Thinly sliced: More fast food franchises agree to stop using exploitative “no-poach” agreements

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Middling. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has compared the proposal to move USDA’s independent research arm, the Economic Research Service, out of Washington, D.C. to Amazon’s HQ2 search, saying that both are economic development projects. Now, it seems, he’s taking another cue, and releasing a “middle list” of finalists to host the ERS—just like Amazon did a few months back. Peruse the 67 contestants here.

Lobsters in the red. Last year, the Pentagon spent $22 million on lobster tail, Munchies reports. The figure comes from an analysis by, which also found that federal agencies spent $244,197 on mixed nuts in September of last year. No word yet on expenses related to little decorative pats of butter.

Walmart woes. This month, Walmart began offering grocery deliveries from New Jersey to Manhattan at $11 a pop. There was just one problem: Delivery drivers had to pay a $15 toll to cross over the George Washington Bridge into New York City. The economics just didn’t work. That’s the central argument in a new Wall Street Journal story (paywall) that examines the company’s efforts to deliver groceries as pressure from Amazon continues to mount. Walmart currently delivers groceries via a patchwork of local services like DoorDash and Skipcart.

“No-poach” gets fried. In July, Cinnabon, McDonald’s and Arby’s pledged to stop using “no-poach” agreements in employee contracts. Now, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, Dunkin’ Donuts, Five Guys, and Little Caesars have followed suit. In the past, employees working at one franchise have been prohibited from moving to another location in the same restaurant chain for better pay or better hours. A new settlement announced by 14 state attorneys general ends that practice.

Cooking up the F bomb. Swearing is so closely associated with high-pressure kitchen culture that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay once starred in a show called “The F Word.” Yet new research suggests the relationship between profanity and the palate goes much deeper than that: The invention of processed food like yogurt and gruel may have shaped human language, NPR reports. Softer foods led to sharper teeth and bigger overbites, which in turn made it easier to pronounce sounds produced by pressing the front teeth to the lower lip, the so-called “labiodental fricatives” that produce the letters “f” and “v.” Which means cooking paved the way for the invention of “F” word. Ramsay would approve.

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