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As Food Prices Climb, Americans Are Flocking to This Restaurant

In one year, the cost of groceries rose by 8.4% while dining out is now 8.8% more expensive.

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In one year, the cost of groceries rose by 8.4% while dining out is now 8.8% more expensive.

For most who grew up in North America, the all-you-can-eat buffet conjures up associations that are both positive and not-so-positive — some recall childhood visits to the restaurant in their suburb while others have memories of the unlimited crab legs they had on a trip to Vegas.

The buffet restaurant business in the U.S. brought in over $5.5 billion in 2022. 

DON'T MISS: Las Vegas Strip Wants to Change This Part of its Reputation

The is a significant increase from, according to the numbers from Statista, the $3.98 billion that this sector of the restaurant business brought in 2020. As covid-19 started to spread, many establishments nixed the concept even after stay-at-home orders were lifted and restaurants were permitted to operate again — the buffet relies on people helping themselves to rows of laid-out food and it is difficult to maintain strict sanitary measures.

Here's Why The Buffet Concept Rebounded Post-Pandemic

Three years later, the buffet concept is rebounding back quickly. While the total dollars being spent at buffets are still lower than the $7.95 billion brought in pre-pandemic, it has grown steadily from between 2021 and 2022.

A national buffet chain with nearly 400 locations, Golden Corral saw its same-store sales grow by 14% from 2020 to 2023.

"We did the research on [customer sentiment] and it was just overwhelming that people wanted the buffet back," Golden Corral CEO Lance Trenary told Nation's Restaurant News. "That gave us the courage and enthusiasm to start growing and make this the absolute best buffet the U.S. has to offer."

The main reason for the increased demand, according to Trenary, comes down not just to customers missing the buffet experience but also value — lunch and dinner prices range between $10 and $16 and let customers fill their plates with a wide range of foods such as fried chicken, burgers and salads.

This is, to many, people significantly more affordable than going to a restaurant or even cooking at home — between March 2023 and 2022, the  cost of groceries rose by 8.4% while dining out is now 8.8% more expensive.

"People are always telling us, 'We appreciate your value' and we kept the lid on pricing and worked hard to maintain that value without cutting quality or variety of buffet options," Trenary said.

Food Inflation Is A Problem. Are Buffets The Solution?

While this is a drop from a peak seen in the summer of 2022, food inflation is still being felt strongly by people of different income brackets. A recent study from Omaha-based insurance company Breeze found that 73% of U.S. households have cut back on restaurants and takeout while 57% bought different or fewer groceries to combat inflation.

The all-you-can-eat format is thus, for many, a way to squeeze as much value from a restaurant visit as possible. Recent data from traffic analytics company Placer.ai found that buffet restaurants saw significantly stronger traffic than the restaurant industry as a whole.

Combined visits to country's three biggest buffet chains — Golden Corral, Cicis and Pizza Ranch — were up 125% in March 2023 from a year ago while the number of visitors coming twice during one quarter was also up by more than 20% for all three chains.

"In 2022 when inflation began to dominate headlines, buffets’ baseline visit growth started to soar," writer Placer's authors. "Likely, diners choosing to eat out became increasingly concerned with getting value for money and buffets became a popular choice."

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Health Officials: Man Dies From Bubonic Plague In New Mexico

Health Officials: Man Dies From Bubonic Plague In New Mexico

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Officials in…

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Health Officials: Man Dies From Bubonic Plague In New Mexico

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Officials in New Mexico confirmed that a resident died from the plague in the United States’ first fatal case in several years.

A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph removed from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient, demonstrates the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague in this undated photo. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)

The New Mexico Department of Health, in a statement, said that a man in Lincoln County “succumbed to the plague.” The man, who was not identified, was hospitalized before his death, officials said.

They further noted that it is the first human case of plague in New Mexico since 2021 and also the first death since 2020, according to the statement. No other details were provided, including how the disease spread to the man.

The agency is now doing outreach in Lincoln County, while “an environmental assessment will also be conducted in the community to look for ongoing risk,” the statement continued.

This tragic incident serves as a clear reminder of the threat posed by this ancient disease and emphasizes the need for heightened community awareness and proactive measures to prevent its spread,” the agency said.

A bacterial disease that spreads via rodents, it is generally spread to people through the bites of infected fleas. The plague, known as the black death or the bubonic plague, can spread by contact with infected animals such as rodents, pets, or wildlife.

The New Mexico Health Department statement said that pets such as dogs and cats that roam and hunt can bring infected fleas back into homes and put residents at risk.

Officials warned people in the area to “avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows” and to “prevent pets from roaming and hunting.”

“Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on your pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs or your children” and “have sick pets examined promptly by a veterinarian,” it added.

“See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever, the statement continued, adding that locals should clean areas around their home that could house rodents like wood piles, junk piles, old vehicles, and brush piles.

The plague, which is spread by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, famously caused the deaths of an estimated hundreds of millions of Europeans in the 14th and 15th centuries following the Mongol invasions. In that pandemic, the bacteria spread via fleas on black rats, which historians say was not known by the people at the time.

Other outbreaks of the plague, such as the Plague of Justinian in the 6th century, are also believed to have killed about one-fifth of the population of the Byzantine Empire, according to historical records and accounts. In 2013, researchers said the Justinian plague was also caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria.

But in the United States, it is considered a rare disease and usually occurs only in several countries worldwide. Generally, according to the Mayo Clinic, the bacteria affects only a few people in U.S. rural areas in Western states.

Recent cases have occurred mainly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Countries with frequent plague cases include Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Peru, the clinic says. There were multiple cases of plague reported in Inner Mongolia, China, in recent years, too.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a bubonic plague infection include headache, chills, fever, and weakness. Health officials say it can usually cause a painful swelling of lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, or neck areas. The swelling usually occurs within about two to eight days.

The disease can generally be treated with antibiotics, but it is usually deadly when not treated, the Mayo Clinic website says.

“Plague is considered a potential bioweapon. The U.S. government has plans and treatments in place if the disease is used as a weapon,” the website also says.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the last time that plague deaths were reported in the United States was in 2020 when two people died.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/13/2024 - 21:40

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I created a ‘cosy game’ – and learned how they can change players’ lives

Cosy, personal games, as I discovered, can change the lives of the people who make them and those who play them.

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Cosy games exploded in popularity during the pandemic. Takoyaki Tech/Shutterstock

The COVID pandemic transformed our lives in ways many of us are still experiencing, four years later. One of these changes was the significant uptake in gaming as a hobby, chief among them being “cosy games” like Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020).

Players sought comfort in these wholesome virtual worlds, many of which allowed them to socialise from the safety of their homes. Cosy games, with their comforting atmospheres, absence of winning or losing, simple gameplay, and often heartwarming storylines provided a perfect entry point for a new hobby. They also offered predictability and certainty at a time when there wasn’t much to go around.

Cosy games are often made by small, independent developers. “Indie games” have long been evangelised as the purest form of game development – something anyone can do, given enough perseverance. This means they can provide an entry point for creators who hadn’t made games before, but were nevertheless interested in it, enabling a new array of diverse voices and stories to be heard.

In May 2020, near the start of the pandemic, the small poetry game A Solitary Spacecraft, which was about its developer’s experience of their first few months in lockdown, was lauded as particularly poignant. Such games showcase a potential angle for effective cosy game development: a personal one.

Personal themes are often explored through cosy games. For instance, Chicory and Venba (both released in 2023) tackle difficult topics like depression and immigration, despite their gorgeous aesthetics. This showcases the diversity of experiences on display within the medium.

However, as the world emerges from the pandemic’s shadow, the games industry is facing significant challenges. Economic downturns and acquisitions have caused large layoffs across the sector.

Historically, restructurings like these, or discontent with working conditions, have led talented laid-off developers to create their own companies and explore indie development. In the wake of the pandemic and the cosy game boom, these developers may have more personal stories to tell.

Making my own cosy game

I developed my own cosy and personal game during the pandemic and quickly discovered that creating these games in a post-lockdown landscape is no mean feat.

What We Take With Us (2023) merges reality and gameplay across various digital formats: a website, a Discord server that housed an online alternate reality game and a physical escape room. I created the game during the pandemic as a way to reflect on my journey through it, told through the videos of game character Ana Kirlitz.

The trailer for my game, What We Take With Us.

Players would follow in Ana’s footsteps by completing a series of ten tasks in their real-world space, all centred on improving wellbeing – something I and many others desperately needed during the pandemic.

But creating What We Take With Us was far from straightforward. There were pandemic hurdles like creating a physical space for an escape room amid social distancing guidelines. And, of course, the emotional difficulties of wrestling with my pandemic journey through the game’s narrative.

The release fared poorly, and the game only garnered a small player base – a problem emblematic of the modern games industry.

These struggles were starkly contrasted by the feedback I received from players who played the game, however.

This is a crucial lesson for indie developers: the creator’s journey and the player’s experience are often worlds apart. Cosy, personal games, as I discovered, can change the lives of those who play them, no matter how few they reach. They can fundamentally change the way we think about games, allow us to reconnect with old friends, or even inspire us to change careers – all real player stories.

Lessons in cosy game development

I learned so much about how cosy game development can be made more sustainable for creators navigating the precarious post-lockdown landscape. This is my advice for other creators.

First, collaboration is key. Even though many cosy or personal games (like Stardew Valley) are made by solo creators, having a team can help share the often emotional load. Making games can be taxing, so practising self-care and establishing team-wide support protocols is crucial. Share your successes and failures with other developers and players. Fostering a supportive community is key to success in the indie game landscape.

Second, remember that your game, however personal, is a product – not a reflection of you or your team. Making this distinction will help you manage expectations and cope with feedback.

Third, while deeply considering your audience may seem antithetical to personal projects, your game will ultimately be played by others. Understanding them will help you make better games.

The pandemic reignited the interest in cosy games, but subsequent industry-wide troubles may change games, and the way we make them, forever. Understanding how we make game creation more sustainable in a post-lockdown, post-layoff world is critical for developers and players alike.

For developers, it’s a reminder that their stories, no matter how harrowing, can still meaningfully connect with people. For players, it’s an invitation to embrace the potential for games to tell such stories, fostering empathy and understanding in a world that greatly needs it.


Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.


Adam Jerrett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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KIMM finds solution to medical waste problem, which has become a major national issue

A medical waste treatment system, which is capable of 99.9999 percent sterilization by using high-temperature and high-pressure steam, has been developed…

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A medical waste treatment system, which is capable of 99.9999 percent sterilization by using high-temperature and high-pressure steam, has been developed for the first time in the country.

Credit: Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM)

A medical waste treatment system, which is capable of 99.9999 percent sterilization by using high-temperature and high-pressure steam, has been developed for the first time in the country.

The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (President Seog-Hyeon Ryu, hereinafter referred to as KIMM), an institute under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science and ICT, has succeeded in developing an on-site-disposal type medical waste sterilization system that can help to resolve the problem caused by medical waste, which has become a national and social issue as the volume of medical waste continues to increase every year. This project was launched as a basic business support program of the KIMM and was expanded into a demonstration project of Daejeon Metropolitan City. Then, in collaboration with VITALS Co., Ltd., a technology transfer corporation, the medical waste treatment system was developed as a finished product capable of processing more than 100 kilograms of medical waste per hour, and was demonstrated at the Chungnam National University Hospital.

Moreover, the installation and use of this product have been approved by the Geumgang Basin Environmental Office of the Ministry of Environment. All certification-related work for the installation and operation of this product at the Chungnam National University Hospital has been completed, including the passage of an installation test for efficiency and stability conducted by the Korea Testing Laboratory.

Through collaboration with VITALS Co., Ltd., a corporation specializing in inhalation toxicity systems, the research team led by Principal Researcher Bangwoo Han of the Department of Urban Environment Research of the KIMM’s Eco-Friendly Energy Research Division developed a high-temperature, high-pressure steam sterilization-type medical waste treatment system by using a high-temperature antimicrobial technology capable of processing biologically hazardous substances such as virus and bacteria with high efficiency. After pulverizing medical waste into small pieces so that high-temperature steam can penetrate deep into the interior of the medical waste, steam was then compressed in order to raise the boiling point of the saturated steam to over 100 degrees Celsius, thereby further improving the sterilization effect of the steam.

Meanwhile, in the case of the high-pressure steam sterilization method, it is vitally important to allow the airtight, high-temperature and high-pressure steam to penetrate deep into the medical waste. Therefore, the research team aimed to improve the sterilization effect of medical waste by increasing the contact efficiency between the pulverized medical waste and the aerosolized steam.

By using this technology, the research team succeeded in processing medical waste at a temperature of 138 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes or at 145 degrees Celsius for more than five (5) minutes, which is the world’s highest level. By doing so, the research team achieved a sterilization performance of 99.9999 percent targeting biological indicator bacteria at five (5) different locations within the sterilization chamber. This technology received certification as an NET (New Excellent Technology) in 2023.

Until now, medical waste has been sterilized by heating the exposed moisture using microwaves. However, this method requires caution because workers are likely to be exposed to electromagnetic waves and the entrance of foreign substances such as metals may lead to accidents.

In Korea, medical waste is mostly processed at exclusive medical waste incinerators and must be discharged in strict isolation from general waste. Hence, professional efforts are required to prevent the risk of infection during the transportation and incineration of medical waste, which requires a loss of cost and manpower.

If medical waste is processed directly at hospitals and converted into general waste by applying the newly developed technology, this can help to eliminate the risk of infection during the loading and transportation processes and significantly reduce waste disposal costs. By processing 30 percent of medical waste generated annually, hospitals can save costs worth KRW 71.8 billion. Moreover, it can significantly contribute to the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) management of hospitals by reducing the amount of incinerated waste and shortening the transportation distance of medical waste.

[*Allbaro System (statistical data from 2021): Unit cost of treatment for each type of waste for the calculation of performance guarantee insurance money for abandoned wastes (Ministry of Environment Public Notification No. 2021-259, amended on December 3, 2021). Amount of medical waste generated on an annual basis: 217,915 tons; Medical waste: KRW 1,397 per ton; General waste from business sites subject to incineration: KRW 299 per ton]

As the size and structure of the installation space varies for each hospital, installing a standardized commercial equipment can be a challenge. However, during the demonstration process at the Chungnam National University Hospital, the new system was developed in a way that allows the size and arrangement thereof to be easily adjusted depending on the installation site. Therefore, it can be highly advantageous in terms of on-site applicability.

Principal Researcher Bangwoo Han of the KIMM was quoted as saying, “The high-temperature, high-pressure steam sterilization technology for medical waste involves the eradication of almost all infectious bacteria in a completely sealed environment. Therefore, close cooperation with participating companies that have the capacity to develop airtight chamber technology is very important in materializing this technology.” He added, “We will make all-out efforts to expand this technology to the sterilization treatment of infected animal carcasses in the future.”

 

President Seog-Hyeon Ryu of the KIMM was quoted as saying, “The latest research outcome is significantly meaningful in that it shows the important role played by government-contributed research institutes in resolving national challenges. The latest technology, which has been developed through the KIMM’s business support program, has been expanded to a demonstration project through cooperation among the industry, academia, research institutes, and the government of Daejeon Metropolitan City.” President Ryu added, “We will continue to proactively support these regional projects and strive to develop technologies that contribute to the health and safety of the public.”

 

Meanwhile, this research was conducted with the support of the project for the “development of ultra-high performance infectious waste treatment system capable of eliminating 99.9999 percent of viruses in response to the post-coronavirus era,” one of the basic business support programs of the KIMM, as well as the project for the “demonstration and development of a safety design convergence-type high-pressure steam sterilization system for on-site treatment of medical waste,” part of Daejeon Metropolitan City’s “Daejeon-type New Convergence Industry Creation Special Zone Technology Demonstration Project.”

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The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) is a non-profit government-funded research institute under the Ministry of Science and ICT. Since its foundation in 1976, KIMM is contributing to economic growth of the nation by performing R&D on key technologies in machinery and materials, conducting reliability test evaluation, and commercializing the developed products and technologies.

 

This research was conducted with the support of the project for the “development of ultra-high performance infectious waste treatment system capable of eliminating 99.9999 percent of viruses in response to the post-coronavirus era,” one of the basic business support programs of the KIMM, as well as the project for the “demonstration and development of a safety design convergence-type high-pressure steam sterilization system for on-site treatment of medical waste,” part of Daejeon Metropolitan City’s “Daejeon-type New Convergence Industry Creation Special Zone Technology Demonstration Project.”


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