<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Business News - Money, Financial & Corporate News - Inc. Well]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/business en-us Fri, 29 May 2015 01:55:31 -0500 Fri, 29 May 2015 01:55:31 -0500 NBC Local Integrated Media <![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

]]>
<![CDATA[CEO Spotlight Powered by Bizcast]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 12:43:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ceo-spotlight-generic.jpg

Photo Credit: clipart.com]]>
<![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

]]>
<![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
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![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

]]>
<![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

]]>
<![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.

]]>
<![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.

]]>
<![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.

]]>
<![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]]>
<![CDATA[Job Ideas for Full-Time College Students]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:21:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/College-student-generic-bac.jpg

When it comes to work, college students need flexibility – with a full class load, extracurricular activities and homework, a job can be the last thing on a student’s mind. But college expenses pile up quickly, and a part time job is a great way to offset costs while still staying focused on your academics. It can also be a great resume-builder.

While it may not apply directly to your ideal career path, jobs demonstrate other valuable qualities – time management, work ethic, teamwork, etc. – that will be especially useful when it finally comes time to search for that first job out of school. There are a number of part-time jobs that provide this basic foundation of skills and experience, applicable to almost any job.

Here's a list of part-time jobs that college students may want to consider while in school.

1. Tutor. Tutoring demonstrates a commitment to academics, teaching and fostering progress – all great characteristics. Often times, tutors also have the flexibility of creating their own schedule and potentially working from home, making it an ideal choice for part-time work. If you did really well in one of your classes, ask the professor about tutoring opportunities within that class. You can also visit the university’s educational resource center for tutoring opportunities.

2. Child Care Worker/Camp Counselor. When working with children, time management, leadership and being able to balance many things at once are just a few of the valuable skills you may pick up. If you enjoy working with kids, this could be a dream part-time job. Not only can babysitting provide flexible hours, but it typically pays well. Also, there’s always the possibility of getting some of your homework done during your downtime, especially if you babysit kids at night. Being a camp counselor is also a great way to meet other students and learn team building dynamics through various camp activities.  Camp counselors usually get free room and board providing a great opportunity to save money over the summer. Search online or check with the career office for open positions.

3. Waiter. Restaurant work is challenging, fast-paced and requires balancing work and customer satisfaction, all of which is applicable to other working environments. Since servers can somewhat dictate their own schedule, it can be easier to work around a class schedule and you’ll get to walk out of work with cash in your pocket.

4. Teaching Assistant. Getting further involved in academics, networking with your professors and helping to mentor students a just a few of the valuable experiences you get as a teaching assistant. If you enjoy working with students, are especially passionate about a subject, or even want to get closer with a particularly interesting professor, ask your professors about opportunities to work with them, or if they know of another professor who needs help.

5. Paid Intern. Doing an internship is a great way to show interest in your field of choice. With companies always looking to hire college students for internship or fellowship programs, you may just have to do some digging to find the ones that are paid. Either way, you’ll gain valuable experience in your industry and can help accelerate your career goals. When it comes time to look for your first job after graduation, your internship experience combined with your education will help separate you from your peers.

6. Resident Assistant. If you live in the dorms, becoming a resident assistant (RA) could be a perfect job. Normally, RAs get free room and board along with an hourly wage – great perks. RAs are also required to be an ongoing resource for the students, an ambassador for the school and initiate creative planning for the students – all skills that transfer well to a more formal position.

While your studies are your main focus, these part-time jobs not only temporarily help foot the bill, but also help cultivate valuable skills that will look great on your resume. Just remember, make sure whichever job you choose still leaves you with enough time to get your homework done, too!

Dennis Bryar is a branch manager within the finance & accounting practice at Chicago-based Addison Group. Addison Group is a leading provider of professional staffing and search services with offices nationwide and specialized practices in administration & HR, finance & accounting, healthcare and IT.

]]>
<![CDATA[Ed Debevic’s to be Replaced With High-Rise]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 15:48:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/11137110_10152876011048299_1762192408383809822_n.jpg

Ed Debevic’s and their infamous snarky waitstaff will be packing up shop at the Chicago River North location and moving elsewhere – so the space can be used for a brand new high-rise.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported Friday JDL Development has inked a deal to purchase and remove the retro-themed diner at 640 N. Wells St. and replace it with either condos or apartments.

In the meantime the restaurant has been searching for a new spot in River North to serve their 1950s-style burgers, fries and shakes with a side of trademark sassy comments, Crain’s reports.

Ed Debevic’s at the corner of Wells and Erie Streets has been a mainstay in Chicago’s neighborhood of River North for more than three decades since its 1984 open, and is the latest restaurant to give out to developers who eye single-story buyouts as the area’s real estate values continue to skyrocket.

Across from Ed Debevic’s storefront at 633 N. Wells, Chicago staple Gino's East pizzeria is set to be replaced by a 444-unit apartment tower, Crain’s reports, as well as the Howard Johnson Inn at 720 N. LaSalle which will soon house 298 brand new apartments.

"As our famous saying goes, 'Eat and Get Out.' I can confirm that it is likely Ed Debevic's will be leaving its current address at 640 N. Wells Street, at some time later in the year," said Jeff Himmel, for Debevics, LLC., which owns Ed Debevic's. "We're currently looking at locations closer to Michigan Avenue. We invite our fans to join us in our final days at the corner of Wells and Ontario."

Crain’s reports it has not been released how much JDL invested for the Ed Debevic’s property, but it is safe to say it will be a much larger figure than the $4.5 million the building's owners paid for it in 2005.



Photo Credit: Ed Debevic's]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Ice Cream Shop Closes, Recalls Products]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 18:28:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/219*120/jeni%27s+ice+cream+sign.jpg

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has closed their North Side Chicago shop and recalled all of their products after a listeria contamination was found, the company announced Thursday.

The recall includes all products bearing the “Jeni’s” brand name including ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches for all flavors and containers across all shops and retailers nationwide. Jeni’s scoop shops nationwide have also been closed.

The contamination of listeria monocytogene was discovered in a sample randomly collected by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

“We have decided to recall everything currently on retailer shelves, and we are closing our scoop shops until we are 100 percent confident every item we sell is safe,” Jeni’s CEO John Lowe said in a statement. “We have called in experts to help us find the root cause.”

Lowe said they plan to working with the company’s suppliers to determine if the bacteria was introduced by one of the ingredients used in their production.

“We will not reopen the kitchen until we can ensure the safety of our customers,” he added.

The company asks those who have purchased any of their products to dispose of them or return them for a full refund. For more information, visit jenis.com/recall.



Photo Credit: NBCChicago]]>
<![CDATA[Chipotle Announces Delivery in Chicago]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:38:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/207*120/Chipotle+Sign.jpg

Chipotle fans rejoice! You can now get your chicken bowl delivered right to you.

The fast-casual Mexican food chain has announced a new partnership with Postmates, making them their official third-party delivery service.

The Chipotle delivery will be available in all markets where Postmates operates, including Chicago, New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Dallas, Seattle and Philadelphia.

“There have been a lot of people that have been delivering Chipotle through various services over the years and we’ve tried to in a lot of cases shut them down, because we weren’t sure whether the quality was going to be sufficient or whether they were following our rules,” Mark Crumpacker, chief creative and development officer at Chipotle, said in a call to investors. “This is different because we’ve made an official deal with Postmates and they have been delivering Chipotle for quite a while, too.”

Postmates said the delivery will start at $4.99 and is capped at $7.99, depending on distance.

Postmates, essentially an Uber for delivery food, was also pegged by Starbucks to test delivery in some markets.

The move comes as Chipotle announced a 10.4 percent sales increase in the first quarter of 2015.

“Strengthening our ecommerce program is a top priority for us this year,” Crumpacker said.

In addition to the delivery partnership, Chipotle also plans to incorporate a mobile payment option into its ordering apps. The chain plans to launch an ordering app for the Apple Watch, set to debut Friday, and will explore options of mobile payment services like Apply Pay and Google Wallet.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Plots Turnaround as Sales Continue to Slide]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:16:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonald%27s+CEO+Steve+Easterbrook.jpg

McDonald's plans to unwrap a plan next month that it says will help turn around sales declines around the world.

CEO Steve Easterbrook, who stepped into the role just last month, said Wednesday the company will share "initial details" of the plan May 4.

"I think there is a hunger and an interest in our business to embrace change," Easterbrook said during a conference call. While McDonald's has been "phenomenally successful" for decades, he said that has also made the company conservative.

The world's biggest hamburger chain, based in Oak Brook, Ill., said global sales declined 2.3 percent at established locations during the first three months of the year, with results for April expected to be negative as well. The drop included a 2.6 percent drop in the U.S., where people are increasingly heading to places that market their food as more wholesome.

Already this year, McDonald's has announced a number of changes in the U.S. including a simplified grilled chicken recipe and curbing the use of antibiotics in raising chicken. Amid ongoing protests calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union for fast-food workers, it also said it would raise wages and offer vacation time for workers at company-owned stores.

McDonald's is trying to change its image while its competition is taking its customers.

A day earlier, Chipotle Mexican Grill said its sales rose 10.4 percent at established locations during the quarter, as a pork shortage and bad weather damped results. The chain has been enjoying strong sales growth, with executives saying the company is changing the way people think about fast food.

Taco Bell's parent company, Yum Brands, said the chain's sales rose 6 percent during the period. The increase was helped by the introduction of Taco Bell's breakfast menu, which has repeatedly targeted McDonald's in its advertising.

Meanwhile, McDonald's is struggling in other regions of the world as well. During the first quarter, the unit encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa reported an 8.3 percent drop in sales at established locations, hurt by a supplier controversy in China last year and ongoing consumer perception issues in Japan.

Sales at established locations dipped 0.6 percent in Europe because of softness in France and Russia.

For the period ended March 31, McDonald's Corp. earned $811.5 million, or 84 cents per share. That compares with $1.2 billion, or $1.21 per share, a year earlier.

Results were weighed down by 17 cents per share in charges. The stronger dollar hurt its results by 9 cents per share.

Stripping out these items, earnings were $1.10 per share. That was more than the $1.05 per share analysts expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Shares of McDonald's Corp. added $2.30, or 2.4 percent, to $97.17 before the market open.

Revenue for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company declined to $5.96 billion from $6.7 billion. Analysts expected $6.02 billion in revenue.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Closes 350 Stores in First Quarter]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:35:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/179*120/1491410191.jpg

McDonald’s has closed 350 underperforming stores worldwide in the first quarter, including several in the United States, the company announced.

The closings are in addition to the 350 restaurants the company originally planned to close in 2015.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the closing stores include 130 in Japan and 220 in the U.S. and China. The three countries house a total of about 22,000 McDonald’s restaurants.

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.

The world’s largest hamburger chain also announced plans to unwrap details next month about a turnaround plot they hope will help revive sales.

CEO Steve Easterbrook, who stepped into the role just last month, said Wednesday the company will share "initial details" of the plan May 4.

"As the world's leading restaurant company, we are evolving to be more responsive to today's customer," Easterbrook said in a statement. "McDonald's management team is keenly focused on acting more quickly to better address today's consumer needs, expectations and the competitive marketplace. We are developing a turnaround plan to improve our performance and deliver enduring profitable growth.”

Already this year, McDonald's has announced a number of changes in the U.S. including a simplified grilled chicken recipe and curbing the use of antibiotics in raising chicken. Amid ongoing protests calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union for fast-food workers, it also said it would raise wages and offer vacation time for workers at company-owned stores.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Motorola Shows Off New Police Tech]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 22:58:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/motorola-police-drone.jpg Schaumburg-based Motorola has developed gear that improves communication, connectivity and law enforcement.

Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Founders of Two Chicago Startups Make Inc.'s "30 Under 30"]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:40:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Sidewalk_Sale_bucketfeet.jpg

Inc. named the founders of two Chicago-based startups in its “30 Under 30” list this year, which showcases the “best and brightest young entrepreneurs.”

The magazine’s 10th annual list features Chicago companies Avant and BucketFeet among the 30 companies ranked.

Co-founded by Paul Zhang (28), John Sun (30) and Al Goldstein (34), Avant is an online consumer lender that approves people for loans even with “slightly tarnished credit ratings.”

The business magazine described Avant as “part of the leading edge of young companies shaking up the traditional banking industry, which has left a big, yawning gap when it comes to serving this consumer niche.”

The other Chicago company honored in the list is the shoe startup BucketFeet.

Aaron Firestein, 29, co-founded the company with Raaja Nemani in 2011. What sets their startup apart from other shoe companies is that anyone can submit artwork to the BucketFeet Platform, with chosen artists receiving $250 up front and $1 per pair sold.

Since becoming a hit online, the company has expanded its reach to 30 countries. The shoes are sold at countless stores. from Bloomingdale’s to the company’s local stores in Chicago and New York City.

Fans of Avant and BucketFeet can support the Chicago companies by voting for their favorite 2015 “30 Under 30” founders on Inc.’s website.

]]>
<![CDATA[Kraft to Remove Synthetic Colors From Mac and Cheese]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 03:50:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kraft-alt-AP1102090112555.jpg

The iconic mac and cheese in a blue box will start showing its true colors.

Northfield, Illinois-based, Kraft Foods announced Monday it will remove artificial preservatives and synthetic colors from its “Original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese” in the U.S. starting Jan. 2016.

Kraft will replace the synthetic colors currently used with natural sources such as paprika, annatto and turmeric, the company said. The company hopes the move will “delight consumers with on-trend updates to meet consumers’ changing lifestyles and needs.”

“[Families] told us they want to feel good about the foods they eat and serve their families, including everything from improved nutrition to simpler ingredients,” Triona Schmelter, vice president of marketing meals at Kraft, said in a statement. “They also told us they won’t compromise on the taste of their mac and cheese – and neither will we. That’s why we’ve been working tirelessly to find the right recipe that our fans will love.”

The company’s announcement comes on the heels of other changes in its mac and cheese recipes.

Kraft’s “Mac and Cheese Boxed Shapes” in the U.S. launched last year with six grams of whole grains per serving, reduced saturated fat by 25 percent, lowered sodium by 100 milligrams per serving and no synthetic colors. Most recently, artificial preservatives were removed from the same product this past year.

The company’s Canadian division, Kraft Dinner, will begin removing synthetic colors from its “Kraft Dinner Original” by the end of next year. Synthetic colors were removed from “Kraft Dinner Boxed Shapes” last year while its “Original” recipe reduced sodium by 19 percent since 2012.

“Listening, extensive research and continuous improvement have been part of the Kraft Mac and Cheese 75-year heritage,” Schmelter said. “From packaging like convenient ‘Cups’ to products like ‘Deluxe,’ ‘Organic’ and ‘Whole Grain’ to light prep instructions, we’ve innovated this iconic brand through the years to remain North America’s favorite mac and cheese.”

Kraft Foods made headlines last month when it recalled about 6.5 million boxes of original flavor "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese" and merged with H.J. Heinz Company.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Groupon Selling Controlling Stake in Ticket Monster ]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 08:27:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/groupon_logo.jpg

Online daily deal service Groupon is selling its controlling stake in Ticket Monster to a partnership formed by KKR and Anchor Equity Partners for $360 million.

Groupon purchased Ticket Monster, a South Korean online ticket seller, in January 2014 from LivingSocial Inc. in a $260 million cash-and-stock transaction.

As part of the deal with KKR and Anchor Equity, Groupon will receive $285 million in cash, while Ticket Monster will get the remaining amount. Groupon said it plans to use proceeds from the sale of the 46 percent stake for general corporate purposes and stock buybacks.

"As the Korean market developed, it became obvious that Ticket Monster would benefit from additional resources and local expertise in its drive to be the leading social commerce company in Korea," Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky said in a statement.

Anchor Equity is based in Hong Kong. KKR has offices in the U.S. and abroad, including Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Singapore.

Groupon said Monday that it will still have a 41 percent stake in Ticket Monster after the transaction is complete.

The deal is targeted to close in the second quarter.

Groupon said that due to the Ticket Monster transaction — and changes in foreign currency exchange rates — it now foresees first-quarter adjusted earnings between a penny and 3 cents per share and revenue in a range of $720 million to $770 million. Its prior outlook was for adjusted earnings between breakeven and two cents per share and revenue in a range of $790 million to $840 million.

Analysts polled by FactSet expect earnings of a penny per share on revenue of $822.4 million.

In addition, Groupon Inc. said that its board has approved a new $300 million stock buyback. The repurchase program is subject to the closing of the Ticket Monster transaction. The new buyback is expected to start when the Ticket Monster deal closes and run through August 2017.

Chicago-based Groupon said that it anticipates still making repurchases under its existing $300 million stock buyback, which had $83 million of authorized repurchases remaining as of March 31. That program is set to expire in August.

Shares of Groupon gained 35 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $7.55 before the market open. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

]]>
<![CDATA[Lilly Pulitzer Target Collection Sparks Shopping Frenzy]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 11:15:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lilly+pulitzer+for+target.jpg

Lilly Pulitzer's highly anticipated Target collection debut led to disappointment for many shoppers.

For many fans, the Sunday release was filled more with long lines, empty racks and website problems than purchases of the colorfully printed products.

The much-hyped collection was slated to go on sale early Sunday morning, but some online users reported problems with Target’s website. On top of the extreme online traffic, stores across the nation saw large crowds and long lines, with some selling out entirely in just a few minutes.

By Sunday afternoon, Target said products online were nearly sold out.

Target said the response to the debut was “nothing short of remarkable” both online and in stores, but heavy traffic caused slowness on the site that resulted in “an inconsistent experience for our guests.”

The Minneapolis-based company apologized for any disappointment the website troubles caused, but noted the site did not crash. Instead, the company said it took the collection offline for 15-20 minutes to “manage traffic to the site.”

“We took several measures throughout the morning to manage the extreme traffic levels and make the collection accessible to our guests,” the company said in a statement.

The company said it does not plan to replenish the limited-edition collection’s products online or in stores, a move that left many customers disappointed.

The fan frenzy gave several stores a Black Friday feel and had many taking to Twitter using the hashtag #LillyPulitzerforTarget.

Target, which said it would not apologize for items selling out quickly, did address fan frustration as items appeared on eBay for increased prices.

"Seeing items on online auctions reinforces that this collaboration is resonating with customers," the company said in a statement. "Items are becoming collector's items. However, it's disheartening to Target as a brand. Target does these collaborations to make designers available to people at a great price. Putting items on EBay takes away from the entire spirit of the program."
 



Photo Credit: Target.com
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Study Finds Wearing Designer Brands Could Help Get You Hired]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:40:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000012000338_1200x675_429773379926.jpg A recent study showed wearing designer brands could help you get hired.]]> <![CDATA[8 Interview Mistakes You Might Not Know You're Making]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:13:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/handshake_web.jpg

Interviewing for a job takes preparation, but no one is perfect. Interviewees for positions at all levels make mistakes, but there might be some you don’t know you’re making.

At a recent event for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Meghan Godorov, assistant director of career development at Mount Holyoke College and Sarah Bollinger, assistant director of career development at Muhlenberg College, revealed the top eight interview mistakes they see people make.

The pair reportedly said the mistakes they saw were even made by senior hires.

Here are the eight mistakes you might not know you’re making in an interview:

1. Not Researching

Researching not only the company you’re applying for but the skills you possess is crucial to a successful interview. While you may not a lot about a company, you should also know how your own abilities fit with their business.

2. Having an Unprofessional Social Media Presence

Believe it or not, employers check your social media sites. Your social media sites are your personal branding so you need to think about how you’re putting yourself out there. Experts recommend building a LinkedIn presence and keeping your Facebook and other accounts appearing professional.

3. Poor Interview Netiquette

Many interviews are now being done via the Internet or over the phone. Some of the common mistakes made during these digital interviews include not being in a quiet space and not dressing appropriately for a video chat. Practice looking the camera of your computer before a video interview so it appears as though you’re looking at the interviewer as opposed to yourself on the screen.

4. Not Knowing How to Sell Yourself

One of the most common interview questions is often the most poorly answered. The question isn’t intended to find out your life story, it’s your opportunity to give your elevator pitch—sell yourself!
5. Not Preparing the Right Questions
Ask questions during the interview that you can’t answer yourself through researching online. Make sure these are thought out because an employer will want to know you did your homework.

6. Not Writing Thank Yous

Godorov and Bollinger say it’s acceptable to send an email thank you for any video or phone interview, but an in-person interview should get an email thank you within a day or two of the interview as well as a handwritten thank you to each person you spoke with for more than 10 minutes. Each thank you should be tailored to the recipient.

7. Choosing Bad References

Choose your references wisely and make sure they know you’re using them as reference. Using your boss as a reference without telling your boss you’re applying for other jobs will make you look bad to both employers. Also, make sure you have the most up-to-date contact information for each reference.

8. Under/Over Valuing Your Worth

Salary negotiations are one of the biggest interview challenges. Be sure to research the appropriate salary range for the position you’re interviewing for and don’t over or under sell yourself when it comes to the wage you want.
 



Photo Credit: NBC Local Media]]>
<![CDATA[United Airlines to Offer Free Beer, Wine Aboard Flights]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:40:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/184*120/2996851.jpg

Starting this summer, economy passengers will get the first class experience on United Airlines as they unveil a new in-flight food and beverage program that gives passengers generous meals with free beer and wine on long-haul flights.

The airline will introduce their new and improved experience June 1, which includes a new “hearty” multi-course meal service, complimentary beer and wine on international flights, and an expanded list of premium snacks.

The three-course meals served to passengers on international flights will begin with a drink of your choice alongside a selection of cheese and crackers with baked whole-grain bruschetta chips.

As for the menu of main-course meals, the newly designed dishes include:

• Home-style turkey meatloaf in spicy barbecue sauce, served with sweet potato mash, mixed vegetables, an artisan ciabatta roll and amaranth mango salad
• Tuscan ravioli with roasted red pepper sauce, served with a petit artisan ciabatta roll and mixed-grain salad
• Udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables and ginger soya sauce, served with a petit multi-grain baguette roll and apple wheatberry salad

If you’re still hungry, dessert will be offered as gelato, sorbet, ice cream or mousse.

To wash it all down, customers will be given complimentary bottled water – and of course, more beer and wine at no charge.

"United is committed to improving every aspect of our customers' experience on the ground, in the air and with every interaction," said Sandra Pineau-Boddison, United's senior vice president of customers. "The changes to come on June 1 will deliver an elevated onboard experience on many of our intercontinental flights and will offer travelers the high level of service they expect from a global airline."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Self-Service Beer Machines Coming to UC]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 10:38:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/beer+getty.jpg

A new self-service beer machine will make its United Center debut just in time for Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks playoff games.

Two of the machines, operated by DraftServ, will be installed April 18 near the Goose Island Brew Pub in the arena, according to Crain's Chicago Business. They'll stick around at least through the postseason for both the Bulls and the Blackhawks.

Here's how the beer machines work. Beer drinkers can buy a DraftServ card from a cashier using a credit card. Then, they swipe the DraftServ card and fill up their glasses as much as they want, paying by the ounce. The amount of beer poured will  be charged to the credit card used to purchase the DraftServ card.

At the United Center, spectators can choose from four brews: Bud Light, Budweiser, Stella Artois and Goose Island, according to Crain's. The Bud Light and Budweiser will cost 42.5 cents per ounce and Stella Artois and Goose Island 47.5 cents per ounce.

Attendants will check IDs and give out wristbands for those old enough to buy beer. No matter how big your glass is, the machines will only pour up to 20 ounces of beer at a time and allow two beers per ID.

DraftServ machines are meant to help reduce lines at concession stands as well as control drinking among fans. An inebriated fan's DraftServ card can easily be deactivated if the fan becomes disruptive, according to DrafServ.

Several venues across the U.S. have already started using the machines, including Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Gwinnett Arena in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Target Field in Minneapolis and Miller Park in Milwaukee. The machines also operate on Norwegian Pearl cruise ships.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands Use April 15 to "Fight for 15"]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:53:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chi-fight-for-15-041515-1.jpg

Thousands of lower-income workers and their supporters rallied across the nation, including Chicago, in a quest for a $15 minimum wage.

The move was touted as "the largest-ever Fight for 15 mobilization."

The nationwide protests took place across 200 U.S. cities, including Chicago, and included healthcare workers, school employees, homecare workers, childcare workers, airport employees, Walmart workers and others. 

Chicago's protests included one during the morning commute at the McDonald's restaurant at West 83rd Street and South Ashland Avenue. An afternoon rally was held at University of Illinois Chicago campus before protestors marched and gathered outside another McDonald's restaurant, at 111 W. Jackson Blvd., in the Loop. 

"We want real paid sicks days and our correct pay raise. I'm here to ask for support from this community to stand with us, fight with us and help us," one protestor told supporters at the UIC rally.

Workers said they chose to protest on tax day both because April 15 matches their minimum wage demand and because they want to "highlight the fact that they are paid so little that too many are forced to rely on public assistance to get by."

]]>
<![CDATA[Feds Shut Down Debt Collection Agency After Probe]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 22:47:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/debt_collection_448x336.jpg

Allegations of fake loans, lies and threats finally caught up with Chantelle Dickey. The Federal Trade Commission and the Illinois Attorney General filed suit against Dickey and her husband, Charles Dickey, accusing them of a nationwide scheme to defraud consumers.

"We got hundreds of complaints, we've got thousands of victims,” says FTC Midwest director Steve Baker. “We believe this enterprise is taking at least $3.4 million from consumers over the last five or six years they've been operating."

NBC Chicago first reported on Dickey last fall as complaints against the Aurora-based business came in by the hundreds. Insiders told NBC 5 Investigates they believed the tactics Dickey used were deceptive and illegal, and targeted victims across the country -- many of whom say they were harassed for debts they never owed.

Darlene Petroski said she got the call at work.

"He was threatening me," Petroski recalled. "I was going to be arrested, my drivers license was going to be suspended. I felt so bullied. I was anxious. I actually started to cry."

A similar scenario played out at Sandy Lipowski’s place of employment.

"She [Dickey] said I owed a balance of $735. But they were willing to settle with me for $301.22. I have no idea where they got that number from," Lipowski said.

A former employee said Dickey stayed one step ahead of law enforcement by changing the name of her business whenever complaints stacked up.

"Change the name, reinvent yourself, and now you can collect debts under a different name," the insider told NBC 5 Investigates.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Dickey did just that at least nine times over the last five or six years.

"It's completely outside the law and the volume of people they've contacted making these illegal claims is just enormous," said Madigan.

Authorities have temporarily shut down the Dickeys’ business and have frozen its assets, pending the outcome of the civil case. The pair faces civil penalties of $50,000 for each violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and an additional penalty of $50,000 for each violation committed with the intent to defraud. The FTC said cases like this one are uncommon in Illinois.

"We don’t really see boiler rooms in Chicagoland, so this is a bit of a new one on us," explained Baker. "We’re usually suing people in Florida or California, or Canada or Jamaica. To have them sitting in our own backyard here is a fairly unusual thing."

Chantelle Dickey did not return calls seeking comment.

]]>
<![CDATA[Trending Now: Are Chicago Companies Hiring?]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:41:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961825_1200x675_428507203551.jpg In February 2015, the US economy grew for its 12th straight month and added over 200,000 jobs. We talked to Chicago-area companies to see if they were hiring, and in what areas the leaders are forecasting growth.]]> <![CDATA[Forever Brands' CEO: Your Fro-yo Could Be Crowdfunded]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:41:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961782_1200x675_428502083925.jpg Forever Brands, a collection of 3 local brands in Chicago - Forever Yogurt, Bee & Tea, and Falafill, is revolutionizing the franchise market. CEO Mandy Calara explains crowd franchising, an innovative way to finance and launch local businesses. Forever Brands is known for listening to customer needs and sourcing locally for franchisees.]]> <![CDATA[Trending Now: Can CEOs "Unplug" on Vacation?]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:43:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961839_1200x675_428505667512.jpg When CEOs go on vacation, are they able to unplug from work? Hear from Chicago leaders on the topic of work-life balance and whether they are able to turn off their phones and tune in to personal life on Spring Break.]]> <![CDATA[Restaurant Reservation App Reserve Launches In Chicago]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:10:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/reserve+app.jpg

Dinner reservations are at your fingertips.

Reserve – a New York-based, 6-month-old startup – officially launched in Chicago Tuesday, adding to the trendy restaurant reservations businesses in the city.

The service charges diners a $5 concierge fee but is free to restaurants, unlike Chicago-founded app OpenTable which charges restaurants $1 per seated guest. According to ChicagoInno, actors Jared Leto and Jon Favreau as well as musician Will.i.am. are early investors in the app.

The brand new app already boasts more than 20 local restaurants in its database.

“We’re thrilled to announce that starting today, hungry Chicagoans can now use Reserve at more than 20 amazing restaurants in the Windy City,” Reserve CEO and co-founder Greg Hong said in a statement. “Whether you’re celebrating date night at Michelin-starred Sepia or closing a deal at The Kitchen, Reserve, your dining concierge, is here to help.”

Users open the app, give a few details and then choose from a curated list of restaurants. Details about the restaurant’s ambiance and menu are also available.

The app gives users recommendations of other places to try and the option to privately send comments and suggestions to restaurants.

Users no longer have to fuss with picking up the tab at the end of the night. Along with Reserve’s $5 concierge fee, a user’s total bill including tax and tip are automatically charged to the card the app has on file.

Diners who cancel within two hours of the reservation are charged a $10 fee while no-shows incur a $25 fee that goes directly to the restaurant.

Restaurants partnering with the app are listed below:

• Acanto
• Ani
• Arami
• Bin 36
• Boarding House
• Celeste
• Dusek’s Board and Beer
• Formento’s
• Geja’s Café
• Homestead on the Roof
• Le Colonial
• Lula Café
• Mercadito
• Nightwood
• Promontory
• Sepia
• Tippling Hall
• The Gage
• The Dawson
• The Kitchen
• Trencherman

]]>
<![CDATA[Are Your Corporate Events a Sensory Experience?]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:44:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961828_1200x675_428512323612.jpg Jannell Colton, Director of Events at Zen Events Group, explains how corporate events are key to engaging customers and prospects – and the importance of contacting a professional audience before, during, and after the event. Face-to-face interaction gives people the sensory experience that we need as humans. Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge to a successful event is last-minute changes. Jannell compares it to removing a spoke from a wheel – the entire wheel is a little less stable, but the right event planner keeps it rolling!]]> <![CDATA[What's Next in Interactive Gaming?]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:38:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961798_1200x675_428506691654.jpg SG Interactive takes games that are recognizable in the casino world and makes them come alive in the digital space. According to President Jordan Levin, new technology has created a major oppportunity to quickly develop new products and get them to consumers faster than ever before. What's next in gaming? Younger players want more casual content – like Candy Crush and Bejeweled – in the casino space. in the future, look for SG Interactive to develop more immersive gaming experiences.]]> <![CDATA[Cinema CEO: See You at the Movies!]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:44:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961800_1200x675_428506179602.jpg Chris Johnson, CEO of Classic Cinemas, talks about the importance of spending time in the theaters where the action takes place. Classic Cinemas has preserved and updated historic theaters, and operates more modern versions, throughout the Chicago area. Chris says the future is about creature comforts, such as zero gravity reclining seats, free refills on drinks and popcorn, and making sure guests have an enjoyable experience.]]> <![CDATA[Safety and Protective Gear Manufacturer Staffing Up for Growth]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:45:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961815_1200x675_428506691901.jpg Magid manufactures, imports, and distributes products that help customers reduce accidents and cut safety costs. As a family-owned business, Magid has an open office policy and open communication – Rusty Cohen, EVP, says he sits next to the bookkeeper and the janitor can come talk to him anytime. Magid's future is bright – in the last 6 months they've hired over 40 employees and look to fill 30 more open positions.]]> <![CDATA[Employee-Owned Natural Foods Distributor Focuses on Being a Great Place to Work]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:48:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961806_1200x675_428507203543.jpg KeHE Distributors provides a massive selection of natural and organic products to retail customers of all sizes – from the largest retailers to mom and pop shops in the traditional grocery and organic spaces. According to President and CEO Brandon Barnholt, KeHE has grown its business by thoughtful acquisition, and being a terrific place to work. Decades ago, employees became owners via an ESOP. They've also established a program called KeHE Cares, which allows employees to put 10% of net income toward the charitable causes that matter to them.]]> <![CDATA[McD's Gives Free Food to Those With Taco Bell Receipts]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:58:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds13.jpg

Apparently, some McDonald’s restaurants are giving away free Egg McMuffins to customers who bring in a Taco Bell breakfast receipt before Friday.

The promotion was first announced on April 3 and took place at McDonald’s stores in northeast Pennsylvania, limiting customers to one sandwich per person, per day. It was not immediately clear if stores in other regions were also participating.

The offer is the latest move in a fast food breakfast battle between the two chains.

Last year, Taco Bell aired a TV spot set to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” showing a man who had been eating Egg McMuffins since 1984. After trying Taco Bell's breakfast, the man trims his mullet, switches to tighter pants, gets a smart phone and takes down his "Loverboy" poster.

The commercial was a follow-up to another ad that featured real-life men named Ronald McDonald professing their love of Taco Bell's breakfast.

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 recently announced plans to up its breakfast game and test all-day breakfast. The Oak Brook-based fast food chain, 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. 

McDonald's did not immediately return NBCChicago's request for comment.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Fast-growing Restaurant Group CEO: People Make the Business]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:49:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961792_1200x675_428505155605.jpg Gabe Garza, President and Partner of Ideology Entertainment, started out bussing tables and soon learned that the restaurant business was in his blood. According to Gabe, the space dictates the restaurant concept and it takes the right eye to create it. His goal is to be in the top 5 places you visit most often. Ideology is growing like crazy – they have 3 restaurants ready to start and are putting together the leadership teams.]]> <![CDATA[Sprinkles Gives Away Cupcakes to Celebrate Anniversary]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:15:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/480496361.jpg

Sprinkles Cupcakes marked its 10th anniversary Monday, and to celebrate the past decade locations are giving away free cupcakes.

Customers in Chicago can enjoy a free cupcake from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. at Sprinkles' Gold Coast location at 50 E. Walton Street. Limit one per customer.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Unveils New River North Digital Office]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 11:47:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/MDRN2.jpg

McDonald’s is cooking up more than just burgers.

The Oak Brook-based burger chain unveiled its new River North digital office Friday amid lagging sales with the hopes of attracting "talented individuals to support our business,” according to a company spokesperson.

“We know that digital is changing how consumers define convenience – and we want to be front and center in meeting these new expectations,” Becca Hary, director of global media relations at McDonald’s Corporation, said in a statement. “Our customers are also relying on technology for everyday life, so digital is opening up all kinds of doors for McDonald’s.

The downtown digital hub in Chicago is McDonald’s second, alongside the first location that opened in San Francisco. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that the 40 or so tech veterans recruited for the digital office come from companies such as Amazon.com, Facebook, PayPal, Cars.com, Ticketmaster and Groupon.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook told Crain’s that the launch of the digital hub is a “critical part of his turnaround plan for the burger chain, which has suffered more than two years of sales declines.”

During 2014’s third quarter, the company said sales fell 3.3 percent globally and in the U.S.

Crain’s also reports that McDonald’s has recruited dozens of new employees focused on digital efforts since the late 2013 hire of digital chief Atif Rafiq, previously the general manager of Kindle Direct Publishing at Amazon.

The digital efforts include mobile apps, digital marketing and social media. The chain reportedly plans to employ about 250 more staffers in the division by the end of the year.



Photo Credit: Marshall J Betterton]]>
<![CDATA[Locavores Rejoice! Local Foods Connects Chicago Chefs with Farmers]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:50:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011961765_1200x675_428502595991.jpg Do you know where your food comes from? Local Foods CEO, Andrew Lutsey, saw the opportunity to connect Chicago-area chefs with locally grown products supplied by Midwest farmers. Andrew believes in providing transparency between buyers and growers so that chefs can focus on creating great dishes. With a public market and butcher shop opening in Bucktown, home chefs will soon be able to eat local - at Local Foods.]]> <![CDATA[Walgreens Aims to Close About 200 Stores]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 06:30:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/220*120/Walgreens2.jpg

Walgreens plans to close about 200 U.S. stores as the nation's largest drugstore chain expands on a $1 billion cost-reduction plan it announced last August.

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

The store closings amount to about 2 percent of the 8,232 drugstores it runs in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Tips for Rahm Emanuel to Better Manage Stress]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 10:46:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Rahm_Emanuel+%285%29.jpg

It’s no secret that managing stress at work is crucial to becoming successful.

Research has shown that stress can have negative impacts on a person’s behavior. In fact, a recent survey by TalentSmart showed 90 percent of top performers know how to manage their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

On the heels of Chicago’s first-ever runoff election, it’s clear that politicians are no exception to this need for managing stress in order to succeed.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been the target of much criticism for his “bully” persona, rash outbursts and his frequent inability to control his emotions. He even addressed his personality flaws in an advertisement during his re-election campaign.

But will Emanuel heed to voters’ concerns and try to have a little more self-control when it comes to his emotions?

We’ve gathered a few tips for how to manage stress in the workplace, and Emanuel might want to take note.

Don’t React, Act

Sharon Melnick, a business psychologist and author of Success Under Stress, told Forbes that understanding what you can and can’t control is key to maintaining a level head. She reportedly said a person is in control of their own actions and responses, but not in control of others’ actions and responses. Be in control of yourself and let the rest go.

Breathe

Proper breathing techniques are known for helping people calm down in times of stress and manage their anxiety levels. Don't just "think before you speak," beathe before you speak. Try a simple yoga technique by inhaling for 10 seconds and exhaling for 10 seconds. 

Learn How to Cool Down Quickly

You can also use your breath to help you cool down when you’re feeling frustrated or hot-headed (ahem, Rahm). Melnick says the anger emotion is often brought on by a heated feeling in your body causing you to react. Try inhaling through your mouth, like you would sip through a straw, and exhaling through your nose before responding to whatever is causing you to feel angered or frustrated. The technique will likely help cool the body down and balance your emotions.

Encourage Yourself

If you’re hearing a lot of negative things about you or your performance, try thinking about the good things you’ve done and remind yourself of your best qualities. Encourage yourself to be better and others might become inspired.

Maintain Perspective

Don’t forget that your version of the story isn’t always the only version of the story. Try to view things from the way others view them and you might not be so angered by a situation. This technique can also help foster an environment that can lead to better compromises.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's to Roll Out Bigger Burgers]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 20:06:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*129/Mcdonalds+fries.jpg

Bigger burgers will be back on the menu at McDonald's, at least for a while.

McDonald's says it's introducing a trio of "Sirloin Third Pound" burgers for a limited time starting later this month, the latest sign the chain is pushing to improve perceptions about the quality of its food.

The sirloin burgers would have the biggest beef patties on the chain's menu and come after McDonald's dropped its Angus Third Pounders in 2013. At the time, some analysts said the Angus burgers were too pricey for McDonald's customers.

McDonald's says the sirloin burgers will cost around $4.99, although franchisees can determine their own prices.

McDonald's is pushing to turn around its U.S. business, which has seen sales and customer visits slip for two years in a row at established locations amid intensifying competition. Already this year, the company has made a number of announcements including a simplified grilled chicken recipe, curbing the use of antibiotics in chicken, and a pay bump and vacation time for workers at company-owned stores.

The Oak Brook-based chain has said it also plans to expand a program that lets customers build their own burgers by tapping a touchscreen.

In a column published in The Chicago Tribute last week, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said he's taking action to transform McDonald's into a "modern, progressive burger company."

McDonald's said the sirloin burgers will come in three varieties: Lettuce & Tomato, Bacon & Cheese and Steakhouse, which comes with grilled mushrooms and onions, white cheddar and peppercorn sauce. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Best Places to Work in Chicago Area]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:00:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Happy+People.jpg

Three words: Unlimited vacation time.

A new report has ranked the Best Places to Work for 2015 in the Chicago area and the top-ranked business not only offers employees the benefit of unlimited vacation time, but also a flexible spending account that provides pretax dollars for public transportation, child care and other necessities.

The list, released by Crain’s Chicago Business, ranked businesses in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties with more than 50 full-time employees as of Sept. 1.

Businesses were ranked on pay, fairness of pay, promotions, health care and other benefits, hiring practices, vacation time, relationships with management and co-workers, career development and other day-to-day workplace issues.

Chicago-based digital advertising firm Rocket Fuel, which has just over 1,000 employees, was named the best place to work for 2015.

“The company offers breakfast, coffee and snacks daily, plus a hot gourmet lunch Monday through Thursday. Its vast, sunlit, 13th-floor River North office has a contemporary lunchroom, meditation rooms, a spacious conference room that doubles as a yoga studio and phone booths for conference calls,” Crain’s wrote.

Following Rocket Fuel on the list was another digital advertising firm in Chicago, Centro.

Centro’s benefits include matching 401(k) contributions, medical, dental and free vision insurance, 12 paid holidays, 10 personal days and one Save the World day a year for charity, three weeks’ paid vacation, support for continuing education, plus snacks and soft drinks in the big, sunlit Centro Perk break room.

Others in the top 10 list include Chicago’s DigitasLBi, EMC, Oak Brook’s SWC Technology Partners, Assurance Agency, Radio Flyer, Point B, LaSalle Network and Factset Research Systems.

Crain’s also ranked the best places to work for Millennials and Gen X-ers.

For millenials, the top place was software and engineering consulting firm DMC and for Gen X-ers the best place was auditing, accounting and consulting firm Plante Moran.
 

]]>
<![CDATA[Trending Now: Best Business Advice You've Received?]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 13:14:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Digest_01-02_%281%29_1200x675_422904899745.jpg CEOs take business advice to heart. Chicago area business leaders share the most impactful business advice they've received. Listen up!]]> <![CDATA[Manufacturing CEO: Know Your Niche, But Be Ready to Diversify]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 17:02:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011900027_1200x675_426335811791.jpg Royal Die & Stamping Company is a niche manufacturer, providing components for the automotive, electronics, and telecommunications industries. Erik Freitag, President, talks about how Royal Die & Stamping has diversified its business over the past 80 years to meet the changing needs of the marketplace. While it's key to find a strong market and service it, Erik recommends keeping your eyes open for opportunities to diversify.]]> <![CDATA[Area Company Sees Work on Final Four Floor]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 17:35:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/179*120/467038512.jpg

There may not be a team from the Chicago-area vying for a championship in this weekend’s Final Four, but the area will still be represented in a big way as teams compete for college basketball’s biggest prize.

That’s because the floor that the teams will be playing on was designed and built by Connor Sports, which is based in Elk Grove Village. According to the Daily Herald, the business has been making the courts for the event since the 2005 edition. They also constructed courts for the regional round sites for both the men’s and women’s tournaments using carefully-selected maple trees from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“March Madness gets everybody excited around here,” Jon Isaacs, Connor’s vice president told the newspaper. “It makes us feel like we’re on top of the world.”

In addition to providing courts for the Final Four, Connor Sports has also designed and installed floors for a variety of teams, including the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics of the NBA, and they were also the official court provider of the FIBA World Cup of Basketball in 2014. Each of the courts they create cost an average of $100,000, but the price varies depending on how large the playing surface is and how intricate the design on the floor ends up being.

This year’s court is especially complex, with a variety of woodstains, finishes, and logos all over the playing surface in Indianapolis. According to the Herald story, the final product cost the NCAA around $150,000, and the 250 panels that make up the surface weighed a total of 60,000 pounds.  

The National Championship stage from plank to paint… #FinalFourBuilt by Connor Sports

Posted by NCAA March Madness on Friday, March 27, 2015

]]>
<![CDATA[Portillo's Coming to Gurnee]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 18:45:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/206*120/portillos3.png

Residents of Gurnee won’t have to drive far much longer to satisfy their craving for a Chocolate Cake Shake, Italian Beef or famed Portillo’s Hot Dog, as the restaurant group plans to open a new location right in town.

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik confirmed with the Daily Herald that Portillo's applied for a permit with the city Thursday.

They aim to open up shop at 6447 Grand Ave., replacing the former Applebee's, the publication reports.

"It's a big first step," Kovarik told the Daily Herald. "We've wanted a Portillo's for a really long time."

The restaurant group will still have to jump through some hoops before they can open their doors, but Kovarik said their application is “a big first step.”

"We're in the very early stages," Kovarik said, adding the restaurant group. "There's a long road ahead."

Once the restaurant group receives a special use permit and gains approval from the plan commission, she says, they will be able to open later this year.



Photo Credit: Instagram/PortillosHotDogs]]>
<![CDATA[6 Things College Seniors Should Do Before Graduation]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 09:17:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/graduation+generic+new.JPG

Summer is almost here and that means thousands of college seniors across the country will soon flood the job market in search of their first real job.

For the best chance of success in the job search, college seniors have a lot of preparation to do.

Here are a few tips to help those preparing to finish school get ready to enter the workforce – and hopefully land their dream job after graduation day.

Take advantage of networking organizations: Use networking events on campus as an opportunity to expand your contacts and to become more comfortable with making conversation with people you just met. You’ll also learn how to interact with prospective employers and what experience and skills hiring managers value.

Join your profession’s student group: You can build connections within your profession by attending industry student events. Treat every interaction like an interview – these people likely will be your contemporaries.

Become friendly with career services: Get acquainted with the career services on your campus – they are there to help you find a job. Use their resources, their connections and their expertise to help you prepare throughout the year to land that ideal job. Make an appointment with a staff member to get personalized advice and guidance.

Tap your network: You don’t have to go far to network – for industry insight, just look at your own network of family, friends, alumni and professors. Let them know you’re job hunting, they might know someone who’s already established in your desired field. Set up informational meetings when appropriate, or get in touch with an alumni in your desired field to build relationships and to learn what it’s like to work professionally in the industry.

Perfect your resume: Don’t wait until the last minute to perfect your résumé. You want to be sure that if someone requests it after a school networking event, or a job opportunity arises, you’re prepared to capitalize on it immediately. There are countless ways to write a resume, but our tip is to keep it short and simple.

Clean up your social media presence: It’s never too early to make sure your social media presence is work-friendly. Employers pay close attention to a potential candidate’s social media sites throughout the hiring process, so represent yourself well. If you wouldn’t show something to your mom or your teacher, take it down. Also, join LinkedIn to establish a professional online presence, and to connect with recruiters, alumni and industry leaders.

The sooner you get organized about your impending job search, the easier it will be. So before your last semester rolls around, begin to explore you desired career, network with industry professionals and work to build your resume. Give yourself the greatest opportunity to land the ideal job right from the start. Good luck! 

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

]]>
<![CDATA[Despite Pay Bump, Labor Issues to Pressure McDonald's]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 17:36:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcds-protest-1.jpg

A pay bump for workers at some McDonald's restaurants isn't likely to ease the pressures the chain is facing over labor issues.

McDonald's said Wednesday it would raise wages for workers at its company-owned U.S. restaurants, which represent only about 10 percent of more than 14,300 locations. It also said it would offer paid time off for some workers.

The move marks the first time McDonald's has set a national policy on wages, according to the company, and comes after it has been a primary target for ongoing demonstrations for pay of $15 and a union. Other companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have also announced pay hikes in an improving economy and at a time when worker issues are getting widespread attention.

Immediately after the announcement by McDonald's, however, labor organizers denounced it as a publicity strategy that did little to improve the situations of workers.

"Raising wages only a little for only a small fraction isn't change. It's a PR stunt," said Kwanaza Brooks, a McDonald's worker in North Carolina, on a conference call set up by organizers.

Protests were planned for McDonald's stores around the country Thursday, and organizers also stressed the need for people to turn out for a day of broader demonstrations on April 15, which is set to include college campuses around the country.

The Fight for $15 campaign, which is being spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, also shows no sign of backing off on the legal pressures it's putting on McDonald's. This week, the National Labor Relations Board began a hearing on complaints that named McDonald's as a joint employer over alleged violations at franchised restaurants.

The case is expected to be a lengthy battle and is a reflection of a primary goal of organizers: to hold McDonald's Corp. accountable for labor practices at its franchised locations. McDonald's has said it doesn't have control over employment decisions at franchised restaurants, and emphasized that position Wednesday when it said franchisees "make their own decisions on pay and benefits."

In a phone interview, McDonald's USA President Mike Andres said few McDonald's workers have participated in the demonstrations and that the actions haven't hurt the company.

"They're not taking a toll," he said.

Instead, he said the decision to hike pay and provide paid-time off at company-owned restaurants was driven by the marketplace.

"It's a very competitive environment and a significant rationale for this plan is that we want to be the most competitive and attractive employer," he said.

Andres noted that many franchisees have already been providing higher pay to attract and retain workers.

Beginning on July 1, McDonald's says starting wages will be a dollar more than the local minimum wage where company-owned restaurants are located. By the end of 2016, it said the average hourly wage for McDonald's workers at those stores will be more than $10 an hour, up from $9 an hour.

The increase comes after more than a dozen states and multiple cities have raised their minimum wages last year, according to the National Employment Law Project.

At company-owned stores, McDonald's says employees who have worked for at least a year and average of 20 hours a week will be eligible to accrue about 20 hours of paid time off a year.

McDonald's Chief Administrative Officer Pete Bensen had hinted last month that an announcement regarding workers could be in the works. Bensen said at the time that a big part of the effort to turnaround the company's struggling U.S. business would be what the company is doing "around the employment image and our employee-employer relationship."

For the past two years, sales and customer visits have slipped at established McDonald's locations in the U.S. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: Susan Carlson]]>