Three New Coffee Locations Make News

Coffee shops are a big deal, especially in the early mornings when people are off to work and the evenings when date-nights and meet-ups are common. Worldwide they’re making their stand, and whether it be the big boys like Caribou or Starbucks or the smaller, single-owner restaurants, coffee is an integral part of many people’s daily lives globally.

“Globally” is being put to the test during these Winter Olympics. Technically, the Starbucks chain is not allowed to have a presence at the Olympics, as they’re not an official sponsor. McDonald’s is, which leads to them being the only official coffee distributor during the event. It seems that NBC has decided that their desire for Starbucks coffee during their exclusive coverage is more important than sponsorship, according to The Wall Street Journal. They’ve crafted their own, unique and hidden Starbucks in their coverage base.

How do they manage to staff a secretive Starbucks?

Bringing in the joe is a delicate exercise. NBC flies in a rotating crew of some 15 baristas from Starbucks coffee shops in Russia, sets them up with accommodations in Sochi, and pays their regular wages. As with past Games, Starbucks has gladly cooperated with the effort.

All told, the barista battalion is larger than the Sochi Olympic teams of some 57 countries.

Technically, the company can operate as it’s not for public consumption and is limited purely to NBC’s offices. This hasn’t stopped Starbucks cups finding their way around the Olympic village, leading people to try to track down their source. They can only offer espressos and lattes, and no black coffee.

While Starbucks is supportive of this “hidden” restaurant during the Olympics, they are not supportive of a Starbucks that opened up in Los Angeles. Technically, it’s not a Starbucks; the coffee shop doesn’t have any official ties to the company.

It’s also called “Dumb Starbucks”.

It was launched with a technicality: it’s an art show, and the coffee is the “art.” According to The New Yorker, it’s a creation of Nathan Fielder (with an assist from Dan Horowitz). Since the launch of Dumb Starbucks, it has been shut down, but will be seen on Comedy Central’s “Nathan For You” later this year.

If Dumb Starbucks is controversial enough, don’t forget that Hot Cup Of Joe opened up on Valentine’s Day in Spokane. In comparison to the “Bikini Baristas,” Hot Cup Of Joe features shirtless male bartenders. As they find themselves with significantly more female customers than male, they’re offering a $1 discount to all male customers.

Do you sell coffee in your restaurant? You most likely don’t need to hide it, and shouldn’t expect a “Dumb” variation to pop-up. With a shirtless staff, you might find yourself with increased attention, but it may not be for your drinks. Any coffee shop that needs to drum up business would benefit from thinking outside of the box like these people have done.

Ordering Up New Pizza Trends

Pizza’s an iconic menu item in this country, and while it hails from Italy, it has significantly made its stand in this country. Naturally, like anything else America adopts, we have to put our own spin on it. There are a few different varieties of pizza that have made headlines in recent weeks. Could any of these concepts work for your restaurant, or are they at least an entertaining bit of trivia?

WIth Valentine’s Day having just passed, you may have dallied with featuring heart-shaped items on your menu. Consumerist reports that both Papas (Murphy’s and John’s) have both sold heart-shaped pizzas on their menus for specials, One way to go the extra miles with these pizzas, as they suggest, is to cut pepperoni’s into heart shapes with small cookie-cutters. Naturally, this leaves you with unappealing heart-holed pepperoni rings, but you can easily chop these up and use them as smaller pepperoni chunks for a different pizza or ever pepperoni rolls.

Reshaping your crust into a heart design might be one thing, but outright replacing your crust with pepperoni is a whole ‘nother world. Dude Foods attempted this with a pepperoni crust pizza, which seems to have worked significantly better than the pepperoni crust taco that was the original plan. This could be a unique, if not extra-greasy, way to make a pizza that distinguishes itself from the others, and actually would end up possibly being gluten-free, if not exactly great for your heart. His recipe requires a fair bit of work to be perfected, so you and your attempt at it will have to adjust for changes.

Going from heart-shaped crust to pepperoni crust still keeps you fully in the realm of pizza, but going to deep dish might actually make not it pizza, thanks to a Supreme court ruling. Technically, it never went to court, but Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “ruled” that deep dish pizza shouldn’t be called pizza. In his words, “It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza,” preferring that it be called a tomato pie. In his mind, pizza is only pizza when it’s more authentic to the original Neapolitan style, thin, chewy, and crispy. Jon Stewart recently railed against the deep-dish pizza as well, claiming it’s more of a casserole than actual pizza.

If deep dish isn’t actual pizza, would three-year-old pizza still qualify? A pizza MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) has been developed that can sit on shelves for three years and be ready to eat, according to The Huffington Post. As pizza is one of the most-requested meals by soldiers, it took researchers nearly two years to figure out how to make pizza that can last this long. The problem stems from the moisture in toppings, including sauce, eventually migrating to the dough, leading to mold. A few scientific changes to the standard pizza recipe adjusts it to control the moisture. While pepperoni pizza is the initial plan, turkey pizza is in the options for those who don’t eat pork.

Three-year old, heart-shaped pizza, heart-shaped pepperoni, and pepperoni crusted pizza? Could you see yourself trying it?

Japan’s Take On: Valentine’s Day

Today is the day restaurants will be packed with loving couples that can’t cook for themselves, or prefer not to, leaving the heat on in other areas of their house. It may be a “manufactured, Hallmark holiday” as many critics will contest, but it’s a standard holiday for those in love in America. Your restaurant should be packed tonight, but things aren’t the same everywhere.

In Japan, things are a bit different. On our side of the globe, couples give each other gifts, kids get their whole class stuff, and those practicing Single Awareness Day surf the Internet looking at cat pictures. In that island nation, Valentine’s Day comes in two parts, with the first coming today.

On February 14th, custom tends to be that women employed in offices (colloquially known as “office ladies”) give their male coworkers chocolate, and many younger people will take this opportunity to profess their love or crush on a male student. The better the chocolate (homemade being the best, followed by quality store-bought), the better the romantic or friendship interest. The cheaper and lower quality chocolate remains for people you don’t share much of an interest in, but don’t want them to be left out. This chocolate is known as “giri choco” (courtesy chocolate) or “honmei choco” (love chocolate).

One month later, on March 14th, men return the favor. If they don’t return any sort of gift, it’s perceived as “being above”, unfairly. If they return in equal kind or amount, it’s seen as a curt way to cut ties. Men are expected to double or triple the quality or quantity of the gift in a romantic relationship. This day, known as “White Day,” returns the favor. There’s a much more crass version of this day in America starting with “Steak”, but we won’t cover that here. Common items to be given in return on White Day are white color, such as white chocolate, marshmallows, or even white lingerie. Notably, March 14th is also known as “Pi Day,” so if you can figure out a white pie, you’re set for two holidays.

To round out Valentine’s Day and White Day, there’s a particular South Korean tradition one month after White Day. On April 14th, it’s time for men who didn’t receive or give any gifts on the previous two days to meet up and eat jajangmyeon, a dish of white noodles in black sauce.

What do you think of how Japan handles the holiday? Would you be able to do the math and figure out how much chocolate you should get your loved one? As a restaurant, how can you take inspiration from this foreign tradition? If anything, you might want to look into buying some white noodles and black sauce for those unlucky.