Category Archives: Chain Store News

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

Food prices down? Fine, for now; But they’re market-driven, and winter’s coming

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Supermarkets across the U.S. continue reacting to deflationary market pressures by lowering prices on both commodities and packaged goods. Sometimes one chain or another – think of Walmart – doesn’t do reductions and price fluctuations as smoothly as they could, though.

Walmart, like a lot of major food retailers – it is, after all, America’s largest supermarket company – has been promoting store-wide ‘permanent’ roll-backs in prices for most or all of 2016. What they haven’t been talking about, with good reason, is the fact that the kinds and levels of price changes they institute will hardly negatively affect the company’s bottom line.

Example: Way earlier this year, a 20-oz. (567 g) loaf of their Great Value white bread could be had for $.88. Then, a couple of months later, the price was quietly upped to $.99. It’s since been upped again, to a bit more than one dollar.

(At one point in the late spring, the company seemed to have actually killed that bread brand, as shelves were devoid of it for a couple of weeks or more where I shop, in Central Virginia. But that could have been just another far-too-typical out-of-stock situation – a problem Walmart seemed to be struggling with a lot until recently, when they’ve actually brought back a few brands first appearing to be out-of-stock then totally disappearing.)

Example II: Generic large egg prices fell to an amazing $.88 a dozen in the early summer – in part due to an oversupply situation in the industry. That price held, at ‘my’ Walmart, for close to a month. Then, in an amazingly stupid more, the price was pushed up to $.99 behind promotional signs touting a ‘new low price’! Yep, they still were cheaper than the dollar-plus per dozen price at Food Lion, the only other chain retailer readily available to me. But how dumb do you think your customers are when you tout a higher price as a new ‘low’ one?

(Meanwhile, as consumer demand for ‘cage free’ eggs and chicken has grown, prices at that end of the hen fruit market have moved, and stayed, higher. But As this blog reported on Oct. 21, ‘Cage Free is Far From Trouble Free’, and this is an issue the chicken and egg industry is going to have to deal with.)

Rochester NY-based Wegmans announced a few days ago that it is cutting a bunch of prices across the store, with produce being among the most-positively-affected sections. Other supermarketers across the country have done the same or similar in recent months.

But consumers need to keep one thing in mind: In the 1980’s, a supermarket company named Grand Union – a venerable company with a colorful past – it was probably the first, and one of the few, supermarket operators to employ customer helpers who traversed a then-considered-huge 100,000 sq ft store in central New York state on roller skates – made a series of serious mistakes. One of them, the first or second in a sad series, was to declare that a round of price reductions it was introducing were ‘forever’. If you’re a believer, you may argue that God knows ‘forever’; whether you’re a believer or not, the smallest bit of common sense dictates that no supermarket company can afford to make promises like that.

Long story shortened: A year or so after one of its executives suffered what clearly appeared to be a ‘mob hit’ – his body was never found – this New Jersey-based company went bankrupt.

The ‘forever’ issue was only a symptom, as it turned out: The real cause of the company’s come-down/put-down was a succession of management companies’ desire to fatten their purses at the expense of the golden swan – the layer of the golden eggs.

As a shopper, you can count one thing, and only one thing, where supermarket prices are concerned: They are, and will continue to be, market-driven, both up and down.

While some of your best buys will always be found in your favorite store’s weekly flyer, the very best ones will always be found in your meat department, where items too close to a sell-buy date are marked down – sometimes way down.

But a word of caution: If you seek out that kind of savings, pay close attention to the ‘use or freeze by’ dates. While they are generally generous, in terms of absolute safety, don’t push your luck: Use, or freeze. (Or cook and freeze; The benefit is the roughly the same.)

Organics Now Close to 11% of All U.S.-sold Produce

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You needn’t have been paying a lot of attention to notice, over the past few years, more and more of the offerings in food store produce sections are organic products. Everything from apples to strawberries is increasingly being raised in ways not depending on pesticides, or artificial fertilizers, or other means at odds with nature’s own way of producing things from the ground, trees, and bushes.

Among the latest growers to announce a big organics push is potato and onion provider Potandon Produce, based in Idaho Falls ID. The company this week announced it is now offering organically grown red and yellow potatoes from fields in North Dakota.

Ralph Schwartz, the company’s vice president of sales, said that these are the first organic potatoes to be grown commercially in North Dakota, and plans already are underway to increase acreage next year in anticipation of growing consumer demand.

Fresh produce has always been and will continue to be the gateway for organics,” he said in a company release. “We’ve watched as organic products, especially produce items, have shifted from being a lifestyle choice for a small share of consumers to [being] mainstream for a majority of Americans.”

Pharmacy Chain Accused of Saying Elders ‘Like To Steal’

Most retailers take steps to encourage people to shop their stores and seek to get those who do so to remain customers. The CVS pharmacy has been accused of turning those concepts on their heads: Several discrimination suits filed against the chain in New York City on Oct. 31 accuse the retailer of advising staff, in a ‘loss prevention’ handbook, that older people ‘like’ to shoplift and of failing to discourage employee actions intended to embarrass departing older visitors, creating the impression that they may be hiding and stealing items.

The New York Post reported that the employee handbook warns employees that senior citizens on a “fixed income” present a “special shoplifting concern.”

The paper said that attorneys from the Manhattan law firm Wigdor LLP brought the suits on behalf of former employees arguing that the policy is “tantamount to an admission of discrimination against older customers.”

Lawyers Michael Willemin and David Gottlieb noted that they have testimony from 16 whistleblower ex-staffers who claim that CVS stores across the city discriminate by profiling elderly shoppers as well as blacks and Hispanics.

One of the cases was initiated by Anson Alfonso, a former “market investigator” for CVS, where he was part of a team of undercover employees who helped track and bust shoplifters.

Alfonso, 27, worked as a store detective from January 2013 to October 2014. He told The Post that store managers, supervisors and even stock personnel would frequently swipe security tags past checkpoints to set off an alarm when an elderly person was leaving a CVS store. The intent was to intimidate them and imply, with no evidence whatsoever, that the older person was shoplifting.

“They would say, ‘I didn’t see it but I know that old person was stealing,’ ” Alfonso said.

The paper noted the shoplifting-among-the-AARP-set theory mirrors a 1998 “Seinfeld” episode titled “The Bookstore,” in which Jerry catches his Uncle Leo stealing a book from Brentano’s. When Jerry confronts him, Leo protests that the petty theft is his right as a senior citizen.

“It’s not stealing if it’s something you need,” Jerry’s dad, Morty, says, with his mom, Helen, noting, “Nobody pays for everything.”

A shocked Jerry shouts, “You’re stealing, too?!” and Morty explains, “Nothing. Batteries. Well, they wear out so quick.”

But attorney David Gottlieb says there’s nothing funny about the pharmacy chain harassing innocent seniors and other groups protected under the law.

“It is reprehensible that CVS targets customers based on race, ethnicity and even age, and we intend to hold the company accountable for these practices,” he said.

The new filings come a year after Gottlieb’s firm sued CVS in a federal class action, alleging store managers ordered security guards to focus on minorities.

A CVS spokeswoman said, “We are not aware of these new cases, so we are unable to comment specifically. However, in previous cases brought by the same law firm on similar complaints, plaintiffs’ attorneys have not been able to produce any documentary evidence to support their allegations.”

 

McD Fined $56.5K For Ignoring Deaf Applicant

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It’s been around since 1990, so there is no excuse for an employer not to be aware of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). McDonald’s was reminded of that recently when the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission – created under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – decreed McDonald’s Corp. and McDonald’s Restaurants would pay $56,500 to settle a discrimination suit after a Missouri restaurant manager refused to interview a deaf job applicant.

Hardly surprisingly, Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s chose not to comment to the media.

The EEOC says a young man who can’t hear or speak applied online in 2012 to work at the McDonald’s in Belton, Missouri. He had previous experience as a cook and cleanup team member at a McDonald’s restaurant in another state, The Associated Press reported.

A lawsuit filed by the EEOC says that when the restaurant manager learned the applicant needed a sign language interpreter for his interview, she canceled the interview, even though the applicant’s sister volunteered to interpret.

How weird is that? The guy had previously been hired by, and worked at, a McDonald’s, yet he was turned down at the one he applied to in Belton, Mo.

So now, with this settlement, if he continued to be unable to find suitable work – even without other possible discrimination suits he might file! – he’s getting a pretty hefty bit of ‘unemployment benefit’ from his former employer! ‘Way to go, kid!

Coming Election Cited For Slower Fast Food Sales

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A growing number of restaurant chain executives says consumer uncertainty about the upcoming election is negatively impacting sales in their stores. Some  chains, according to a recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News, have seen sharp sales drops in recent months.

Among the latest executives to blame the election was Greg Creed, Yum! Brands Inc. CEO. Yum owns and operates KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut stores across the U.S. and, to a lesser degree, abroad.

“It goes without saying that people are trying to decide who to choose and what the impact will be on the economy, and I think people are maybe just hunkering down a little bit,” he said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call last Thursday.

Earlier this summer, The Wendy’s Co. CEO Todd Penegor also cited the uncertainty. “When a consumer is a little uncertain around their future and really trying to figure out what this election cycle really means to them, they’re not as apt to spend as freely as they might have even just a couple of quarters ago,” he said.

In August, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. CFO William Matt struck a similar chord. “What we also see is that there is a little more uncertainty with the consumer,” he said. “We’re not too sure what’s causing that, but our speculation would be, we think there is a rather unusual election going on and we think that unusual election is causing some uncertainty.”

Well, we (at FoodTradeTrends.com) know something else that is pulling fast-feeders sales down: The growing shifts, among consumers, for healthier fare, for organic foods, and for more nutritious foods.

We’ve reported on this before – particularly on how Millennials are opting for healthier foods and for eating at home as many as six, seven nights per week – and we will be reporting on it more in coming weeks.

We’ll also be watching restaurant sales, to see if they do go up after the election – regardless of who wins!

 

Alleging Sexual Harassment, McD Workers Say They Are NOT Lovin’ It

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McDonald’s workers across the country have filed a series of federal complaints against the fast food giant, alleging an array of sexual harassment on the job.

Fifteen complaints, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at both corporate and franchise stores over the last month, claim workers alerted general managers and corporate staff after experiencing sexual harassment on the job, but their complaints went unnoticed or, in some cases, were met with retaliation.

According to the complaints, the harassment ranged from groping to lewd comments to offers of cash in exchange for sexual favors, often by managers.

“As the country’s second-largest employer, McDonald’s has a responsibility to set standards in both the fast-food industry and the economy overall,” Kendall Fells, organizing director of the Fight for $15, said in a statement. “Cooks and cashiers are going to keep on joining together, speaking out and taking every step possible to make sure McDonald’s follows its own policies and gets sexual harassment off of the menu.

A McDonald’s spokesperson said the fast food chain is reviewing the allegations and takes the concerns “seriously.”

“At McDonald’s, we and our independent owner-operators share a deep commitment to the respectful treatment of everyone,” spokesperson Terri Hickey said in a statement. “There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in McDonald’s restaurants or in any workplace.”

Workers said in a video posted Wednesday that they have planned a wave of lunchtime rush hour protests last Thursday at restaurants in three dozen cities.

In addition to demanding the company enforce its zero-tolerance police against sexual harassment, they plan to carry signs reading “McDonald’s, I’m Not on the Menu” and “McDonald’s, Put Some Respect in My Check.”