business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about how restaurants are gaining market share back from supermarkets in a post-pandemic environment.  I commented:

During the pandemic, when grocery store sales shot up and restaurant sales cratered, it was an article of faith here that if supermarkets wanted to hold onto those sales, they were going to have to be both aggressive in their efforts and ambitious in their vision.  Restaurants would come back, I argued, and supermarkets could not be complacent about the shift.

These numbers suggest that this is exactly what has happened - that too many retailers enjoyed the fruits of pandemic-prompted shifts without doing the hard and necessary work to keep that business.  Some of it, of course, always was going to return to restaurants;  people were hungering to go out.  But I think that many supermarkets could've done a better job of keeping the customers and dollars that they attracted during the pandemic.

One MNB reader responded:

Just guessing that people missed the frequency of the personal exchange that was difficult during the pandemic. Speaking of value, I bought 4 large USDA choice filet mignon's at my local Costco for $60 and enjoyed a delicious dinner at home with 4 people. The cost for ONE filet mignon dinner at a local popular restaurant, Gulfstream, is $68. All is takes is a little effort to save a lot of money.

And from another reader:

Hey Kevin!  It was inevitable that restaurants would bounce back which is fantastic!  Agree that food retailers are not being aggressive enough to stay competitive, however, I just bought 3 New York Strips, Lobster Claws, Brussel Sprouts, Large Baker Potatoes, Large Tomatoes for a Caprese’ salad and 2 bottles of (cheapish $7.99) wine for less than $70 dollars.  Thinking a meal like that in a restaurant would be $150+! 

On another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

As an R&D exercise, we tested 2d bar codes at retail 20 years ago.  Our intention with this POC was squarely focused on providing more data in the bar code than is currently supported.  Everything was new and “cutting edge”; we were using the first models of 802.11b wireless scanners (by Symbol) and had our shelf tag print house produce a few pages worth of tags.  At the time though, the technology was not as advanced as it needed to be.  The scanner and decoding was too slow.  Also, 2D bar codes on a vinyl shelf tag are not as resilient to imperfections or damage, compared to a UPCA code.  It’s cool to see things finally coming along to support it. 

On the subject of executives needing to spend more time on the front lines, prompted by a piece about Uber's CEO spent time as a driver to get a better sense of working conditions, MNB fave Glen Terbeek wrote:

After working in and observing the food industry for many years, in my opinion the number one key success factor is the amount of time senior management spend in the stores.  After all, that is where the shoppers are as well as the competitors.  The local market!  And where the staff is that deal with the local market daily.  How about "work from Stores” in the future?  With today’s technology, "support people” could have their offices spread throughout the chain, connecting via virtual tools and the occasional meeting.  "Support people" could meet with vendors and others where the action is.  Do we need headquarters any more?  

As Feargal Quinn used to say, “We don’t have a headquarters, we have a support center”.

P.S.   Why doesn’t a 100 store chain operate as say 10 local market defined 10 store units in the future, supported by centralized non local market functions such as buying, logistics, finance, technology, etc? The power of size enabling local market performance. The local units could even have different names!  

Remember, the individual shopper only cares about “their" store in “their" market. 

You're preaching to the choir, Glen.

Regarding the use of robots to help do the cleaning at the United Club in Chicago, MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

United must not totally trust the bot. In your concluding frame a real human employee walks behind you carrying a dirty dish. 

I am not opposed to advancing technology, but when I pay $500 a year for an air club membership a part of the experience is being served and maybe it's just my advancing years, but I appreciate the human interactions involved.

I invest money in a club membership so I have a quiet place with reliable plugs and wifi so I can do MNB.  Human interactions are nice, too, but not my priority.