business news in context, analysis with attitude

There was a story last week about some outsourcing being done by Supervalu, and an email from an MNB user that complimented the company and its CEO, Jeff Noddle, for showing strong leadership characteristics.

Not everybody was so impressed:

It seems that Mr. Noddle gets good press, based on past comments, even you seem impressed with him, Kevin.

I will agree that Mr. Noddle's words do sound impressive, however, it would seem the individual commenting does not have personal knowledge of working for Supervalu or any of its banners, especially those acquired through the Albertson's acquisition.

Talk is cheap unless you are prepared to follow through, something that Supervalu lacks when it comes to its associates. They talk a good game, but their actions do not back up their words.

I have personally seen one Supervalu banner stripped of superior technology and most of its IT department, to assimilate to the Supervalu way (outsource, cut costs, and limit the input of local management, regardless of consequence, and I assure you there are consequences that can be seen in the shrinking profits and customer perceptions of said banner).

I have seen two office buildings with 100s of associates systematically let go and the remaining condensed to effectively fill the space of one floor of one building. Most of these very long time (some 20-30+years of loyal service) associates were given a six to eight week notice of their job elimination and were required to stay and in most instances train associates at different locations to do their job or forfeit any severance they may have been offered. That severance being the only 'respect' afforded to them, where's the dignity? The expectation for the remaining associates is to do the same work with less people and substandard technology.

I absolutely understand the need to eliminate duplicate efforts when combining companies, but let's call a spade a spade and not use the all too popular "synergy" buzzword when assimilation is the only desired result.

In the first months of the acquisition similar words were spoken by Mr. Noddle and the general feeling was one of optimism, those feelings have been replaced with frustration and cynicism throughout.

In short, don't believe everything you hear/read in the press, although "thoughts like these from your leadership" are a great place to start, the only thing that really matters are the actions from your leadership.

These are surprising sentiments, to be honest. I have heard from a number of Supervalu employees over the years about kindnesses and loyalty big and small demonstrated by the company and by Jeff Noddle specifically. I understand that you can't please all the people all the time…but I still find these words to be surprising.

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

I loved the piece about Food Lion going local by supporting local producers.

Right here in CT, Tri-Town Foods launched Ledyard CT's farmers' market in its parking lot last Friday and will be supporting this venture all summer long (Fridays 3-6). I attended the opening where a ribbon of verbena was carefully cut by the Ledyard mayor to officially open the market. Farmers from all over CT were there selling fresh chevre, local meats, goat soaps/lotions, milk, tomato sauces, fresh salsa and whatever produce was harvested so early in the season. The community was buzzing about their farmers' market and Tri-Town owner, Kevin Brouillard, watched the crowd and smiled after having put some much work into making it a huge success. I actually had him stand next to the "CT Grown" sign for a photograph -- being "CT Grown" himself (smile).

It's great to hear about Food Lion's local initiatives -- I applaud them -- but it's even better to see a local, independent retailer supporting his local producers. That's just good business all around.

Regarding the ongoing tomato story, one MNB user wrote:

Two things about the tomato disaster going on.

First of all, it makes a powerful argument for eating locally -- yesterday morning, the Tampa Bay area was cleared by the FDA as NOT being the source of the outbreak. Good thing -- I went this past weekend and picked a 5-gallon bucket full of fat, juicy tomatoes, right off the vine -- for pennies a pound. Most of it's already been made into jars of salsa and stacked in the pantry (yeah, there's still a few of us who "put up" food -- although I confess it's the first time I've done so in years) -- but the rest has been made into salads...BLTs...and just eaten sliced with a little sea salt.

My point is that I KNOW where those tomatoes came from. I KNOW how they've been handled (perhaps I should say lovingly cared for?) since they were picked. I also know that not everyone has you-picks around, but it's very possible to buy from local farms on a regular basis for a decent part of the year in a pretty big part of the world. (And what about the off months? Well....your grandma canned things to carry the family over the winter...)

Second, we need all those varieties -- not only for the biodiversity needed and referenced by yesterday's reader, but for different reasons -- one variety that grows well in Maine probably won't grow well at all in Florida. Different species are better suited to different uses, too -- you probably wouldn't make a thick pasta sauce from beefsteak tomatoes (although you could) -- any more than you'd sit down to a BLT made with Romas (again you could, but it just wouldn't be right).

Different can be good.

On the subject of legislation being considered in California and New York that would require restaurants to provide nutrition information to patrons – and the seeming inconsistency of my thinking that fast food joints ought to be held to a different standard than fine dining establishments – one MNB user wrote:

I like this dialogue a lot because more than anything it invites me to explore thoughts that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. There are a lot of inconsistencies when it comes to things that are “necessities” and things that are “luxuries / indulgences”. McDonalds boasts it’s Billions and Billions served and all those people deserve the transparency of knowing what they are eating. All of McDonald’s products are for the most part…mass-produced.

When you go to a fine restaurant, you are going there to enjoy the art form more than to provide sustenance. Inherently, you know that there are too many calories and that they are cooking with “real” butter…=) The culinary experience is what you expect at a nice restaurant…cheap food is what you expect at a fast feeder.

MNB user Dustin Stinett wrote:

While I don’t think any restaurants or fast feeders should have to post calorie counts etc. on menus (though I have no issue with a general posting in the lobby, vestibule, waiting area, whatever) I think I understand the difference why a sit-down restaurant is different from a fast food joint (even if it has seats)—at least for my family and friends.

A restaurant is a place we go every once in a while; a place to gather to socialize and maybe—with any luck—celebrate something. Going out to a restaurant is a special event.

On the other hand, fast food joints are driven through and—if they had it their way—are a place we’d eat more than once a week; maybe more than once a day.

At least, that’s what I think. But, of course, I also don’t consider going to a Denny’s something I haven’t done in over a decade—an event.

On the subject of bars and restaurants trying to pass off 14-ounce beers as pints, one MNB user wrote:

First off, falsie is a hysterical and apt name for a pint, that isn't a pint.

What I don't understand is why a restaurant or bar wouldn't continue offering a true pint, raise the price, but then offer a 1/2 pint (or so size) make it more than the half the price and give customers an option. I, for one, would like to be able to have a smaller portion of beer so I could either watch my caloric intake OR try two different beers without getting tipsy.

People... there are opportunities here!


And, chiming in on last week’s discussion of the economy, one MNB user wrote:

Anyone that thinks the economy is going to rebound after the election is sadly mistaken.

I concur.
KC's View: