FAA drone rules buzz Amazon; KFC launches smartphone charging gadget, and McD paces Yum with $3B China bids

A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 4:36 p.m.

AMAZON‘s plans to use drones for delivery were slowed yesterday when the Obama Administration released new rules limiting their use, including over urban areas. The Federal Aviation Administration said commercial drones are OK so long as the drone and its payload weigh less than 55 lbs., stays within unaided sight of their pilot, and operators pass a test every two years. In addition, each drone must have its own pilot (Guardian). Also yesterday, Amazon said it’s expanding grocery delivery service to Boston (Boston Inno). The retail giant employs 6,000 employees in the Louisville area, and thousands more across the state.

KFC: In India, the fast-chicken giant has introduced its latest mobile technology to lure younger diners: Watt a Box, a 5-in-1 meal box that comes with a Chicken Zinger, two hot wings, hash browns, a chocolate pie, Pepsi and a 6,100 mAh Lithium-ion battery to charge smartphones. The device isn’t sold, but instead can be won as part of a week-long competition; watch the demo video, above (The Memo). Some customers aren’t so thrilled, however: Testers who charged an iPhone with the box said it only gained 17% battery after charging for half-an-hour, during which time the powerbank became completely drained (Eater).

Meanwhile, in an unusually public spat with an employer, Darrell Hammond — the Saturday Night Live comedian hired to play Colonel Sanders in the new KFC commercials — says the company “played” him into thinking he’d have the gig permanently. He was later replaced by another SNL veteran, Norm Macdonald, in what’s now a running joke of actor switches (Hollywood Reporter). Indeed, it’s part of the script in comedian Jim Gaffigan’s version:

Here are spots by Hammond and MacDonald, who’s none-too-pleased with the switch, either.

YUM: As Yum gears up to spin off its China operations in October, rival McDonald’s has received more than half a dozen bids for its China and Hong Kong stores, including from Beijing Tourism Group, Sanpower and ChemChina, in an auction that could fetch up to $3 billion. In March, McDonalds said it was reorganising its Asian operations by bringing in partners who would own the restaurants within a franchise business (Reuters).

BROWN-FORMAN and other developers of the 111 Whiskey Row complex of new lofts, retail and restaurant space on West Main Street will give a progress report at a press conference this morning. A fire last July heavily damaged the site; developers hope to open it next summer.

Steve Wilson Laura Lee Brown
Wilson and Brown.

Other investors include 21c Museum Hotel founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson; philanthropists Edie Bingham and Al Shands; retiring Brown-Forman vice chairman James Welch, and Brown-Forman heiress Christy Brown (Courier-Journal). In its recently filed shareholders proxy report, the company disclosed it paid $900,000 to the Brown Wilson Development company controlled by the 21c founders.

Meanwhile, Brown-Forman is giving the Jack Daniel’s visitor center in corporate hometown Lynchburg, Tenn., a facelift in time for the whiskey’s 150th anniversary; it’s Louisville-based Brown-Forman’s top-selling brand (Whiskey Wash).

Two PAPA JOHN’S restaurants and two TACO BELLs were fined $50-$100 yesterday for failing to comply with Elkhart, Ind.’s fats, oils and grease ordinance that’s been city policy for more than a year (Elkhart Truth).

PIZZA HUT opened its newest restaurant in Romania’s Bacau, the company’s 20th in the eastern European nation. The Yum unit arrived in 1994 as a master franchise granted to American Restaurant System. In addition to Bacau, the franchisee owns nine restaurants in Bucharest; two in Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara; and one each in Iasi, Constanta, Ploiesti, Brasov and Oradea (Romania Insider).

TEXAS ROADHOUSE in Tallahassee donated 10% of all food sales yesterday to Equality Florida to help victims of the June 12 mass-shooting victims at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Server Miles Derwick, who came up with the idea, said the victims and their families “need grief counseling six months to a year from now, and that kind of thing is going to be difficult. Those people killed were my age, so it could’ve been me” (WCTV).

In other news, real estate developer Kevin Cogan’s plans for a huge hotel, residential and retail development at Grinstead and Lexington roads would be a stunning 35 stories high, with more than 700 apartments and about 250 hotel rooms. Cogan held the first of three planned design charrettes at Louisville Collegiate School Monday night to share the project’s first sketches (Business First). Another Cogan project in the area, the Willow Grande condo tower in Cherokee Triangle, has faced stiff opposition from neighbors (Courier-Journal).

Churchill Downs’ stock closed at $126.97, up 6% as 787,000 changed hands, nearly eight times average volume. It’s unclear what’s driving them higher; the only current market news isn’t much. U.S. stocks overall ended the day only slightly down (Google Finance).

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