America: Meet the chork

America: Meet the chork

This post is part of the Reporter’s Notebook blog.

America, it seems, is suffering from chopsticks anxiety.

At a press event for the launch of limited-time-offer General Tso’s Chicken at Panda Express this week, the chain offered samples of the dish with a “chork,” a hybrid utensil that is part fork, part chopsticks.

It’s like the spork’s Asian cousin.

For Panda, it was either a brilliant move, or a mistake, depending on how you look at it. Consumer interest in the General Tso’s chicken was good, though not terribly enthusiastic.

But, said the Internet, how about those chorks!

2Chork Sushi

A photo of the red plastic utensil went viral, giving both Panda Express and the Princeton, Ky.-based manufacturer of the chork hundreds of thousands of impressions overnight.

Most people appeared to be amused by the name and the notion of it. Some debated whether “fopsticks” might have been a better moniker and suggested a spoon/chopstick hybrid would also be useful. Others decried it as a sign of the end of days.

But many indicated that the chork was a welcome solution to their awkward chopsticks-fumbling ways.

It should be noted that the good folks at Panda Express said they were considering a roll out of the chork, but they haven’t yet decided. Jimmy Wang, the chain’s director of culinary innovation, said they may even sell it as a retail product.

If Twitter interest is any indication, customers would love it.

“Cheater” chopsticks, or training chopsticks that many families buy for kids, have been available for years. But it seems there is a growing need for hybrid utensils that make chopstick use more accessible.

The chork is a product of Brown Innovation Group, which debuted the product at the 2010 National Restaurant Association trade show, where it won an innovation award, said Jordan Brown, founder and creative director. It hit the market in 2011, and is growing its presence in restaurants and food trucks across the country. Wedding and event planners also love the product.

Denver-based Teriyaki Madness, for example, has offered chorks for years and was quick to jump on the viral bandwagon this week.

 

Brown sees the chork as a three-way product: It’s a cheater and a fork, but if you snap the sticks, it becomes a proper set of chopsticks, albeit one with a couple of tines on each end.  Of course, once you break it, there’s no going back to full chork status without the help of duct tape.

This photo of chorks went viral this week. Photo: Lisa Jennings

The company has even created a somewhatgoofy video to demonstrate the product’s use.

It’s not the only hybrid out there. A quick Google search reveals the existence of Forkchops, listed on a gag gift site; fork-knife chopsticks that hook together in a way that seems like an intelligence test; and even “drum chopsticks,” as if you needed to make it easier to tap chopsticks on the table.

It’s a bit soon to sound the death knell for traditional chopsticks in America or to extrapolate about the dilution of authentic Asian culture. And I’m guessing few people cry themselves to sleep after suffering the humiliation of asking for a fork at an Asian restaurant.

Still, the chork’s 15 minutes in the spotlight raises an interesting question: Is there an opportunity in the utensil world that restaurant chains are missing?

Read full article here.

FastCasual.com – Why Franchising Needs to Have a Little Soul

FastCasual.com – Why Franchising Needs to Have a Little Soul

Restaurant franchising is often an extension of the corporate company: everything has to be exactly the same, or the process won’t work. Some restaurants, however, believe just the opposite: every unit should be free to choose how it runs its operations. What is the right balance between the two?

The answer, says Michael Haith, CEO of Teriyaki Madness, lies in a simple idea: soul. FastCasual chatted with Haith about how Teriyaki Madness infuses this concept into its franchises to strike the right balance of creativity and adhering to brand standards. FastCasual: How do you walk the line of having franchisees follow branding and protocol but not stifling their creativity? Michael Haith: “With our core values of collaboration, transparency and visibility, we work hand in hand with franchisees to develop new products and processes. We, the franchisor, insist on what we call ‘iconic symbols’ – the signage, colors and pieces that make TMAD. The rest is a collaboration to express the individual shop owner.”

FC: What elements are mandatory for your franchisees to follow or implement?dsc_0064

M: The absolute adherence to the recipes and service parameters.

FC: How do they go about getting their ideas approved? Do they run decor or format ideas by you first or just handle it how they want? M:They provide the visibility of what they want to do and we work together to test and implement and report back to the rest of the franchisees with results.

FC: Considering you give franchisees so much freedom, how do you vet franchisees to make sure they are a fit? I imagine some people wouldn’t be able to handle the freedom while others may still not want to color inside the lines. M:Through a rigorous application process, we know, based on our ‘tests’ and due diligence, the interaction style for each franchisee. Our primary consideration is cultural match. We go to great lengths to communicate our culture to franchisee candidates. If we don’t feel the candidate will match our culture, we will suggest a brand that may be a better fit.

FC: To you, what does a “restaurant with soul” mean?

M: It’s a little like fine art — you know it when you see it. You also know when it’s missing. Soul isn’t just about what our teriyaki shops look like. It goes much deeper than that. By allowing our franchisees to express themselves in the personality of their TMAD locations, they feel connected to their own shops. If an owner has that connection to their own shop and takes pride in what they do, the soul seems to come out and take care of itself. We attribute soul to caring — caring about the product we put out every single day and the customer interaction. Soul is tied to recognition and appreciation for the customer and taking pride in the customer service. Although the profitability of our teriyaki shops are important, the experience and the sincerity of the experience are tantamount to a business with soul. FC: Why is this important to your brand?

M: Soul is the essence of the TMAD brand. The cookie-cutter-fluorescent light plastic experience of serving pre-portioned frozen food has dominated the fast food landscape for too long. The TMAD culture is defined by a community of people who believe that soulless experience is on the decline. The culture of our brand is built upon a community of like-minded individuals who represent the magic of the local food “discovery” in the convenient, neighborhood strip mall down the street. We serve awesome, fresh, hot, big bowls of great Japanese fast casual comfort food in a neighborhood atmosphere. It’s just that simple.” Topics: Franchising & Growth, Operations Management, Staffing & Training, Sustainability

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