Kroger Offers 2k Employees An Early, Paid, Check-out

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Kroger has offered voluntary retirement to approximately 2,000 non-store employees who meet certain criteria of age and years of service. Savings realized by the company will be used for customer-centric activities, according to a company announcement issued earlier this month.

The company’s chairman and CEO, Rodney McMullen, said that, “Kroger would not be the successful company it is today without the incredible efforts of all of our associates. We believe a generous Voluntary Retirement Offering is in line with our company values and recognizes the long careers many of our associates have had with Kroger. [Our company] is committed to our operating model of lowering costs to invest in the areas that matter most to our customers.”

The retirement offer is not available to store-level workers, senior officers or supermarket division presidents across the company, which operates 2,796 supermarkets under several brand names across 35 states and the District of Columbia. Collectively, those stores serve an estimated 8.5 million customers daily.

It’s also one of the most aggressive supermarket companies where its in-store prepared food operations are concerned. In central Virginia, where I live, a couple can purchase a fully prepared, ready-to-eat full meal for $10 or less – nearly (or less than) as costly as buying the ingredients and preparing  the meal yourself.

While the company might not like to acknowledge this, it trains its employees so well that customers can, on occasion, actually be discouraged from buying certain items. A few months ago, I was steered away from the company’s ‘fresh’ clams by a seafood counter worker who said”Frankly, they aren’t as fresh as you’d like them to be. A lot of them come in with their shells already opening, and and that’s a clear indication they’re not really fresh.”

 

It’s details such as that, which I feel confident that employee passed ‘upstream’ to his department’s manager, is what distinguishes a good food store from a not-so-good one. Kroger is, rightly, seen as being one of the best supermarket operators in the U.S.

 

‘Bad Eggs’ Caught Smuggling West Bank Hen Fruit into Israel

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(photo credit: Nati Shochat/Flash 90)

A 21-year-old Palestinian was caught earlier this month trying to smuggle some 9,000 uninspected, potentially dangerous eggs into Jerusalem from the West Bank. The Times of Israel reported, quoting Hebrew news sources, that the eggs were confiscated and destroyed by Israel’s Ministry of Health.

The eggs were said to be on their way to be sold in various Israeli retail outlets.

The Times reported last July that charges were “laid against a ring of [14] bad eggs accused of selling, well, bad eggs to the public and passing them off as certified.” Thirteen Israelis and one Palestinian were said to be involved in that ring, which was charged with illegally importing more than 10 million eggs into Israel.

It’s more than likely that, at some point during their court appearance, the Israeli smugglers were told, “That wasn’t kosher.”

McDonald’s To Test Delivering Via UberEats

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McDonald’s is planning to test deliveries via UberEats in three Florida markets starting in late January, The Chicago Tribune reported a few days ago.

Though a person close to plan said the deal linking McDonald’s and UberEats hadn’t been signed asa of last week, The Trib said McDolnald’s has said that it is intended to include some 200 restaurants in the Orlando, Tampa, and Miami markets.  The paper said UberEats lets customers order online or through its app, anda an Uber “Courier” deliveries the food.

In the case of McDonald’s – which already delivers through such third-party companies as DoorDash and Postmates – the Uber fee is said to be set at $5, lower than the delivery and service fees of the other delivery service McDonald’s is using.

McDonald’s also is planning to roll out a mobile order and pay service next  year, and it is spending considerable sums upgrading its restaurants and introducing kiosk ordering systems and bluetooth-enabled table service.

The Trib article noted that the world’s largest burger chain presently does two-thirds of its business via drive-thrus, and several tweeks have been introduced to them to speed up service to drivers.mcdonalds_sign

Nationally, Restaurants Are Hurting; In Some Rural Areas, Not So Much

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Are you eating out less than you did a while back? Are you, when you do eat out, going to smaller eateries? If so, you are in sync with a growing number of Americans, according to millions of restaurant tabs analyzed by American Express and the latest retail sales report on restaurant sales. Both those reports were reported by BusinessInsider.com (and here).

The thinking at both Amex and BI is that this shift reflects the reality that it’s getting cheaper to eat and home and more expensive to eat out.

Aside from shifts in ingredient costs, something else that’s pushing up the cost of eating out in some locations is one (or more) increases in meal tax. Example: We yesterday bought two chicken dinners to go at Kroger. One was $3.99, the other was $5.99. The Campbell County tax amounted to $1.18 – more than 10.25% of the cost of the food!

I’ve noticed, recently, on a couple of observational visits to a local Italian restaurant that, oddly, the place was staffed with double the number of servers the evening’s traffic justified. That’s probably part of the reason why that restaurant has maintained its prices while at least one other dropped its, in line with lower ingredient cost and lower staff costs, as fewer were being kept on or assigned shifts on evenings when traffic tends to be slow.

The slowdown in business in restaurants is definitely hitting large establishments hardest, to the extent that a number of them in high-priced New York City have closed. Rental costs have been rising rapidly there, and that is affecting the housing as well as the restaurant market: You’re liable to pay $25,000-$30,000 a month for a 5,000 sq. ft. (464.5 sq. m.) That doesn’t actually sound too bad, if your average meal ticket is $15, because at that price, figuring your rent at 25% of your overhead, you have to sell “only” 267 meals daily to hit your $120,000 monthly “nut” for rent and the other 75% of your overhead.

Around here (in a small town in central Virginia), you can rent 6000 sq ft. (557.4 sq m) for as little as (or even less than) $72,000 a year. That would put the monthly rental cost for your small restaurant at $6,000. As little as $200 a day walking in the door will cover that. But keep in mind, your total “nut” for the rent/lease plus the other 75% of your overhead will run to $24,000 a year. Break that down to your monthly/weekly/daily need, and you’ll still see a pretty reasonable number.

What kind of cuisine will you offer? What do you plan to call the place?

Oh, one more thing: The sit-down restaurants around here aren’t hurting as much those in some places, in part because there’s nothing to do around here, when you want to go out, except go to one of the local restaurants!

 

Nuts To Peanut Allergy: New Treatment Is Working

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The National Institutes of Health has announced that a recent experimental treatment demonstrated a way that a skin patch could reduce allergic reactions to peanuts – one of the most common food allergies.

A treatment called oral immunotherapy has been shown in recent tests to be able to reduce, by feeding small amounts of a food to which one is allergic, allergic reactions to a point the ‘patient’ can, after repeated treatments, consume reasonable amounts of the allergenic food without having a negative reaction to it.

Another approach to dealing with the same issue, called epicutaneous (on the skin) immunotherapy, or EPIT, is being studied, as well.

A phase 1 study of the oral immunotherapy approach demonstrated the safety and tolerability of a wearable patch developed by DBV Technologies. The patch, named Viaskin, delivers small amounts of peanut protein through the skin.

An ongoing trial to further evaluate peanut EPIT is sponsored by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and conducted by the NIAID-funded Consortium of Food Allergy Research (CoFAR). Researchers randomly assigned 74 peanut-allergic volunteers, ages 4 to 25 years, to either a high-dose (250 micrograms peanut protein), low-dose (100 micrograms peanut protein), or placebo patch. Each day, the participants applied a new patch to an arm or between their shoulder blades. After one year, the researchers assessed the treatments’ success. Success was defined as being able to eat at least 10 times more peanut protein than they could eat before starting EPIT. Results were published online on October 26, 2016, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.The low-dose and high-dose regimens offered similar benefits (46% and 48% success, respectively, compared with 12% in the placebo group). Treatment success was higher among the younger children, ages 4 to 11 years, than the older ones, where there was minimal benefit.

Nearly all study participants followed the EPIT regimen as directed. None reported serious systemic reactions to the patch, although most experienced mild skin reactions, such as itching or rash, where the patch was applied.

The clinical benefit seen in younger children highlights the promise of this innovative approach to treating peanut allergy,” says Dr. Daniel Rotrosen, director of NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. “Epicutaneous immunotherapy aims to engage the immune system in the skin to train the body to tolerate small amounts of allergen, whereas other recent advances have relied on an oral route that appears difficult for approximately 10 to 15% of children and adults to tolerate.”

Because EPIT appears to cause few, if any, systemic reactions and appears to be well tolerated, it may be possible to administer it for longer periods of time. The CoFAR study will continue to assess the long-term safety and effectiveness of peanut EPIT in this group. Additional studies in larger groups of children will be needed before the patch could be approved for wider use.

Micky D is giving Canadians, but NOT Americans, waffle fries

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Product tests aren’t for everyone. They are, being tests, put out to small markets, or a small sector of a market, to gauge customer reactions.

Now while Canada is hardly a ‘small market’, McDonald’s sales there – and I’m guessing at this – are probably a tiny fraction of what that company moves through its thousands of U.S. locations. So, what better place than Canada, where people and their tastes are similar to Americans’, but they – the people and their tastes – are just a bit different, to test market something.

Recently, according to AndNowYouKnow.com, a website focused on trends and developments in the produce industry, Micky D has been testing its version of waffle fries in the country north of the U.S.

Chicago-area-based McDonald’s is offering a couple of other potato-based items: The hash brown potato with bacon pieces, and fries flavored with garlic from Gilroy, CA, the U.S.’s garlic growing/processing capital.

It took me years to get around to getting there, and I knew I’d made it from a mile or more out, when that wonderful just-pressed-garlic smell permeated our car, when the windows were just cracked!) Though I didn’t try more than one, lore says that all of the restaurants in this town feature garlic-enhanced dishes in every category, from starters to desserts. The one I was insure did! (Some places barely ask you if you want fresh garlic on your salad: It’s considered to be an ingredient!)

EU Coalition Seeking Ban on Junk Food, Alcohol Ads 18 Hours Daily – 6 AM thru 11 PM

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A coalition of EU health organizations is seeking to ban TV advertising of junk food and alcohol between the hours of 6 A.M. and 11 P.M., describing its plan as “a key opportunity to free Europe’s young people from health-harmful marketing.” Given its way, the coalition no doubt would also like to see all billboard, bus and other outdoor advertising of those products covered up during the same hours.

The campaign was officially launched in the European Parliament on December 2.

A BeverageDaily.com report noted that the action would, if successful, effectively see foreign broadcasts censored to the same EU standards.

Led by Romanian MEP (member of the European Parliament) Daciana Octavia Sarbu, the coalition comprises 10 organizations, including the European Heart Network, the Eurocare Alcohol Policy Alliance, and the European Public Health Alliance. Their aim is to alter the existing Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), EU-wide legislation aimed at protesting children and consumers. It says, in effect, “we know what’s good for you and you need to do what we say.”

Their “What about our kids” campaign has three specific objectives – additions to the AVMSD:

  1. TV advertisements for alcohol and foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) would be banned on all broadcast platforms, including on-demand services and such video-sharing platforms as YouTube.
  2. Product placements for the same products should be banned as being “effective marketing techniques, and should be prohibited alongside those for tobacco and medicinal products.”
  3. Ensure the above rulesare applied equally to all foreign-based broadcasts.

Fiona Godfrey, Policy Director at the European Association for the Study of the Liver, told BeverageDaily that such other rules as those effecting tobacco advertising and marketing “is effective in reducing consumption.”

I’m all for encouraging kids to eat less junk food and to stay away from alcohol until they’re legally entitled to buy and use it, but this approach has too much of a ‘Big Brother’ feel to me.