retail news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

• The Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) - a cross-sector industry initiative led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) - yesterday announced the release of a toolkit that it said would "help businesses in the food sector reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfill" by focusing on strategies that "food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators can employ to keep food out of landfills, and to reduce food waste at the source."

“Our goal for the toolkit is to elevate the issue of food waste within the sector and enable more companies to take action by sharing key learnings and model practices gleaned from organizations who are at the leading edge of this issue," says Gail Tavill, vice president, sustainable development for ConAgra Foods and one of the toolkit authors.

• The Pittsburgh Business Times reports that HJ Heinz "is offering buyouts to its nearly 800 Pittsburgh-based employees with a severance package that apparently gives an out to workers who aren't buying into the new corporate culture," terming it ""a generous opportunity for eligible employees to leave Heinz with enhanced severance benefits."

The story notes that Heinz has adopted a zero-based-budgeting, efficiency-driven corporate culture since being taken private in 2013 in a $28 billion acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) and 3G Capital. Since that time, it has reduced its national employee base from 31,000 to 29,000, has replaced both the CEO and CFO, is selling or closing three plants, and that "part of its strategy going forward is to reduce operational costs and focus on cash flow generation and deleveraging."

Yikes. Not to pass judgement here, because I'd hate to alienate the company that makes Heinz 57 sauce, but I have to say that Heinz doesn't exactly sound like a great place to work these days. How many folks are going to the office in the morning worrying that this will be the day that they get deleveraged out of a job?

• The Wall Street Journal reports that the Sonic hamburger chain plans to add more than a thousand stores to its fleet over the next decade, an ambitious growth plan for a company currently with about 3,500 units.

Sonic, which operates 1950s-style carhop restaurants in which servers deliver orders on roller skates, currently operates mainly in the South. "In expanding," the Journal writes, "it is making adaptations like building indoor dining rooms in restaurants in colder climates. Many of its new stores will be in California, where the company plans to build 300 by 2020, up from 65 now."

Sonic vs. In-N-Out? Good luck...
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