected to close.

McDonald's Corp. has not reported an annual reduction in U.S. locations since at least 1970, according to archived filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. For 1969, McDonald's did not include a U.S. store count in its annual report.

The company declined to comment on the last time it reduced its U.S. store base. But given the rapid expansion that characterized its early years, it's likely McDonald's hadn't pulled back since Ray Kroc founded the company in 1955.

SATURATION POINT OR ROOM TO RUN?

Closing weak stores isn't unusual for companies trying to turn around their fortunes. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shuttered hundreds of U.S. cafes after returning to head the company in 2008. Since then, the coffee chain has enjoyed healthy sales growth and expanded its footprint.

Mike Donahue, who served as McDonald's chief communications officer before leaving in 2006, said McDonald's hasn't necessarily reached its limit in the U.S.

"The only thing that stops growth is relevancy to the customer," said Donahue, who has since co-founded Lyfe Kitchen, a chain that positions itself as serving more wholesome food.

Even though it's closing locations, McDonald's easily remains the country's biggest hamburger chain. It still has more than twice as many restaurants as No. 2 Burger King, according to the industry tracker Technomic.

Among all fast-food chains, Subway has the most locations in the country with about 27,000 stores, though they do far less business than the typical McDonald's.

And McDonald's is still growing globally. It plans to add about 300 restaurants to its worldwide total of more than 36,000.

Donahue said that people were saying decades ago that McDonald's had reached its saturation point in the U.S. But within the company, he said there was always confidence that there was room to expand.

Even when McDonald's closed underperforming stores in the past, he said it would open new restaurants in better locations. The closings this year appear to be a way to strengthen its base of stores, he said.

"What they're doing is pruning the tree," he said. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Adds Limited-Time Offers to Chicago Menus]]> Fri, 12 Jun 2015 09:48:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/green+apple+smoothie+mcds.jpg

McDonald’s has reportedly added two limited-time offers to its Chicago menus.

The world’s largest hamburger chain has added a Green Apple Smoothie and a Bacon & White Cheddar McMuffin to some menus and the items will be available at stores in Chicago.

The smoothie, which is made with fruit, yogurt and ice, will cost $2 for a small.

"Consumers are seeking more real & fresh options, and summer is a key time-frame for ice blended beverages," a McDonald's spokeswoman said in a statement.

The Bacon & White Cheddar McMuffin replaces the Canadian bacon and American cheese on the fast food restaurant’s popular Egg McMuffin with applewood-smoked bacon and white cheddar. The new item costs $3.50 with a small coffee.

The news comes after McDonald’s announced plans to revamp their drive-through offerings and even added kale to its breakfast menu. It also comes as the company works to maintain its slot at the top of the fast food breakfast chain.

Last month, CEO Steve Easterbrook revealed plans to turn around the fast food chain’s struggling business.

Other chains have also announced new items to their menus recently, with Pizza Hut debuting a hot dog-stuffed crust pizza and Starbucks releasing six new, limited-time Frappuccino flavors.



Photo Credit: McDonald's]]>
<![CDATA[Game 4 Win Means Free Iced Coffee for Hawks Fans]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 10:29:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/dd-Hot+and+Iced+Coffee.jpg

Dunkin' Donuts will once again offer free iced coffees in celebration of another Hawks victory.

Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Chicago will give away free medium iced coffees to Hawks fans via the chain’s app Thursday.

The offer is only available Thursday at participating stores in the Chicago area.

The Blackhawks took Game 4 Wednesday night with a 2-1 win, tieing the series at 2-2. They will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 in Florida Saturday.



Photo Credit: Dunkin' Donuts
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<![CDATA[Website Problems Prompt Southwest to Extend Fare Sale]]> Fri, 05 Jun 2015 06:18:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/southwest-airlines-new-livery-01.jpg

Southwest Airlines has extended its 72-hour fare sale after “high customer demand” caused problems with its website.

The sale, which began Tuesday and was slated to end at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, will now continue through Friday, the airline said in a message on its website.

“We apologize for any difficulties you may be experiencing on Southwest.com in connection with high Customer demand,” the message read. “You may also experience higher than normal hold times via our reservation call centers. Please know we are working to fix the issue as soon as possible. The sale has been extended through Friday 6/5 to give you extra time to book.”

The sale includes flights from Aug. 24 through Dec. 16. and offers one-way tickets as low as $49.

Destinations involved in the sale include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Memphis, Denver, Boston, Minneapolis and Orlando, among many others.

The airline did a similar deal last year when it offered winter discounts at similar rates. Also last year, Frontier Airlines offered discounted one-way tickets for as low as $29.

Click here to see a list of available offers from Chicago’s Midway Airport.
 



Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Want Bouncer at Booze-Infused Taco Bell]]> Thu, 04 Jun 2015 22:36:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/wicker-park-taco-bell-3.jpg

A Crunchy Taco Supreme and a Corona may sound like a fine idea to many, but for others who live and work near an upcoming Taco Bell that hopes to serve alcohol, limitations are in order.

The new location, at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave., plans to open this summer with beer, wine and mixed alcohol drinks on the menu. The franchisee has applied for a liquor license, but city officials said Thursday that's not a done deal. And at a meeting for residents on Wednesday, some expressed more than a little concern.

Maritza Gomez works at a cleaners across the street from the new location, which is also nestled among other bars and restaurants. While it sounds like good business, a bouncer at the new concept spot could be the perfect supplement, she said.

"I think it definitely would help if they're actually asking for IDs," she said. 

The location is a short walk to a handful of higher-end taco joints like Antique Taco, which also serves alcohol. No extra security is there. Three blocks away, at Big Star, security comes with the much larger crowd.

The new Taco Bell would have fewer than 60 seats and could serve alcohol until 2 a.m., if the license is approved.

"Our franchisee is ensuring that alcohol is served responsibly by requiring that all team members be trained to National Restaurant Association Guidelines and by hiring a third party secret shopper vendor to monitor alcohol sales,"  company spokeswoman Ashley Sioson told NBC Chicago. "Alcohol consumption will be restricted to inside the restaurant, and a new cup design will distinguish between non-alcohol and regular beverages."

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<![CDATA[Uber Petitions for Pick-Ups at Airports]]> Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:06:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ORD-taxi-line.jpg

Ride-share company Uber has launched an online petition in an effort to get the city to lift its ban on pick-ups at Chicago's two international airports.

"Chicago is a world-class city that needs world-class transportation options," the petition states. "More takeoffs and landings take place at Chicago’s airports than any other in the world, and right now, travelers don’t have enough choices to get to where they’re going."

Current rules allow ride-share companies to drop-off customers only. Pick-ups are reserved for licensed taxis and liveries, which pay an additional city tax that ride-share companies avoid. But that restriction leaves some travelers frustrated with long wait times and asking for more options.

"Wednesdays and Thursdays [wait times are] like really long. You're going to be waiting like 45 minutes in the taxi line. So on those days, Uber would be good," business traveler Joyce Harrington said Thursday at O'Hare International Airport.

A spokesperson with the United Taxi Driver's Community Council said travelers should be wary of ride-share services. The spokesperson told NBC Chicago that drivers are not fingerprinted or subject to drug testing. Many also carry inadequate insurance, and their vehicles are not inspected by city officials.

Taxi advocates point out that it's not a lack of cabs that's the problem for consumers but agree that reforms are needed to the dispatching system to get travelers in vehicles faster and en route to their destinations. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this week reiterated that he has no plans to reform Chicago's ride-share rules anytime soon. 



Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Dunkin' Donuts Offers Free Iced Coffee After Hawks Win]]> Thu, 04 Jun 2015 07:06:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/dd-Hot+and+Iced+Coffee.jpg

Blackhawks fans might be tired from celebrating Wednesday, but they can at least get free coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts thanks to the team’s exciting win.

Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Chicago will offer a free medium iced coffee to Hawks fans via the chain’s app Thursday.

The offer is only available Thursday at participating stores in the Chicago area.

The Blackhawks entered the Stanley Cup Final with a bang Wednesday night when they scored a 2-1 victory in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.



Photo Credit: Dunkin' Donuts
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<![CDATA[United Apologizes to Muslim Woman for Soda Can Incident]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 20:53:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/united+airlines+copy.jpg

A flight attendant who refused a passenger an unopened can of soda because she might "use it as a weapon" will no longer serve United Airlines customers, the airline said in a Wednesday apology to the passenger. 

The incident between the flight attendant and Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, happened last week on a flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C. 

In a post to Facebook, Ahmad wrote about her denied request for an an unopened can of Diet Coke. Ahmad said  the flight attendant refused, telling her unopened cans could be used as weapons and it was against policy to hand them out. When Ahmad pointed out that the flight attendant had given the man next to her an unopened can of beer, she said the flight attendant repeated, "It's so you don't use it as a weapon."

Instead of getting support from onlookers, a man an aisle away from Ahmad mentioned her religion and yelled, "Yes you know you would use it as a WEAPON so shut the f**k up," she wrote.

"At that point I just felt like crawling into my seat and I had tears in my eyes," she told NBC Chicago earlier this week. "It was utter humiliation."

United Airlines flight 3504 was operated by Shuttle America, which is owned by Republic Airways Holdings. The Indianapolis-based Shuttle America said in a statement Monday that the company doesn't enforce rules about serving unopened cans.

Chicago-based United Airlines initially called the incident a "misunderstanding," but offered a formal apology to Ahmad on Wednesday.

"While United did not operate the flight, Ms. Ahmad was our customer and we apologize to her for what occurred on the flight. After investigating this matter, United has ensured that the flight attendant, a Shuttle America employee, will no longer serve United customers."

The statement continued: "United does not tolerate behavior that is discriminatory – or that appears to be discriminatory - against our customers or employees."

It was unclear from United's statement if the flight attendant had been fired or just banned from United planes, or just not "serving customers" on planes.

Ahmad earlier this week said she felt United Airlines "trivialized" the issue, adding that it was "not about a can of diet soda."

"United can’t simply say that they stand for diversity inclusion on paper," she said. "You know this needs to be something that’s enacted upon."

NBC Chicago on Wednesday evening reached out to Ahmad for reaction to the latest statement from United Airlines.

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<![CDATA[New Taco Bell Will Be First to Serve Alcohol]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 15:48:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/wicker-park-taco-bell-3.jpg

Soon, you may be able to get your Taco Bell and your beer all in one location in Wicker Park.

The new location, at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave., opens this summer with beer, wine and mixed alcohol drinks on the menu.

"Our franchisee is ensuring that alcohol is served responsibly by requiring that all team members be trained to National Restaurant Association Guidelines and by hiring a third party secret shopper vendor to monitor alcohol sales," a company spokeswoman told NBC Chicago. "Alcohol consumption will be restricted to inside the restaurant, and a new cup design will distinguish between non-alcohol and regular beverages."

The Chicago location will be the first ever to serve alcoholic beverages.

There were rumors that the Wicker Park location would  be made into the second U.S. Taco Co., an upscale Taco Bell restaurant in Huntington Beach, Calif., that serves tacos with high-quality ingredients like grilled mahi mahi, lobster and grilled manchego cheese. A spokesperson for Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, told Eater that the restaurant would not be a U.S. Taco Co., however. 

The new location will have some taco-friendly neighbors, like Big Star, Flash Taco and Antique Taco. It's likely that serving alcohol will allow the chain to better compete with the independently owned restaurants that surround it.

The spokeswoman, Ashley Sioson, did not have an exact opening date for the new location.

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<![CDATA[Southwest Airlines Launches 72-Hour Summer Fare Sale]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 10:09:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/southwest-airlines-avion.jpg

Southwest Airlines has launched a summer fare sale offering one-way tickets as low as $49 to certain locations around the country.

The sale, which began Tuesday, goes until 11:59 p.m. Thursday and includes flights from Aug. 24 through Dec. 16.

Destinations involved in the sale include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Memphis, Denver, Boston, Minneapolis and Orlando, among many others.

The airline did a similar deal last year when it offered winter discounts at similar rates. Also last year, Frontier Airlines offered discounted one-way tickets for as low as $29. 

Here are the flight offers from Chicago’s Midway Airport, according to Southwest.com:

From $49:

• Cleveland, OH
• Columbus, OH
• Des Moines, IA
• Detroit, MI
• Kansas City, MO
• Louisville, KY
• Memphis, TN
• Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
• Omaha, NE
• Pittsburgh, PA
• St. Louis, MO

From $99:

• Atlanta, GA
• Austin, TX
• Baltimore/Washington, MD
• Birmingham, AL
• Boston Logan, MA
• Charlotte, NC
• Denver, CO
• Hartford, CT
• Houston (Hobby), TX
• Jacksonville, FL
• Little Rock, AR
• Manchester, NH
• New Orleans, LA
• New York/Newark, NJ
• New York (LaGuardia), NY
• Norfolk, VA
• Orlando, FL
• Philadelphia, PA
• Providence, RI
• Raleigh/Durham, NC
• Rochester, NY
• San Antonio, TX
• Tampa, FL
• Tulsa, OK
• Washington (Dulles), DC
• Washington (Reagan National), DC
• Wichita, KS

From $129:

• Albuquerque, NM
• Ft. Lauderdale, FL
• Ft. Myers, FL
• Las Vegas, NV
• Los Angeles, CA
• Oakland, CA
• Ontario/LA, CA
• Phoenix, AZ
• Salt Lake City, UT
• San Francisco, CA
• San Jose, CA

From $149:

• Portland, OR
• Sacramento, CA
• San Diego, CA
• Seattle/Tacoma, WA
 



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Chipotle Testing New Menu Item: Chorizo]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:09:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP429928785604.jpg

Chipotle Mexican Grill will reportedly test a new menu item at one of its markets—chorizo.

The fast-casual restaurant chain will test the sausage, made with ground chicken and pork, beginning Tuesday at 33 locations in Kansas City, the Kansas City Star reported.

It appears Chicagoans won’t be able to get the option just yet, as Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told the paper there are currently no plans to bring chorizo to other markets.

The company has previously tested chorizo at New York airport locations as a breakfast menu option, the publication reports.

Earlier this year, the Mexican food chain said it would stop serving pork at a third of its U.S. restaurants after a routine audit discovered one of its suppliers was not complying with its animal-welfare standards.

Last fall, the company tested a vegan topping called Sofritas



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lilly Pulitzer Store Coming to Chicago Suburb]]> Mon, 01 Jun 2015 11:09:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/201*120/Lilly-Pulitzer-King-of-Prussia.jpg

Lilly Pulitzer will reportedly open a new shop in Oakbrook Center mall.

The chic beach clothing shop will be the first company-owned store in the Chicago area, the Chicago Tribune reports.

A spokesperson for the resort wear company told the Tribune the store will be painted by one of their print designers and will be decorated with bright prints and colors.

Lilly Pulitzer could not immediately confirm when the store would open. A spokesperson told NBCChicago the "dates have not yet been released."

Lilly Pulitzer most recently made headlines with a limited-edition line for Target, which drew huge crowds and sold out within minutes in stores and online.

The first boutique opened in the 1960s in Palm Beach and the line later became known as a shift dress staple.

The new summer 2015 collection features the signature Lilly Pulitzer patterns and bright colors, with items ranging from $30 to nearly $300.
 



Photo Credit: The Feast/Julie Davis]]>
<![CDATA[Taco Bell, Pizza Hut to Boot Artificial Ingredients]]> Tue, 26 May 2015 12:23:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/taco+bell+getty.jpg

Taco Bell and Pizza Hut say they're getting rid of artificial colors and flavors, making them the latest big food companies scrambling to distance themselves from ingredients people might find unappetizing.

Instead of "black pepper flavor," for instance, Taco Bell will start using actual black pepper in its seasoned beef, says Liz Matthews, the chain's chief food innovation officer.

The Mexican-style chain also says the artificial dye Yellow No. 6 will be removed from its nacho cheese, Blue No. 1 will be removed from its avocado ranch dressing and carmine, a bright pigment, will be removed from its red tortilla strips.

Matthews said some of the new recipes are being tested in select markets and should be in stores nationally by the end of the year.

The country's biggest food makers are facing pressure from smaller rivals that position themselves as more wholesome alternatives. Chipotle in particular has found success in marketing itself as an antidote to traditional fast food. In April, Chipotle announced it had removed genetically modified organisms from its food, even though the Food and Drug Administration says GMOs are safe.

Critics say the purging of chemicals is a response to unfounded fears over ingredients, but companies are nevertheless rushing to ensure their recipes don't become disadvantages. In recent months, restaurant chains including Panera, McDonald's and Subway have said they're switching recipes for one or more products to use ingredients people can more easily recognize.

John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State University, said companies are realizing some ingredients may not be worth the potential harm they might cause to their images, given changing attitudes about additives.

Additionally, he noted that the removal of artificial ingredients can be a way for companies to give their food a healthy glow without making meaningful changes to their nutritional profiles. For instance, Coupland said reducing salt, sugar or portion sizes would have a far bigger impact on public health.

Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are owned by Yum Brands Inc., which had hinted the changes would be on the way. At a conference for investors late last year, Yum CEO Greg Creed referred to the shifting attitudes and the desire for "real food" as a revolution in the industry.

Representatives at KFC and Yum's corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky were not immediately available to comment on whether the fried chicken chain would also be removing artificial ingredients.

Pizza Hut says it will remove artificial flavors and colors by the end of July. It said it will start listing all it ingredients online once the changes are completed.

Taco Bell says it will take out artificial colors, artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup and unsustainable palm oil from its food by the end of 2015. It says artificial preservatives will be removed "where possible" by 2017. The moves do not affect fountain drinks or co-branded products, such as its Doritos-flavored taco shells.

Brian Niccol, the chain's CEO, said the company would work to keep its menu affordable.

"I do not want to lose any element of being accessible to the masses," Niccol said.

When asked whether the changes would affect taste, a representative for Taco Bell said in an email that "It will be the same great tasting Taco Bell that people love." 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[Mirabell Restaurant to Stay Open in Chicago]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 11:41:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/236*120/mirabell.jpg

A popular German restaurant in Chicago that announced it would close earlier this month after 38 years in business will now stay open after an overwhelming public response, the restaurant’s owner said.

“We have new hours and downsized the menu to accommodate our loyal customers,” Jeff Heil, owner of the restaurant, said in a statement. “I’m thrilled, what I have enjoyed most over the past few weeks is hearing everybody talk about their favorite Mirabell memories.”

While the restaurant will remain open, it will likely be with new owners. Heil plans to still pursue his original plan to move to Texas and start a new restaurant there.

“It’s time to pass the ‘beer stein’ to the next potential owners,” Heil said. “Someone to be the ‘New Steward’ of Mirabell and to continue the tradition.”

The restaurant, located at 3554 W. Addison St. in Chicago, will now be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
 



Photo Credit: NBCChicago]]>
<![CDATA[Protesters Deliver Petition of Demands to McDonald's]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 12:23:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Fight-for-15---1.jpg

More than 1,000 “Fight for 15” protesters returned to McDonald's headquarters Thursday to rally for higher wages ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

Demonstrators marched down streets outside the Oak Brook building and gathered in front of the main entrance, which was blocked off by police. The group — police estimated there were more than 1,000 — chanted "If we don't get it, shut it down" and "No burgers, no fries, make our paychecks supersize."

Protesters delivered a petition with more than one million signatures calling for the fast food giant to pay an hourly wage of $15. While police said the demonstrators weren't allowed in, a McDonald's representative did come out to receive the signatures. 

The rally comes just one day after hundreds of protesters swarmed the headquarters, prompting the company to close a nearby restaurant and building for traffic concerns.

Demonstrators from the "Fight for 15" organization, many of them members of the Service Employees International Union, came from cities such as New York City and Kansas City to be on hand for Wednesday's rally.

"We go to work every day. We slave. We sweat for $8.25," said Dominique Mack, who works at a McDonald's restaurant at West Roosevelt Road and Harlem Avenue in Chicago. "That can't take care of our kids. We got a house. We got bills we need to pay. Like every other worker that goes to work, we would like to get paid like everybody else."

The campaign for pay of $15 an hour and a union began in late 2012 and has involved a range of tactics, including ongoing demonstrations in cities around the country. Earlier this year, McDonald's said it would raise its starting pay for workers to $1 above the local minimum wage. Labor organizers said the move falls short because it only applies to company-owned stores.

In addition to the wage increase, many of the workers on hand said they also want the opportunity to be represented by a union.

"Whether it's the eight-hour work day, paid sick days -- these are all things, living wages, that have been won by unions," said political activist Clem Balanoff.

McDonald's Corp. owns about 10 percent of its stores in the U.S., while the rest are run by franchisees.

The protests come as McDonald's fights to hold onto customers amid intensifying competition from smaller rivals and changing tastes. CEO Steve Easterbrook, who stepped into the role in March, has said he wants to transform McDonald's into a "modern, progressive burger company."

Thursday will mark his first shareholder meeting as CEO.



Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's CEO "Proud" of Pay Hike]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 20:06:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonald%27s+logo+getty.jpg

McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said Thursday he was "incredibly proud" of a decision to bump pay for some workers, even after protesters called on the company to do more outside its annual shareholder meeting.

Easterbrook, who stepped into his role in March, is fighting to revive sluggish sales and convince people that McDonald's is a "modern, progressive burger company." But the push comes at a time when protests for pay of $15 an hour and a union have been spreading around the country.

Hundreds of protesters turned out in Oak Brook, Illinois on Wednesday and Thursday before the company's meeting.

McDonald's had said in April that it would raise pay for workers at company-owned stores to at least $1 above the local minimum wage and let them earn paid time off. It will also offer up to $700 in college tuition help to eligible workers at all stores.

Labor organizers and workers have dismissed the move on pay in part because they say it leaves so many workers out in the cold. The vast majority of the more than 14,300 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. are owned by franchisees. McDonald's has stood by its position that it doesn't control pay decisions at franchised locations.

During the meeting, the company got support from at least one shareholder, who said that actress Sharon Stone and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos were among those who have worked at McDonald's. If the chain paid $15, he said, those people would still be working at McDonald's.

Members of Corporate Accountability, a regular critic of McDonald's marketing practices, also repeated their request that the company retire Ronald McDonald and stop marketing to children.

But Easterbrook defended the company's use of the red-headed clown, who he noted recently got a new outfit that makes him feel "trendier."

"With regards to Ronald, Ronald's here to stay," Easterbrook said.

Shareholders also approved a proposal to give investors access to the director nomination process. The UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, which filed the proposal, had said the costs to put forward nominees for board seats could be "prohibitive" under the current system.

Institutional Investor Services and Glass Lewis, two proxy advisory firms, had backed the proposal.

McDonald's had opposed the proposal, which it said could enable shareholders with "special interests" to nominate directors and "introduce a potentially expensive and destabilizing dynamic" into its board election process.

Becca Hary, a McDonald's spokeswoman, said the company would evaluate the advisory vote "and the board will consider it to determine what's appropriate."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Suit Filed Over Smiling Cookie]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 19:24:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000012510701_1200x675_448990787812.jpg Pennsylvania restaurant says a Chicago company's cookie is too similar to its trademark.]]> <![CDATA[Cannabis Munchies on Display at Marijuana Trade Show in Chicago]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 11:35:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cannabis+chocolate.jpg

Cannabis lemonade. Cannabis honey. Even cannabis krispie treats -- bottled, packaged and labeled like any other products.

A few years ago, they could have landed you in prison.  But in Illinois, they’re about to become big business.

“When we first started in Colorado, there was no blueprint for this business,” said consultant Greg Gamet, walking the exhibit floor at Chicago’s Marijuana Business Conference and Expo. “We’ve seen real estate prices go from $50 a square foot, to $250 a square foot in three years.”

The conference is in Chicago for a reason. The state’s first medical marijuana licensees were confirmed in January, and product is expected to start flowing by year’s end.

“We’re hoping sometime in September or October,” said Edward Jauch, head of security for InGrown Farms, which is building a sprawling cultivation center near Freeport. “We came to this conference to support this industry.  It’s new, it’s up and coming, and we’re here to learn from other people.”

There is plenty to learn. From cultivation, to packaging, to security and transport, marijuana is one of the few businesses which Illinois residents will witness from the ground up.

And one of the biggest learning curves, involves money.

“Marijuana is only cash,” said David Ellerstein, CEO of Jane Systems. “There’s no Visa or Mastercard.”

Because trafficking in marijuana is still considered a federal crime, many banks believe processing the cash from medical marijuana businesses will expose them to money laundering charges with federal regulators. Finding a bank willing to handle the millions of dollars the business is expected to generate, could be challenging. Ellerstein’s firm offers a hardened kiosk machine, which handles the cash inside the dispensary, and controls the entire point-of-sale experience.

“We think this is something the regulators would embrace,” he said.

The exhibit halls of the Chicago Hilton and Towers were packed with vendors offering a glimpse of the world as it’s about to become in Illinois. From growing lights, to child-proof bags, to marijuana labeling systems and safes for the cash, it’s all here.

“We get to change people’s perceptions of what cannabis is,” said Marco Hoffman of VCC Brands.  “We take people and their preconceived notions, and knock down that wall.”

VCC produces marijuana edibles. Their “Cannabis Quencher” is a THC-infused lemonade. They also offer candies, olive oil, even rice-krispie treats, all carrying the active ingredient which gives marijuana its punch.

“This is the equivalent of six or seven beers,” Hoffman said, holding a bottle of his lemonade. “This is a THC delivery system. We extract the oils from the plant and infuse it into products that they don’t have to smoke or even eat.”

Hoffman has been in the business for 10 years and is considered one of the “graybeards” of the industry. He’s 40 years old. And because cannabis can’t be transported across state lines, all of his products have to be manufactured in the state where they’re sold. They would not be licensed, but would work with licensed growers here.

“We’d teach them how to extract and infuse it and how to make these brands, then they would become the distributor of these products in this state,” he said. “I am confident we are going to get into Illinois.”

By any measure, it’s a surreal experience to see exhibitors selling materials to legally cultivate a product which has put to many people behind bars. Perhaps Gamet, the Denver consultant, sums it up best.

“Financial institutions that wouldn’t even take our phone calls five years ago, are calling us now trying to lend us money in this industry.”



Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Shuts Down Restaurant Amid Rally]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 20:56:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Fight-for-15---1.jpg

McDonald's shut down a restaurant near its headquarters Wednesday after the area was swamped by hundreds of protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union.

The restaurant was closed because of traffic concerns, said Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a spokeswoman for McDonald's. The company also told employees in a building targeted by protesters they should work from home, she said.

The start of the two-day demonstration comes ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting on Thursday. Last year, McDonald's also closed a building because of a protest, and more than 100 people were later arrested after refusing to leave corporate property.

Demonstrators from the "Fight for 15" organization, many of them members of the Service Employees International Union, came from cities such as New York City and Kansas City to be on hand for Wednesday's rally.

"We go to work everyday. We slave. We sweat for $8.25," said Dominique Mack, who works at a McDonald's restaurant at West Roosevelt Road and Harlem Avenue in Chicago. "That can't take care of our kids. We got a house. We got bills we need to pay. Like every other worker that goes to work, we would like to get paid like everybody else."

The campaign for pay of $15 an hour and a union began in late 2012 and has involved a range of tactics, including ongoing demonstrations in cities around the country. Earlier this year, McDonald's said it would raise its starting pay for workers to $1 above the local minimum wage. Labor organizers said the move falls short because it only applies to company-owned stores.

In addition to the wage increase, many of the workers on hand said they also want the opportunity to be represented by a union. 

"Whether it's the eight-hour work day, paid sick days -- these are all things, living wages, that have been won by unions," said political activist Clem Balanoff.

McDonald's Corp. owns about 10 percent of its stores in the U.S., while the rest are run by franchisees.

The protests come as McDonald's fights to hold onto customers amid intensifying competition from smaller rivals and changing tastes. CEO Steve Easterbrook, who stepped into the role in March, has said he wants to transform McDonald's into a "modern, progressive burger company."

Thursday will mark his first shareholder meeting as CEO.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Target Hiring For New Suburban Location]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 13:05:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/74250546.jpg

Target will host a public job fair to add 200 team members to their new suburban store.

The job fair will be held daily beginning on Wednesday, May 20 through Friday, May 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lake Bluff Recreation Center at 355 West Washington Avenue.

“During the event, store leaders will conduct pre-scheduled interviews with applicants and discuss Target’s dynamic, team-oriented culture,” the company said in a press release.

The 200 applicants hired will work at the new Target store at 975 Rockland Road in Lake Bluff that is slated to open in July.

Those interested are encouraged to visit Target.com/careers to apply in advance.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Superdawg Founder Maurie Berman Dies at 89]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 16:04:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/maurie+berman.jpg

Maurie Berman, founder of Chicago’s Northwest Side hot dog institution Superdawg, died early Sunday in hospice care in Glenview, according to his family. He was 89.

One of the first drive-in fast food joints of its time, Maurie and his wife, Flaurie, have been immortalized in cartoon hot dog form atop Superdawg at 6363 N. Milwaukee for 67 years, a beacon of joy for encased meats enthusiasts for generations.

Maurie Berman returned from World War II, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and studied at Northwestern University with Flaurie, his Von Steuben High School sweetheart, said his son Scott Berman, who manages the day-to-day operations of the Norwood Park restaurant.

The two were married in 1947. He was training to be an accountant and his wife a Chicago Public Schools teacher, but seeing other GIs returning from the war and starting small hot dog stands with walking carts, Maurie got the idea for a restaurant where people could be served without leaving their cars, his son said.

Superdawg opened on May 8, 1948, with the couple originally looking to pay tuition costs in the summer, but soon it became a full-time operation, according to his family. As their family grew, so did their number of employees.

“We learned our ABCs in the restaurant,” said Maurie’s daughter Lisa Drucker, who also helps manage Superdawg. “All of our family grew up together learning the business. It was a really special culture we created. We all know our way around the grill.”

Superdawg pre-dates fast-food giants McDonald’s and Burger King, and Maurie Berman turned down offers to join such corporations to focus on his own restaurant, his family said.

“He wanted to create an experience unique and enjoyable for everyone who walked in the door, and he knew that you lose that personal experience when you start getting bigger and bigger. He had the pride and tenacity to stay true to what it was,” Scott Berman said.

Maurie kept showing up for work every day and chatting up customers until the last few months when heart ailments began hindering him, his family said.

“He was a brilliant man with a simple approach, and he was completely devoted to his family and his customers,” Scott Berman said.

The Berman family now is entering its third generation of Superdawg workers, after Maurie Berman’s great-granddaughter Talia chipped in at the restaurant last weekend, his family said.

He is survived by his wife, Flaurie; children Lisa, Myles and Scott; and grandchildren Alyssa, Laura, Steffie, Max and Ross.

Funeral arrangements hadn’t been made Sunday afternoon, but both Superdawg locations will be closed Tuesday in Maurie’s memory.



Photo Credit: Superdawg]]>
<![CDATA[Food Trends, Tech on Display at 2015 Resto Show]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 17:45:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/3D-food-3dsystems-1.jpg

From edible 3D creations to alcohol-infused whipped cream to sustainable salmon, the 2015 National Restaurant Association show in Chicago is giving restaurateurs a proverbial taste of what could be the next big hit for their customers.

The May 16-19 show at McCormick Place is among the city's largest conventions, bringing in more than 60,000 people from more than 100 countries around the globe for a preview of the latest in restaurant technology and foods.

Among the most eye-catching pieces is the ChefJet Pro, a 3D printer that, for about $20,000, creates intricate, edible sculptures. 

"We work with powdered sugar. ... We print in really fine layers to build up really complex, beautiful objects like this which is used to decorate a cake," said 3D Systems' Kyle Von Hasseln.

Several items of the show and its companion exhibit -- BAR -- focus on the most profitable item in any restaurant: alcohol.

There's a computerized bartender than creates a cocktail in just seconds, a blast chiller to frost your glass, and 28-proof alcohol-infused whipped cream.

"Every flavor is an award-winning flavor, so you can take anything you would put whip cream on and make that product an adult product," said Ken Ball with Temperature Distilling.

Other big food trends at the 2015 show are gluten-free foods and sustainable products, like salmon from the Pacific Seafood company. There are also products that expand into other areas of a restaurant operation, like an umbrella that does double-duty as a solar-powered charging station.

"You have eight solar panels on the top. Solar energy feeds down our smart tube into our smart charging hub, so guests can charge whatever mobile device they have as long as it has a USB port," explained Zon's Emily Paffhausen.

The show helps fill more than 70 Chicago-area hotels and pumps $115 million into the local economy.



Photo Credit: 3DSystems]]>
<![CDATA[Mondelez to Cut Up to 600 Jobs at Chicago Bakery]]> Sat, 16 May 2015 17:43:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/oreo+getty.jpg

Mondelez International plans to cut several hundred jobs at a Chicago bakery that makes Chips Ahoy, Oreo cookies and other snack foods.

The Deerfield, Illinois-based company said Friday the total number of layoffs will depend on a decision about where to locate four new manufacturing lines.

Spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati says that if the new lines are located at the Chicago site, 300 jobs would be cut.

If those lines are instead installed at a new plant in Salinas, Mexico, 600 jobs will be lost in Chicago.

The four high-speed, high-tech lines would replace nine of the 16 lines at the Chicago bakery.

About 1,200 people work at the Chicago plant, the company's largest U.S. bakery. It also produces brands such as Nutter Butter, Honey Maid and Ritz crackers.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Olive Garden's Latest Plan: Breadstick Sandwiches]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 13:01:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/olive+garden+breadsticks.jpg

Olive Garden's plan to win back customers? Take the breadsticks it's known for and make sandwiches out of them.

The restaurant chain owned by Darden Restaurants Inc. says it plans to use its breadsticks for chicken parmigiana and meatball sandwiches starting June 1.

The addition of the breadstick sandwiches are just the latest attempt to revamp Olive Garden's menu and marketing as sales have declined for the past three of its fiscal years. Justin Sikora, a Darden representative, said the breadsticks used for the sandwiches will be a bit shorter and wider than the regular breadsticks.

As with all other dishes, the sandwiches come with unlimited breadsticks.

Olive Garden's unlimited breadsticks gained attention last year during a dispute with an investor, Starboard Value. Among other criticisms, Starboard said Darden wasn't being disciplined in its distribution of breadsticks to customers. It also said the quality of the breadsticks seemed to have declined and compared them to hot dog buns.

Shortly after, Starboard won its bid to take control of Darden's board.

On Sunday, Starboard CEO Jeff Smith said during an interview on "Wall Street Week" that "it might surprise people that I actually like the breadsticks," and mentioned the plans to introduce breadstick sandwiches.

Smith also stressed that Starboard's criticism about the breadsticks was that Olive Garden wasn't following its own policy for how many breadsticks are placed on tables at a time.

As for the quality of the breadsticks, Sikora said the recipe for them hasn't changed. Sikora said the breadstick sandwiches are an example of the Olive Garden building on its most popular offerings.

The sandwiches will be available only on the chain's lunch menu. The meatball sandwich will cost $6.99 and the chicken parmigiana will cost $7.99, Sikora said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[McDonald's Key Sales Figure Dips in April]]> Sat, 09 May 2015 13:42:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/4707047541.jpg

McDonald's says a key sales metric edged lower in April, with weakness across most regions.

The world's biggest hamburger chain, which is in the midst of a turnaround plan, said Friday that global sales at established locations open at least 13 months fell 0.6 percent in April.

Paul Westra of Stifel Nicolaus said in a client note that the dip in the April sales figure was slightly better than the 1.8 percent decline that Consensus Metrix forecast.

In the U.S., the metric declined 2.3 percent due to ongoing competition and lower customer traffic.

The biggest drop by region was in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, which fell 3.8 percent. Ongoing challenges in Japan were partially offset by strong results in Australia and other markets.

Europe was a bright spot, up 1 percent, with solid performances in the U.K. and Germany somewhat offset by softness in Russia and France.

On Monday CEO Steve Easterbrook said that he will strip away the bureaucracy at McDonald's Corp. so the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company can move more nimbly to keep up with changing tastes. The overhaul comes as McDonald's profit dropped 15 percent last year, with sales dipping in regions around the world.

"We are moving quickly to deliver a better experience to our customers and to realize our vision to become a modern, progressive burger company," Easterbrook said in a written statement on Friday. The executive took charge of McDonald's on March 1.

To help make the right changes more quickly, McDonald's is restructuring its business into four units led by lean management teams.

The U.S. market, which accounts for more than 40 percent of operating profit, recently stripped away a level of field oversight and will be its own unit.

Another unit will be made up of established international markets such as Australia and the U.K., and another with high-growth markets such as China and Russia. The countries where McDonald's has a smaller presence will be grouped separately.

Previously, the units were segmented by geography rather than market type.

McDonald's has acknowledged the need to simplify food preparation as well. The company has already trimmed its menu to reduce complexity for workers and make it easier for customers to decide what they want.

The stock rose $1.48 to $98.26 in afternoon trading. Its shares have fallen about 3.4 percent over the past year.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Groupon Offers $25K Perfect Child for Mother's Day]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 14:54:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/johnny+cadillac.jpg

If you can't spend time with your mom for Mother's Day, Groupon has the ideal gift you can give her: a perfect child to replace you -- for $25,000.

The Chicago-based company announced its Mother's Day gift, called "A Mother's Love is Priceless," on Thursday with a video promotion.

For just $25,000, you can "purchase" 26-year-old Johnny Cadillac, described as "a highly trained Groupon employee" who will spend Mother's Day with your mom and do all the things mothers are stereotypically known to want their children to do. This includes eating five full servings of vegetables, rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and being nice to your sister.

The entire package includes a Groupon employee who will spend 16 hours with your mom, airfare for the employee to travel to her home, a $5,000 shopping spree at your mom's favorite stores, a one-day stretch limo rental, house-cleaning services, a family photo and a nice family dinner for up to six people.

No word yet on whether this Groupon deal is actually a viable option, but if not, it wouldn't be the first time the company played a lighthearted trick on its customers. For April Fools' Day this year, the company promoted a fake launch of Grøüber, a transportation service with cats as drivers.



Photo Credit: Groupon
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<![CDATA[McDonald's Embracing New Ingredient: Kale]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 11:21:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/167*120/51122973.jpg

McDonald's may be developing a taste for a new ingredient as it fights to reinvent itself: Kale.

The world's biggest burger chain says it's testing two breakfast bowls in Southern California, one of which includes the leafy green as an ingredient.

The test comes as McDonald's Corp. works to shake its junk food image, with sales at established U.S. locations declining for six straight quarters. CEO Steve Easterbrook, who stepped into the top spot March 1, has said he want to turn the chain into a "modern, progressive burger company."

Lisa McComb, a McDonald's representative, said in an email the kale is included in a Turkey Sausage & Egg White bowl, which also has spinach and bruschetta. The other option is a Chorizo & Egg bowl, which includes a hash brown, cheddar jack cheese and pico de gallo.

On Wednesday, Janney analyst Mark Kalinowski had also noted on that McDonald's was introducing three salads in Canada that have kale as an ingredient.

The embrace of kale may seem odd to some, considering McDonald's recently ran an ad that celebrated the Big Mac and mocked trendy ingredients like soy, quinoa, Greek yogurt — and kale.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[Whole Foods Plans New Chain to Court Millennials]]> Wed, 06 May 2015 18:42:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/488633883_WholeFoods.jpg

Whole Foods is planning to open a new chain of stores that courts millennials with lower prices as it faces intensifying competition as a purveyor of organic and natural products.

The company said Wednesday it's building a team to focus exclusively on the new concept and that it's already negotiating leases. Stores are expected to start opening next year, followed by a "fairly rapid expansion," it said.

Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, said the stores will also appeal to younger customers with a "modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection."

A name for the new chain wasn't disclosed; the Austin, Texas-based company said more details will be shared before Labor Day.

The plans come as Whole Foods — which has more than 400 locations — has seen its sales growth slow as organic and natural foods become increasingly mainstream. That is pressuring the company to draw a sharper distinction between itself and competitors. Last year, for instance, it launched a program that ranks produce and flowers based on their environmental impact.

At the same time, Whole Foods is trying to appeal to a broader audience by combatting its "Whole Paycheck" image and keeping prices down. But that push is expected to nibble away at its profit margins.

The new chain tailored toward younger consumers could also pressure margins, given its focus on lower prices. But during a conference call, Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey said it will broaden the company's reach with a new generation of people interested in natural foods.

Mackey dismissed the suggestion that it might cannibalize sales at existing Whole Foods stores; he said he still thinks Whole Foods can triple its number of locations in the U.S.

The company said it will not need a new distribution network for the new concept.

For the three months ended April 12, Whole Foods said sales at established locations rose 3.6 percent, or 3.1 percent when excluding the benefit of the timing of Easter this year.

The figure, a key metric of health, fell short of the 5.3 percent increase analysts expected, according to FactSet. For the current quarter so far, the figure is up 2.8 percent.

Shares of Whole Foods Market Inc. dropped more than 11 percent to $42.40 after-hours.

Total sales were $3.65 billion for its second fiscal quarter, also falling short of the $3.71 billion analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Profit rose 11 percent to $158 million, or 44 cents per share. That was a penny more than expected.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former MillerCoors VP Accused of Defrauding Company]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 02:55:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/170*120/103008+sun+times+millercoors1.jpeg

A former vice president at MillerCoors and seven other defendants are facing federal charges, accused of defrauding the company of at least $7 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago announced Wednesday.

Dave Colletti, 58, of Chicago, was charged with one count of wire fraud in a federal indictment filed Tuesday in Chicago. The seven other defendants also face fraud charges in the 20-count indictment.

The indictment did not identify Chicago-based MillerCoors, referring only to a brewing company as a victim in the case. But MillerCoors acknowledged the charges Wednesday and said it was satisfied with the investigation.

"All along we've sought justice for the millions of dollars stolen from our company as these actions are intolerable and inexcusable," MillerCoors said in a statement.

Colletti and the others had also been accused by MillerCoors of defrauding the company in a civil lawsuit filed last August in Milwaukee County.

According to prosecutors, Colletti worked with the other defendants to submit false invoices that billed for fictitious promotional and marketing events. Prosecutors say some of the defendants also arranged for Colletti to receive a portion of the payments.

Among the things the defendants are accused of using the money for are collectible firearms, international golf trips, hunting trips, investments in a hotel and bar and an arena football team, according to the indictment.

The government is seeking forfeiture of at least $7 million.

The others named in Tuesday's indictment were 61-year-old Roderick Groetzinger, of North Carolina; 53-year-old Andrew Vallozzi, of Florida; 72-year-old James Rittenberg, of Chicago; 68-year-old Scott Darst, of Las Vegas; 57-year-old Thomas Longhi, of Florida; 72-year-old Francis Buonauro Jr., of Florida; and 57-year-old Maryann Rozenberg, of Wisconsin. They worked for outside entities that claimed to provide third-party vendor services. Rozenberg also worked for the company from 1995 until 2008, before she created her own promotions company, according to prosecutors.

Colletti oversaw the marketing, promotion, and sale of beer for the company, according to the indictment. He worked for the company from 1982 until 2013 in both the Chicago and Milwaukee offices.

Colletti's attorney, Gene Murphy, said Wednesday he was working with federal authorities and MillerCoors to resolve all matters.

Longhi's attorney, Mitchell Beers, said he had no comment.

Messages left for attorneys of Darst, Groetzinger, Rittenberg and Rozeberg were not immediately returned. Lawyers for Vallazio and Buonauro could not immediately be found. A message left at Buonauro's home number was not immediately returned. Neither a home or work number could be found for Vallazio.

Vallazio was later dismissed out of the civil lawsuit but his company was still named, according to online court records. Buonauro was also dismissed from the civil lawsuit, along with his company F & B Marketing Promotions & Incentives LLC. There's a status conference set for August 28 in that civil case.
 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[United Ranks Second in Baggage, Reservation Change Fees]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 16:54:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/United-Continental-merger.jpg

Chicago's hometown airline comes with a lot of baggage.

United Airlines ranked second place in both baggage fee and reservation cancellation/change fee revenues, according to 2014 data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

In 2014, United earned $651 million in baggage fees and $802 million in reservation cancellation/change fees. Atlanta-based Delta is the only airline to exceed United on the list, coming in 1st place with $862 million in baggage fee revenue and $875 million in reservation cancellation/change fee revenue.

Airline bag and cancellation/change fee revenue in the U.S. hit a combined total of $6.5 billion in 2014, with $3.5 billion going to baggage fees and $3 billion from reservation cancellation/change fees.

Baggage fees accounted for 2.1 percent of the total operating revenue of passenger airlines while reservation cancellation/change fees accounted for 1.8 percent.

U.S. passenger airlines altogether earned $169.3 billion total operative revenue in 2014. Airlines made $127.5 billion total from fares alone.

Below is the list of U.S. passenger airlines generating the most revenue from baggage fees and reservation cancellation/change fees in 2014:

Delta (#1 ranked in both categories)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $862 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $875 million

United (#2 ranked in both categories)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $651 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $802 million

American (#3 ranked in both categories)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $574 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $553 million

U.S. Airways (#4 ranked in both categories)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $511 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $320 million

Spirit (#5 in baggage fees, #8 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $241 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $38 million

Frontier (#6 in baggage fees, #10 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $144 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $22 million

Alaska (#7 in baggage fees, #6 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $120 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $92 million

Allegiant (#8 in baggage fees, #13 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $107 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $9 million

JetBlue (#9 in baggage fees, #5 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $83 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $155 million

Hawaiian (#10 in baggage fees, #11 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $76 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $20 million

Southwest (#11 in baggage fees, #14 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $73 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $8 million

Virgin America (#12 in baggage fees, #9 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $60 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $37 million

Sun Country (#13 in baggage fees, #12 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $15 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $2 million

Island Air Hawaii (#14 in baggage fees, #15 in reservation cancellation/change fees)
• Baggage fee revenue in 2014: $3.9 million
• Reservation cancellation/change fee revenue in 2014: $600,000



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Xfinity Retail Store to Hit Chicago]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 19:52:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chi-xfinity-store-1.jpg The 9,000 square foot "experience" store is scheduled to open in June. NBC Chicago's Charlie Wojciechowski reports.]]> <![CDATA[Chipotle Unveils Secret Recipe for Guacamole]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 14:52:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/476810321.jpg

Yes, everyone knows the guacamole costs extra – but now it doesn’t have to.

Chipotle has gifted us all with the secret recipe for their worth-every-penny guacamole, one day ahead of Cinco de Mayo celebrations on May 5.

The company says it starts with getting the best ingredients possible – but it only takes 7 simple steps for a batch made in heaven.

What you’ll need:

• 2 ripe Hass avocados (In the restaurant, we use 48 per batch, multiple times per day)
• 2 tsp lime juice
• 2 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
• 1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
• 1/2 jalapeño, including seeds (finely chopped)
• 1/4 tsp kosher salt

 

How to do it:

1. Choose the right avocado. It should feel squishy yet firm (like the palm of your hand), and be a nice dark green color on the inside.
2. Cut the avocado in half and the remove the pit (carefully!)
3. Scoop the avocados and place in a medium bowl.
4. Toss and coat with lime juice.
5. Add the salt and using a fork or potato masher, mash until a smooth consistency is achieved.
6. Fold in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
7. Taste the guacamole (over and over) and adjust seasoning if necessary.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Company Faces Backer Backlash]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 14:42:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CST-01.jpg

A watch designed in Chicago that garnered attention through a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2013 remains a work in progress that has run out of funding, resulting in scores of frustrated backers and pre-order customers who kicked-in more than one million dollars for the project.

Described as “the world’s thinnest watch,” the CST-01 is as thin as a credit card. Its designers layered a watch’s electronics, battery and E-Ink display on a thin piece of stainless steel. Early versions of the watch buzzed online and attracted a lot of interest.

Central Standard Timing, the Chicago-based designing team behind the CST-01, took to Kickstarter in early 2013 in an attempt to raise $200,000. The crowdfunding campaign exceeded its goal and raised $1,026,292 from backers who pledged to help bring the CST-01 watch to life. Pre-order customers raised another $322,000 for Central Standard Timing.

"It just looked pretty sleek so that’s why I chose to back it," said William Chung, who pledged $129.

Those who pledged certain dollar amounts were offered CST-01 watches in return. Chung said he expected his watch to be shipped later that year.

"I thought it would be a really nice birthday gift for myself to have a really nice watch pre-dating Apple Watch," Chung said.

After the crowdfunding campaign, Central Standard Timing posted updates on its Kickstarter page and spent the following months fine-tuning the CST-01. However, the watch’s supporters said estimated shipping deadlines were not being met and production updates were getting less frequent.

"There’s growing pains and there’s issues, but I think the communication or lack thereof was the biggest issue for me,” said Vishal Bhuta, who pre-ordered a CST-01 in September of 2013.

Last month, Central Standard Timing posted an update that production numbers and speed of production were "much lower than estimated."

Central Standard Timing co-founder Dave Vondle told NBC 5 Investigates that as of April 2015, only eighty units had been shipped, while 8,243 watches would need to be manufactured and delivered in order to satisfy all Kickstarter backers and pre-order customers.

“We deeply apologize for the fact that they don’t have a watch,” Vondle said.

Vondle explained that unexpected issues related to the battery, display and manufacturing resulted in Central Standard Timing using all of its money on parts, tooling and tests. The company said it has the majority of the parts needed, but it is struggling with the yield and costs involved to assemble them into final units. According to Vondle, the cost to produce a single watch ballooned from $70 to around $300.

Vondle said the company is working with its attorney regarding order fulfillments.

“We are doing everything in our power to get these units out to our customers,” Vondle said.

According to Vondle, 135 units are sitting at a warehouse in California. He said they will also be working on an additional 200 units.

Many backers are posting angry comments on message boards related to the delay. Some said the money was squandered. Others are taking a more sympathetic tone toward Central Standard Timing, underscoring the risks backers take when pledging money to crowdfunding projects.

Kickstarter’s rules prevent it from intervening in disputes between “creators” and “backers”. A spokesperson for the six- year-old crowdfunding platform said Kickstarter is not a store. Rather, the company describes itself as a place where people can take risks to help bring new, innovative ideas to life.

The Better Business Bureau, which performed an in-depth study on crowdfunding for charitable causes, urges consumers to research a project before they pledge money.

"You should never give any money that you can’t afford to invest and probably look at it, generally, as a donation," said Tom Joyce of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.

Ethan Mollick of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania researched crowdfunding and found that while the majority of creators fulfill their obligations to funders, more than 75 percent of the creators deliver products later than expected.

"You are getting a discount on a product that doesn’t yet exist and you get to support creators doing something worthwhile," Mollick said. "But you’re taking a risk."

Mollick said crowdfunding campaigns headed by industry veterans increase the chances of a product being delivered.



Photo Credit: Chicago Standard Timing]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Reveals Turnaround Plan]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 10:58:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/4707047541.jpg

McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook says he's stripping away layers of bureaucracy so the company can move faster to keep up with changing tastes.

During a 23-minute video message posted online Monday, Easterbrook said the company's structure is too cumbersome.

Easterbrook took charge of the world's biggest hamburger chain on March 1.

McDonald's is restructuring its units into four groups: the flagship U.S. market, international lead markets such as Australia and the United Kingdom, high-growth markets such as China and Russia, and the rest of the world.

Easterbrook also repeatedly stressed that the company will focus more on listening to customers, simplifying restaurant operations and improving perceptions of its food.

The company will also accelerate plans to sell company-owned restaurants to franchisees.

McDonald's is fighting intensifying competition from a variety of players and has admitted that it failed to keep up with changing tastes. In its flagship U.S. market, executives said the menu got too complicated and gummed up operations. Customer visits at established locations declined for two straight years.

Already, McDonald's has tried a number of moves to inject some life back into its brand.

Back in December, it said it would start trimming its menu to simplify operations and make room for new offerings. The nips and tucks in the past couple months targeted minor sandwich variations. More recently, the company revamped its grilled chicken recipe and said it would curb the use of antibiotics.

The company also said last month that it would double its planned restaurant closures this year to roughly 700. It hasn't yet revealed its updated plans on overall restaurant count growth. At the end of last year, McDonald's Corp. had more than 36,200 locations around the world.

Easterbrook, who previously headed up the U.K. business, says he wants to turn McDonald's into a "modern, progressive burger company." 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sale Fail: Consumer Group Alleges Deceptive Pricing]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:45:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/shopping+sale.jpg

For hardcore shoppers, there may be no bigger buzz than the deep discount. But a new report out this week by Checkbook.org suggested some special prices at major retailers aren’t so special and alleged a pattern of deceptive pricing tactics at three national chains.

"They’re marking their merchandise with these steep discounts -- 30, 40 percent off," Checkbook.org Executive Editor Kevin Brasler told NBC Chicago. "[They're] making their shoppers think that, 'Oh, this is on sale. There’s some urgency here. I better buy this today.'"

But how special are those special prices? Checkbook.org took on the question by using mystery shoppers in stores and online to track prices on specific products each week for 44 consecutive weeks. What they say found is that in many cases the sale prices were the normal prices.

"If it's always on sale, if your special price isn't special, if that's the price you always charge, then I think you are deceiving your customers," Brasler said.

Checkbook.org accused three major retailers -- Sears, Macy’s and Kohls -- of consistently posting "special" prices and discounts that rarely, or never, revert back to a higher price.

Federal Trade Commission regulations, as well as some state laws, prohibit pricing policies that lure consumers into thinking they are getting a good deal when they are not. Both Sears and Macy’s denied using deceptive pricing practices.

"Sears disagrees with any suggestion that its pricing is misleading or deceptive," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "Sears is focused on providing its members with great prices on a wide variety of products and services," adding that it "complies with applicable pricing and advertising laws." 

"... as a multi-channel, leading integrated retailer we are uniquely positioned to provide discounts to our members and customers in a number of different, legally compliant ways, including things like member pricing, store or online only promotions, clearance offers, and offers from third-party marketplace sellers," the statement said. "It is unfortunate that Checkbook.org did not appear to take these factors into account before making its assumptions."

Macy's, in a statement, said pricing varies for each item, "based on the nature and seasonality of the merchandise, its family of business and customer response, among other things. Some items rarely go on sale prior to final clearance; others go on sale more frequently as part of promotional events."

The company said it strives to comply with all laws and regulations, "which generally allow for flexibility in connection with price promotions to allow retailers to respond to business trends. If a pricing error is brought to our attention, we act quickly to correct it."

Kohl's did not respond to a request for comment.

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<![CDATA["Vertiport" Aims to Fill Air Service Void]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 16:59:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/vertiport-chicago.jpg

Owners of a new helicopter airport on Chicago's West Side hope high-profile corporate clients will use it for a quick commute downtown from the city's airports.

The $11 million Vertiport Chicago sits on land that was once contaminated with arsenic and asbestos. An hourly rate tops $3,000 to rent a deluxe helicopter with two pilots.

"We are not going to be the cheapest place to hangar a helicopter, but we strongly believe the demand is out there," Vertiport President Mike Conklin said.

Investors of the heliport see it as filling a void in downtown air service since Meigs Field airport was demolished by the city in 2003. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered the destruction of its single runway in a midnight raid, without getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Conklin said helicopters from police, fire and emergency medical services will have priority use of the Vertiport, and won't pay landing fees. Officials said it's also being used by a DHL Express helicopter, and space has been reserved for a helicopter sightseeing business.

Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation expert at DePaul University, said upfront costs mean the heliport needs to find success early.

"Chicago has turned its back on the downtown helicopter business since the closure of Meigs Field, so there is strong pent-up demand," Schwieterman said.

It'll be hard to predict, Schwieterman said, if executives see arriving at the heliport as the same as being downtown. The site is located in the Illinois Medical District and is about 2 miles west of the Loop.

"Most are unfamiliar with the area," he said.

Vertiport Chicago, in an agreement with the medical district, will pay 5 percent of net revenues to the district as well as monthly rent.

Heather Tarczan, spokeswoman for the Illinois Medical District Commission, said rent was $43,500 for the first 12 months. She said a 52-year lease began in 2011, with payments beginning in late 2012. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[What Fonts You Should Use on Your Resume]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 11:10:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000012190919_1200x675_436963907904.jpg New study reveals the fonts you should and shouldn't use on your resume. ]]> <![CDATA[Amazon Warehouse to Open in Goose Island]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 10:23:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/amazon+warehouse.jpg

Amazon users in Chicago can soon expect faster delivery service as the company announced the opening of its first Chicago warehouse in Goose Island.

The online retailer already has a large new complex in Kenosha, Wis., and there are plans to build an even larger distribution center in suburban Joliet, according to Crain's Chicago Business, who first reported the story.

The new warehouse in Goose Island does not have a set opening date, but Amazon signed a lease for a 51,970-square-foot space at 1111 North Cherry Avenue, Crain's reports. The Goose Island facility could be the first several small distribution centers within the city to help deliver products faster and more efficiently.

The Goose Island deal was announced about six months after Amazon pledged to add 1,000 jobs in Illinois by 2017 with the addition of several new facilities.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Popular German Restaurant to Close in Chicago]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 06:48:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/236*120/mirabell.jpg

A popular German restaurant on Chicago’s Northwest Side has announced it will close after 38 years.

Mirabell, a staple in the city’s Irving Park neighborhood, will close Sunday, the family who owns the restaurant announced.

“It is with mixture of sorrow and joy, that we announce the closing of the Mirabell,” owners Jeff and Anita Heil posed on Facebook. “We enjoyed having you and your family and friends, as our guests, at the Mirabell and we thank you and are very grateful for your business over the years. We just know that Chef Werner, our father/husband, is looking down from Heaven and is so very grateful and thankful too, for your continued support over the past 38 years.”

The eatery is the latest in a string of German restaurant closings in Chicago, following others like the Golden Ox and Zum Deutschen Eck.

“It has been a real pleasure serving our customers for the past 38 years,” Jeff Heil said in a statement.

The restaurant encouraged customers to join them for their final day of business Sunday, which will the last chance for customers to “raise a beer stein and yell ‘Zicke Zacke, Zicke Zacke, Hoy, Hoy, Hoy, Prost.’”  



Photo Credit: NBCChicago]]>
<![CDATA[Popular Brazilian Steakhouse Closes]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:38:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/brazzazz.jpg

A popular Brazilian steakhouse in River North closed abruptly Tuesday following charges that the owners did not fairly pay their employees.

The U.S. Department of Labor brought charges against Brazzaz Brazilian Steakhouse after complaints that some of the restaurant's employees were paid less than minimum wage and were not paid for overtime work, according to Crain's Chicago Business, who first reported the story.

The Labor Department alleged that employees were paid less than $2.13 an hour, which is the minimum wage for tipped employees after deductions for uniforms. The department also charged the restaurant for failing to pay their workers for overtime work.

As of Wednesday, the restaurant's website was no longer functioning, and the owners could not be reached for comment.



Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[7 Menu Items Don’t Make Cut in New McDonald’s Menu]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:48:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/182*120/460157086.jpg

McDonald’s menu has gotten leaner.

The fast-food giant has dropped several items, including six chicken sandwiches, the honey mustard and chipotle barbecue snack wraps, and the Deluxe Quarter Pounder burger.

The move is part of an effort to simplify the menu, as McDonald’s faces increasing competition from the likes of other fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Five Guys.

More changes can be expected, as the world’s largest hamburger chain also announced plans to unwrap details about a turnaround plot they hope will help revive sales.

The company announced last week they had closed more than 350 underperforming stores worldwide in the first quarter, including several in the United States. The closings are in addition to the 350 restaurants the company originally planned to close in 2015.

The closures come as the Oak Brook-based company revealed global sales had declined by 2.3 percent in the first quarter, with results for April expected to be negative as well. The company also saw a 2.6 percent drop in the U.S., where people are increasingly heading to places that market their food as more wholesome.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rent The Runway to Debut Chicago Storefront]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 13:06:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/191*120/459541392.jpg

Rent the Runway will open the doors to a Gold Coast storefront Thursday, making Chicago the third city to host a freestanding store from the popular online retailer.

The company’s CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman told Chicago Magazine they chose to come to the Windy City because it is already home to some of its most loyal customers, and they wanted to bring them the opportunity to rent, see and try on the designer duds in person.

The magazine reports the shopping experience will offer in-store styling appointments and same-day rentals.

Borrowing a dress for a long four-day weekend could run anywhere from $30 to upwards of $800, the publication reports. Designer accessories will also be available to rent.

Chicago’s Rent the Runway will be located at 710 N. Wabash Ave. and open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information visit renttherunway.com/stores.

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<![CDATA[Uber Launches UberEATS Delivery Service in Chicago]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 08:40:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/206*120/uberEats.png

Chicagoans can now order more than just rides from Uber – the popular ride-sharing app has launched a new program that will deliver food to customers too.

UberEATS launched in the Chicago market Tuesday, and aims to be the go-to service to bring busy workers lunch weekdays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

“Chicagoans can use their Uber app to request lunch from the most popular, iconic restaurants in the city — no standing in line, no waiting for a table, just a tap of the app and lunch is on its way,” their website states.

The UberEATS curated menu changes daily, and will kick off with an inaugural menu from Rick Bayless’ popular XOCO, Freshii, County Barbeque, Doc B's, DMK Burger Bar, and more.

"Like requesting a ride via Uber, UberEATS offers real-time order tracking and effortless automatic payment through the app. Enjoy food from Chicago's most popular local restaurants brought to you faster than any other delivery service - 10 minutes or less," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement.

How to order:

1. Open the app and slide over to EATS (only visible when you’re in The Loop or River North)
2. Enter address or move pin to your location, and tap VIEW MENU
3. Select number of meals, tap PLACE ORDER, and your driver will appear curbside clutching culinary delights within minutes

For more information and rotating menu items, visit https://blog.uber.com/CHIEATS.

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<![CDATA[Chipotle Phases Out GMOs]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 12:56:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/476810327.jpg

Chipotle says it has completed phasing out genetically modified ingredients from its food.

The Denver-based chain had already been using mostly non-GMO ingredients, but said in late 2013 it was working on transitioning to a tortilla that did not use them. The restaurant chain confirmed to NBC Owned Televisions Stations that the phase-out was completed, and posted on its website that it is "G-M-Over It."

Most of the country's corn and soybean crop is genetically modified to have certain traits like resistance to plant diseases.

The head of the Food and Drug Administration's food safety center has said the agency found no basis that GMOs pose any different safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.

Chipotle's move comes amid growing calls from food safety advocacy groups and some consumers to require manufacturers to label all genetically engineered foods and any food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients. The movement has sparked proposed labeling requirements on the state and federal level. Increased consumer interest in ingredients has prompted other fast-food chains, including McDonald's, to make menu changes in recent months.

Chipotle Co-CEO Steve Ells has said the company felt it was best not to use GMOs given the "lack of consensus" about their effects.

The completion of the phase-out was first reported by The New York Times.

NBC Owned Television Stations' Khorri Atkinson contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Harley-Davidson Announces Motorcycle Recall]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:24:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/harley-119372798.jpg

Harley-Davidson is recalling nearly 46,000 motorcycles in the U.S. because they could stay in gear due to clutches that won't fully disengage.

The recall covers certain Electra Glide, Ultra Limited, Police Electra Glide, Street Glide, Road Glide and Road King models from the 2014 and 2015 model years.

Harley-Davidson Motor Co. said in documents that gas bubbles can cause the clutch master cylinder to lose its ability to fully disengage the clutch, especially if the bike has been parked for a long time. This could cause a rider to lose control of the motorcycle if it's started in gear.

The problem was found through customer complaints. The Milwaukee-based company reported 27 crashes and four minor injuries.

Dealers will flush the clutch and rebuild the master cylinder. The recall was to start April 23.

Vehicle owners can check the Harley-Davidson website for more information.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5 Things McDonald's Can Do to Fix Business]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:29:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/mcdonalds-sign1.JPG

When it comes to McDonald's, everyone seems to have an opinion about what the company needs to do differently.

After turning in another quarter of sliding sales and profit, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said the chain will unveil initial details on a plan to turn around its fortunes on May 4. Among the challenges it is facing are intensifying competition and an image for serving junk food that it just can't seem to shake.

Already this year, McDonald's has given a nod to the "clean label" trend with a simplified grilled chicken recipe, and announced plans to curb the use of antibiotics in raising chickens. In March, it also hosted a "Turnaround Summit" for franchisees in the U.S.

The company isn't providing specifics on what will be revealed in May. But McDonald's is one of those names that elicit strong opinions from all corners — and many of them conflict:

SERVE EGG MCMUFFINS AROUND THE CLOCK

McDonald's recently began testing an all-day breakfast menu in San Diego, and some are already calling on the company to take it national.

John Gordon, a restaurant industry analyst, said it's just one way McDonald's could start increasing customer visits to stores, given the enormous popularity of its breakfast menu.

For now, most McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. serve breakfast until about 10:30 a.m. In the test, McDonald's is only serving select breakfast items.

ADD VEGGIE LOVE TO THE MENU

People are increasingly seeking out vegetarian options, even if they're not converting into strict vegetarians, said Paul Shapiro, a spokesman for The Humane Society of the United States. He said that means it's time McDonald's offers a vegetarian option.

Shapiro noted that many other chains already court people who feel like skipping meat. Chipotle introduced a vegan topping called Sofritas. Denny's and Johnny Rockets have veggie burgers, and White Castle recently said it would make veggie sliders a permanent part of its menu after their popularity as a limited time offer.

"So many of McDonald's competitors are serving plant-based entrees, and McDonald's is lagging behind," Shapiro said.

RAISE WAGES

In a column in The Chicago Tribune, Easterbrook said he wants to transform McDonald's into "modern, progressive burger company on many fronts," focusing on perceptions about its food and workers.

It came right after McDonald's said it would raise the starting wage for workers to $1 above the local minimum wage. But labor organizers — who are calling for $15 an hour and union — said the move falls far short especially since it only applies to company-owned stores, which account for a tenth of U.S. locations.

Robert Reich, former labor secretary and a supporter of the Fight for $15 campaign, said raising wages across the chain would not only mend the chain's image as an employer, but lower its worker turnover and help business.

GO BACK TO BASICS

While some say McDonald's needs to change more quickly, others say it has strayed too far and needs to get back to focusing on what it does best — affordable burgers and fries.

"Nobody is going to argue that McDonald's fries are bad," said Laura Ries, president of marketing firm Ries & Ries in Atlanta.

She said McDonald's should stop chasing trends and trying to appeal to everyone, she said.

The company is already trying the tactic; earlier this year, an ad featured the Big Mac with a voiceover saying the burger would never be "deconstructed" or "infused," and dismissed trendy ingredients like kale and quinoa.

SEND RONALD PACKING

Ronald McDonald has been a source of tension among some who say the chain uses its mascot to market unhealthy food to children. By retiring the red-headed clown, McDonald's could start rebuilding its trust with many moms, said Jesse Bragg, spokesman for Corporate Accountability International, which has criticized the company's marketing practices.

"It's clear this brand has lost the trust of people," he said.

Those who make a career of impersonating Ronald shouldn't worry, though. Although he had faded to the background for a couple years, McDonald's has defended its spokesclown as a "force of good." Last year, it even gave him a new outfit and said he would be appearing on its social media sites more. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>