Top 20 Restaurant News Stories 2011

Stick a fork in it.  2011 is done.  And almost every media outlet in the world has put together some type of Top Stories list. has been serving up online restaurant news for over 12 years, but this is the first time we’ve stepped up to the Year in  Review buffet.

Following is a list of the Top 20 stories read on over the past year.

20) Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant Owners Receive 2011 Faces of Diversity Award
In April, the National Restaurant Association honored Ethiopian sisters Berekti and Akberet Mengistu, owner-operators of Mesob restaurant in Montclair, N.J., with its 2011 Faces of Diversity American Dream Award.  The Mengistu sisters have operated Mesob for over seven years with Berekti handling the business operations and Akberet serving as chef.

19) Seafood Specialties, Culinary Confections Ring In The New Year At The Grand Central Oyster Bar
Grand Central Oyster Bar made a surprising, last minute jump into our Top 20 with the annoucement of executive chef Sandy Ingber special New Year’s Eve menu of seafood delicacies available for lunch and dinner at the historic restaurant “below sea level” in Grand Central Terminal.

18) Outback Steakhouse Free Steak Dinner Deal a Restaurant Marketing Win
Outback Steakhouse made a move that dominated restaurant marketing news in August by giving away one million free steak dinners in its Great Aussie Steak Out promotion.  The promotion was designed to introduce Outback’s new wood-fire grill steak preparation and new menu options. served up a tasty review of the campaign.

17) National Restaurant Association Responds to the State of the Union Address
The National Restaurant Association responded to President Obama’s job creation speech in January, and called attention to its “America Works Here” campaign which was formed to help educate opinion leaders, policymakers, and their staff members about the breadth, depth, scope and influence of the restaurant industry on the American economy.

16) Restaurants Tossing a Summer of Salads
It was the Summer of Salads as restaurants across America offered up a super summer salad fiesta. If you’re a salad lover, then you were in for a summer of tasty green treats. took a look at the salad offerings of several national restaurant chains.

15) KFC Launches New 10-Piece Buckets, Helps Cash-Strapped Choirs
To launch its new 10-piece 10 Buck Sunday Bucket deal in March, Kentucky Fried Chicken offered 11 struggling choirs across the country $1,000 grants to help keep their harmonies alive.  Members of The St. Louis Children’s Choirs kicked off the program at a KFC restaurant in St. Louis.

14) IHOP Offers New Chicken and Waffles For Limited Time
In March, IHOP rolled out its Chicken and Waffles, becoming the first restaurant chain to offer the combination nationwide.  The Chicken and Waffles, a limited time promotion, included four golden all white meat chicken tenders with four light and crisp Belgian waffle quarters.

13) McDonald’s Introduces New McCafe Shakes
In February, McDonald’s announced plans to “shake things up” with the introduction of the McCafe Shake in its restaurants.  The McCafe Shakes feature the three classic milkshake flavors (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) in a clear McCafe cup, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

12) McDonald’s Reintroduces the Asian Salad
McDonald’s brought back its popular Asian Salad in May for a limited time.  The Asian Salad consists of greens, edamame, snow peas, red bell peppers, mandarin oranges, toasted almonds and an orange-glazed grilled or crispy white meat chicken breast filet.

11) Restaurants Serving Up Social Media Connections
Many restaurants today are still left sitting at the cutting board trying to figure out a successful recipe for social marketing, while the early adopters are reaping the rewards of a lucrative, successful social media push.  People are hungry for much more than food. They want to feel connected, and social media allows them to feel as if they are a part of the whole restaurant family.

10) Cracker Barrel and The Grascals Celebrate #1 Debut on Billboard Bluegrass Chart
In January, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and The Grascals announced the #1 debut of The Grascals & Friends – Country Classics with a Bluegrass Spin on the Billboard Top Bluegrass Albums chart.  The CD is part of Cracker Barrel’s exclusive music program.

9) Five Emerging Trends in the Foodservice Industry
In today’s competitive foodservice industry, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to engage guests and employees in a more meaningful and personal manner.  Steve Prodger, Vice President of Food Services with Empathica, reviewed how restaurants could gain a better understanding of the ways customers want to be engaged and how that information can be used to earn lifelong, loyal clientele.

8) IHOP’s All You Can Eat Pancakes Promotion is Back
IHOP brought back its limited time All You Can Eat Pancakes promotion at the beginning of the year.  IHOP guests could order unlimited pancakes, served three at a time, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

7) McDonald’s Offers New Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
McDonald’s kicked off the year with the introduction of its Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, made with whole grains, light cream, brown sugar, red and green apples, cranberries, and two varieties of raisins.  The breakfast item is available throughout the day at any McDonald’s location, comes with or without brown sugar, and is also available in a less sweetened version.

6) SONIC Adds Four New Premium Beef Hot Dogs to Menu
Hot dogs have been an American favorite for generations. At the beginning of the year, Every Day with Rachael Ray declared 2011 as the Year of the Hot Dog.  SONIC agreed, rolling out a new line of Premium Beef Hot Dogs with a variety of toppings.  The drive-in restaurant chain offered up a Chicago Dog, a New York Dog, an All-American Dog and the Chili Cheese Coney for $1.99 each.

5) After 119 Years, the Ice Cream Sundae Still a Restaurant Favorite
In April, the ice cream sundae celebrated its 119th birthday.  Over the years, they became a mainstay in the restaurant industry, evolving and giving birth to a new generation of restaurant sundaes including the McFlurry and the Blizzard. took a look at ice cream sundaes offered up by some of your favorite restaurants.

4) Burger King Offers Original Chicken Sandwich Deal for Fourth of July Weekend
Burger King’s flame-broiled Whopper may be the burger chain’s most famous menu item, but with a price point of $1.04, the Original Chicken Sandwich ruled the roost during a Fourth of July weekend promotion.  The crispy, premium white meat chicken patty topped with shredded lettuce and mayo on a bakery-style, sesame seed bun has been a menu favorite since 1979.

3) Pizza Hut Launches Ultimate Cheese Lover’s with $10.99 Any Lover’s Deal and Facebook Sweepstakes
Pizza Hut launched its Ultimate Cheese Lover’s pizza in May.  The company offered up the Ultimate Cheese Lover’s, the Pepperoni Lover’s, the Meat Lover’s, and the Veggie Lover’s for $10.99.  The pizza chain also began running its Ultimate Lover’s Lover Facebook sweepstakes, awarding a $50 Pizza Hut gift cards daily and free pizza for a year for weekly winners.

2) Golden Corral Restaurants Launch Endless Baby Back Ribs Promo
Golden Corral rolled out an abundance of new ribs products in April, including Baby Back Ribs. This array of  freshly-prepared BBQ ribs products was in addition to the buffet chain’s 150-item, every day dinner buffet, which includes slow-cooked Pot Roast, made-from-scratch Meatloaf, and grilled-to-order USDA dinner buffet Sirloin Steaks.

1) Phillips Seafood Opens Two New Airport Restaurants
In July, Phillips Seafood announced the opening of two new airport restaurant locations: Newark Liberty International as well as Harrisburg International Airport bringing the total to nine successful airport restaurant operations.  Both full service locations feature a traditional Phillips menu offering signature crab dishes, genuine Maryland style favorites and specialty drinks.  The restaurants are franchises with two leading concessionaires.