business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB reader:

Many years ago, after working at Wild Oats and while consulting at Whole Foods, there was zero company culture to manage retails. "Watch costs, but the margin is what it is" was legend. Early core consumers, and employees believed the purity of the mission was enough. Fast forward to the tipping point reached and Amazon knows what Costco knows: sell quality (or organic) at parity with conventional ... and the real tipping point is evident. Eureka moment for WF! Blending of cultures will make WF formidable.

Respond to our story about Starbucks putting containers in some of its Seattle restrooms for people to deposit used hypodermic needles, one MNB reader responded:

Kevin, I’m surprised you are surprised by this. When making your rounds and visiting business you should include a stop by the business restrooms to see what they are dealing with as well as a detailed walk of parking lots and surrounding landscape and evaluate the debris you find. This is a direct result of Starbucks opening its restrooms for anyone and everyone to use! I’m sure after doing this your shock will turn to sadness.

Not good for patrons and employees!

I actually make it a practice to check out retailers’ restrooms. But hypodermic needles are not something I’ve noticed. Sorry.

On another subject, from MNB reader Jerome Schindler:

Retailers seem to be falling over each other to attract on-line grocery ordering.  Can we agree that the "expense" of a Kroger, Walmart etc. employee roaming the store (or warehouse) and assembling the items ordered by on-line customers is far more than the retailer expense associated with shoppers who go to the store and spend their time picking their own selections off the shelf and proceed to check out at the front of the store, often waiting in long lines?  And worse yet, also expecting traditional shoppers to use self checkout?

In my view, the traditional shopper is subsidizing the added cost to serve on-line shoppers.  Adding insult to injury is my local Kroger offering special “clicklist" savings not available to "traditional" shoppers.  In my view, ultimately the retailers who avoid these costly accommodations to online customers and thus don't have to pass such costs to traditional shoppers will win out.  This free service is not really "free".  The costs have to be recovered somewhere.  It is not reasonable to burden traditional in-store shoppers with that expense.  Just my three cents (inflation you know).

I wrote last week about a terrible experience I had at a White Castle eating one of the new meatless Impossible Burgers that it is serving.

MNB reader David Spawn responded:

Sorry to hear about your White Castle experience – it seems that maybe it is the opposite of Irving Street Kitchen’s ability to make anything taste good.  (I’ve only eaten there once and instantly regretted it, even at 3 AM after more happy times).
I am not a burger lover by any stretch but I did try the Impossible Burger at a NYC’s Bareburger, and have to say that it was really quite eye opening.  Something I even re-ordered, as it is a highly passable veggie burger.
Come down to NYC and try it sometime.

I said that I should’ve gone to a nearby In-N-Out instead and had a real burger, prompting MNB reader Gary Myracle to write:

Right there with you on In & Out burgers—it’s my go to place to eat a burger whenever I visit the West Coast or Dallas area. But growing up in St Louis, White Castle was the place to go for a bag of sliders. It was my kids first burger because they are so mushy and soft. Nothing better than 4 or 5 White Castles after a few cold beverages late at night. Not sure I would be a fan of the veggie burger either, but still every visit to the St Louis area always includes a stop at the Porcelain Palace. Just wish In & Out would make it to the Midwest.

And, from another MNB reader:

Kevin, have you considered talking to someone who actually goes to White Castle and that WC might be targeting with the impossible burger? You are admittedly in neither of these categories.

For the record, I am a loyal reader but this really irritated me. In part because I know vegetarians and vegans who really enjoy this option. Other parts because your commentary reads annoying and self-righteous.

This reminds me of a time when I was at a retailer and working with a CM who managed pickles/olives. As part of our normal engagement we would regularly sample products. We would invite other folks to the cutting to provide feedback. When the CM walks into a room and proclaims ‘ugh, I hate olives and pickles disgust me’… how do you think the CM responded?! How then do you think everyone else responded?
“Some things never change.”

“Should’ve gone somewhere else.”

I hope you don’t talk like this to your children. That would be a real shame if you SHAMED every attempt at something new or different. Since when does a new experience that doesn’t blow you away have to be described as the worst experience of your day? Quite frankly it makes you look like you lack objectivity. Not a good look.

I take your point, but in my defense, I wasn’t actually trying to be objective … the whole point of a review is that it is subjective … I was stating my opinion having had the experience, and I’m perfectly willing to air opposing views.

Also, to be clear, I like burgers, and I have no problem with a good veggie burger. While I’m not a big fast food consumer, that’s because I don’t think it is very good. I love In-N-Out, for example, because I appreciate the quality and the company’s defining culture. So I’m not exactly a pickle category manager who hates pickles. I just one who loves a good pickle, and hates it when I have a substandard pickle … and loves the opportunity to try a new pickle.

Finally, responding to my comments about Eataly Las Vegas, MNB reader Tracy Lape wrote:

We spent the new Year’s weekend at the MGM Park and were frequent visitors to the Eataly. I would agree with you that it is a Food Court on steroids but oh what a Food Court it is.  Everything was stellar and so clean despite the crowds.  Aside from the early morning and the very late night, Eataly was packed.  I give it an A Plus for concept, relevance and quality. We were there daily for coffee, a snack or dinner.  Of course we have spent the last week trying to recover from the food coma it put us in.
KC's View: