Blog Posts by CNBC

  • What's Cooking at Fast-food Restaurants

    Fast-food restaurants are taking one of two routes into the fast-casual space.Call it the Chipotle effect.

    With fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera Bread growing at a sprint while fast-food counterparts expand at more of a slow jog, the latter group is entering the race is trying to shift upscale. At stake is a booming restaurant segment.

    Fast-casual restaurant sales rose 13 percent last year, while fast-food sales increased 4.7 percent, according to data from market research firm Technomic. The company expects the former to grow an average of 10 percent through 2017, compared with a rise of 3.5 percent for fast food.

    Despite the rush, experts say there's definitely room for fresh ideas.

    "Right now, our country is pretty saturated with fast food-you could evolve that entire segment into fast-casual," said Sam Oches, editor at QSRmagazine, which covers the quick-service restaurant industry.

    (Read more: Secret's out! Hidden menu items )

    "There's no ceiling on this," he added. "This is just going to be explosive growth for

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  • McDonald's Alums Big Bet on Healthy Food

    LYFE Kitchen nine grain pilaf.

    No strangers to food in the fast lane, a handful of former McDonald's executives are trying to crack the code on providing food on the go that tastes good, and is good for you.

    Those behind LYFE Kitchen hope that this relatively straightforward mission will enable it to grow at breakneck speed-much like the Golden Arches before it.

    "The No. 1 thing ... to us, and what sets us apart, is our relentless focus on taste," said Stephen Sidwell, founder and CEO of LYFE's grocery division. "If we make our food taste better than unhealthy alternatives, it's really easy to make the right choice."

    The company has both restaurant and grocery divisions. Its items, made with organic ingredients when possible, incorporate whole grains, responsibly raised meats, and local fruits and vegetables. Since introducing frozen products in January, the line has expanded to Whole Foods Market, Safeway, Costco and Stop & Shop.

    "By September, we'll be in approximately 6,000 [locations] across the

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  • Be Your Own Brewmaster, One Drop at a Time

    OnTap offers two flavors, Pale Ale and American Ale.

    Craft beer continued to post double-digit growth even in the depths of the recession, as many consumers saw the $8 or $9 they spent on a six-pack an affordable luxury.

    But what if you didn't have to spend extra to get what some consider a better-tasting brew?

    According to a Colorado start-up, its liquid flavor enhancer, called OnTap, gives beer drinkers the taste of craft without the added cost.

    Just drops of OnTap will lend a craft-beer taste to any domestic light lager, according to CEO Solie Swan. One bottle of OnTap, which retails at $3.99, can change the flavor profile of 18 standard 12-ounce beers.

    "It's roughly a third cheaper" than the average craft six-pack, Swan said.

    OnTap offers two flavors, Pale Ale and American Ale, but while the sales pitch says "craft beer," Swan said the craft beer aficianado isn't necessarily his target consumer. Rather, OnTap is looking for 21- to 34-year-olds who regularly drink domestic light lagers but may be ready to try

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  • 'Summer of Shandy' Coming to the US

    Glass of shandy with slice of lemon Fed up with beer? Feel too sleepy after drinking in the hot afternoon sun? Well, this may be the answer to your prayers as "shandy" - a beer and lemonade blend sometimes called "radler" - is set to take the U.S. by storm, according to new research.

    The number of global shandy product launches more than tripled between 2009 and 2012, according to research firm Datamonitor, and so far this year the number of product launches has already matched those for the whole of 2011.

    (Read More: Beer and Africa: A Recipe for Profit?)

    "With governments reducing allowable blood alcohol contents for driving under the influence, lower alcohol drinks seem destined to receive more attention," Tom Vierhile, director at Datamonitor said.

    "2013 is shaping up as the 'summer of shandy'…while beer and lemon have been dance partners for decades, they have never had the marketing push and attention that they are currently enjoying."

    Although widely consumed in the U.K. shandy's origins are believed to date Read More »from 'Summer of Shandy' Coming to the US
  • Outrageously Expensive Liquor

    New Record Holder for Most Expensive Cocktail Costs $12,916Wine aficionados have a reputation for being discriminating collectors, yet other types of liquor have their cultured devotees of their own. In 2008, if you wanted the most expensive cocktail in the world, you needed only $2,500 for the drink and a $2.25 subway ride to New York City's Plaza Hotel where it was sold. That changed this February, when Club 23 in Melbourne, Australia introduced the "Winston," a cocktail with a label price of almost $13,000, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    The high price is due to a single ingredient: an 1858 Croizet cognac. This liquor, which fetched over $160,000 at a Shanghai auction for a single bottle, was allegedly quaffed by the cocktail's namesake, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as he planned D-Day. Despite the high price and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, however, the cocktail's anonymous buyer took only a couple of sips, then got up and left.

    Scott Abramson, vice president of the Park Avenue

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  • Putting the 'Crazy' in Crazy Blind Date

    By Jane Wells, CNBC.com

    Online dating can be a funny business, but one new endeavor freely admits it's crazy.

    I have not dated in a loooooooooong time. Thank. Goodness. I admire the courage it takes to put yourself out there and meet someone new. Blind dates, in particular, take the sort of energy and fortitude I wish we could see more of in Washington.

    But has something changed about dating since I got out of the game? Has it evolved to the point where dating sites are actually working against you?

    [Read more: 12 Best Cities for Online Dating]

    I'm scratching my head over a new app from OkCupid called "Crazy Blind Date." Download the app and then upload an image of yourself. Mashable reported that OkCupid distorts most of the image to keep all possible dating candidates "blind." You are then paired together based on the time and location you are both available.

    After the date, if you like you partner, you buy "kudos" on OkCupid to rate him or her. The more kudos you buy for $.99,

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  • 5 Ways to Counter the Impact of the Payroll Tax Hike

    By Sharon Epperson, CNBC.com

    You didn't imagine it. Your paycheck shrunk. Thanks to an increase in payroll tax, more of your pay is going to fund Social Security. You got a break in 2011 and 2012 when the Social Security payroll tax temporarily dropped from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. Now it's back where it started.

    About 160 million workers pay this tax, and this year's two percentage point increase will cost the average worker about $700, according to the Tax Policy Center in Washington. Wealthier taxpayers may actually feel less of an impact since the 6.2 percent payroll tax only applies to wages up to $113,700.

    Still, for a family with a household income of $100,000, the payroll tax hike means a loss in income of about $2,000 a year.

    [More from CNBC: 5 Ways to Put Extra Cash In Your Pocket]

    Financial planners and credit counselors say making up for that loss in income will require some careful planning to cut expenses and increase earnings so the hit isn't such a blow.

    "For

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  • Men, it May Be Time to Shave

    By Jane Wells, CNBC.com

    Men get mixed messages. Be manly, but sensitive. When women say "nothing" is wrong, it means everything's wrong. Open the door for me. No, wait, don't patronize me!

    Here's a new one. Even though women say they like your three day growth ... most don't.

    Men have taken to facial hair in a big way. Scraggly wisps have covered faces as flawless as Brad Pitt's, but kissing such men is leaving women feeling like they've just undergone microdermabrasion therapy.

    Maybe it's time for the perpetual five o'clock shadow/Fred Flintstone look to be retired with faux hawks, ballcaps worn backwards, and hoodies without sleeves.

    That, at least, is the opinion of women surveyed by Gillette. Yes, I know, Gillette is in the business of selling razors, and everyone from baseball player Brian Wilson to the guys from Duck Dynasty are the worst things to happen to the razor biz since Robert Redford turned himself into Jeremiah Johnson.

    So take these results with a grain of salt,

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  • 2013 May Be the Year Employees Say 'I Quit!'

    By Cindy Perman, CNBC.com

    .. The steady drumbeat of "you're just lucky to have a job" that played through the recession is finally starting to fade and employees may be getting ready to say, "I quit!" and bolt for the nearest exit.

    One in three employees (33 percent) say they plan to look for a new job this year and nearly one in five (18 percent) say they'll be looking in the next three months, according to a new survey by Harris Interactive for job-search site Glassdoor.com.

    Over at Indeed.com, their survey showed the number of employees making a New Year's resolution to get a new job jumped to 38 percent.

    Part of this shot of confidence comes from the early signs of recovery in the job market, like the December jobs report, and part of it comes from the fact that most companies, while more stable than in recent years, are not confident enough to start handing out raises.

    [Read more: Asking for a Raise in a Tight Economy]

    "Now that it appears that the extreme highs and lows are

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  • What it Costs to Own Your Own Downton Abbey

    By Robert Frank,CNBC.com

    You don't have to be the Earl of Grantham to own your own British country estate. But it helps to have a royal-sized fortune to burn.

    With this week's season premiere of the third season of "Downton Abbey," we decided to take a look at what it costs to buy, own and maintain a grand estate in the U.K.

    Highclere CastleHighclere Castle

    Rupert Sweeting, head of the Country Department of Knight Frank in London, said that the biggest costs of owning a country estate are the staff. He said that for a "moderate-sized" 1,500 acre spread, you'll need a butler, cook, secretary, groundspeople and cleaning staff.

    "And for hunts, you need gamekeepers, one or two at the very least," he said.

    Total annual cost for the staff would be anywhere between $600,000 to $1 million a year.

    Then there all those leaky roves and crumbling gargoyles. Everyday repairs on your estate or castle will set you back another $100,000 a year or so.

    Renovations are the big ticket item. Sweeting said most

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