Tag Archives: Food service

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.

 

Starbucker ‘Exploded With Kindness’ At NYC Bomb Scene

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A former colleague, Kevin Coupe, publishes a blog for executives involved primarily in food retailing. He posted the following item this morning:

It has gotten a lot of attention in the media, but one almost cannot focus on such acts of kindness too much.

It was Sunday night in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, where an apparent terrorist attack resulted in an explosion rocked several blocks and resulted in the wounding of 29 people. As first responders came to the scene, an employee from a nearby Starbucks who identified himself only as Jermaine also showed up, and he passed out bags of pastries and cups of coffee to the police and fire department personnel at the scene.

“I wish I could give a little more,” Jermaine told the officers.

But Jermaine’s act was more than just an act of kindness. It was proof that even in moments that can reflect the worst of what humanity can do, there is the opportunity for people to show the best of themselves.

Sort of like the Standard High Line, a local hotel, which CNN reports “opened up its rooms to residents living within the attack area. In a Facebook post, the hotel said residents would proof of address could also eat for free.”

This story has, in fact, received a lot of publicity — undoubtedly providing a huge amount of goodwill for Starbucks. And well it should!

One of the things that has helped Starbucks grow and prosper over the the years is the company dedication to employee training, with an emphasis on serving two clients: The person in front of the counter, and the ‘bean counters and co.’ who own the business.

Kevin’s blog hammers hard on the importance of that kind of management mind set. Germaine in New York City clearly takes it as much to heart as his employer does.

 

Indian School Kids’ Milk Is Awash with Water

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Indian school kinds awaiting midday meal — and watery milk.

A surprise, sunrise inspection of a food preparation facility servicing 11,000 school children in India’s Uttar Pradesh province found 292 liters (308.5 quarts) of water in just 192 liters (202.8 quarts) of milk.

Radha Krishan Tivari, assistant director in the basic education department who held the surprise inspection, told The Times of India that schoolchildren were drinking milk that was more than 150 per cent water.

“We were simply stunned,” he told the paper last Thursday. “The visit to the kitchen of Nav Prayas, an NGO [non-government organization] we hired to supply milk and midday meals, left one dismayed.” He said the NGO supplies food to 131 schools, including 107 primary and 27 higher primary government schools.

He said that one student, speaking anonymously, said that many kids are unable to eat the food “as the quality is so bad.”

A report on the surprise inspection will be forwarded up the government chain, and the NGO will not be receiving payments for at least two recent months.

Pizza ATM Debuts At Xavier U in Ohio

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Universities in Ohio seem to be bending over backward to satisfy supposed ‘needs’ of students: First we reported on a gluten-free dining hall (at Kent State University); Now there’s news of a pizza vending machine at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Like the earlier story, this one was first noted by no-excuse-to-be-hungry reporters at NBC News. In this instance, they declared that “late-night pizza is as much a staple of college life as classes, dorms and exams, but fresh pizza in the middle of the night isn’t always easy to find.” Nor are middle-of-the-night beer-dispensing premises, but no one seems to be working on a work-around for students in that area!

Clearly, there’s a profit-motive for the pizza ATM. But its existence also represents a clear disconnect from the dream of most parents that colleges and universities would make some attempt to encourage their charges to learn and practice some self-control, to get over thinking that their every whim must be satisfied, and to pizza  and beer are not basic food groups.

Sadly, many colleges and universities make it abundantly clear that they have no interest in the better-interests of their students as they both allow and seemingly encourage the existence of beer-fueled fraternities.

That said, the pizza ATM was inevitable: It’s merely a marriage of microwave and money-for-merchandise machines that have been around for decades. (I’m reminded of being able, as long ago as the early 1970’s, to purchase bottles of chilled wine from vending machines in Switzerland and France.)

It’s no wonder that, as Xavier Assistant Vice President Jude Kiah told NBC News, the school has had “almost 700 inquiries about the machine; Many, many other schools are interested in bringing it to their campuses.”

Pizza ATM is made by Paline, a French company. The dispensers have a long history of popularity in Europe, NBC declared.

University officials say the quality of the machine-made pizzas will not differ from dining hall pizzas — they are still hand-prepped by staff in the Xavier dining hall, which has won two national awards for its food in the past three years. But instead of the pizza being cooked by staff, it’s heated up in the machine at 475 degrees.

Pizza ATM delivered its first pizza to the Xavier women’s soccer team, and is still in the testing phase. Kiah said the vending machine will be available for students when they arrive on campus later this month.

 

 

Kent State U. in Ohio Has First-In-U.S. Gluten-Free Dining Hall

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Chefs cook up omelets with bacon and other sides at Kent State University’s Prentice Cafe, the only entirely gluten-free campus dining hall in America, according to the school. Courtesy of Kent State University.

As you’d expect, Kent State University in Ohio is hailing the country’s gluten-free dining hall as “a benefit” – even though as this blog pointed out a couple of days, that, for people who don’t have and are at little risk of celiac disease, is far from true: Gluten-free diets, we noted, quoting experts, can short-change followers of vital vitamins and minerals, thus making such diets more a risk than a benefit.

Kent State says that while many colleges offer gluten-free stations within dining halls, its Prentice Cafe is the first certified all-gluten-free campus dining facility in America. That means, the school says, that there is no risk during food preparation of cross-contamination that could allow traces of gluten into a meal. Even traces of gluten, they say, “can severely impact sufferers of celiac disease” — an autoimmune disorder where the body cannot process the wheat protein.

School officials say a rise in students who can’t — or choose not to — eat gluten prompted them to designate a dining hall specifically for them.

“For the last several years, the increase in food intolerances and celiac disease and those who have even minor gluten intolerances kept increasing,” Kent State Director of Dining Services Richard Roldan told NBC News. “A lot of parents kept coming in and stressing about the well-being of their students and having options that wouldn’t make them sick.”

Gluten, a protein, is found in wheat, rye and barley. About 3 million Americans suffer celiac, a genetic autoimmune disease which leads to damage to the lining of the small intestine, Symptoms include pain, fatigue and diarrhea when foods with gluten, such as bread or pasta, are consumed. A small number of people have an allergy to wheat, which has similar symptoms.

Millions of others avoid gluten for perceived health reasons, although nutritionists question whether going gluten-free actually has benefits. Many gluten-free foods use rice as a substitute and may lack key nutrients found in whole grains. Also, gluten-free products tend to have more fat and sugar than foods with gluten, which can lead to weight gain.

Either way, sales of gluten-free products have surged in recent years as the number of people foregoing it in the U.S. tripled between 2009 and 2014, according to a new study out this week.

But despite the spike in popularity, there’s been no effect on the prevalence of celiac disease. Diagnoses appear to have remained stable in recent years, according to the article published by JAMA Internal Medicine last Tuesday.

One clear benefit in recent years of the gluten-free movement, according to the Kent State dining officials: gluten-free products taste a lot better — and a lot closer to their gluten counterparts than they used to.

“The manager and chef at [Prentice Cafe] have done a lot of sampling of different products out there to find the ones that really taste the best, so students who don’t need to eat gluten-free come in and are enjoying it too,” dining services dietitian Megan Brzuski told NBC News.

Erin Mazzotta, 19, just started her freshman year at Kent State. She was diagnosed with celiac in third grade and knew Prentice had food options for her when she was applying, but didn’t know it was going to be entirely gluten-free as of this year.

The Pittsburgh native was thrilled when she found out, especially after her experiences going out to eat growing up.

“A lot of restaurants do offer gluten-free menus, but it’s a little bit of a risk. You have to trust them when they’re cooking your food and handling it,” she said.

Kent State earned certification from the Gluten-Free Food Services Certification Program, a food safety program offered through the Gluten Intolerance Group, for Prentice Cafe. Traditional gluten products are easily subbed out for things like tortillas made from corn for burritos, and gluten-free hamburger buns that have good taste and texture, Roldan said.

The food at Prentice Café is “really good,” Mazzotta said.

“With gluten-free foods, sometimes you can tell it’s a little bit off, but all the different meals there have been spot-on,” she said, adding that her friends who aren’t gluten-free join her for meals there.

For students who don’t require a gluten-free diet, Prentice Cafe can still meet all their nutritional needs, Brzuski said.

“The cafe still has a wide variety of options,” she said. “There’s still a salad bar with plenty of lean protein, plenty of other options. Eating gluten-free is just a benefit.”

Or not!

 

Playing Chicken Is Popular With Restaurant Chains

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Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Photo: Wendy’s)

At a sizable number of restaurant chains, chicken is the new [1] taste treat, [the new profit center, or [3] both of those? Three should be your choice, if you’ve been paying attention to something that has truly become a trend in recent months, according to a recent CNBC report.

There are. the channel says, crispy chicken chips, taco shells made out of fried chicken, plus chicken flavored with honey mustard or sriracha — and that’s just in the past few months.

The top 250 restaurant chains added some 325 new chicken items during the 12 months ended June 30, according to research from Technomic. For comparison, only 73 new beef items were added in the same period.

The trend reflects consumer cravings for healthier, high-protein meat, not to mention a decade of high beef prices, which made chicken more appetizing for the companies’ bottom line.

Since chicken can be healthy or indulgent, it can please a wide spectrum of diners, said Mark Kalinowski, a Nomura analyst.

The new products are also aimed at bolstering sluggish sales, with chains looking to innovative, new products to create buzz and drive traffic into restaurants.

Consumers may have heard of Taco Bell’s Cheetos Burrito or the Naked Chicken Chalupa, which features a chicken “taco shell.” However, they may not be familiar with the Mexican food chain’s latest test: Crispy Chicken Chips, which are wedge-shaped chicken tenders.

“Taco Bell clearly wants to figure out innovative ways to use chicken to its advantage,” Kalinowski wrote in a recent research note. “Taco Bell’s heritage of innovation continues. And with Taco Bell likely to become more relevant to investors once Yum China is divested from parent company Yum Brands, it’s good to keep an eye on ‘the Bell.'”

New products can also help chains grab new customers, said Ken Harris, managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group.

“[Brands] want to delight consumers in a way they haven’t expected,” he told CNBC.

 

McD Attracts Breakfast-all-Day Lovers Everywhere, and a Drunken Horseman in Wales

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Photograph: Alan Diaz/AP

The deepening food crisis in Venezuela has forced McDonald’s largest franchisee, globally, to halt sales of Big Macs because the company is unable to obtain the flat, center bun that separates the two burger patties.

This is hardly the only crisis affecting McDonald’s recently. First, while the ‘all day breakfast’ concept initiated in the fourth quarter of last year remains popular, it seems to be doing so at the expense of other menu items. The company’s domestic sales in the U.S. grew a mere 1.8% in the last three months – half of what Wall Street was anticipating. That, CNNMoney reported recently, “represents a slowdown from the 5.4% growth in the first quarter of the year.”

The Guardian noted that the earnings disappointment was also reflected in a 4% revenue loss, to $6.26 billion, as the burger giant suffered, like many of its competitors, in the face of growing uncertainty among consumers.

But The Washington Post declared that, “Adding the anytime breakfast accomplished important things for McDonald’s: It showed customers that the company was listening to them. And it demonstrated to investors that new chief executive Steve Easterbrook is willing to take bold steps — not just make incremental tweaks — to try to pull the burger chain out of its rut. But, even though McDonald’s plans to make more items available on its all-day breakfast menu later this year, the offering appears to be bumping up against its limits in terms of its ability to drive long-term sales growth.”

With sales down, stock prices followed in the same direction, with share prices falling 4% on one recent day – this after the 30% share price gain the company enjoyed over the past year.

Meanwhile, one franchisee in Wales decided to let nothing stand (or stagger) in its way of boosting its share of the late night, post-pub crowd: It opened, initially at an outlet in the city of Llandudno, a walk-through lane for customers incapacitated by drink and sensibly not driving or, in one instance, out for a late-night horseback ride. (The latter man, who appeared to be and sounded intoxicated, actually used the drive-through lane, before the walk-through version was established.)