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McDonald’s puts Ronald back to work

Ronald McDonald slaps first graders' hands as they head to lunch at Dawes Elementary School in Evanston in 2008. (Heather Stone/Chicago Tribune)

McDonald’s Corp. is putting its long-time character Ronald McDonald back on television and bolstering his web presence, resetting its sights on younger consumers after its recent push to target adults with specialty coffee and smoothies.

The new commercials starting Wednesday, starring McDonald’s mascot of 48 years, encourage kids to go to, with parents’ permission, to play games and create photos with Ronald. Get the full story »

Sbarro files for bankruptcy

A Sbarro Inc. employee serves patrons at a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. (Reuters_

Pizza chain Sbarro Inc. said Monday it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under a plan that would remove more than half of the company’s total debt. Get the full story »

McDonald’s to hire 50,000 in April

To nab the attention of top-flight job candidates, McDonald’s is tackling the image of a “McJob” with a weeks-long advertising and public-relations campaign leading up to April 19, when McDonald’s Corp. plans to hire 50,000 store-level employees.

FDA wants more food places to list calories

The  Food and Drug Administration, which has proposed posting calorie information at chain restaurants and on vending machines, suggested a broader mandate Friday afternoon, to include airplanes, bowling alleys and other places where food is sold. Get the full story »

Sbarro reportedly in bankruptcy talks

Sbarro Inc., the fast-food pizza chain that dots shopping-mall food courts around the world, is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as next week, said people familiar with the matter. Get the full story »

Dunkin’ Donuts parent eyes IPO

A Dunkin' Donuts in Posen, Ill. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)

Private equity-backed Dunkin’ Brands Inc. is considering an initial public offering of about $500 million in the second half of 2011, sources familiar with the situation said.

The IPO could be as large as $750 million, one of the sources said. Two or the sources said that there is disagreement among the sponsors over the company’s valuation. All of the sources said the discussions are preliminary and could change. Get the full story »

McDonald’s boosts exports to Japan after quake

McDonald’s Corp. has been forced to step up imports to Japan of items like sauces, oil and lettuce by between 10 percent and 20 percent to counter supply-chain disruptions and damage from the earthquake and resulting tsunami. Get the full story »

Large McDonald’s franchisee files for U.S. IPO

Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc, a large South American franchisee of U.S. fastfood chain McDonald’s Corp, is planning to raise about $875 million in a stock offering and list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Get the full story »

Napkins shrink as restaurants economize

Napkins are shrinking at upscale and casual restaurants. (Bill Hogan/Tribune)

The dinner napkin today is a fraction of its former self.

The 30-inch square, which was considered suitable as lately as 25 years ago, is now likely to be 20 to 22 inches square in a restaurant, and 18 to 22 inches at home. In a reverse trend, lunch napkins, which used to stay a respectful step behind, at 14 to 20 inches, are getting larger — even on the best laps — so that you don’t have to own more than one set of napkins to get through the day. Get the full story »

Starbucks maps out plan to conquer grocery aisles

Starbucks Corp. coffee on a shelf at a grocery store in New York. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Starbucks Corp. wants to make sales of its coffee and other products in the grocery aisle rival its traditional cafe business, according to Chief Executive Howard Schultz.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is betting it can use the power of its brand to sell a portfolio of goods — such as Via instant coffee and bottled Frappuccino — everywhere food and beverages are sold, whether in a supermarket in the United States or a vending machine in Asia. Get the full story »

Marathon finish fueled by McDonald’s diet

From the Chicago Sun-Times | Palatine’s Joe D’Amico on Sunday completed the Los Angeles marathon with a personal best time after eating nothing but McDonald’s fast food for a month. D’Amico said he was not trying to make a political statement and did it because he loves McDonald’s and running and wanted to combine the two.Get the full story>>

Morton’s explores possible sale

Christopher Artinian, CEO and president of Morton's . (Nancy Stone/Tribune)

By Robert Channick | Upscale Chicago-based steakhouse chain Morton’s Restaurant Group announced Wednesday that it is exploring a possible sale.

Morton’s is still struggling to recover from the recession that cut into its business. It said it is exploring “strategic alternatives” to enhance shareholder value. The board has retained Jefferies & Company as its financial advisor to assist in the process.

No timetable has been set for a possible sale, which is being pursued with the support of affiliates Castle Harlan and Laurel Crown Partners, the company’s largest shareholders. Get the full story »

GrubHub scoops up $20M in fundraising round

GrubHub, a Chicago-based startup that connects people with nearby food delivery options, said Wednesday that it has raised $20 million in its fourth round of funding.

GrubHub, launched in 2006 as the brainchild of local software engineers Matt Maloney and Mike Evans, raised $11 million in November from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Benchmark Capital. Maloney told the Tribune he wasn’t looking for more funding after that round, but “the calls came pouring in from top-tier venture firms all across the country” that were interested in the company. Get the full story »

McDonald’s February sales up worldwide

McDonald’s Corp said global sales at established restaurants in February rose 3.9 percent, as strong sales in Europe helped offset a U.S. market that was hit by high unemployment and rising gasoline prices.

February sales at restaurants open at least 13 months were up 2.7 percent in the United States, helped by strong demand for its McCafe beverages, the fast-food hamburger chain said. Get the full story »

Subway knocks McDonald’s from restaurant throne

Workers at a Subway in Rosemont, Ill., April 8, 2010. (Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune)

It’s official: the Subway sandwich chain has surpassed Oak Brook-based McDonald’s Corp. as the world’s largest restaurant chain, in terms of units.

At the end of last year, Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide, according to a Subway spokesman, compared to McDonald’s 32,737. The burger giant disclosed its year-end store count in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late last month. Get the full story »