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    Published on: September 25, 2020

    KC has some thoughts about a wholesale grocery delivery company called Cheetah that has been putting refrigerators on the sidewalks of communities ranging from San Jose, California, to Brooklyn, New York … refrigerators stocked with juice, eggs, bread vegetables  -  all items that were extra and that Cheetah was providing to communities in need rather than throw it out and waste it.

    By one definition, this is the act of anarchists.  Go figure.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    It is a longtime tenet here at MNB that food stores do best when they actually act like food stores - celebrating food culture and selling products that smell and taste good.  That's especially true at a time when food stores should be looking for differential advantages that will set them apart from both bricks-and-mortar and online competitors.

    That's exactly the culture at Lunds & Byerlys in Minnesota.  And now, the iconic fresh food retailer has taken it to the next step by embracing food truck culture.

    The Eagan, Minnesota, Lunds & Byerlys store now features a food truck facade that features O'Cheeze, an actual food truck operator that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and nachos.  It is a kind of pop-up that is part of a six-week rotating residency that Lunds & Byerlys is calling "Eat Street."  (Pictures below.)

    “It’s a unique way to bring new and exciting food to our customers, while also inviting the devoted foodie followers of local food trucks to step in and discover Lunds & Byerlys,” says John Stueland, deli director at Lunds & Byerlys.  “This pop-up kitchen space will allow customers to try some of the best and most innovative street food fare the Twin Cities has to offer without tracking down a food truck. Plus, the frequent rotation of food truck vendors will allow for continued discovery.”

    The company says that "the long-term goal is to install an Eat Street in more stores throughout the metro, and keep participating trucks on rotation. Businesses with designs on going brick and mortar have a shot to try it out without investing more than rent."

    Tony Fritz, who owns O’Cheeze with his wife, Haley, says that the timing is propitious - the pandemic has been tough on the food truck industry, and this will give businesses the ability to keep functioning and maintain relevance to local consumers.

    I love this idea on so many levels, and think it is the kind of thing that a lot of food retailers could mimic.  Food trucks often traffic in unusual and provocative food - a new spin on this, and new twist on that.  They can, in this case quite literally, give a retailer a bit of street cred, not to mention a kind of theater that can prove to be a differential advantage both during and after the pandemic.

    My idea of an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gavin Newsom has signed into law a pair of bills that require app-based delivery companies - think DoorDash, Grub Hub, Postmates and Uber Eats - to have formal agreements with local restaurants before they start selling and delivering food from those establishments.

    The argument behind the new legislation is that these delivery companies can hurt the restaurants' reputations and competitive viability if they can take orders, charge random fees, and then deliver the items in any condition they want without any accountability to the restaurants.

    The bills also mandate that delivery companies maintain adequate temperature controls and safety protocols.

    The laws, the Times writes, "are the latest effort by state lawmakers to ratchet up oversight of an industry that has resisted attempts at regulation as it grows rapidly in size and profitability."  They go into effect on January 1, 2021.

    KC's View:

    I like the idea of this legislation, and think it should be extended to that all third-party delivery companies - think Instacart - are prohibited from shopping at and delivering products from supermarkets with which they do not have formal agreements.

    There are retailers out there who were pretty much forced into doing business with Instacart because it was going into their stores and shopping them, marking up the items (thus hurting the stores' value proposition), and then delivering them while creating the illusion that they were working with the retailer.  That's absurd … and I hope that California not only extends the protections to supermarkets and other kinds of retail, but also that other states provide these protections for their retailers, as well.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    Amazon is coming out with a new consumer drone product - it actually flies inside your house.

    According to the story, "Amazon's indoor drone, called the Ring Always Home Cam, flies to take video in predetermined areas and will cost $249."  The idea seems to be that if it is activated and you aren't home, if there is a disturbance it will fly to the location to see what the problem is.  It also will allow people to check things out remotely - if you're concerned about the stove being left on or a window being left open, you can check that out, too.

    The drone is positioned as part of Amazon's Ring security brand.  Here's a video showing it working:

    Reuters also writes about how Amazon yesterday introduced "Ring Car Connect software that first will be compatible with Tesla models. The software will play back video and tell customers if their vehicle is unlocked, among other features."

    Amazon also "announced new spherical Echo speakers, upgrades such as a deletion feature for all prior recordings on voice-controlled products and an improved ability to discern whether speech is directed at Alexa or at others in a household.


    KC's View:

    A drone flying around indoors whenever it hears an errant sound?  Hard to imagine anything going wrong with this…

    Actually, Amazon already offers a drone-less version of this.  Try talking to your Alexa … say, "Shields up!"  (Yes, a Star Trek reference.)  It'll then listen for things like broken glass or other sounds that shouldn't be there, and will alert the user.  (It won't call the cops.  You have to do that.)

    I have several Ring cameras around the exterior of my house, and I must say they make me feel secure … and when there were a series of car break-ins in the neighborhood, we had video.  But I'm not sure that I'm ready for a drone to be flying around in my house.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    Fast Company has an interview with Ryan Gellert, the new CEO of Patagonia, in which he talks about his priorities.

    One excerpt:

    "I really like working with people and seeing them be successful, and just working to see how we can crack the code of getting more done together than individually. One of the things we’ve had some success with in Europe is really trying to create an environment where people can get involved above and beyond their role. That’s something I’m excited to expand on in this new role. Not that it doesn’t happen already, but it could never happen too much.

    "I want to create an environment where people really feel like the hard work they’re putting in is worth it. They see what it’s contributing to. I want to make this company more global, and I think it’s got a tremendous opportunity to be that. Our biggest goal heading to the future is just distilling the most meaningful parts of our mission and product into the middle of the business. That’s what’s going to lead us in this next chapter, and I think far beyond that."

    You can read the entire interview here.

    KC's View:

    At a time when so many employees are feeling beaten up by circumstances, the notion that it is critical to make them feel like all the effort is "worth it" makes a lot of sense to me.  Money is part of it, but not the only thing … people want to feel like they are contributing, like they are part of something larger than themselves.  Patagonia is a paradigm of that, and it is noteworthy that it wants to be better.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, we've now had 7,185,915 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 207,540 deaths and 4,438,628 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 32,447,315 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 988,230 fatalities and 23,949,161 reported recoveries.

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Nationwide, the seven-day moving average as of Wednesday was 43,357, and the 14-day average was 40,953, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data. When the seven-day average is higher than the 14-day average, as it has been since Sept. 15, it suggests cases are rising.

    "'If you look at the country as a whole, the baseline for the country is still about 35,000 to 45,000 new cases a day,' said Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, during a conversation with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday. Some parts of the country experiencing surges of infection 'are gonna really have a problem' if they aren’t able to move their baseline down to a more manageable level, he said.

    "'You know there’s going to be Covid in the fall. How do I know? There were 40,000 infections yesterday and it’s already September 24,' Dr. Fauci added. 'It already is the fall'."

    •  From the Los Angeles Times:

    "A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the median age of people with COVID-19 in the U.S. has declined over the spring and summer, with Americans in their 20s now accounting for more cases than people in any other age group.

    "The findings suggest that if the U.S. wants to get its coronavirus outbreak under control, it will need more cooperation from young adults."

    •  Axios reports that New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that even after the federal Food and Drug Administration approves one or more Covid-19 vaccines, the state's health officials will do their own review as a way of reassuring residents that the vaccines are safe.

    The story notes that this is highly unusual, and that states generally do not play such a role when it comes to vaccines.  And, the story says, the result could be the opposite of reassurance, but rather could "sow further public doubt that the federal government could release a vaccine based on political motives rather than safety and efficacy."

    •  The Associated Press reports that "New Hampshire restaurants will be allowed to move tables closer together starting Oct. 1 if they install barriers between them, Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday.

    "Currently, tables must be placed at least 6 feet apart to reduce the risk of the coronavirus. With the weather getting colder, restaurants have been asking the state to loosen restrictions for indoor dining. Sununu said he rejected requests to allow bars and restaurants to resume the use of dart boards and other games as unsafe, given that they would put players in close proximity to each other. But he believes increasing the number of tables will be ok, with barriers installed."

    •  The Columbus Dispatch reports that "Ohio is planning to reopen nursing homes and assisted living facilities to indoor visitors next month as cooler weather approaches.

    "But the loved ones of nursing home residents will find their visitation looks a bit different when it starts Oct. 12, said Ursel McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging.  Visits will be limited to two people at a time and to 30 minutes in a designated area of a facility, McElroy said. The designated visitation areas will need to be cleaned in between each visit."

    •  In the UK, concerns about a coronavirus resurgence have led Tesco and Morrisons "to place limits on the number of items shoppers can buy."

    Among the items being limited are flour, dried pasta, toilet paper, baby wipes and anti-bacterial wipes.

    The BBC says that to this point, Asda and Waitrose have not yet imposed buying limits.

    •  The Seattle Times reports that Pac-12 football is coming back:

    "After adopting a conference-only fall football season on July 31, then postponing it altogether less than two weeks later, the Pac-12’s CEO group voted unanimously on Thursday for a seven-game season that will start on Nov. 6 and last until Dec. 18. All Pac-12 teams who do not advance to the conference title game will play a different cross-division opponent the same weekend.

    "Aside from football, the Pac-12 will also resume its basketball and winter sports seasons. Pac-12 men’s and women’s basketball will begin on Nov. 25, consistent with the NCAA’s allotted start date, and other winter sports may commence alongside their determined NCAA start date as well."

    At least through the end of the year, fans will not be permitted in the venues.

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "University officials planned for months for the resumption of fall classes amid the pandemic, with experts advising them on the rapidly evolving understanding of the novel coronavirus. They spent tens of billions of dollars creating massive testing programs, clearing out dorm space for quarantines, sticking reminder dots six feet apart on sidewalks, overhauling ventilation systems and crafting public health campaigns centered around feisty mask-wearing mascots.

    "But as cases of the coronavirus have popped up on campuses, forcing some schools to empty their dorms or switch to virtual classes, one factor cannot be ignored: Students like to party. And good luck reining that in.

    "College presidents, student leaders and local officials are trying a variety of approaches. Some — like the University of Maryland’s president — are dropping by popular bars near campus to hand out masks to students outside and remind them to stay safe. Others are moving to shut down socializing altogether, or berating fraternities who host parties. Others have gone so far as to kick students out for violating rules. All of this has created new tension over who really is to blame.

    "Some of the penalties and scoldings have infuriated students, who argue that administrators should be held accountable if the virus spreads on a campus that they have chosen to reopen in the middle of a pandemic."

    I get the problem and the idea that asking college students not to socialize is kind of counterintuitive.  To be honest, if I were running a school, I'd probably prefer a remote learning model until the pandemic has been put down.  But I would take issue with students who blame college administrators for their own bad behavior - give me a freakin' break.  You want to be treated like adults when it serves your purposes, but are unwilling to behave like adults in the middle of a pandemic.

    Is it fair that maybe we're asking you to grow up a little faster than we all might want?  Sure.  But as I've been telling my own kids pretty much since birth, "Life is unfair.  Get used to it."  Show a little gumption (to use a word my grandmother probably would've liked), deal with the reality with which you are presented, and make this the moment you shine … not the moment in which you cast blame.  You're not victims.  Stop buying into victimization culture.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From the Los Angeles Times,a story about how Amazon "is diving into the new and hotly contested market for streaming video games" with Luna, s new service that the story says "lets gamers play without shelling out for expensive game consoles or games."

    Luna, the story says, "is Amazon’s biggest foray yet into the fast-growing $150-billion video gaming market. A subscription to the Luna+ channel costs $5.99 a month during an introductory period and will include games such as 'Resident Evil 7,' 'Control' and 'Panzer Dragoon.'

    "The offering, available at first to invited testers, will go head to head with rival services launched in recent years by the likes of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Microsoft Corp. and Nvidia Corp."

    The Times goes on:  "It is a long-anticipated debut for Amazon, which operates the largest network of on-demand software services through its Amazon Web Services cloud division. The company has also long harbored ambitions to expand its video game entertainment franchise beyond Twitch, the gamer-focused internet livestreaming company it bought in 2014."

    I think this can be fairly called a potentially significant expansion of Amazon's ecosystem, which positions the company's offerings to be among the first and best choices for almost everything.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    •  MarketWatch reports that Costco has posted Q4 earnings of $1.39 billion on sales of $53.4 billion, up 12.5 percent from $47.5 billion a year ago.  Same-store sales were up 11.4 percent.

    For the full year, Costco's revenue grew 9.3 percent to $163.2 billion from $152.7 billion, while net income also grew 9.3 percent to $4 billion from $3.66 billion - the story notes that this is the first year that Costco's annual profit hit the $4 billion mark.  Full year same-store sales grew 9.2 percent.

    •  Forbes reports that B&G has decided to rebrand its Cream of Wheat brand, removing the image of the black chef that long has adorned the packaging.

    "While research indicates the image may be based upon an actual Chicago chef named Frank White, it reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive,” the company said in a statement.

    The announcement came the same day as Mars Inc. said that Uncle Ben's rice will be rebranded as Ben's Original because of concerns about racial stereotyping.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    •  King Kullen announced three promotions:  Joseph Brown, the company's senior vice president and chief merchandising officer, has been named executive vice president, while continuing to serve as president of the company's Wild By Nature subsidiary … Bernard P. Kennedy, the company's secretary and general counsel, has been named senior vice president of corporate and legal affairs … and Michael Simco, director of corporate payroll and benefits, has been named vice president of administration and benefits.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    We had a story yesterday about how California is mandating that as of 2035, no new gas-fueled cars can be sold there, as the state looks to deal with carbon emissions that it says have contributed to the wildfires there.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    California better ban Brown-Outs too!  Otherwise, Californians aren’t going to be able to evacuate from the fire and earthquake areas in those electric cars.

    From another reader:

    It is preposterous to say that the California Wildfires are being caused in part by global climate change.  California has warmed 3 degrees over the past century.  The huge fires are due to poor forest management, not global climate change.  The left say “Science is Real”, but ignore science whenever it does not fit their agenda. 

    Prediction – California’s decision to go to all electric cars will lead to even more rolling blackouts in the future.  I think we all want more sustainable energy, but let’s be smart about it.  Of course, CA politicians have no brains so there you go…

    From another reader:

    When I read this story on 9/23/2020 about California and electric cars, ironically the following story was one about Tesla: "Tesla is currently suffering a complete network outage with internal systems being down and customer connectivity features not accessible." Car owners were unable to access their cars if they were trying to use their phones. If they had a physical key they were OK but if not no dice. Guess the roads will be less crowded for me in my gas powered Honda CRV.

    Also having recently visited California, my daughter's home was the subject of a rolling electrical blackout because of wildfires. This was not the first time this has occurred and has me wondering if you cannot charge your car because of no electricity and must evacuate for one reason or another, how will that all play out?

    I'm no expert, but I would guess that one of the things that the state will need to focus on during the coming 15 years will be dealing with the grid so that blackouts and brownouts can be eliminated.

    I also have no problem with the notion that eliminating gas-fueled cars will be good for the environment.

    But what do I know?

    On another subject, from MNB reader Tom Murphy:

    Running a little behind on your videos, but love the addition of all the new segments.

    In watching your Innovation Conversation on Walmart, I immediately came up with a name for it, “Last Mover Disadvantage”!  Industry pundits and consultants for years have played on “first mover advantage”, but we don’t often speak of the alternative.

    Like me (and undoubtedly others), you and Tom Furphy were underwhelmed by the Walmart+ offering.  You both recognized that this type of program has been around for years in other retailers (actually, Kroger was doing some of this in the late 90’s when I was there).  As a result, we were all underwhelmed, and frankly, I was embarrassed for Walmart.  In its current state, Walmart+ is much to do about nothing!  This creates a large negative market and brand impression for Walmart…laughable actually.

    Now, it may turn into something special and unique, but that better happen quickly, or this will play out like an early season TV series cancellation…and no one will care!

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    In Thursday Night Football action, the Miami Dolphins defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-13.

    Published on: September 25, 2020

    I am excited to report that "The Chef Show," the Jon Favreau-created Netflix cooking series based on his movie, Chef, is back for what they are calling season two, volume one.  (There were three volumes in season one, for a total of 20 episodes.  This volume has five episodes, all clearly shot pre-pandemic.  Don't ask me to explain.)

    The thing I like most about this series is the ongoing conversation between Favreau, who while a pretty good cook is still something of a novice, and Chef Roy Choi … it is the free and easy banter of two guys who love what they're doing - they love the cooking, but they really love the eating.  Nothing snooty about it - they're a great hang.

    I've only watched one episode from the new set, which just came out yesterday - it features Favreau and Choi recreating the late night burger from Atlanta's Holeman & Finch …and I defy you to watch it without a) getting hungry, b) trying to figure out if you have the ingredients to make one right now, and c) getting even hungrier.   There's also a segment in which they make a different sort of grilled cheese sandwich, which is fitting since the act of making grilled cheese was a major plot point in Chef.

    "The Chef Show" is a pure delight, especially if you love food.  And if you don't …  well, this could change your mind.

    "Star Trek: Lower Decks" is halfway through its first season on CBS All Access, and I must admit that I have been won over by its cheeky, irreverent style.

    A quick primer:  "Lower Decks" is an animated, with 30-minute-long episodes that focus on the people who do the grunt work on the USS Cerritos; it takes place in the year 2380, one year after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis.  The stories are recognizably Trek, but the humor is gently subversive and mocking of tropes rather than adhering to them religiously.  There are lots of name-checks of past series, episodes and characters, with Easter eggs aplenty to keep Trek fans engaged.

    The nice things about "Star Trek: Lower Decks" is that it keeps the franchise's heart beating as we wait for "Star Trek: Discovery" to return  next month for its third season, and that it is made by people who love Star Trek.  And, it is fun.

    I'm not normally a Chardonnay fan.  But I had one last night - the 2018 Sea Sun Chardonnay from California - the grapes are sourced from Santa Barbara, Monterey and Solano Counties - that I liked a lot, mostly because it didn't have too much oak, nor was it too buttery.  Good choice…unless, of course, you like oak and butter in your Chardonnay.

    That's it for this week.  I'll see you Monday.

    Have a great weekend … stay safe … be healthy.