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    Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant

    Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant

    The Restaurant from Mars

    The drive-in movie theater--complete with Frankenstein and the Amazing Colossal Man--is now a restaurant. At the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Lake Buena Vista, FL, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant provides meals and old science-fiction movie clips to customers in a space recreating the 1950s drive-in theater. It comes complete with '50s-style cars with mounted speakers, carhops, a movie screen, and back of the drive-in snack bar with picnic tables.

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    Once seated in cars big enough for four or five, customers are served a basket of popcorn for starters. The "drive-in food" on the menu from executive chef Reimund Pitz includes hot dog and hamburger platters and Reuben sandwiches and more contemporary creations as well. That includes a creamed popcorn soup, a Turkey Sloppy Joe, and "Return to the Red Planet," a linguini dish in a tomato-herb sauce.

    "All of our items are themed to the drive-in era," says Pitz. "We took the old classics and added a new flair. For instance, popcorn was the number-one seller at drive-in movies, so we played around with a lot of different ideas and came up with a velvety popcorn soup." How's it doing? "It's not something a lot of people want to try," says Barry Carlson, general manager of food and beverage for Disney-MGM Studios.

    Popcorn soup aside, the 250-seat drive-in restaurant is doing well. With an average check of $10, tables--or, that is, cars--turn about eight times a day. The restaurant is one of the newest and most popular of seven foodservice operations in the MGM lot.

    MENU MONITOR

    Bakery Showcases: The Latest Rave

    * WHO SAYS everybody is hopping on the light and lean bandwagon? Nashville-based Shoney's Restaurants, JB's Restaurants in Salt Lake City, UT, and Columbus, OH-based Bob Evans Farms are recent examples showing that patrons haven't lost their cravings for sweets.

    Shoney's restaurants that have been testing Pie Shoppes, for example, have experienced a marked increase in dessert sales. In the test, refrigerated display cases near the entrances showcase a variety of specialty pies. Among the varieties: French silk, lemon meringue, banana cream, pecan, peanut butter silk, and fruit pies. The Pie Shoppe also sells cookies and large muffins.

    Meanwhile, JB's Restaurants is in the midst of rolling out the Baker's Corner in all of its 134 stores. The Corner features a full line of fresh-baked products such as cookies, muffins, pecan sticky buns, and gourmet double crust and cream pies, whole and by-the-slice.

    "We put Baker's Corner in our stores to upgrade our image," says chief finanical officer David Pertl. "We are shifting toward being a family-style restaurant and are shedding our coffee-shop image." The items are highlighted in bakery cases. Pertl says that the sweets have enhanced sales.

    Bob Evans also discovered the power of desserts. In its new General Store and Restaurant concept, the chain added a bakery, which sells bread, brownies, pies, and cakes. So far, the new concept has opened in Mason, OH, and Myrtle Beach, SC.

    KFC Test-Markets Honey BBQ Wings

    * KENTUCKY FRIED Chicken (KFC) gave its customers a taste of honey--but only for a limited time. As part of an ongoing effort to offer patrons new products, Honey BBQ Wings was the latest limited-time offering to hit KFC stores.

    The wings, available in six or 18 pieces, are marinated and lightly breaded sections that are dipped in barbecue sauce and "kissed" with a flavor of honey.

    According to Richard Detwiler, KFC's director of public affairs, the product was introduced to 3,000 of the company's 5,000 stores. The new wings won't be available in the Northeast and Southeast, where the skinless Lite 'N Crispy chicken product is available.

    New Menu Design At Country Kitchen

    * A NEW MENU design along with a summer promotion featuring fajita salads are examples of how Minneapolis-based Country Kitchen is repositioning itself away from a coffee-shop image to a contemporary family-style restaurant, according to Jon Ostrov, the chain's vice president of marketing.

    The menu design, which received third place in the under-$8 check category in the National Restaurant Association Menu Competition, is now in an eight-page, patron-friendly form with colorful country-style drawings rather than the trifold plastic style of years past. "The menu said |grandma' and |coffee shop' before. Now it still reflects a warm image, but with contemporary flair," Ostrov says. The menu also no longer features photographs of menu items.

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    The fajita salads are available with either chicken or beef, for $4.95. The summer promotion will also feature the chain's latest line of melts, from the Philly beef and cheese sandwich to the smothered chicken melt.

    Wendy's Tests The Stromboli

    * WENDY'S PATRONS in Mechanicsburg, PA, are sampling the Stromboli, an Italian sandwich resembling a calzone. Three of Wendy's 24 units in the city have test-marketed the sandwich since April.

    The Stromboli is a garlic-flavored pocket bread filled with pepperoni, cheese, tomato sauce, and garlic seasonings offered for $1.99. The Dublin, OH-based chain is calling the test a secret and won't reveal future plans.

    Quincy's Rolls Out Breakfast Bar

    * IN JUNE, Quincy's Family Steakhouse completed its rollout of the Country Sideboard Breakfast Bar in the Spartanburg, SC-based chain's 221 units. Quincy's is a division of TW Services.

    The all-you-can-eat breakfast bar is offered on Saturdays and Sundays. The selections include made-from-scratch biscuits, scrambled eggs, pancakes, french-toast sticks, grits, baked apples, fruits, sausage gravy, and assorted breakfast toppings.

    Canteen Introduces Low-fat Burger

    * THE "SMART" BURGER is the latest low-fat hamburger to reach the public. This time it's being introduced by Canteen Corporation, a division of TW Services, to employees and executives at the company's 1,600 dining rooms.

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    At 195 calories, Canteen's low-fat version is cooked in margarine, and the company touts that it does not use extra water or seaweed extenders as do others offering lean burgers.

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