business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a number of emails regarding the possibility that employees at Anchor Brewing may try to buy the brand from Sapporo in an effort to keep it from being shut down, and my comment that if they do a GoFundMe page, I'd throw in a few bucks.

One MNB reader wrote:

Being a native San Franciscan I too hope that some creative financing will lead to a sale to preserve Anchor Steam.  The first order of business, IMHO, is to bring back the old label and narrative of the brand.

Tell the story,  Job one.

Another MNB reader wrote:

I would put a few hundred bucks into a Go Fund Me campaign too!

Alas, not everybody feels that way:

Sadly, I do not see this making it as employee-owned.  People may not realize that Fritz Maytag sold the brewery in 2010 to an investment firm (after he bought the brewery to keep the brand going many years earlier).  Sales have been declining as Anchor’s national footprint has diminished in favor of more local brands. 

Lastly, I’d have to imagine the property real estate has a significant value; enough to make Sapporo want to get back some of the loss incurred.  Shame to see Anchor possibly go away, but my hunch says that is what happens.

And from another reader:

And then figure out how to brew a beer people actually want to drink?

So I should mark you as a "maybe?"

Yesterday we had a piece about so-called "girl dinners" and "husband meals," which led me to comment, in part:

There's part of me that thinks this is all kind of silly.  But, upon consideration, they may be onto something.  When I'm traveling, Mrs. Content Guy takes a minimalist approach to meals - there's nothing she likes better than just eating a couple of artichokes, or maybe a spinach salad.  On those rare evenings when I'm home alone at dinnertime, I go in the opposite direction.  Maybe I'll make a nice seafood risotto, or pasta al tonno.  (I lean toward both seafood and pasta dishes when I am cooking for myself, but would never even consider chicken eaten over the sink or Chinese food.). And there's always wine.

But, that said, I wonder how many supermarkets around the country are taking advantage of this moment to market "girl dinners" and "husband meals" to their shoppers.  They can change the appellation, of course, and maybe go with "women dinners" and "man meals."  

But creating sections that target these specific meal occasions and people might be a really smart thing to do.  Maybe rotate selections every couple of days.  The offerings would have to be marketed and promoted, of course, but this is a moment in which retailers can build on a cultural trend that clearly is taking place, and try to generate sales while establishing relevance.

Let's be clear.  This is a moment, and it may only be a moment.  The opportunity could pass quickly.  But a nuanced and relevant approach to marketing should be made up of many moments, and retailers ought to be opportunistic about finding and using them.

MNB reader Odette Fuller wrote:

Our stores in SoCal (Albertson’s/Vons/Pavilion have “Ready Meals” in our deli department. I have to tell you…. they are very, VERY good.  The selections range anywhere from Salmon & Asparagus to meatloaf meals.  They are definitely worth putting in your basket. Tell your friends!!

Love the enthusiasm.

My point is that in addition to having great meals, it is important to establish a narrative - in this case, attaching the meals to a cultural moment.

One MNB reader wrote:

I can relate. Tonight is yoga night for my better half.   So one hot dog on the grill and chips.

Another MNB reader wrote:

Assigning this a gender is ridiculous. I think sometimes we all go to either end of the spectrum, depending how how much time, energy, and give a damn we all have left when find ourselves alone in the kitchen at the end of the day.    I've known women (not girls!) who eat leftovers over the sink, and I've known men (single ones, even...) who make themselves gorgeous full meals when their cohabitants aren't home for dinner.

I've also seen it called "goblin mode"...where you spend the evening curled up in bed or on the sofa, watching TV and emerging only for snacks.  (I think I like this term better, more closely aligns with the semi-feral way it feels!).

I don't disagree.  But the moment is the moment, and even if we quibble with the concept, we can capitalize on it.

MNB reader Greg Lindenberg wrote:

I am a husband, but my wife and I (empty nesters) frequently eat “girl dinners,” based on the menu described. They often begin as “hors d'oeuvres” or “meal-prep snacks” that just turn into “meal” after abandoning an overly ambitious recipe or getting too full just eating them. I also often eat so-called “husband meals.” They include a variety of mismatched leftovers, homemade or from a restaurant, in a kind of casserole, to amortize the cost and rather than throw out food with a day or two left in it (what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger). My wife does not consume those meals. But I think to assign gender or marital status to these habits is unnecessarily divisive. You could call them “lazy meals” and “cheapskate meals.”

On the subject of possible obstacles to a Kroger-Albertsons merger, one MNB reader wrote:

This topic always brings to mind the breakup of Ma Bell in the 80’s.  The service was reliable and dependable and also the only game in town.  The breakup gave way to competition, services, competitive pricing,  and consumer choice over ensuing decades that probably would have never happened otherwise.  Having experienced that, I’ve always thought that big doesn’t necessarily equate to better and efficiencies for companies do not always equate to benefits for consumers. When entities grow so big that they essentially exert monopolistic like influence, perhaps the Ma Bell example has a role to play in fostering competition across a broader base of suppliers and compete on the basis of service and innovation…and let the consumer make the ultimate choice.

Regarding the takeout-only Chick-fil-A opening in Hawaii, MNB reader Gabe Fishbein


There's a drive-thru only CFA in DC as well!  I'm a fan of the format personally.

Good to know. (Still want to visit the one in Hawaii, though. In February.)

And finally, this email from MNB reader Craig Espelien:

I am not as interested in Amazon as you are - simply because they are, to me, a very large convenience store and I have never felt it necessary to obsess about any C-Store. I understand why you focus on them - and they are a relevant competitor but only (again, my opinion) because they are involved in so many aspects of so many peoples lives.

That being said, if Amazon truly wants to disrupt grocery retail, they need to think not about execution and “convenience” but about Customer Experience.

Who in their right mind would recreate ANYTHING about current grocery retail (except for those exceptions that tend to prove the rule - Dorothy Lane, Lunds & Byerlys, etc.)? It is unimaginative, relatively boring and setup to be a customer experience nightmare.

Here is what I would do - and to be fair Amazon has not asked my opinion…

#1 - review the competition and delineate what great competitors do well - and why it works

Trader Joes - employee energy and enthusiasm

Costco - treasure hunt and a “better than” private brand program

Lunds & Byerlys - simply amazing prepared foods

Dorothy Lane - a sense of theater and commitment to service

Stew Leonards…

Central Market…

Retail X, Y, Z…

You get the idea.

#2 - review the great ideas from the supplier base (and some of these map to Amazon capabilities). Things like Destination Baby that P&G played around with - a perfect match for subscribe and save (they also played around in paper, household cleaning, etc. - categories where thinking is not always required) and could be kiosk driven within the proper environment.

#3 - reimagine the physical plant - using the above and ideas from great shopping experiences recast how a grocery store looks, feels and operates.

#4 - WWCD - What Would Croesus Do (or WWBGD or WWJBD - somebody rich that has all of the money they want) - use Disney Imagineering’s process to ideate the perfect environment to achieve the above (think about taking the behind the curtain “stuff” below ground as an example). Now make it fit into shopping patterns (think hub and spoke or a similar departure from the boring aisle with fresh perimeter) and customer experience that enhances impulse and desire (Drive Traffic, Drive Basket).

#5 - Build three or four MVP’s and test.

#6 - recalibrate and launch.

Some other things to throw in:

Regional differences - can there be a flex section to make the area around New Orleans feel like Bourbon Street or similar as well as fit into other areas of the country to celebrate what makes them interesting or unique.

Let go of the way things used to be - and try to avoid making stores that emulate the inside of a computer or warehouse…

Cabbage Patch Kids (or Stew Leonard’s) - increase demand by limiting supply. Make each trip a special occasion that can also serve as a regular stock-up trip (a lot to be learned from LFHI here…)

To me, it appears that the powers that be at Amazon said to themselves “how can we shove all of our technological expertise into a standard rectangular box and make it incredibly boring”. There is a play here - but it can’t be another rehash of yesterday.

If Andy Jassy reaches out, can I give him your contact info?