FOOD SERVICES | Staff Reporter, Australia

Global News Wrap Up: Panera offers 'clean consultant' services; Starbucks rolls out its own Visa Card; Wendy's calls out McDonald's for using frozen beef

Here is a summary of the most interesting QSR news stories of the week from around the world.

Starbucks and Chase announced the availability of the Starbucks Rewards Visa Card, a co-brand credit card integrated directly into the Starbucks Rewards loyalty program. Customers using the card earn Stars with every purchase both in and out of Starbucks stores wherever Visa is accepted worldwide, and can be redeemed for food and beverage items at more than 8,000 participating Starbucks locations. Card members will also become members of the Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, receiving exclusive perks and benefits already enjoyed by more than 14 million members daily. Starbucks Rewards Visa Card has an annual fee of $49.

Wendy's is launching a whole new TV ad campaign to call out rival McDonald’s for using frozen beef patties in its hamburgers in two ads: a 15-second ad and a 30-second ad. According to Business Insider, Wendy’s TV campaign is the latest move in the chain’s bid for greater awareness, not around its brand, but around the fact that it uses fresh beef in its own burgers.

Dubai has opened the world’s first floating sustainable fast food drive-thru. Aqua Pod, which launched in Dubai's lagoons, will either deliver food by jet ski to boats or accept orders directly from smaller watercraft. According to The Sun, the first Aqua Pod will initially be situated in Jumeirah, and will also cover areas like Al Sufouh and Kite Beach. Running on electrical propulsion, the pod also has a built- in system enabling it to collect any waste wrappers or trash from the sea.

McDonald's plans to open about 1,000 new stores worldwide and speed up plans to add new self-service ordering systems and other store upgrades as the fast-food giant's momentum continues. The company reported strong fourth-quarter sales on Tuesday, fueled by strong interest in its McPick 2 options, beverage deals and a "strong consumer response" to its new Buttermilk Crispy Tenders. "Our business is growing, and it’s fundamentally sound," McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said during the analyst call. "2017 was our best performance in six years. Customers are rewarding us with more visits."

Panera Bread Co. has started a consulting service to help other chains remove artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors from menus. In an article by Reuters, the bakery/cafe chain’s “clean consultant” services include helping clients find ways to source healthier and more natural ingredients and to improve and differentiate menus. “We want to help industry peers devise strategies that prioritize clean across their whole menu, rather than focusing on a single ingredient or product,” said Sara Burnett, Panera’s director of wellness and food policy. Panera founder and Chairman Ron Shaich said the service would help end “clean washing,” where companies reformulate a product like chicken nuggets to be more natural and then serve it with dipping sauces made from unnatural or unhealthy ingredients.

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