Christmas is over, but there’s still New Year’s Eve, the last big holiday before the restaurant business slows and operators turn their attention to restaurant weeks and other events to fill tables until business perks up again.

While much was made in the media about a McDonald’s memo encouraging franchisees to boost sales by opening on Christmas, other chains starting with Denny’s make it a tradition to always be open, even on the holiday, as the Los Angeles Times reported. Others planning to open at least some locations for at least part of the day included IHOP, Starbucks and Del Taco.

Meanwhile, market-by-market, independent eateries made their own decisions about whether to open on Christmas and New Year’s, including:

  • Newton, Mass., where chef Michael Leviton harked back to teenage Christmas Eves of years ago when Jewish friends introduced him to the custom of Chinese food and movies. Now the owner of Lumiere created a special holiday menu that was heavily influenced by Asian cuisines, as the Boston Globe reported.
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In addition to the highly publicized Bocuse d’Or contest, next month’s Sirha 2013 also brings the 13th Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie, where 22 international teams of pastry chefs, including a group from the U.S., will vie for the profession’s most coveted prize, the World Pastry Cup.

The word “pastry” seems much too simple for the elaborate and incredibly lush spun sugar confections, sweet sculptures and perfect chocolate concoctions on display in this mouth-watering 14-minute behind-the-scenes video mapping the road to Lyon, where America’s team took first place in 2001 and aims to do so again in January.

The first-place team wins a trophy, the top three take home cash prizes and separate special prizes are awarded in several categories, but everyone stands to gain just from making it to the competition, said Team USA President Gilles Renusson. “Participating in the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie on behalf of Team USA has been a career booster for all previous participants,” he said. (read more…)

The explosion of online feedback we witnessed in 2012 has forever changed the way restaurants and customers interact. Even before customers pay their check, many broadcast their review in a post or tweet for the online world to see. While some are still striving to get their heads and hands around this “word of mouth on steroids,” we at newBrandAnalytics are seeing savvy restaurants using the intelligence embedded in online conversations to transform how they deliver a quality customer experience.

Based on information analyzed from 2012, we have our finger on the pulse of the key social intelligence trends we predict will unfold in 2013:

Goodbye, surveys. In 2012, organizations witnessed a 25% increase in online customer reviews. With a consistent, reliable and free source of feedback coming from the web, social intelligence has rendered solicited surveys pointless, and restaurants will start to eliminate spending on solicited surveys in 2013. In fact, many of the more progressive brands have already decided to eliminate surveys and instead focus on social feedback as their primary source for customer experience information. (read more…)

From 1995 to 2010, diabetes rates increased 50% or more in 42 states and 100% or more in 18 states, according to research by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. Researchers say that until community programs are in place to reduce obesity and prevent diabetes, rates likely will keep going up. We spoke with Sue Shaw, public health adviser with the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, about how the CDC is working to prevent diabetes and how its National Diabetes Prevention Program is bringing evidence-based lifestyle change programs to communities around the U.S.

What is the National DPP’s role in establishing community-based programs to reduce diabetes rates?

The National DPP has established the National Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program, which was launched in early 2012. The purpose of DPRP is to recognize organizations that have demonstrated their ability to effectively deliver a proven, type 2 diabetes prevention lifestyle intervention. As of November, more than 200 organizations have applied for pending recognition. (read more…)

U.S. consumers spent about $30 billion on organic foods and beverages last year, up 9.4% from 2010 and significantly more than the $1 billion they spent in 1990, according to data from the Organic Trade Association. Organic food sales rose 21% in 2000 and saw strong annual growth until the recession hit in 2007; sales growth hit a low of 5.1% in 2009, before beginning to turn around the following year, but even in the tightest economic times, organic demand never declined and 78% of families now say they are opting for some organic foods.

Various studies — and sometimes different interpretations of the same studies — may differ on the nutritional benefits of opting for organic, but few argue against the idea that food raised without chemical pesticides comes to the plate cleaner. A much-quoted Stanford University Medical School study released this year found that organic foods aren’t any more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, but it did point out that it was 30% less likely to contain chemical residue. (read more…)