business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got the following email about our story the other day concerning the robust nutritional merits of cockroach milk. MNB reader Margi Prueitt wrote:

WAAAAY more than I needed to know and I hope I never need it!

Not a question of need. The real question is, could a company ever brand it in a way that could get you to want it?

On another subject, from another MNB reader:

Your reader is absolutely dead on about the long term effects of BOGO’s on both the product’s producer or manufacturer, the customers’ long term reactions, and the impact on the retail chain itself.  Look at the soda brands marketing strategies, although not BOGO the retail prices are heavily discounted and after time they now move 90% of their volume on heavy deal. While they may not lose share due to advertising they have definitely trained an overwhelming percentage of their customers.  Low, low pricing works if that is the total focus of a chain and they are heavily private label, for example Aldi’s.  My point is retailers need a distinctive niche in order to maintain their customer base.  BOGO’s are a poor long term niche to occupy.  Kroger, Wegmans, and  Aldi’s are examples of chains who know what their niche is and excel at that niche while evolving as the market changes to maintain their niche.

I suggested the other day that Whole Foods seems to have so many different things going these days it is as if they're throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. MNB reader Jason Lambie responded:

I agree.

Seems like some desperate throws of spaghetti, darts, spitballs, and whatever they can get their hands on to throw.  Instead of banging their chest about being the first and largest natural foods retailer, they should’ve been paying attention to everybody else who had Whole Foods in their sights.  As you always say, it’s about differentiation and if you don’t bring something unique and extra to the table, you’re probably not at the table anymore, and more on the menu.  Had to steal that …. One of the best lines I’ve heard in a while.

I stole the line from Craig Ostbo. But I agree.

On the subject of cashless restaurants, an MNB reader the other day wrote:

“My brother-in law and his wife recently opened an upscale Italian restaurant in Loveland, OH and they shared that close to 90% of their sales are credit card. One of the downsides of this though is that they have to keep a significant amount of cash on hand to allocate the tips each night. Maybe they should consider just adding the tip allocation weekly so that they are not dipping into cash flow awaiting payment from credit card transactions.”

Prompting MNB reader Kelsi Ward to chime in:

I’d be surprised if he’s ever worked in a restaurant. Sure, tipping wait staff weekly more closely resembles a standard paycheck model, but it’s so far from the industry standard and the typical reward/recognition model that works at restaurants. I think it would actually de-incentivize staff to give customers “special” treatment on a daily basis. When I served in high school/early college it was ideal to see the fruits of my labor at the end of the night in tips. If I had to wait and collect this all on a given day I would most likely not go out of my way to stay and spend extra time with tables because it would be harder to see the return on the extra effort. While it might help the restaurant, I think the end result would hurt patrons who currently benefit from servers who try their best with each table for the immediate pay out.

And, on the subject of the nation's most popular roadside eateries, one MNB user wrote:

I'm calling bull...on the article from Eater about "road trip destinations".  I know you're just reporting it but let's take a critical look at the list's credibility.  Aunt Annie's and Cinnabon?  Do they even exist to any meaningful extent outside of malls?  I'm skeptical as to how these results were compiled or interpreted.  I get the coffee shops being at the top of the list but have a hard time believing Taco Bell wouldn't make the list for example. Also I wonder how this list would be different if it included C-stores/Truck stops?  Bottom line, strictly my opinion but I don't think this list has anything to do with "road trips" and not a strong correlation with "dining".  The cynic in me thinks the folks at Foursquare worked with with the folks at Eater to gin up some meaningless fluff content.

Not sure I agree. I haven't done a scientific study, but I have driven cross country three times in the past 13 months (with a fourth trip coming up shortly) .... and I've seen a lot of Aunt Annie's and Cinnabons out there. You may underestimate the degree to which highway authorities have plugged these into rest stops, almost trying to recreate the mall experience.

Now, to be clear, I avoid both of them.

And, we got this email about Michael Sansolo's column this week:

I’m intrigued by your piece today on Pokemon Go. On the one hand, love there is an educational element to it and as you say, actually gets people off their couches and outside to play their games!

As it relates to retailers and retailing, one of the inherent risks with something like Pokeman is “the fad factor.” Retailers need to have the keen foresight to distinguish between fads, like “Lite” (excluding beer) and trends like Organic. In a penny business fads can be dangerous as even with the most nimble, speed to shelf takes time and inventory in a passed fad is lost money. While Pokemon Go has taken the Country by storm, my bet is a month from now those who react to it will find plenty of purchase opportunities on clearance shelves.
KC's View: