Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Give up a pint for a pound of joe
"America runs on Dunkin'" is a clever slogan for a company that downplays its doughnut roots to focus on its ever-growing line of coffee beverages and sandwiches. But America does not, in fact, run on Dunkin' - be it in the form of a peppermint mocha latte, a turkey sausage breakfast sandwich or a jelly doughnut.
American runs on blood. And it's always in demand.
On Wednesday, the Canton, Mass.-based company hosted a "Give a Pint, Get a Pound" blood drive at the American Red Cross at 425 Reservoir Ave. in Manchester to kick off National Blood Donor Month. The morning hoopla, which featured cheerleaders from the New England Patriots, Mayor Ted Gatsas, and Josh Judge of WMUR-TV, had long ended by the time I sneaked in during a calmer but still busy period in the afternoon.
Within minutes, I was checked in, had a sample of blood drawn and answered the pre-screening questions on a computer (Q: Are you pregnant? A: I am male."). Shortly afterward, I was lying down with a needle in my arm, the blood quickly flowing into a small pouch.
For facing up to my fears, I walked away with a coupon for a pound of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
And my dignity restored.
It had been more than 20 years since the last time I gave up a pint of my blood so that someone who needs it could continue living.
Back in college at the University of New Hampshire, I donated blood several times, lured by the free cookies and chicken salad sandwiches. But after a fainting spell during a bloodmobile drive at a Florida newspaper — after which I failed to convince my colleagues my light-headedness was not caused by fear — I simply stopped giving. In the back of my mind, I always wondered whether it would happen again and never went out of my way to do anything about it.
I learned Wednesday that all I probably needed was some water.
After reading an information sheet recommending donors be well-hydrated before giving blood to avoid dizziness, I drank a bottle of water, and my blood filled that one pint bag in less than six minutes without incident.
I only have to wait two months before I can give again. It will probably be on a Thursday — that's when the Puritan Backroom restaurant supplies the Red Cross with its famous fried chicken tenders for donors to feed on after they give blood.
Maybe I'll make it late afternoon so I can visit the Backroom afterward.
After all, Manchester runs on mudslides.
(To find a blood donation opportunity in your area, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. The "Pint for a Pound" Dunkin' coffee promotion continues through January.)
Rocky Mountain connection
While the nation is preoccupied with Colorado's retail marijuana experiment, the state's "fast-casual" restaurant industry has been quietly making inroads nationwide.
Since I returned to my native New Hampshire from a long stay in Colorado, I've had a craving for Japanese pan noodles - caramelized udon wheat pasta tossed with broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, carrots and onion and topped with fresh bean sprouts. I would usually order mine with shrimp and douse it liberally with sriracha hot chili sauce.While I could have hunted for a local Asian restaurant that makes something similar or learned to cook this myself, I've missed the convenience of being able to dash into the chain that features this dish and order some for lunch or takeout.
Soon, I'll just drive to Nashua for my fix.
The news that Noodles and Company plans to open its first store in the Granite State probably didn't register much with readers when we reported it recently in tandem with another restaurant (the burger joint b.good) that also plans to open in the Gate City at 219 Daniel Webster Highway. But the arrival of the pasta, sandwich and salad chain based in Broomfield, Colo., represents the latest entry in the parade of Colorado restaurants going national that are finally reaching New England.
Over the past year, Denver-area rivals Chipotle and Qdoba, which both tout fresh Mexican food, entered the greater Manchester and Merrimack markets respectively. (As a child of the '70s, I remember New Hampshire being one of the last places in the country to get a Taco Bell.)
Meanwhile Denver-based Smashburger, a fast-growing burger joint similar to Five Guys and b.good, recently opened a store in Natick, Mass., across from the Natick Mall, and it's probably only a matter of time before the 250-location chain reaches the Granite State as it plans to open hundreds of new restaurants. The Boston Globe reported in November that the Natick location was the first of 12 the company planned for the Boston area over the next six years.
The newbies join Boston Market, the Golden, Colo.-based company that was an early entry in the fast-casual category — industry lingo for eateries that offer higher-quality menu items than fast-food restaurants, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, but don't provide wait staff service. Panera, the sandwich, salad, soup and bakery chain based in St. Louis, Mo., also falls into this category.
Locally, Waterworks Café, which opened last March in the Waumbec Mill building in the Manchester Millyard, has adopted the fast-casual concept. Ower Keri Laman, whose restaurant is an expansion of her Tidewater Catering business, doesn't offer table service but has created a menu that features local and fresh-sourced ingredients for such options as slow-roasted beet salad, country chicken sliders and red-wine braised short ribs.
While Laman's resume includes working in full-service restaurants, she says the upscale counter service concept fills a need for Millyard professionals who don't have time to indulge in the respite that table service brings.
"At lunch and at breakfast we're all finding ourselves compressed for time and pressured by deadlines," she said. "The response is how do we still eat well? We still want to eat well and treat ourselves to healthy meals."
Laman said the menu for the 250 Commercial St. restaurant was also driven by coming up with options that would travel well, knowing that a large percentage of the clientèle would be buying food to go.
"We took great lengths at trying to make sure we created a menu that was transportable," she said, noting that first-time patrons often test restaurants by ordering takeout. "If you don't enjoy the meal to go, why on earth would you come in the dining room?"
Laman has no desire to spin Waterworks Café into a franchise business, but she said she definitely has additional New Hampshire locations on in mind, with her eyes on Nashua, as her flagship restaurant nears its first anniversary.
Call it fast-casual local.
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.