What in the World—Week of June 7

From electric cars to drive-in restaurants
Elon Musk could be taking the Tesla brand into the restaurant business, something he’s been talking about for a few years now—and not in Dogecoin is “a hustle” way. Tesla just filed a new trademark for the brand under restaurant services. As far back as 2018, Musk was talking about opening an “old-school drive-in” at Tesla Supercharge locations in Los Angeles, so owners could refuel themselves as they recharge their cars. “When you think about it, it makes sense for Tesla to go into the restaurant business,” wrote Electrek, which first reported the trademark filing last week. “At charging stations, Tesla has a captive market for a short period of time. There’s definitely a business in catering to that audience, and food service is certainly part of that.”

Employees resist Apple’s back-to-work plans
Some Apple employees are resisting management’s directive that staff must return to work for three days a week beginning in September. In an internal letter obtained by The Verge, employees say they favour a flexible approach, where people who want to work remotely can do so. The letter addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook says that employees have felt “not just unheard, but at times actively ignored” by Apple’s leadership, and that the company’s messaging around people being eager to reconnect in person fails to acknowledge that there are directly contradictory feelings. “It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote/location-flexible work and the live experiences of so many of Apple’s employees,” it reads. The Verge says Apple’s stance is more conservative than other tech companies like Twitter and Facebook, which have said that employees have the option to work at home permanently when the pandemic ends.

Sales surge at McDonald’s with BTS
K-Pop supergroup BTS has been very good for McDonald’s—even better than rap star Travis Scott. The BTS meal was introduced May 26, and restaurant visits were up 12% from the previous week, compared to a 9% spike the week after the Travis Scott meal was introduced last fall, reports Business Insider. The BTS meal isn’t really that special, with mostly existing menu items: 10-piece McNuggets, medium fries and a medium Coke. The only twist being sweet chili and Cajun sauces inspired by menu items from South Korea. “With a celebrity endorsement, brands can harness the energy and excitement of a new product without actually adding menu items,” reported BI. And as Hypebeast points out, the excitement means some fans “washing, drying and framing the packaging.”

Skittles creates QueeR Codes for Pride
Skittles, the candy synonymous with rainbows, is showing its Pride in the U.S. this month by using QueeR Codes—QR codes but more fabulous. Mars Wrigley is putting the spotlight on LGBTQ+ influencers and creators, with four artists creating original murals that “express what the rainbow means to them and how they celebrate Pride.” The murals—in Newark, Nashville, Atlanta and San Antonio—include a QueeR Code that, when scanned, takes people to SkittlesQueeRCodes.com. “During Pride, only one rainbow matters. Yours,” says the welcome message on the landing page. The site contains content and stories from the artists and LGBTQ+ creators about the importance of Pride. “We’re very proud to be able to use our voice and our platform to shift the focus during Pride month to celebrating and elevating LGBTQ+ voices and experiences, creating better moments and more smiles through the focus on visibility,” said Fernando Rodrigues, senior brand manager, Mars Wrigley.

Google settles French antitrust case
Google is paying French regulators a fine of US$270 million—representing less than 2% of its 2020 profit—to settle an antitrust case alleging that it took advantage of its dominant position in the digital ad market. France’s competition body said that Google’s ad server gave its online auction house, AdX, an advantage in ad auctions by providing information about rival bids, one of several instances of self-preferencing by the global tech giant. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google also accepted a series of commitments to settle the case, including making it easier for competitors to use its ad tech by providing greater access to data. “While we believe we offer valuable services and compete on the merits, we are committed to working proactively with regulators everywhere to make improvements to our products,” said Maria Gomri, legal director for Google France, in a blog post.

David Brown