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Jillian Berman
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Jillian Berman is a Business Reporter at The Huffington Post. Her work has also appeared in USA Today, Bloomberg and Xconomy. She can be reached at 212 402 4771 or jillian.berman@huffingtonpost.com.

Entries by Jillian Berman

McDonald's May Cut More Menu Items

(43) Comments | Posted January 23, 2015 | 2:33 PM

The McDonald’s menu could be getting even smaller.

Mike Andres, McDonald’s U.S. CEO, hinted on a conference call with analysts Friday that the chain may cut more menu items.

“This menu rationalization process is clearly ongoing,” Andres said. “As we look forward, we’ve added quite a number of...

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Your Chipotle Could Be Getting Carnitas Back Soon

(6) Comments | Posted January 22, 2015 | 3:39 PM

Carnitas lovers rejoice! (Sort of.)

Finding carnitas during the ongoing Chipotle pork shortage may not be as hard as you originally thought. The Mexican chain is rotating the menu item through all of its restaurants, according to Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman. Though one-third of its restaurants won't be...

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You Can Now Get Your Tax Refunds In Cash At Walmart

(7) Comments | Posted January 20, 2015 | 12:18 PM

This tax season, Walmart is luring shoppers into stores with cash -- their own cash.

The retail giant is offering people the chance to pick up their state and federal tax refunds in cash at its stores across the country, it announced on Tuesday.

The program, called Direct2Cash,...

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Chipotle Doesn't Know When Carnitas Shortage Will End

(26) Comments | Posted January 16, 2015 | 4:55 PM

The hottest fast food chain in the country has been out of a key menu item for four days at hundreds of its restaurants, and it's still not clear when it will come back.

Chipotle announced Tuesday that about one-third of its more than 1,600 stores would...

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Chipotle Pork Shortage Is Proof Of A Larger Problem Facing The Food Industry

(50) Comments | Posted January 15, 2015 | 1:34 PM

Americans increasingly want grocers and restaurants to carry meat they can feel good about eating. But that meat is scarce, as Chipotle's pork problem revealed this week.

Chipotle, which has won over diners partly for its commitment to sustainability and animal welfare, recently discovered that one of its pork...

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Target To Close All 133 Stores In Canada

(75) Comments | Posted January 15, 2015 | 9:52 AM

Target is pulling out of Canada, the retail giant announced Thursday.

The chain plans to close all 133 of its stores in the country, and has received initial Canadian court approval to go through with the liquidation process. The decision comes after a review by company executives...

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Why That Controversial McDonald's Ad Might Actually Work

(20) Comments | Posted January 13, 2015 | 2:30 PM

McDonald’s latest strategy to get more people in the door: Pull at your heart strings.

The chain, plagued by a rut of sluggish sales, unveiled a new ad Sunday evening during the NFL playoffs and the Golden Globes featuring McDonald’s signs from across the country with feel-good messages like “thank you veterans” and “keep jobs in Toledo.” Critics were swift to deride the spot, creating a parody, calling it “tone deaf” and using Twitter to note the irony of a chain highlighting its role in helping the community when it's constantly embroiled in labor protests and criticism for marketing unhealthy food to kids.

Despite the skeptics, the emotional advertising may actually be the Golden Arches' best hope to draw people in. With chains like Five Guys, Shake Shack and even Chipotle offering quick, fresh and relatively cheap alternatives to McDonald’s, the most salient reasons for many to order a Big Mac are nostalgia and familiarity. And the spot, called "Signs," reminds people of those things, said Barry Klein, a former director of advertising at McDonald’s.

“It’s about time,” said Klein, who helped craft the McDonald’s “You Deserve A Break Today” campaign in the 1970s. “That’s a big step forward in getting back to one of the important reasons for going to McDonald’s -- it’s a nice, pleasant experience, it’s family time and it’s warm and fuzzy.”

From the “You Deserve A Break” campaign to the “Little Sister” ad to McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan, the fast food giant has a history of trying to create an emotional connection with people to bring them in the door. When McDonald’s first rolled out nationally, it wasn’t necessarily any better than any of the other burger joints already out there, said Jason Chambers, a University of Illinois professor who focuses on the history of advertising.

“That notion of experience was an important one,” he said. “It was one of the things that they were using to try to make themselves unique in that category of equals.”

Indeed, the idea that McDonald’s is a family restaurant engaged in the community has “always been a key differentiator for us,” said Deborah Wahl, the company’s chief marketing officer in the U.S. The creative team at Leo Burnett, the agency behind the ad, wanted to emphasize "an asset that McDonald's has that's unique to them," said Susan Credle, the agency's chief creative officer.

"These reader boards from time to time stop being about running the business and start being about supporting the community," she said. "When we found these, we were like, 'This is real, this is not us being creative.'"

McDonald's is also taking a similar approach to its food, emphasizing features of its classic sandwiches that appear authentic, instead of dressing them up to be something they're not, Credle said. The controversial Sunday spot is part of a broader push to revamp McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign, and includes other ads that unapologetically tout the Big Mac as superior to kale and highlight the Quarter Pounder’s unpretentious perfection.


McDonald's new Big Mac ad.

Whal said she's hoping the spots will start a conversation with diners about the chain, which is exactly what the “Signs” ad did, even if much of that conversation was negative.

“It has created a lot of good dialogue and that’s what we’re interested in,” she said. Credle, who said her phone has been buzzing constantly since Sunday, expressed a similar sentiment.

"I'm just glad that people are talking," she said.

Still, buzz and emotion may not be enough to sell burgers. Klein, who now works as a marketing consultant, noted that Budweiser’s iconic clydesdales made viewers feel warm and fuzzy, but they didn’t convince people to switch from craft beers to Bud.

“The big issue to me is, is it too late?” Klein said. “Do the consumers still relate to what’s at the core of the McDonald’s menu? I don’t know the answer to that.”

And as the controversy over the “Signs” spot indicates, the emotional message the chain is trying to send with the ads doesn't match many Americans’ experience with McDonald’s. Part of the success of the “Take A Break” campaign was that at the time, McDonald’s really was a place where “where people could go in, get that break, get that quick meal,” Chambers said.

“Today you just don’t have that, and you’re also confronted with a host of more alternatives and better alternatives,” he said. “I would be very surprised if it moved the needle in any way, shape or...

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Breastaurants Booming As The Restaurant Industry Struggles

(220) Comments | Posted January 13, 2015 | 8:31 AM

For many Americans, it's becoming less appealing to take the time to sit down to an uninspiring pasta dish, a bland hamburger or a plate of once-frozen wings at a middle-brow restaurant chain.

But serve that burger with a side of cleavage, and the crowds come pouring in.

Sales...

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Charlize Theron Proved You're Better Off When You Know Your Co-Workers' Pay

(37) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 11:07 AM

At least one good thing came out of the massive Sony Pictures hack -- a big raise for Charlize Theron. It's the latest proof that transparency can level the playing field for women seeking equal pay for equal work.

Theron, an Oscar-winning actress, reportedly used the hack against...

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Kim Kardashian's BFF Is Launching A Shake Shack Rival

(5) Comments | Posted January 8, 2015 | 4:21 PM

Before he was palling around with Kim and crew on "Keeping Up with The Kardashians," Jonathan Cheban had a dream: to open a burger joint.

“I have actually been dying to do burgers for literally 13 years,” Cheban said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post on Thursday....

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Meet Four Working Moms Who Fought For Higher Wages In 2014

(200) Comments | Posted December 31, 2014 | 7:40 AM

Mothers struggling to get by on low wages made headlines in 2014. Some got in trouble for leaving their children in a car or on a playground while they worked because they couldn't afford child care. Politicians highlighted the plight of low-wage working women...

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Why I'm Mourning The Death Of A Mall

(340) Comments | Posted December 30, 2014 | 12:26 PM

white flint mall

The mall that played an outsize role in my adolescence is now a ghost town.

I didn’t really believe that malls were going extinct until I saw my own mall dying.

As a business reporter, I'm fully aware that people aren't...

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Shake Shack IPO Proves It's Possible To Make Money And Pay Your Workers Well

(359) Comments | Posted December 29, 2014 | 12:41 PM

Here's proof that it’s possible for a burger joint to both pay its workers well and still make money.

Shake Shack on Monday declared its intention to go public, filing the necessary paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In those documents, the New York-based burger chain...

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McDonald's 1950s Menu Could Fix Its Problems Today

(550) Comments | Posted December 23, 2014 | 3:41 PM

The McDonald's of today could learn a lot from the McDonald's of yesterday about how to run a burger joint.

Check out this 1950s-era McDonald's menu board:

menu

There were just nine items! Today the multibillion-dollar chain offers more than 100 items, from Big Macs to McWraps...

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Coca-Cola Workers No Longer Have To Listen To Voice Mails And We're All Jealous

(13) Comments | Posted December 22, 2014 | 4:33 PM

Voice mail is dying, and the world’s largest soda maker just pounded another nail in its coffin.

As of last month, most employees at Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters and its technology plaza nearby no longer have access to voice mail on their office phones. The soda giant gave workers the...

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For Low-Wage Americans, The Holiday Season Is A Time To Work

(157) Comments | Posted December 17, 2014 | 7:51 AM

For many American workers, this is the time of year for tying up loose ends and taking it easy. For Simon Ting, this is the time of year for working harder than ever.

Ting, 24, works at a Macy’s in San Francisco, and he’s paid largely on commission. That means...

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For 'The Interview,' Even Negative Publicity (Like A Massive Sony Hack) Is Good Publicity

(1) Comments | Posted December 13, 2014 | 7:30 AM

Some bad news for Sony might end up being good news for one of the company's movies.

A massive hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer system has been devastating to the studio, leading to leaks of unreleased movies, embarrassing emails and sensitive employee...

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'Serial' Fans Are Flocking To The Best Buy At Center Of Murder

(17) Comments | Posted December 10, 2014 | 5:33 PM

SPOILER ALERT: This story reveals details from as recent as episode 9 of "Serial."

A Maryland Best Buy has become a destination for people seeking a fairly obsolete piece of technology: a pay phone.

They're looking for one pay phone in particular, the one that plays a key role in...

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Fast Food Protesters Take To The Streets On 2-Year Anniversary Of Campaign

(14) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 12:45 PM

NEW YORK -- The fast food protests that have swept the nation in recent years, including demonstrations in dozens of cities on Thursday, introduced Americans to thousands of people like Flavia Cabral.

Cabral, 53, is the sole breadwinner for her Bronx family. Her husband is unemployed, so she splits her...

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Putting Calorie Counts On Fast Food Menus Won't Make People Eat Less, Experts Say

(71) Comments | Posted December 2, 2014 | 7:30 AM

Americans will soon know just how many calories are in that fast food burger they're about to buy. But that won't necessarily make them think twice about buying it.

The Food and Drug Administration last week announced new rules requiring fast food chains, vending machine companies and other...

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