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    The 100 Biggest Stories of 2011

  • The top headlines, trends, and buy-outs in the restaurant industry this year.

    74. Denny’s Offers Fit Fare

    Healthy eating is hardly one size fits all. Denny’s new launch of Fit Fare meals and menu items is designed to customize. Whether a guest is looking to lower fat and calories or to increase protein and fiber, the newest additions, which are integrated right into the regular menu, satisfy. Even die-hard Grand Slam breakfast fans can opt for the new Fit Slam of scrambled egg whites with spinach and tomatoes, turkey bacon, an English muffin, and a side of fresh fruit. Fit Fare options can also replace regular menu items at no extra cost.

    75. Tip Rules Change for Restaurants

    The National Restaurant Association, Council of State Restaurant Associations, and National Federation of Independent Business filed suit against the U.S. Department of Labor in July over an amended Fair Labor Standards Act regulation.

    According to court documents, the amended rule affects hundreds of thousands of businesses that employ tipped workers and forces restaurants to face increased and unnecessary regulatory expenses in complying with the new tip-credit notice requirements.

    “We believe the new rules, put into effect with just one month’s notice and without properly considering their impact on the nation’s nearly 1 million restaurants, are confusing and will expose our members to regulatory violations and enforcement actions,” says NRA CEO Dawn Sweeney.

    76. Ben & Jerry’s Offers Free Ride to Bonnaroo

    In line with its Grateful Dead theme, Ben & Jerry’s sponsored Bonnaroo, one of the country’s biggest music festivals, this spring. In addition to adding its name to a long list of participating companies, the ice cream brand also activated its sponsorship with the “Fair Trade Your Way to Bonnaroo” contest.

    For a chance to win a trip to the arts and music festival, valued at $4,000, fans of the brand were asked to explain what fair trade meant to them and how they’d promote it at Bonnaroo.

    77. The Lawyers Are Getting Involved

    Drive-thru bans were last year’s hot topic, but the battles continued this year. A 10-year-old drive-thru ban in University Place, California, was overturned this August, and a proposed ban in Loma Linda, California, never got off the ground. But new development restrictions are also keeping drive thrus off some international roads, including one of Sydney, Australia’s busiest streets and those in Halifax, Canada.

    78. “We are doing what we can. We have to evolve with the times, and the times require us, and our customers are asking us, to offer more options.” —Danya Proud McDonald’s spokeswoman explaining a decision to reduce the amount of fries in Happy Meals and include apples

    79. #FastFoodAddiction

    Want to find out which fast food menu items consumers crave the most? Try using the hashtag #FastFoodAddiction on Twitter. The social media service that might also pass as one of the world’s biggest focus groups started trending the #FastFoodAddiction hashtag in September.

    80. How the West Was Won (by Dunkin’ Donuts)

    Step 1: Establish dominance east of the Mississippi; tantalize Westerners with cult-like reputation.

    Step 2: Dip toe in Western markets with a few stores in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas.

    Step 3: Announce intentions to double unit counts in next 20 years.

    Step 4: Open another handful of Western markets to franchising, including Omaha, Nebraska; Denver; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    Step 5: Once again shun growth into California, thereby solidifying cult-like status.

    81. Taco Bell, MTV Team Up with QR Code

    When Taco Bell launched its Big Box Remixed LTO in July, it sported a QR code on the box—a first for Taco Bell. Customers who scanned it with their smartphone were given exclusive access to music and videos from MTV, which was promoting its “Video Music Awards.”

    82. The Butcher’s Son

    With the staggering number of food trucks hitting city streets across the U.S., it was only a matter of time before someone launched a nationally branded mobile unit. Two Trucks LLC is the first serious player to the table, as the company rolled out two units of The Butcher’s Son truck in Dallas in October and announced plans for a total of 200 food trucks across the U.S. by 2014.

    The company is led by Jonathan Wagner, son of Johnsonville Sausage founder Ralph Stayer, and Dain Pool, director of strategic growth and business development at Pool’s Restaurant Group.

    “We realized we had a three-year window to jump on this market, because if we put that out any longer, maybe five years, we may miss the chance to be on top,” Pool says.

    100 Montaditos

    The new Spanish concept 100 Montaditos opened its first U.S. store in Miami and has plans for about 4,000 more in the U.S. Here are 10 montaditos, or mini sandwiches, featured on the menu.

    83. Ham Lacón with Cream Cheese

    84. Chistorra and Iberic Cheese

    85. Serrano Ham with Salmorejo

    86. Turkey with Lettuce and Pico de Gallo

    87. Duck Mousse with Crispy Onion

    88. Pulled BBQ Pork with Blue Cheese, Bacon, Tomato, and Alioli

    89. Shrimp with Pink Sauce and Lettuce

    90. Grilled Chicken with Guava and Bacon

    91. Goat Cheese with Sundried Tomato and Pesto Sauce

    92. Grilled Beef with Hummus, Fresh Tomato and Arugula