business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about how the federal government is considering a new inspection program that would be risk-based, instead of looking at every cow carcass in the country.

One MNB user wrote:

A comment on your piece about the USDA looking to change their inspection program…I have a real problem with this, both as a consumer and my experiences while having spent more than 30 years in the perishable food industry. Before 1906, you were putting your life on the line every time you consumed meat because there were no rules in packing plants, not even for basic sanitation. Now the USDA claims that what they are doing is no longer necessary?

If technology can produce better and faster results, why are they not using it in conjunction with current inspection methods to test this theory? If technology is so great, why are they not using it to test every cow for “mad cow” disease and other modern day risks? I know I’m old fashion and conservative, but I know that given the= opportunity to short cut safety and sanitation procedures in the name of saving money, some processing plants will cut corners every time.

Under the current system, while not efficient, at least there is some degree of safety and the playing field is level for all companies. Besides, I’m not willing to be a guinea pig while the government is trying to measure and establish an ongoing risk-based system.

We also had a story yesterday about the trend toward eating out on Thanksgiving, and we said that this is the kind of critical issue that food retailers have to address.

We wrote: “How many American supermarkets will come to market in the next week or so before Thanksgiving by selling reduced-cost turkeys as a way of getting people into the store? (Reduced-cost turkeys at Thanksgiving being one of the dumbest ideas this industry ever has come up with, since Thanksgiving is one of the only times of the year you could sell the damned things for real money. They ought to give them away in July…)”

(We also wrote that “we may be old fashioned but we’ve always sort of subscribed to New Yorker humorist Calvin Trillin’s theory that since Columbus discovered America, and Columbus was Italian, then we ought to eat Spaghetti Carbonara for Thanksgiving. We just can’t get Mrs. Content Guy to go for it.)

MNB user Al Kober had a terrific response:

I was in the retail side of Turkeys and Thanksgiving for Clemens Market in Pa. for many years and have many stories to tell. One year I was going to advertise that any customer who would purchase a turkey at a competitors store and would bring back their receipt, and then would purchase all their other Thanksgiving needs at our store, I would give them $5.00. This would have cut our losses, but I didn't do it. Another idea was to tape a $5.00 bill to each turkey and then give them away free, because that is what it seemed we were doing.

Taking up on your suggestion, one summer we did just that. We advertised frozen turkeys in the Summer at a ridiculous price, just to see what would happen. The response from the marketing department was, "You are crazy, Who is going to buy a frozen turkey in the Summer." Well, it turned out to be the one of the biggest event we ever did, and one that put us on the map. People came from everywhere, even at the turnpike exits, there were signs to the nearest Clemens store, because they were being asked buy so many people. Some store managers were directing call-in customers to others Clemens stores because they were too busy to handle them.

I always loved to do what every possible to get the consumer to change their normal shopping patterns. Like our lobstermania promotion where people would wait for 2-3 hours for the store to open just to be able to get their lobster for $3.99 a piece. We would have two -three hundred people waiting on lawn chairs with their cooler in front of every store. We would serve coffee and donuts, It was great. The best was the one year, when we only had 8 stores and sold 44,000 pounds of lobsters in four hours.

Or like the time we ran really hot specials on one meat item for each day of the week forcing customers to come in every day if they wanted to take advantage of that deal, and it worked. Or the time we ran every pound package of hot dog for $.99 . Every brand and every style, all the same price, Customers would stand in front of the case and just stare at the 24 different varieties and didn't know which to buy, because we had changed the reason they used to use to make their decision and now they did not know which one to buy.

Sometimes doing something just a little out of normal can create unexpected results. Any time you can customers to say to their friends, "You won't believe what I did this morning, I got up at 4:30 just to get to Clemens Supermarket and then stood in line for three hours..................."

That’s what we call a primer on smart marketing.

MNB user Jim Green wrote:

Maybe the trend of eating Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant rather than grandma's house has more to do with available time and/or lack of ability to prepare meals at home rather than corrupt moral values. Of course, some supermarkets offer fully prepared Thanksgiving meals for home to help offset the eating out trend.

However, I still agree with you that Thanksgiving dinner should be a family gathering at home. But then I am getting old too. Maybe a compromise on the "gathering" part would be for everyone to teleconference to each other from the different restaurants via cell phone.

Also, if Columbus had landed at Plymouth Rock and stayed through the winter or, the Pilgrims were Italian, maybe the spaghetti carbonara would be the center piece of the Thanksgiving dinner.

You took the Spaghetti Carbonara comment too literally…

Another MNB user wrote:

This is another situation in which grocers can capitalize on the changing customs of our fast-paced society. Last year, my two brothers and I flew with our wives and kids to my mom's house for Thanksgiving in Indianapolis. There were 12 of us at my mom's (including five kids under the age of ten), and she no longer cooks much since my dad passed away. We were in no mood to cook after battling the crowds at the airports the day before, so we ordered our Thanksgiving dinner from Marsh supermarket, complete with sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, tossed salads, rolls, and three pies. The meal was delicious (my twin brother, an executive chef, agreed), and none of us were slaves in kitchen for the day. Marsh does many things right, and this is one of them.

Instead of lamenting the fact that people are eating out or are using restaurants to supplement their home meals, grocery stores need roll with the times and offer quality-driven meals at reasonable prices for those of us who don't have the time nor the desire to spend four hours in the kitchen to fix a meal that lasts 30 minutes.

Stew Leonard’s does a wonderful job with this where we live…though we still prefer to do our own cooking.

Another MNB user wrote:

My rural weekly "shopper" publication, which my ad is inserted in, had more advertisements this year for Thanksgiving meals than it ever has.

There were 4 restaurants that had always been closed on Thanksgiving that are open this year. Eating out isn't just for Mother's Day anymore, even in areas where people still bake and cook.

This was talked about on the floor by our managers, and I'm sure we'll bring it up at our next managers’ meeting.

MNB user Amy Haefele wrote:

I bet this restaurant trend will only grow... I'm 26 and I haven't the foggiest of how to make a Thanksgiving dinner. Nor does preparing a turkey sound appealing to me in any way, shape, or form. I just didn't have an interest in helping out when I was growing up, so my experience with helping to fix Thanksgiving dinner was limited to opening the can of green beans or mashing the potatoes. I'll let you know next year how my first "married" Thanksgiving goes - we may be resorting to spaghetti as well!

And MNB user Tim Davis upbraided us:

Never mind supermarkets selling cheap birds for Thanksgiving, more supermarkets should be selling fully-cooked, several course Thanksgiving dinners for Thanksgiving. People are eating out on Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter and Passover and Kwanza and…

That is why supermarkets are giving away raw turkeys and some smart ones are offering cooked ones.

Wake up and quit whining about how old you are, or pretty soon members of your family will start dining out on holidays!

We weren’t whining. Just observing.

We may be 51 but we like to think we’re still kicking…butt.

More email on the subject of the Australian government looking for a new name for kangaroo meat, thinking that it will help generate new sales for the product.

MNB user Andrew Hartnett wrote:

I'm an Aussie and Eat 'Roo frequently. In this instance I think that the Government is getting a little bit too precious.

We are probably the only country in the world that has a culling season on its national symbol!

If the government wants to encourage better sales locally they should be focusing on the heath benefits of eating Kangaroo meat, not the name, and for those who haven't eaten Kangaroo, it tastes fantastic and goes nicely with a good Cab Sav!

This gives us an idea.

Kangaroo for Thanksgiving…think it’ll fly?
KC's View: