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Fast Food Is Banking On Your Pavlovian Desires for Comfort

Plus, fine-dining chefs are going private, and more news to start your day

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Taco Bell
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food and Travel Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

Chain executives say “cocooning” response will hopefully drive sales

It’s safe to say the country’s eating habits have shifted during the pandemic. We’re cooking beans and making bread, eating a lot more processed foods, and perhaps a bit more wary of meat. And most of all, we’re embracing the concept of “comfort,” as perhaps exhibited by Samin Nosrat’s nationwide lasagna-making challenge. Fast food executives are banking on that, saying our collective desire for “comfort brands” will translate to sales.

According to Business Insider, David Gibbs, the CEO of Yum Brands, says brands like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut provide the “convenience and normalcy, all of which are highly sought out in these uncertain times and beyond.” Taco Bell is already trying to position itself as the “safest” place to eat, by requiring things like contactless payment and employee temperature checks. And Frances Allen, the CEO of Checkers and Rally’s, told the site that “there is going to be this cocooning going on, a sort of a relief that we survived, but at the same time, wanting to embrace the things that give them comfort...from a selfish point of view, we’re also excited to be able to lean back into that.”

It’s also likely that, if you’re seeking the comfort of a burger and fries, chains may be the only option for a while. Fast food restaurants have the infrastructure and coffers to be able to continue operations through a pandemic, while small, independently-owned restaurants continue to struggle. And if the cycle continues, fast food might be all that’s left.

And in other news...

  • Employees of Hillstone Restaurant Group — which owns chains like Houston’s and Gulfstream — say bosses are forbidding them to wear face masks. [People Newspapers]
  • Taco Bell is selling taco kits for Cinco de Mayo. [CNN]
  • With the risk of meat shortages, and questions over the safety of factory farm production, more people are hunting for food. [Reuters]
  • The Department of Agriculture will spend $300 million a month to buy surplus fruit, vegetables, meat, and milk from farms, but it still might not be enough to prevent food waste. [NYTimes]
  • Chefs from restaurants like Daniel and Eleven Madison Park are increasingly working for billionaires as private chefs. [NYPost]
  • Food banks continue to struggle to provide enough. [The Guardian]
  • The pandemic has basically revealed everything wrong with our food supply chain. [LA Times]
  • Recipe comment section go brrrrr: