Gaming the Pizza Hut salad bar, tower style

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In honor of the new year, many people have made resolutions to be “healthier” in 2012. What does that mean? Salads for everyone!

Early last year, The Consumerist reported on an unusual trend going down in the Chinese branches of Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut used to offer a salad bar option at its sit-down locations, with folks limited to one visit per person. For the price of the salad bar, it wasn’t a great deal. It was simply the “healthy” option.

But Chinese Pizza Hutters devised a clever plan: fit more salad onto the plate to get a better deal.

Using steady hands and engineering know-how, frugal patrons created monstrous, Babel-like towers of cucumbers and carrots and fruit. Suddenly, the salad bar wasn’t so bad a deal.

Sadly, Pizza Hut nixed the salad bar several years ago. No more salad towers for China. But I think this Consumerist blogger understands the importance of the salad bar “game”:

The company’s response was that salad bars were being removed as part of an overall menu expansion but one Pizza Hut official told a Beijing paper that it was because of the losses incurred by the “salad towers.” Which is too bad, because really what they should have done is capitalized on this naturally occurring fad, reimbursed the local franchises for their salad bar, and turned it into an official game. Why not host some Pizza Hut salad bar stacking competitions? It would have been a great branding opportunity. Do you know how much money and time companies spend trying to artificially manufacture customer interest and engagement like that? And then just charge by weight.

People like to make games of things. If there’s a way to compete, then a competition will arise ex nihilo. It’s just the way we roll as a society. (That’s why advertisers love gamification. It’s a way to capitalize on our twitchy, instinctual need for play.)

What might have started as a frugal maneuver somehow morphed into an odd game of skill. Once photos of the salad towers made their way across the Internet, the game had enmeshed into the strata of meme culture.

Salad towers may be cool, but don’t test them at at your local Earth Fare or Whole Foods. They charge by weight, and I’d imagine these salad towers weight a ton…

Wordplay, clock bread edition

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Watch it, it's time to check out CeresB on Flickr

When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.

The recipe for this super-cool clock bread can be found in the Autumn 2011 edition of Foster Families Magazine. Thanks, CeresB, for posting the link on your Flickr image page!

I’d imagine that any unleavened bread can have its time to shine with a bit of creative jammery.

Resolving the year through gamification

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Every year, people create New Year’s resolutions, and every year, people resolve to become better versions of themselves.

Blue skies shinin' on me thanks to zaphad1 on Flickr

It’s all very game-like. The tensile approach of New Year’s, the timing of oh, I’ll start eating right in January, I’ll lose weight in January.

Maybe there’s some magical thinking involved. And maybe it’s procrastination. But something about the New Year’s blank state compels people to create big plans for the year ahead.

It’s not as fun to make Tuesday Afternoon’s resolutions, or Lunchtime’s resolutions. (Though game theory posits that would work, if you could just give import to an arbitrary time.)

People resolve to eat better. People resolve to eat “right”—though goodness knows what “right” eating is, as nutritionists and diet book writers argue all the time about the detriments of meat or grains or sugar or fat. Foodies make resolutions that combine healthy habits with deliciousness.

Unfortunately, many of these resolutions are moot. Oftentimes, good habits die off before spring has sprung.

New Year’s resolutions already take on the appearance of a game: why not add some gamification to make the changes stick?

  1. Make SMART goals. They have longevity.
  2. Be specific about your tasks. “Rescue the princess” sounds daunting. “Get through Level 1-1″ sounds a bit easier to swallow.
  3. In the case of food resolutions, variety is the literal spice of life. Constant new experiences can really help you through a diet rut.
  4. Rewards—so long as they don’t undermine the goal—are awesome. You don’t want to reward exercise with a giant milkshake, but buying a new exergame wouldn’t be so bad.
  5. Make it fun. This goes hand in hand with rewards, but without adding a bit of whimsy to your tasks, you won’t carry through with the onerous bits for long unless you have willpower of steel.

Got any interesting resolutions this year?

Health, wealth, and happiness

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Did you get yourself some health, wealth, and happiness to start the year off right?

kthread on Flickr's got some health, wealth, and happiness

Or maybe you prefer a little bit of virtual health, wealth, and happiness?

Everyone has their own New Year’s food tradition. Generally, people tend to “eat for luck,” fixing meals that are traditionally considered “lucky.”

In the US, these lucky foods vary from region to region. Ham, hoppin’ john, and collards is the quintessential Southern dish, while sauerkraut is a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty.

Embossed cakes used to be popular in New York in the 19th century, but these days, nieuwjaarskoeken are more in the realm of the hardcore foodies!

Here’s to a most excellent 2012!

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