According to Nation’s Restaurant News, chain restaurants commonly offer Lent friendly menus this time of year. An article in the industry publication notes, “restaurant chains focus their menu development and marketing to make sure they are not giving up traffic and sales between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, a 40-day period when Christians observing Lent abstain from certain vices or habits.” The most common adjustments is to add fish options to food offerings. This is because during Lent many Christians refrain from eating meat on Fridays. Restaurants aiming to serve this constituency, according to Nation’s Restaurant News,  include McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr. and Wendy’s. Last year at this time, McDonald’s (the largest restaurant chain in America) introduced Chicken McBites. The chain’s website describes the bite sized snacks as “Juicy bites made with chicken breast meat, in three deliciously poppable sizes.” This year it expanded the offering to fish with Fish McBites. McDonald’s writes these are, “Tender, flaky wild-caught Alaskan Pollock in crunchy bite-sized pieces. Available in three sizes – snack,

  Today, the Dinning and Wine section of The New York Times features a profile called, “At City Grit, the Guest Is in the Kitchen.” The pieces welcomes readers inside City Grit, a year old “restaurant” where the menu changes nightly and, often, so does the chef. This constant motion is because founder Sarah Simmons sees her space as an experience or gathering, rather than a traditional restaurant. A quick look at the schedule of dinners planned for this month shows that each night is dedicated to fulfilling a culinary fantasy. At many fine dinning establishments this means the diners, but in this case it’s the chefs’ fantasy. The food may be Simmon’s sassy southern cooking or a China inspired feast from one of her guests. The Times describes the NoLita space as, “an Off Broadway option: City Grit, a self-described culinary salon that functions as a kind of permanent pop-up, giving both unknown and established chefs the opportunity to drum up attention in the media and the food world.” Pop-up restaurants have

  In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, web reservation giant OpenTable conducted a survey to find out what diners really want from the heart-filled holiday. Here are some of the most interesting results: Despite the lavish tasting menus many restaurants offer in honor of Valentine’s Day, most people who answered the survey (67%) expect to order a la carte. Respondents estimate that they will spend $139 per couple next weekend, this is more than double the OpenTable average of $85 per couple. Since the holiday falls on a Thursday this year, only half of the people surveyed plan to celebrate on February 14. Many will move the festivities to the weekend, with 8% planning to eat out multiple nights. The top three deciding factors in picking a restaurant for the event were: reviews, ambiance and service. People were less concerned about location, special menus ann wine lists. Perhaps less useful restauranteurs is the information on who diners feel should celebrate Valentine’s Day. The results are nonetheless fascinating:

  In Fall 2012 The National Restaurant Association conducted a digital survey of of 1,834 chefs, all members of the American culinary Federation. The group was given a list of 198 food items or themes that could appear on restaurant menus in 2013. The chefs ranked these items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite.” The NRA used this information to create a master “What’s Hot” list that ranks every item, as well as sub hot lists, The organization also extrapolated 20 major trends from the responses. At the top of the list is “locally sourced meats and seafood” with 82% of respondents calling it a “Hot Trend.” This is followed by “locally grown produce” with 81% and “healthful kids’ meals” with 78%. Next “environmental sustainability” and “children’s nutrition” are tied with 77%. The, perhaps more surprisingly, the chefs rated “new cuts of meat (e.g. denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)” with 76%. The bottom five ratings went to “breakfast burritos” with 15%, “chicken

  Since childhood we have all been informed that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Nevertheless many of us skimp on the first meal. According to a survey by the NDN group, 31 million (10%) Americans skip the morning meal all together. Unless coffee counts, I have long been the same. Often because I simply forget. However, this month, I have been making the meal a priority as a part of my attempt to live better in 2013. In order to finish January strong, I went all in this week by adding chia seeds — an up and coming ‘super food’ — to my morning routine. On Sunday night I made coconut-almond chia seed pudding. The simple Food & Wine inspired recipe mashes together coconut milk, almond milk, agave nectar (I used honey) and chia seeds. Chias look like sesame seeds until submerged in liquid for a while. After a night in the fridge the little black seeds had a clear coating and the consistency of

  Taking the seeds out of a pomegranate is a long and messy process (editor’s note: there are still juice splatters around my kitchen from an attempt earlier this week). Therefore it should be no surprise that many people have tried to capitalize on the so-called ‘super fruit’s’ popularity. At a New York City Fairway, $5 will get you a loosely packed half pound container of the tart and chewy seeds. A $3 fruit, sold a few feet away, will earn you double that. But with the whole fruit you need to loan the time and clean hands to the process. The biggest money maker of the pomegranate fad of the 2000s is POM Wonderful. A 16 Oz bottle of the popular juice costs around $11. The brand as also added millions to the coffers of the company’s billionaire owners and had put the once unknown fruit on the map in recent year. But Time Magazine says, “Move over pomegranate, it’s pitaya time,” referring to a sweeter, pink shelled

Tough Mudder is “probably the toughest event on the plant” — according to big block letters on the extreme sport company’s website. When you arrive at  an oversized video screen begins to play. Suddenly you are inundated by dramatic arial shots, sweeping views of hundreds of wet suit clad people congregating in desert like field, running along a winding path and then jumping from wooden cliff to water. Tough Mudder events include 10 to 12 mile obstacle courses that have been set up around the world. The race is meant to challenge the physically fit and mentally sharp. The course involve mud, ropes, nets and sometimes fire or barbed wire. On the other end you are dirty, tired and handed a beer. The New York Times recently wrote about the Tough Mudder. The article explains that many participants are financial professionals who work demanding jobs on Wall Street. Some big name firms even bring large teams. The Times calls Tough Mudder, “the macho sport of choice for Type

powered by Fotopedia lists 13 Popular New Year’s Resolutions. Nearly half of those deal with getting healthier and looking better. With this in mind The Horizon Business Funding Blog will loan its pages this month to the beauty and fitness sectors. We will look at the news impacting gyms, hair salons and yoga studios. Here you will find a collection of the most interesting stories about the business of physical fitness, beauty and overall well-being. Here are a few facts to get us started: According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) over 50 million Americans belong to a gym, this is 10 million more members than in 2005 IHRSA also estimates there are nearly 30,000 fitness centers in this country which brought in $21.4 billion in revenue in 2011 Cult like spin chain SoulCylce is able demand at least $32 per class According to a study by the itandi group, a media company that specializes in in-salon advertising, there are approximately 360,000 hair and nail salons

  As hard as family and friends try, sometimes their holiday gifts are all wrong. The sweater they bought you is too small. You already have an iPad. Or you are too old for a Barbie doll. Luckily many stores allow you to return the undesirable gift for cash or a exchange it for a store credit. To make the return process easier, Consumer World  put together a report of “Holiday Return Policies.” The annual list is a rundown of “noteworthy policies, policy changes, or unusual return policies” at the nation’s largest retailers. Consumer World also notes laws that may impact your ability to make returns in select states and loans tips on how avoid a stressful return experience. A few stand out store policies include: “Sears shortened its regular return policy for many categories of items from 90 days to 60 days. Its extended holiday return period is no longer 120 days across the board, but 30 and 60-day category items can be returned until

Movie licenses make up 25% of Lego’s business, much of which is done during the holiday season. (Picture by jlottosen on Flickr)


On Thursday The Wall Street Journal ran a story called “What It Takes to Build a Lego Hobbit (and Gollum and More).” The article transports readers inside the quirky world of Lego headquarters. From that vantage the writer shows what it takes to build a branded set of the iconic building toy — in this case for the upcoming movie “The Hobbit.”

Reporter Jens Hansegard writes:

“Behind the movie tie-ins is a design and engineering team of 160 self-proclaimed geeks, many with impressive tattoos, who spend days playing with the plastic bricks and other tiny architectural elements in the building lab in the basement of Lego’s Billund, Denmark, headquarters.”

Nicholas Groves, lead designer on the Hobbit collection told Hansegard, “Not only does it have to look right, we also have to create a great building experience for a kid.” Hansegard describes Groves as, “a 31-year-old Brit with tattooed knuckles and a shaggy beard.”

Beyond the geeky details, the article tells a story of retail prowess and reinvention. The Journal explains that when Jorgen Vig Knudstorp became Lego’s chief in 2004 he decided his people shouldn’t loan their time to starting from scratch for every special project. Years of reinventing the wheel had led the iconic brand to near bankruptcy. So Knudstrop created what he calls Lego’s “system of play,” a collection of pieces that are used to compile every set of nodular bricks we see on toy store shelves. 

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