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    Published on: November 30, 2020

    KC and Michael Sansolo were talking the other day about this is likely to be a holiday shopping season like none before it.  And then, they came up with an idea about how retailers can embrace the moment and create a Christmas promotional event suitable for the times.  (It wasn't entirely their idea.  The French helped inspire it.)

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Several times over the last couple of years, both on MNB and on the Retail Tomorrow podcast series, we've charted the development of Fleat, the technology startup that marries customer purchase data with geo-tracking software to allow retail businesses such as grocers, c-stores and restaurants to provide customized mobile storefronts that deliver a curated selection of relevant products to consumers.

    I've always been intrigued by Fleat - and have introduced them to some retailers - because even before the pandemic it struck me as one iteration of the next generation of e-commerce.  It isn't just people placing orders and having them delivered, and it isn't just retailers reacting to customer needs in traditional ways.  It actually is more anticipatory … and now, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to accelerate e-commerce in general and e-grocery in particular, it strikes me as being not just the kind of technology that allows retailers to be far more responsive to consumers, but also provides them with a way to own the experience in a way that many have not to this point.  (And longtime MNB readers know how I feel about owning every part of the shopping experience in a cutthroat competitive environment, and the dubious wisdom of outsourcing any part of it to a brand that might end up competing with you.)

    Now, I see that Fleat has landed what I think could be an interesting partnership -  it is working with Farm Stores, the drive-through convenience store chain, to leap-frog existing e-commerce models and move to the next step.  With tests about to begin in Miami and Philadelphia - very different markets that will require dramatically different mobile storefronts to cater to local shoppers - Farm Stores is looking to challenge the perception of it as a six-decade-old brand by essentially bringing its stores to customers' neighborhoods and driveways with product selections created with those customers in mind.

    I would anticipate that if the initial tests are successful, the goal would be to roll out the program to Farm Stores' 70+ stores, though I'm guessing that the retailer would have to get franchisee buy-in.

    There are a couple of things that intrigue me about this.

    One is that the existing business model - you don't get out of your car when you go  the store - seems perfect for a pandemic environment when not going into the store seems like a preferred way to shop.  The addition of Fleat to the value proposition builds on the Farm Stores value proposition in a way that strikes me as organic.

    The other thing is prompted by some stories I read about Farm Stores beginning to aggressively look for franchisees as a way of fueling growth.

    What if retailers actually combined the Fleat model, or one like it, with the dark store trend - creating a c-store brand that did not have actual stores for people to visit, but rather operated mobile stores out of a warehouse that regularly outfitted trucks with relevant merchandise that went to appropriate neighborhoods … sometimes with products that already have been ordered, and always with products keyed to past purchase behavior?  (This is the same model that could be used by restaurants, many of which have been endangered by pandemic-forced limitations, if they wanted to find a new business model.)

    As I say, I continue to be intrigued.  It may be a harder lift that just calling up some third-party company and outsourcing everything to it, but it also strikes me as a model with greater long-term advantages, especially because it allows the retailer to be seen by the shopper as not just responsive, but also aspirational.

    And the result - whether it is via Fleat, or by going via another route that has the same endgame of taking ownership of every part of the customer experience and using data to create an experience that is more robust and relevant - could be an Eye-Opener. 

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Roughly half as many people visited stores on Black Friday as they did last year, according to research firms that measure foot traffic, as the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the yearslong shift to online shopping."

    However, "on Black Friday online sales hit $9 billion, up 22% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures 80 of the top 100 U.S. e-commerce sites. The gain was near the low end of Adobe’s forecast, which had projected growth of between 20% and 42% from last year.

    "It was the second biggest online-sales day, after Cyber Monday 2019 when sales hit $9.4 billion, according to Adobe. The firm expects this Monday to set a new record, with online sales of at least $10.8 billion or growth of at least 15% from last year."

    The Journal goes on:  "Black Friday was a continuation of a trend that has emerged since Covid-19-related restrictions in March. Cautious consumers are making fewer trips out of their homes and stocking up when they do. Some are adding higher-margin items such as clothing and cosmetics to their carts in the same places they buy groceries or household essentials."

    KC's View:

    The only thing about this story that surprises me is that "roughly half as many people visited stores on Black Friday as they did last year."

    Apparently they didn't get the memo - there is a pandemic out there.

    Fifty percent?  Yikes.

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos and an oft-cited expert on management and leadership, has died at age 46.  Hsieh, who retired from Zappos just a few months ago, was hurt in a New London, Connecticut, house fire on November 18 and died from those injuries.

    The Wall Street Journal provided this recitation of Hsieh's background:  "Hsieh, a Harvard-educated son of immigrants from Taiwan, in his early 20s co-founded an online ad company and sold it to Microsoft Corp. for about $265 million in 1998. The next year he invested in what became Zappos, nursed it through the dot-com bust and became chief executive. Amazon. com Inc. bought Zappos in 2009 for more than $1 billion."

    Zappos was successful despite an unlikely value proposition - that people would buy shoes without trying them on, and that the company could make money despite the fact that at least as many shoes would be sen t back to the company as were actually bought.  

    Hsieh was a believer in what is called "holocracy," which is a belief that companies can best thrive in an atmosphere where authority is distributed throughout the organization, as opposed to being invested in a hierarchy.

    Hsieh also was a believer in the core importance of customer service, and famously encouraged Zappos shoppers to reach out via phone rather than email.

    In a note posted on Zappos, the company's CEO, Kedar Deshpande, writes, in part:

    "The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being. We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend. Tony played such an integral part in helping create the thriving Zappos business we have today, along with his passion for helping to support and drive our company culture.

    "Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, as his mantra was of 'Delivering Happiness' to others. His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos, and we will continue to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he was so passionate about."

    KC's View:

    In the Innovation Conversation that posts on Wednesday, Tom Furphy and I will spend some time talking about Hsieh and Zappos within the context of a broader conversation.  One of the points that Tom makes is that in part it was the customer service obsession at Zappos that made it so attractive to Jeff Bezos and Amazon.

    And the thing is, I think Amazon has gotten much more accessible to customers since it bought Zappos - a great example of how an acquiring company can learn from a smaller business and even absorb differentiating cultural imperatives.

    I always liked the story about how Hsieh wanted the customer service folks to have the best views from the company's Las Vegas headquarters - he understood that if the people talking to shoppers were happy, it would go a long way towards making customers happy.

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    From the New York Times:

    "Amazon has embarked on an extraordinary hiring binge this year, vacuuming up an average of 1,400 new workers a day and solidifying its power as online shopping becomes more entrenched in the coronavirus pandemic.

    "The hiring has taken place at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, at its hundreds of warehouses in rural communities and suburbs, and in countries such as India and Italy. Amazon added 427,300 employees between January and October, pushing its work force to more than 1.2 million people globally, up more than 50 percent from a year ago. Its number of workers now approaches the entire population of Dallas.

    "The spree has accelerated since the onset of the pandemic, which has turbocharged Amazon’s business and made it a winner of the crisis. Starting in July, the company brought on about 350,000 employees, or 2,800 a day. Most have been warehouse workers, but Amazon has also hired software engineers and hardware specialists to power enterprises such as cloud computing, streaming entertainment and devices, which have boomed in the pandemic."

    Noting that "Amazon’s rapid employee growth is unrivaled in the history of corporate America," the Times writes that its "scale of hiring is even larger than it may seem because the numbers do not account for employee churn, nor do they include the 100,000 temporary workers who have been recruited for the holiday shopping season. They also do not include what internal documents show as roughly 500,000 delivery drivers, who are contractors and not direct Amazon employees."

    KC's View:

    Even as it grows so fast, Amazon also is likely to find itself at the center of a regulatory maelstrom - the Times points out that it is one of the technology companies being probed by regulators and lawmakers at both the federal and state level.

    But the story also notes that Amazon's ubiquity - it has employees in almost every one of the 50 states - also gives it enormous political sway … even as its size makes it more vulnerable from more angles.

    One of the points in the Times article that I found most interesting was how "the company was already working with preschools to establish the foundation of tech education, so that 'as our hiring demand unfolds over the next 10 years, that pipeline is there and ready'."

    It'd be nice if Amazon could also help make that education available to people who have been making their living in old-world industries, helping them learn the new skills that will make them more relevant - and potentially more prosperous - in a technologically-centric world.

    Published on: November 30, 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, there now have been 13,751,337 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 273,101 deaths and 8,108,383 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 63,152,981 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,466,743 resulting fatalities, and 43,626,122 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  Some good news from the Wall Street Journal:

    "Moderna Inc. said it will on Monday ask U.S. and European health regulators to authorize use of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, after it was shown to be 94.1% effective in a full analysis of a pivotal study.

    "The timing keeps the vaccine on track to become possibly the second to go into use in the U.S. by year’s end - after one already under regulatory review from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE - with inoculation available to the general public likely in spring or summer."

    The story goes on :  "Moderna also said the vaccine appeared to be generally safe, though some subjects developed headaches and other mild to moderate reactions."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations nationwide again hit a record high, according to the Covid Tracking Project, with more than 93,000 admitted as of Sunday.

    "The nation reported 138,903 new cases for Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That is down from 155,596 a day before and the record-high 205,557 reported on Friday. Sunday’s figure was also a week-over-week decline, down from 142,734 on Nov. 22."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "almost 50 million people were expected to have made a journey during the Thanksgiving holidays, AAA said, despite tightening local clampdowns and warnings from federal health officials. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 19 recommended people not travel over Thanksgiving."

    •  Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “This Week” that the level of infection in the U.S. would not “all of a sudden turn around … clearly in the next few weeks, we’re going to have the same sort of thing. And perhaps even two or three weeks down the line ... we may see a surge upon a surge."

    •  The Washington Post reports that the US Supreme Court last week ruled 5-4 n favor of "religious organizations in New York that said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat spiking coronavirus cases."

    The Post writes:  "'Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,' said the unsigned opinion granting a stay of the state’s orders. 'The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.'

    "The limits were severe, at times capping worship services at only 10 people. But the state said they were necessary to deal with 'hot spots' of virus outbreaks."

    I do think that there has been some degree of inconsistency in how regulations have been developed - if people believe that governments are making it more acceptable to keep a bar open than a church or school, then they have a legitimate complaint.  I think some of this may be a communications issue - somehow, even a governor who was not shy about getting in front of TV cameras managed not to make his case in this regard.

    I also must confess that I am a little less interested in what the Supreme Court said than in what churches seemingly unconcerned about spreading the virus through in-person contact are saying.  They must have a different definition of "minister to my flock" than I do.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports on how "neighborhood grocery stores are aiming to become major providers of Covid-19 vaccinations.

    "Supermarkets are rushing to secure freezers, thermometers and other medical gear for administering shots. They are also training staff and establishing online services for scheduling appointments. With a vaccine approval potentially weeks away, it isn’t yet known how federal and state authorities will distribute shots to the public, and grocers say they are unsure how many customers will seek immunization when it becomes available."

    The Journal writes that "the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has signed on dozens of grocery and pharmacy chains to provide Covid-19 vaccines once the inoculations are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Among the retailers are Kroger Co. , Albertsons Cos. and CVS Health Corp. These businesses are part of 'Operation Warp Speed,' which also includes drugmakers, medical distributors and federal agencies.

    "Grocers have emerged as providers of Covid-19 testing for employees and consumers during the pandemic. Many supermarkets have offered customers flu shots for years, but vaccine distribution will require more coordination with state and federal agencies … Grocers say they are well-positioned to provide Covid-19 vaccines because a large share of the population lives near one of their stores and their pharmacies regularly offer shots for flu, shingles and other illnesses. For supermarkets, pharmacy operations have historically been a way to bring in more shoppers. Many already have freezers and other tools in stores, as well as pharmacists trained to perform immunizations."

    •  NBC News reports that "the family of a Publix employee who died after contracting the coronavirus alleges in a lawsuit that the supermarket company banned workers from wearing face masks at the start of the pandemic.

    "Gerardo Gutierrez, who worked in the deli department of the Miami Beach grocery store, died on April 28 from COVID-19 complications, according to a suit filed Monday. The suit says the 70-year-old became ill after an employee he worked with tested positive for the virus … The lawsuit claims that at the start of the pandemic, Publix prohibited employees from wearing face masks and gloves despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging people to social distance."

    Publix has not yet commented on the suit, according to the story.

    •  CBS News reported that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock last week was urging his city's residents to stay home on Thanksgiving - and then he flew to Mississippi for the holiday to see his daughter.

    Once confronted, Hancock said his decision was "unwise and hypocritical … I recognize that my job as mayor, my job is not only to come up with safe practices for the entire city, but also to lead by an example, and I think by that measure, I failed. It’s a mistake I deeply regret and deeply apologize for."

    I wonder if he's sorry for having gone, or more sorry for having been caught.

    I have to admit that I'm really tired of politicians who say one thing and do another.  Hancock flies to Mississippi.  California Gov. Gavin Newsom goes to Napa for a fancy dinner with lots of politicos and donors.  I worry that their moral barometer may be no better than their political judgement … and I certainly think these decisions would influence my decision-making if I were one of their constituents.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that United Airlines "on Friday began operating charter flights to position doses of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine for quick distribution if the shots are approved by regulators, according to people familiar with the matter.

    "The initial flights are one link in a global supply chain being assembled to tackle the logistical challenge of distributing Covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer has been laying the groundwork to move quickly if it gets approval from the Food and Drug Administration and other regulators world-wide."

    The Journal writes that "other cargo and passenger airlines are also preparing for the global push to get vaccines to the public quickly. American Airlines Group Inc. said it has been conducting trial flights from Miami to South America to test the thermal packaging and operational processes for shipping vaccines.

    "FedEx Corp. and DHL International GmBH have introduced temperature-monitoring systems to track future vaccine shipments. United Parcel Service Inc. and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are building 'freezer farms' combining many refrigerators at their airport hubs to store vaccines in transit."

    I hope that someone thinks to talk to Amazon and Jeff Bezos about how it can lend a hand in the logistical challenges involved in getting the vaccine out there and everywhere.

    •  From the New York Times, a story about the season's must-have product in a pandemic world:

    "The must-have accessory for many businesses this winter is basic, but lately it has been hard to find: the humble space heater.

    "As coronavirus cases surge, and as people shun or are even barred from gathering in indoor spaces, restaurants, hotels and office buildings are installing outdoor heaters on sidewalks and terraces in a bid to retain customers and tenants.

    "The effort can seem like an existential quest. A rise in demand has left some products back-ordered for months, possibly jeopardizing the prospect of some businesses getting through the pandemic intact."

    •  Axios Sports reports on how the pandemic "has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground, and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable."

    Denver's situation meant that it had to start Kendall Hinton, a practice-squad wide receiver, at quarterback yesterday.

    "In San Francisco," Axios Sports writes, "the Santa Clara County Public Health Department announced new measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases in the area — including prohibiting starting Monday contact sports from holding games and practices for three weeks."

    Baltimore's problems meant that "the Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game originally scheduled for Thanksgiving Day has been rescheduled for a second time, from Sunday to Tuesday, after three Baltimore players tested positive for the virus."

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    •  The BBC reports that "Amazon is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on bonuses for Christmas staff after sales at the online giant soared during the pandemic.

    "Full-time warehouse workers in the UK and the US will receive £300 or $300, with £150 or $150 for part-time staff.

    "The money, $500m in total, will go to staff working between 1-31 December."

    •  The New York Times reports on how the pandemic "has revealed just how important e-commerce is to the future of luxury goods. Unlike the music industry, which has Spotify, or the hotel business, which has, the luxury fashion industry is still without a single dominant online player.

    "But this month, Richemont, which owns Cartier, Van Cleef and Patek Philippe, and the Chinese technology titan Alibaba announced that they were making a $1.1 billion investment in the online fashion retailer Farfetch. The Pinault family, whose company, Kering, owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, also increased its stake in Farfetch by $50 million through its investment vehicle Artémis."

    The goal is to simultaneously establish a beachhead in the luxury/online space while not allowing Amazon - which has launched its own luxury initiatives - from getting too much traction.

    Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, tells the Times, “'Luxury is struggling with the fact e-commerce is basically becoming Amazon in the West and Alibaba in the East,' … before making an analogy to World War II.  'None of them can fight the Germans on their own, so they need to ally with the Russians, which in this case is Alibaba. This is like the Russians and the British and the Americans getting together. They are competitors. The real enemy, however, is in Seattle'."

    •  The Washington Post reports that "Amazon's widely used cloud computing service suffered a major outage in its eastern U.S. operations Wednesday, hampering everything from services for Web-connected security cameras to software applications that businesses use to design products.

    "Starting midmorning, a variety of Amazon Web Services applications began to fail, including ones that deliver data and authorize users to access that data. That hobbled companies that rely on AWS, including the Amazon-owned Ring security camera service, iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner app, services from design technology firm Autodesk and the publishing systems of news outlets such as The Washington Post (which is owned by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos)."

    •  Reuters reports that "France's finance ministry has sent out notices to big tech companies liable for its digital service tax to pay the levy as planned in December … Amazon has received a reminder from the French authorities to pay the tax, and will comply, according to a person familiar with the matter at the online retailer."

    The story explains that  "France suspended collection of the tax, which will hit companies like Facebook and Amazon, early this year while negotiations were underway at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on an overhaul of international tax rules.  The finance ministry has long said it would collect the tax in December as planned if the talks proved unfruitful by then, which is what happened when the nearly 140 countries involved agreed last month to keep negotiating until mid 2021."

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  CNN reports that "an undetermined number of Thanksgiving chefs" who bought their turkeys from Whole Foods woke up on Thanksgiving "to a concerning email."

    The retailer wrote that a "small number" of turkeys it sold "did not meet our high expectations for quality," though there were no known food safety or health risks.  Nevertheless, Whole Foods gave those customers $50 Amazon gift cards just in case, and apologized for the potential issue.

    What's the over-under on how many of those chefs then cooked the bird but didn't tell any of the folks at their dinner tables about it?   

    •  From CNN:

    "Best Buy is capitalizing on shoppers snapping up laptops, home theater systems, kitchen appliances and other electronics as consumers continue to spend more time at home in the pandemic."

    The story says that Best Buy's "sales at stores open for at least one year grew 23% during the three months ending on October 31, compared with the same stretch last year. That marked Best Buy's largest quarterly sales increase in 25 years.

    "Much of Best Buy's growth came from home delivery and curbside pickup sales. Online sales boomed 174% last quarter and accounted more than one-third of the company's sales.

    "Best Buy's net sales increased to $11.9 billion last quarter, while its profit grew to $391 million."

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    The actor who played Darth Vader in the original three Star Wars movies has died.

    David Prowse, an actor and competitive weight-lifter who was 6-foot-7-inches tall and 275 pounds, wore the black helmet and costume of the the villain of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi - though James Earl Jones dubbed in the character's voice in post-production - passed away over the weekend at age 85.  The cause of death was not given, but he had been suffering from dementia since 2014.

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    Got the following email from MNB reader Tom Murphy about both Walmart's and Kroger's plans to improve in-store fulfillment capabilities:

    It should be interesting to follow the efforts of Kroger and Walmart to fill more online orders from their stores.  As you probably remember, both have tried and abandoned this several times in the past, for a host of reasons, not the least of which is alienation of customers who are shopping in their aisles.

    It has also been a financial/transactional challenge considering the product on the store shelf already carries most of the cost associated with a sale BEFORE employee labor is expended on the picking process.  It might be possible to be very selective in the orders picked, for instance, small ones that require minimal labor and will have little in-store customer distractions or ones whose delivery location would equate to an abnormally high delivery cost…thus offsetting the incremental store labor.

    If they can pull it off, I would consider it the innovation & execution event of the decade.  Let’s hope it works!!

    I asked last week:

    Am I wrong to think that it is entirely possible that micro-fulfillment capabilities developed for Kroger's stores could end up having greater long-term potential for the company than the giant Ocado robotics distribution centers?

    Prompting MNB reader George Denman to write:

    Both solutions help Kroger fulfill on-line pick-up and delivery options more efficiently. Ocado warehouses in PNW and Florida allow Kroger to expand their reach to consumers into new markets without brick ‘n mortar investments. The in-store fulfillment is targeted more for current consumers.

    But another MNB reader wrote:

    You're definitely not wrong KC, especially as these Ocado fulfillment centers take a couple of years to build. Kroger should be doing exactly what Walmart announced they would be doing. Leverage your stores, or miss the boat!

    Regarding the news about Amazon workers attempting to unionize in Alabama, one MNB reader wrote:

    I am constantly amazed by Amazon's genius in creativity, and by their sheer blindness in regards to their workers.  Like in retail, these are vital front-line employees, without which they wouldn't be enjoying such huge profits.  It disappoints me that someone as truly brilliant as Bezos can't see the damage that he is doing to his company by pretending that these workers are not worth more, particularly during this dangerous time of Covid.  I've never been a fan of "over-unionizing", but I'm starting to feel that the tide is slowly turning on the "gig" type of employment.  Amazon needs to think about which side of this debate they should be on. 

    Responding to Michael Sansolo's column last week, one MNB reader wrote:

    I agree whole heartedly that food retailers need to do a better job at educating the consumers as to “how to cook”.  This art has been lost on a lot of the younger generation and now with the current situation they are being thrust into unknown territory.

    Many have made lame attempts at providing “meal solutions” without truly educating the public and realizing what the lasting benefits are to their loyalty base.  In my 30+ years of calling on this industry, there is one retailer that has hit and exceeded that mark, Publix.  Their Aprons program has been providing great meal programs and education to their customers for years.  So, I find it interesting that now, this is something retailers should look at.  I have been asked many times during my meetings as to what ideas are out there to help build sales and loyalty.  Each time I mention Publix.  Not one has ever listened.

    Kudos to Publix for having the foresight as to the benefits of education. Just for the record, I don’t shop Publix, I don’t work for Publix, I just recognize sound business when I see it.  I also predict a spike in the sale of antacids this season.  Get your Pepto now before the rush!

    A thought about the holidays from an MNB reader:

    Operation Warp Speeds intent to use Fedex and UPS to distribute the vaccines to hospitals, doctors, CVS and Walgreens.    One would think they would claim preference over delivery of things like your holiday packages. 

    I'll give up Prime delivery for a faster vaccine.  Just sayin'.

    Regarding a food reference I made last Wednesday, MNB reader Shaun Frank wrote:

    I’m curious as to the rub you use of the filet for Thanksgiving that you mentioned on your facetime.  I’ve had a desire to experiment with some rubs but honestly, have not had the courage to do so in fear of ruining a good steak!  You’ve inspired me to try and I’d like to try the one you referenced.  Would you be so kind as to share the brand and name of the rub?

    I'll do better than that … I'll give you the link so you can buy it.

    This is from Dorothy Lane Market, and we love it in our house.  One of the things I like to do is, as I let our steaks get to room temperature before grilling, is brush on some olive oil and then massage the sub into both sides of the steak … Mrs. Content Guy thinks I enjoy the process a little too much!

    I'll offer one other food recommendation:  Runamok Maple is a terrific Family-owned, Vermont-based syrup company that makes an extraordinary product - I've been using the syrup that is aged in rye whiskey, bourbon, and rum barrels, and it is delicious.  Cool company, great product, and it is worth ordering … and selling from your stores.  (They also private label, which is a great option.)

    And finally, responding to another food comment I made, one MNB reader wrote:

    Woah woah woah.  Is this Mac & Cheese w Short Rib one dish?  As in mac & Cheese with short rib INSIDE THE MAC & CHEESE??  We need the recipe, like yesterday. 

    Here you go.  (You're right.  It is wonderful.)

    Published on: November 30, 2020

    In Week 12 of the National Football League…

    Las Vegas Raiders 6, Atlanta Falcons 43

    LA Chargers 17, Buffalo Bills 27

    NY Giants 19, Cincinnati Bengals 17

    Tennessee Titans 45, Indianapolis Colts 26

    Carolina Panthers 27, Minnesota Vikings 28

    Arizona Cardinals 17, New England Patriots 20

    Miami Dolphins 20, NY Jets 3

    Cleveland Browns 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 25

    New Orleans Saints 31, Denver Broncos 3

    San Francisco 49ers 23, LA Rams 20

    Kansas City Chiefs 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

    Chicago Bears 25, Green Bay Packers 41

    Houston Texans 41, Detroit Lions 25

    Washington 41, Dallas Cowboys 16

    And finally … the sports person of the weekend has to be Sarah Fuller,  the starting goalkeeper for Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer team, who found herself on Saturday kicking off for Vanderbilt's men's football team (and available for field goal duty, though, alas, she never got that opportunity).

    Fuller, the New York Times writes, "became the first woman to play during a regular-season game in one of college football’s Power 5 conferences by booting a kickoff on Saturday for Vanderbilt to start the second half against Missouri."

    She was "not the first woman to play college football in the top tier of Division I, the Football Bowl Subdivision: Katie Hnida was the first woman to score in an F.B.S. game as a place-kicker for New Mexico in August 2003, and April Goss scored while playing for Kent State in 2015. Ashley Martin is credited as the first woman to score in any N.C.A.A. Division I football game for Jacksonville State University, which is in the Football Championship Subdivision. And Becca Longo became the first woman to receive an N.C.A.A. football scholarship to a Division II school when she signed to Adams State as a kicker in 2017 (she never kicked for the school because of injury)."