Texas Roadhouse stock dives 6% on downgrades; Amazon gets U.K.’s OK to test drones, possibly bringing service there before U.S.; and KFC food porn gets a video star

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 4:39 p.m.

TEXAS ROADHOUSE shares tumbled $2.87 a share, or 5.9%, to close at $46.11 after Jefferies and two other investments firms downgraded the stock. They traded as low as $45.45 during the session; more than three million shares changed hands, five times average volume. The steakhouse chain’s shares have been on a tear since February; even with today’s decline, they’re up 22% from a year ago vs. a much smaller 4.3% in the S&P 500 index.

AMAZON‘s plans to deliver packages by small, unmanned drones took another step forward when the British government gave the retailer permission to start trials over rural and urban areas — a move that could bring the service to the U.K. ahead of the U.S. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority’s permission means Amazon can explore three key innovations for delivering packages weighing up to 5 lbs.: beyond line-of-sight operations; testing sensor performance to make sure drones can identify and avoid obstacles, and flights where one person operates multiple highly-automated drones. “This announcement,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications, “strengthens our partnership with the U.K. and brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customers in the UK and elsewhere around the world” (press release). Funny video, top, shows how Prime Air could work.

The move puts pressure on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which recently rebuffed requests by Amazon, Google and other drone makers to advance their plans. The tech giants and other manufacturers have aggressively lobbied the FAA to authorize the devices to significantly reduce costs to transport goods by UPS and FedEx, freight and trucks (New York Times). That has big implications for Louisville, where UPS employs more than 22,000 workers at its Louisville International Airport hub, making the shipper the city’s single-biggest private employer. Amazon itself employs 6,000 at two Louisville area distribution centers. More news about the U.K. plan.

Also yesterday, Amazon launched its Prime membership service in one of the world’s biggest markets: India (TechCrunch).

Pepper robot
Pepper in action.

PIZZA HUT: In the U.K.’s Ashford, the newly refurbished Pizza Hut has reopened with a contemporary new cocktail bar and full drinks menu, as part of a nationwide drive to freshen all the chain’s stores with a more modern look. The remodeling cost about $1 million, and all workers have been trained in cocktail making (Kent and Sussex Courier). The Japanese company that’s leasing robots to Pizza Huts across Asia is expanding the program to sell insurance in Japan. The robots, dubbed Pepper, greet customers and take orders; they’re leased for $836 a month in a service managed by iPhone manufacturer Foxconn (Daily Mail).

But in the U.S., don’t worry: Pizza Hut is still hiring humans. In San Diego, shift manager applicants are asked: “Do you have a friendly, outgoing, and positive can-do attitude? Do you have what it takes to WOW a customer every time?” (Craigslist).

GE: Louisville Metro Police arrested a 43-year-old Louisville man who they said was caught by a General Electric employee trying to sell more than $7,000 worth of stolen appliances online. Terrance Qualls is accused of advertising a refrigerator valued at $2,799 for $700 on an online classifieds website, according to an arrest citation released today. A GE employee noticed the item and asked about buying it (Courier-Journal).

PAPA JOHN’S yesterday presented a $41,000 check to WHAS’s Crusade for Children. The Louisville-based pizza giant raised the money in a promotion where customers got a 20% discount while 20% of the order was donated to the charity benefiting special-needs children (WHAS). Meanwhile, in New York’s Queens borough, Papa John’s says it’s hiring delivery drivers in help-wanted ads saying they’ll earn $600 or more a week working a “safe area” (Craigslist).

Brian Niccol
Niccol

TACO BELL CEO Brian Niccol has joined the 11-member board of directors of Harley Davidson (press release). Last year, directors of the motorcycle manufacturer got paid $235,000 to $290,000, depending on committee assignments, according to the 2016 shareholder’s proxy report. They also received a clothing allowance of $1,500 to buy Harley-Davidson brand apparel and accessories, plus an unspecified product discount available to all U.S. employees.

Harley Davidson ball capWhat could Niccol buy with his $1,500 allowance? Boulevard went shopping at Harley Davidson’s online store, and came up with this wish list:

Niccol’s appointment nudges him a little higher in The Boulevard 400™ powerbroker roster.

UPS: In Beaumont, Texas, Anna Gabrielle Van Hook, a 26-year-old woman hurt in a fatal crash last month, is now seeking $1 million from the shipper in a lawsuit accusing a UPS driver of traveling at an unreasonable speed on June 17, causing a chain-reaction crash involving multiple drivers. The accident started when a UPS truck hit a Mercedes from behind, and the driver of that car struck Van Hook’s car. A 45-year-old passenger in the Mercedes was killed (Enterprise).

KFC: In Swaziland’s Manzini, police are investigating allegations that a KFC restaurant manager locked two employees in a walk-in freezer for more than 20 minutes last week, before they were rescued by a co-worker who heard them banging on the door. The employees say it all began when their boss asked them to go into the freezer to retrieve some supplies (Swazi Observer).

And if that wasn’t strange enough, there’s this: In the U.K.’s Yorkshire, a 25-year-old woman who goes by just one name — Lydia — is cashing in on an Internet food porn craze called muk-bang, where thousands of people watch her binge-eating KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and other food. She’s racked up more than 411,000 views and attracted more than 6,300 subscribers since launching her YouTube page three months ago. Lydie believes — get this — that she’s helping people struggling with loneliness, eating disorders and anyone on a diet: “If you live and eat alone, the videos make you feel like you’re eating with someone” (Mirror).

Lots of other video bloggers are muk-banging KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, too. This KFC video has drawn 3.2 million views since December alone. Lydia posts one video a week; her newest, about KFC, has already gotten nearly 17,000 page views in just five days:

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