business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is out with its annual State of the Industry report, saying that "total industry inside sales increased 1.5% to a record $255.6 billion in 2020 as customers frequented their local convenience stores to fulfill daily shopping needs … While total transactions declined 13.9% for the year, basket sizes increased 18.4% compared with 2019. The average basket size was $7.34 in 2020 vs. $6.20 in 2019.

"The in-store increase also came despite a 1.6% decline in the number of convenience stores, which totaled 150,274 stores at the start of 2021. Deep declines in transactions counts, particularly in April 2020, were mitigated with an upswing throughout the remainder of the year, particularly the fourth quarter when transaction counts approached those of previous years."

•  CNN reports that McDonald's will begin requiring "anti-harassment training across all 39,000 of its restaurants, the company said Wednesday.

"The trainings, among other measures, are designed to hold up a new set of brand standards, which focus on preventing harassment, discrimination and retaliation, preventing violence in the workplace, collecting feedback from employees and health and safety more broadly … McDonald's said it is working with independent experts to develop tools that will help franchise operators, who run the vast majority of McDonald's locations, meet the standards. It will start evaluating stores in January 2022."

The move comes after media reports of systemic sexual harassment taking place at McDonald's restaurants around the country, as well as by its former CEO, Steve Easterbrook

Not to paint with a broad brush here, but since a percentage of men, no matter how educated or how accomplished, seem incapable of treating people with respect and acting in a way that reinforces their sense of personal dignity, it makes sense for every business and institution to mandate this kind of training.  The other thing that ought to be mandated - a zero tolerance policy.  There is no excuse in 2021 for people not to know where the guardrails are;  there never were, but the lines need to drawn right now, because that's where we are.

•  AgriPulse reports that "the Agriculture Department is ending the Farmers to Families Food Box program and shifting to more effective ways of delivering fresh produce and dairy products, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"May will be the last month of the program."

FMI-The Food Industry Association released a supportive statement from FMI Vice President of Political Affairs Hannah Walker:

“The Farmers to Families Food Box program was originally created to identify excess commodities and deliver them to those in need. While the Farmers to Families Food Box Program may be ending, there is still work to be done. In my comments during a March 22 virtual, public meeting hosted by USDA, I proposed pilots as alternative solutions to the USDA food box program that would instead foster partnerships and innovation via different models.

"The food industry has worked throughout this national emergency to redistribute products that were originally intended for restaurants and other food service outlets and redirect them to the grocery aisles – all while maintaining necessary food safety and labeling requirements. These experiences offered some valuable insights and lessons learned that could be used in future pilots.

"We commend Secretary Tom Vilsack and the agency’s commitment to addressing hunger in America. As with other successful public-private programs, it will require all parties working together toward the common goal to solve hunger challenges and mitigate food waste."