Tag Archives: Food & Beverage

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The best and the worst of America’s airports

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A new study is gaining a lot of attention as it gives travelers a ranking of the best and worst airports in America.

The study published by The Points Guy (TPG) is now in its fourth year, and this time it ranks the top 50 airports in the country (up from 30 previously). Naturally, the airports at the top and bottom of the pile are receiving plenty of attention.

They are San Diego in the top spot, and Chicago Midway trailing in last place.

While any ranking like this is largely subjective, this year the website made much more use of reader feedback, rather than solely the experiences of its own staff.

The report looked at many factors when coming to their conclusions, adding a heavy emphasis on airport amenities, as “that’s the area that airports have the most control over.”

TPG also partnered with INRIX, a company that uses technical innovation and insights to understand the movement of people. Its analytics helped assess how quickly or slowly it takes to get to an airport.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Transportation was also consulted to assess the likelihood of your flight taking off on time at all the airports on the list.

TPG explained: “The fact is that the vast majority of flyers don’t have the luxury of switching to a different airport just because one has more spas than the other — if you’ve got a family reunion in Columbus, Ohio, you’re probably going through John Glenn Airport (CMH). But it’s your prerogative as a customer, and our duty as journalists, to celebrate the airports that go above and beyond and hold accountable those that don’t make the grade.”

So, what do they have to say about the two airports in question to justify their positions?

Chicago Midway: The Worst

Chicago’s second airport is a busy low-cost hub and considered “bare bones” at best. With narrow, low-ceiling concourses and a lack of places to eat, it’s incredible to think that a $75 million renovation has already taken place to improve the airport’s food court offering.

You’ll also only find one lounge — something that’s becoming more important to today’s traveler — and it’s rare to find your flight departing on time.

A rendering of Chicago Midway’s planned redevelopment. (Image credit: Chicago Department of Aviation)

Chicago’s aviation department defended their airport, stating, “The Points Guy seems to be missing the point. Midway International Airport is routinely ranked highly among airports of comparable size in customer satisfaction, and travelers enjoy its convenience. With that convenience comes limitations: namely that airport rests on one square mile in the middle of a densely-populated residential neighborhood with no room to grow.”

They added: “That hasn’t stopped the City from making critical investments, including the $400 million Midway Modernization Program.” It will bring in more than 70 new concessions and amenities.”

San Diego: The Best

Walls of glass and plenty of light left a great first impression on TPG journalist Carissa Rawson, who commented, “That’s one area in which the airport performed best: It was all towering glass panels and silver metal, with funky sculptures and fountains thrown in for good measure.”

San Diego this year supplanted Phoenix Sky Harbor from the top spot, and it seems the work the airport is doing to create a relaxed atmosphere with open spaces and a great choice of bars and eating establishments, all led by friendly staff and volunteers, is paying off. The airport’s Terminal 2 is a particular favorite.

Location was also a big selling point for San Diego. Only 10 minutes from downtown, this is something few other U.S. airports can boast, and certainly makes life easier for the traveler. It’s also one of the best for on-time departures.

Other notable rankings in the list see Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta — the nation’s busiest — in an impressive fourth position, while New York’s airports have all risen over previous years, with JFK ranked best for amenities.

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Some communities are putting the brakes on factory farming

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Wisconsin’s Burnett County Board of Supervisors recently passed a one-year moratorium on large-scale farms with 1,000 or more animal units.

The moratorium is inspired by plans from Cumberland LLC, which earlier this year announced plans to build a $20 million farm for up to 26,000 hogs in the town of Trade Lake. The village on the central-western border of the state north of Minneapolis has fewer than 900 residents.

Don Taylor, Burnett County board chair, said a committee will examine potential impacts of large-scale farms, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or “factory farms.”

“Factory farm” is a term commonly used to describe an industrial facility that raises large numbers of farm animals. Animals such as pigs, chickens or cows are incredibly confined in these facilities, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says. Animals in these farms are kept in cages or crates or are crowded together in pens.

The county leadership committee now gets to wade through reams of data designed to show the effects of factory farms on local air quality, groundwater, and surface water — all vital to the health and longevity of the community.

Burnett County represents a microcosm of farming practices throughout the United States. The issue at hand is complicated for many. For example, a 2003 study found that living downwind from industrial hog operations reduced the property values of neighboring residential homes by about 10%.

There are currently about 20,000 factory farms in the U.S., according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. From 2011 to 2017, the United States saw more than 1,400 new large-scale CAFOs established, a rise of 7.6%.

Iowa led the growth in animal confinements, adding nearly 2,000 CAFOs in the seven-year period, according to an analysis of data from the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. Delaware and Maryland were a distant second and third with 881 new operations between the two states. Delaware saw 600% growth and Maryland nearly 300% growth.

The most CAFOs lost, by percentage, were in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, and New York. While some of these states increased the production of some animals, they closed more operations from 2011 to 2017 than were opened.

Currently, factory farms raise 99% of U.S. farm animals, according to the ASPCA.

Factory farming is a significant contributor to water and air pollution, as well as deforestation. Factory-farmed animals produce more than 1 million tons of manure every day. The animal waste often contains undigested antibiotics given to the livestock. This waste is stored in massive open-air lagoons that are essentially lakes full of animal waste.

These lagoons can leak and spill, and have spilled over into other water bodies, contaminating them and killing their fish populations. The lagoons are emptied using a spraying system that applies the waste to nearby fields, which can contaminate water supplies, reach neighboring communities, and emit harmful gasses.

The nearly 10 billion land animals in the United States raised for dairy, meat, and eggs each year on factory farms account for 37% of all methane emissions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that confined farm animals generate more than 450 million tons of manure annually, three times more raw waste than created by Americans.

Corn, wheat, and rice, the crops on which humanity depends for survival, are among the most nitrogen hungry of all plants — most of which are raised for animal consumption.

Big brands, including Whole Foods, Aramark and Compass, are pushing back on such farming effort, too, committing to humane conditions for broiler chickens by 2024. Ten states are even banning excessive animal confinement in one form or another, with Massachusetts passing the most comprehensive bill yet.

Why? For some, it’s because they are concerned about the conditions of the animals as consumers become more aware of how their food is raised.

For others, factory farms are known to cause an overwhelming number of adverse environmental impacts that can be devastating. Local governments, like Burnett County, are taking efforts to slow down factory farm development so they have time to study the potential impact.

Frederick Painter, a spokesman for the recently formed nonprofit corporation KnowCAFOs, said of the potential Trade Lake, Wisconsin, farm: “We are hoping that the moratorium and a rational ordinance will make them think twice about this area. It’s not like we want them to go elsewhere, but we certainly don’t want them here.”

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Eating insects could help save the planet

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If predictions from United Nations food scientists are right, menus of the future might include such dishes as stink bug stew, cockroach canapés and mashed mealworms.

Scoff — or gag — if you will, but edible insects could well serve to supplement the human diet in a world increasingly threatened by skyrocketing population growth and a steadily shrinking food supply.

A report issued in August 2019 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed that land and water resources around the globe are being exploited at unprecedented rates, threatening the ability of humanity to feed itself. The report, prepared by 100 experts from 52 countries, warned that climate change would exacerbate the dangers as extreme weather threatens to disrupt global food supplies.

The report suggested that addressing the crisis would require a reevaluation of land use and agriculture as well as consumer behavior.

Authors emphasized the need to reduce meat consumption — and trumpeted the cause for more high-protein meat alternatives. The report makes a particularly good case for the consumption of insects.

Insects are rich in protein and fiber and possess similar levels of amino acids and omega-3 fats similar to those found in meat and fish. Insects such as crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers and caterpillars, among many others, are healthy, currently plentiful food options.

The UN estimates that 2 billion people, roughly a quarter of the world’s population, eat a variety of bugs as part of their standard diet. Grubs and termites, eaten both raw and roasted, are favorites in tropical regions, while water bugs and weaver ant larvae shaken from mango trees are staples in northern Thailand.

More than 2,000 insect species worldwide have been identified as edible, from leafhoppers to agave worms — with the most popular globally being crickets, followed by beetles, caterpillars and grubs.

The IPPC report argues that if people in the developed world could get over the “disgust factor,” a strong edible insect industry could help reduce world hunger and malnutrition. There is some evidence that food technology companies are taking the task to hand.

Texas-based Aspire Food Group is about to build several automated cricket production facilities where the insects are dry-roasted whole for snacks or milled into powder. Many other companies are developing insect-based products, such as protein bars, powders, shakes and oils.

Bugs also don’t require much nurturing and space to develop in commercial quantities and they generate far fewer greenhouse gasses than traditional livestock – a plus for the environment.

A leading market research firm pegs the valuation of today’s worldwide insect trade at $607 million annually and projects it to reach $1.8 billion by 2023. The bug business is centered in the Asia-Pacific region, led by Thailand, China and South Korea.

North America, however, is cited as the fastest growing regional market for edible insects, with Mexico leading the charge. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Mexico is home to the greatest variety of edible insects in the world (549) — and a bug-eating tradition that dates back to pre-colonial times.

Development of a viable and robust industry to farm and process edible insect products couldn’t come at a more crucial moment. Like so many living species nowadays, the world’s insect population is threatened. A lengthy article in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper grimly forecasts an “insect apocalypse,” owing to pesticides, pollution and habitat changes. “If insects were to vanish,” it concludes, “the environment would collapse into chaos.”

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Cloud kitchens, virtual restaurants are the next big trends in food delivery

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Co-working spaces have changed the way many people work, and now it’s time for cloud kitchens to do the same for the food business.

Statista reports that the online food delivery segment will have $107 billion in revenue in 2019. Some of the industry’s rapid growth is attributed to the advent of cloud kitchens, which have helped businesses stay ahead of high rents and employee turnover.

Cloud or centralized kitchens have been quietly revolutionizing the business, as is evident by India-based Rebel Foods’ story. TechCrunch recently reported how one of the largest internet restaurant companies in the world raised $125 million with the cloud kitchen business model.

Rebel Foods prepares a variety of foods in its 235 cloud kitchens across 20 Indian cities. It processes 2 million orders a month, which is equivalent to running 1,600 restaurants. The fast-moving operator was one of the first to leverage cloud kitchens and is now poised to build 100 cloud kitchens in Indonesia and 20 cloud kitchen facilities in the United Arab Emirates.

Others are not too far behind. Food delivery companies Zomato and Uber Eats are racing headlong into the area with the former planning to open more than 100 cloud kitchens by the end of this year. It plans to rent the facilities and kitchen equipment to restaurants along with the software they need.

While some say that cloud kitchens are the next evolution of food delivery, others are not sure whether all effects will be positive. Traditional restaurants and grocery channels see cloud kitchens a threat to their business.

But despite detractors, these delivery-only restaurants with their on-the-go focus have allowed food businesses to cut down on overheads and survive. Some have proprietary apps to take orders, on-demand delivery services with marketing assistance, and data analytics to manage the processes.

Another related concept that is making waves is the virtual restaurant. Also called Uber cooking by some due to its initiation by Uber Eats, these businesses take orders through online apps and prepare food exclusively for takeout, pickup, and delivery customers. Food tech companies are excited about this concept and are looking to this sector for investing.

For detractors, it’s time to accept that this phenomenon is here to stay. Changing consumer habits have led to the growth of food delivery systems. Busy lifestyles will lead to less in-home preparation of food and fuel further growth of the emerging ghost kitchen industry.

In the future, there will likely be robotically equipped ghost kitchens, smartphone “storefronts,” and delivery services operating fleets of drones and self-driving vehicles to replace both home cooking and even the traditional dining-out experience. It’s not just restaurants that are going to be impacted by these trends, but food producers, retailers, and real estate businesses as well.

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Risky business: The trade war and American farmers

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Chinese authorities recently announced an end to U.S. agricultural imports following President Trump’s threat to hike tariffs by 10% on $300 billion on Chinese imports, effective Sept. 1. That is bad news for U.S. farmers.

What follows is a look at what some industry groups and politicians are doing and saying in response to the situation.

Gary Wertish is the elected president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, a private company. “We are in close contact with Congresspersons from Minnesota,” he told MultiBriefs by phone. “This trade war with China needs to come to an end. It is doing a lot of damage now and we are concerned about the long term.”

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., is a co-sponsor of a bill to help farmers stay solvent during the U.S.-China trade war, the Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019. The bill has passed the House and Senate.

“We want them to be able to reorganize their business, repay their debt, and keep their farm,” according to Sen. Smith. The legislation restructures debt reorganization via Chapter 12 bankruptcy rules, upping the debt ceiling from $3-10 million dollars. Skeptics question the upping of farmers’ debt as a path to increase their financial risk.

FFRA has bipartisan backing, including Republican co-sponsorship from Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa. President Trump could sign it into law.

Dale Moore is the executive vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We’re in steady contact with the administration,” he told MultiBriefs in an email. “We have let them know as clearly as we can that the trade war is not good for America’s farm and ranch families.”

He declined to share who in the administration that the AFBF is in contact with and what trade policy the group seeks. Meanwhile, U.S. farmers’ share of the Chinese market has plunged, a trend that reminds Wertish of the MFU of the farm crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. That downturn sparked more farm consolidation, according to him.

“Our agricultural exports to China, for instance, have dropped more than 50% since 2017,” according to Moore, “which means real pressure on prices. That is a $10 billion decrease and a big loss for farmers who now must contend with the combined effects of low commodity prices, terrible weather and tariffs.”

When it rains, it pours. The flooding in the Midwest has compounded with falling agricultural sales to China.

The Chinese authorities’ call to end all U.S. agricultural imports makes the weather damage worse. The Trump administration’s decision to declare that China is a currency manipulator would appear to make a trade compromise between the world’s two biggest economies more difficult to reach.

Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota is on the House Agriculture Committee. She supports a “trade strategy that opens markets for farmers and gives them the opportunity to pass their farms along to the next generation.”

The American Soybean Association and National Farmers Union declined requests for comment.

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McDonald’s eliminates CMO, forms new partnership with DoorDash: Is this the future of marketing?

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McDonald’s recently announced a new organizational structure in its marketing division and formed a new partnership with DoorDash. Is McDonald’s betting on the right trends in today’s tough market for restaurants?

McDonald’s chief marketing officer (CMO) is replaced with two SVPs

McDonald’s Global CMO Silvia Lagnado will be leaving the company in October, but there is no direct replacement for such a prominent position. Instead, the company promoted two men who reported to Lagnado to two newly created positions at the senior VP level: SVP global marketing and SVP marketing technology.

As the global CMO, Lagnado oversaw a variety of marketing functions, ranging from brand development, menu strategy, media, and customer relationship management. The new role of SVP global marketing will be taken over by Colin Mitchell, with a focus on business insights and menu innovation; he will report directly to Steve Easterbrook, the CEO.

Bob Rupczynski will become SVP of Marketing Technology and report to Daniel Henry, an executive VP and chief information officer (CIO).

The exclusive partnership with UberEats comes to an end

McDonald’s is adding DoorDash as a new partner for food delivery, providing an additional platform for the fast food chain to grow its delivery side. Before that, McDonald’s had an exclusive partnership with UberEats.

UberEats now serves about 64% of McDonald’s U.S. stores. Since the two companies established an exclusive partnership in 2017, delivery makes up about 2-3% of the chain’s business, totaling about $3 billion.

Restaurants typically pay UberEats a fee of 15-30% of the bills, but Uber would charge a lower fee to some of its large accounts/partners. The delivery fee negatively affects the franchisees’ profitability.

DoorDash is another big player in the food delivery market, leading in sales in San Francisco; Washington, D.C; San Antonio; Dallas-Fort Worth; and San Diego. The DoorDash partnership with McDonald’s launched in Houston across more than 200 restaurants on July 29. Consumers who are part of DoorDash’s subscription programs can enjoy unlimited free delivery on orders of $12 or more.

The future of marketing

According to CNBC, other companies such as Uber and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) also took a similar approach to restructure their marketing divisions. Uber announced in June that the company’s marketing duties would be handled by its SVP of communications and public policy. J&J also eliminated its CMO by splitting its duties among other executives in the company.

Because technology has already transformed business-to-consumer communications and significantly affects consumers’ experience with a brand, today’s businesses must continue to reconsider the job of a CMO.

In Uber’s case, such change can also ensure the company uses a united message to communicate with all of its stakeholders.

The future of delivery business

The growing food delivery business is too big to be ignored. Besides restaurants and food-delivery startups, major retailers are also getting into the delivery competition.

Walmart and Nordstrom, for example, are building physical stores that “surprisingly” do not sell anything. These stores, or so-called small hubs, will allow shoppers to retrieve their online orders without waiting for home delivery, responding to the “buy online, pickup in-store” trend.

The Nordstrom Local hubs are also smaller than its traditional full-service department stores, which brings to mind the current boutique store trend. Now, Nordstrom has three Local hubs in Los Angeles and is scheduled to open two in New York City in September.

In another Business Insider report, many parking lots are now being transformed into hubs for UberEats and Amazon deliveries. Such evidence further supports that Amazon’s departure from the restaurant delivery business might just be a temporary solution.

Meanwhile, UberEats just stepped into the dine-in business. UberEats’ dine-in option, now available in selected cities, such as Austin, Dallas, and San Diego, allows consumers to order the food ahead of time, then go to the restaurant, and enjoy the food inside the restaurant. Moreover, the standard Uber delivery and service fees will be waived.

The competition in the delivery business is heating up. The question is: how hot can it be? What do you think?

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Why Wisconsin’s recent survey of mussels is important

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The state of Wisconsin recently did something for the first time in four decades: Conducted a massive statewide survey of native mussels in an attempt to show the benefits of the water-cleaning clams on the state’s waterways.

In the St. Croix River alone, researchers found 24 different species of mussels in one sample site. Other sites yielded no samples. State officials also said they identified a great deal of species diversity on the Manitowish, Chippewa and Peshtigo rivers.

State researchers also reported that mussel populations appear to be rebounding in the Wisconsin River, as gains reportedly from clean water regulations over the last 50 years may be paying dividends. Additionally, native mussels are being found in the lower Fox River and Green Bay. Cleanups in these two bodies and these findings suggest it may be possible to reintroduce more mussel species into these regions.

The survey found declining mussel populations, though, in several areas and 10 sites had no mussels.

“On the St. Croix River, the abundance and species richness were very impressive,” said Jesse Weinzinger, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources coordinating the surveys.

The declines in the mussel population may be related to rising levels of nitrates and ammonia in the some of the waterways, above the threshold mussels can tolerate.

Why does the Wisconsin survey matter? Several reasons. Mussels are considered one of the world’s most imperiled animals.

70% of the world’s mussel species are in decline. In Wisconsin, 24 of the 50 native mussel species are endangered, threatened or listed as species of concern. If the conditions are as reported in the state, there’s a solid chance that there are similar areas undergoing the same types of changes.

Mussels also are considered “ecosystem engineers” because they modify the aquatic habitat, making it more suitable for themselves and other organisms.

They are also important to clean water. A single freshwater mussel can filter gallons of water a day, removing pollutants like mercury and other contaminants.

Mussels also excrete nutrients that are immediately available to plant life, depositing any remaining organic material to the sediment making it available for other invertebrates and fish to consume. During this feeding process, the mussels “clean” the water they live in by removing phytoplankton and the bacteria and fungi that are attached to the non-living organic particles they have removed from the water column.

When present in large numbers, mussels can become underwater gardens attracting fish to feed. They also are food for raccoons, muskrats, otters, herons, and other wildlife. They are even food for fish when the mussels are young.

Mussels declined in the 20th century because of water pollution, dams blocking water flow that mussels need, and overharvesting. But state and federal efforts to protect waterways, controlling wastewater, and protecting endangered species may be paying some dividends for this animal.

Surveys such as those conducted by Wisconsin are used for additional conservation efforts and waterway monitoring, the state said.

“The survey has been very important in helping us gather information on the distribution, population demographics and habitats of native mussels, all important information to help us focus our monitoring and other conservation efforts,” Weinzinger says.

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EPA approves bee-killing pesticide use as populations of the insect crater

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June approved the use of a bee-killing pesticide and, more recently, the White House said it would stop collecting data on declining honey bee populations. The problem for those who follow such developments say this move could make tracking the effects of the chemicals on bees impossible.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said budget cuts were to blame for the program change when it announced that it would indefinitely suspend data collection for its Honey Bee Colonies report, which has been compiled annually since 2015.

These bee reports have been designed to help scientists and farmers assess the decline of honey bees, which are responsible for pollinating one in every three bites of food taken by humans. The number of honey bee hives in the U.S. dropped from about six million in 1947 to 2.4 million a decade ago. Beekeepers reported in 2018 that 40% of honey bee hives had collapsed because of a combination of factors, including pesticide use.

Scientists say continuously monitoring the health of honey bee hives in vital to understanding why and how they are in decline. Likewise, researchers say they must continue to mitigate any negative effects on bees before there are any problems with crop management and food production.

Honey bees pollinate flowers, fruits and vegetables, and support about $20 billion worth of crop production in the U.S. annually, Matthew Mulica, senior project manager at the Keystone Policy Center, a consulting company that works with the Honey Bee Health Coalition, told ABC News.

Worldwide, honey bees and other pollinators help produce about $170 billion in crops.

Between Oct. 1, 2018, and April 1, 2019, more than 37% of the managed honey bee population — colonies kept by commercial beekeepers — declined, 7 percentage points lower than the same time frame during the winter of 2017-18, data from the Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit associated with the University of Maryland, pointed out.

The current losses to bee colonies is unsustainable for food production, scientists predict. The EPA action to allow insecticide that kills bees will add to the current crater, they say. Much of the produce seen in grocery stores — watermelon, apples, peppers, cucumbers — and nuts are pollinated by honey bees managed by commercial beekeepers.

These U.S. crops are produced with the help of 2.6 million colonies transported from place to place during peak flowering. Of the $20 billion worth of U.S. crop production supported by pollinators, commercial honey bees are responsible for about half. Wild bees and other pollinators pollinate the rest.

However, despite chemical-related death, the largest contributor to the decline of bee health is the varroa mite, a parasite that invades hives and spreads diseases. Other reasons for the loss in population are loss of habitat and poor management practices. Incidental exposure to pesticides, pests and other diseases within the hive also affect bee populations, ABC News reports.

Despite the population devastation, honey bees are not currently under threat of extinction. But as their populations decline, they will become costlier to manage and for farmers to procure, which can impact the price of food.

Researchers continue to examine which pesticides can potentially be replaced with chemicals that are more bee-friendly, and what changes can be made to habitats to encourage more bees, such as planting wildflowers instead of green grass in the front yard and encouraging homeowners to mow their lawns less often.

“The decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly, but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources,” a July 1 statement from the USDA read.

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Is the current market too tough for upscale restaurants?

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Operating a restaurant is never easy, but is it particularly challenging for upscale restaurants?

Restaurants Unlimited Inc., for instance, which operates 35 fine-dining and “polished casual” eateries, filed for bankruptcy in Delaware last week. In June, the Four Seasons Restaurant, an iconic spot for power lunch in Manhattan, also closed for business less a year after its reopening.

Are these two examples an isolated case or the tip of the iceberg? If upscale restaurants are struggling to survive in today’s market, what challenges are they facing?

Rising labor costs

According to a Bloomberg report, Restaurant Unlimited Inc. hires 50 salaried employees at the chain’s headquarter in Seattle, plus another 168 full-time and 1,885 part-time restaurant workers. Rising wages in Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland resulted in a total of $10.6 million on wage expenses in the fiscal year of 2019.

Nevertheless, its revenue for the year ended in May dropped 1%, to $176 million. The company has made other attempts to consolidate its debts but did not succeed.

The restaurant industry, and the food-service business in general, is highly competitive, with very low entry barriers but many substitutions. As a result, many restaurants are operated in a low profit margin.

In an ideal world, when wage expenses go up, a restaurant could possibly pass the higher labor costs to its customers. In reality, however, consumers can easily find substitutions in the market, perhaps at a more competitive price. Restaurants must find ways to lower other operational costs to avoid raising the price.

One solution is to use machines to replace workers in service operations. Not only can machines significantly lower the labor costs, but they also help restaurants deliver consistent service.

Consumers going to the fine-dining, upscale restaurants, however, are probably not the ones who favor the interactions with machines. They may still expect to be served by well-trained, friendly staff.

Shifting consumer behaviors

Referring to the case of the Four Seasons Restaurant, it employed a wonderful team, served great food, and had an outstanding space. Yet, the restaurant still failed to attract its right clientele, according to Alex von Bidder, the restaurant’s managing partner. He added: “But we just couldn’t make it; the restaurant world has changed.”

Previous predictions for the restaurant industry indeed did not favor fine-dining, upscale restaurants. While mobile ordering has become more critical for restaurants, for example, it is still difficult for people to picture how mobile ordering works in a fine-dining restaurant.

Then, when it comes to the “value war” among restaurants, “price” or “value” is simply not the area where fine-dining restaurants want to compete against others.

Besides, today’s consumers are accustomed to ordering everything online. They not only embrace the mobile ordering trend but also expect their food to be delivered right to their doors as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. Even if a fine dining restaurant joins others in food delivery, eating restaurant food at home is very different from having a seven-course meal in a restaurant.

Too many competitors in the market

The restaurant industry recently lived through the greatest period of growth in history without going through any real recession since 2008.

When the number of restaurants grew even faster than the population, and Gen Zers have not become a major force in fine dining, there are just too many restaurants in the market “chasing too few consumer dollars.” Accordingly, some critiques believe the good time for restaurants has come to an end.

It appears that fine-dining restaurants are just not as adaptable to what is happening in the market as compared to quick-service or quick-casual restaurants. If now is the tipping point for restaurant growth, fine-dining restaurants are probably the first ones that go bust.

The good news is competition often promotes innovation. The strongest will survive.

Do you expect more fine dining restaurants will close their doors in the near future? In the end, what types of fine-dining or upscale restaurants will survive?

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House passes $15 minimum wage bill, but its prospects are dim in Senate

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On July 18, the majority-Democratic House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act to gradually increase the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 and unchanged since 2009, to $15 in 2025. Some Republican House members did cross party lines to vote to increase the federal minimum wage.

“This critical policy would lift wages for more than 33 million workers, 90% of them age 20 or older and 58% of them women,” according to Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute.

“It would increase the total annual wages of these low-wage workers by $92.5 billion, boosting annual earnings for the average affected year-round worker by $2,800. It would reduce inequality and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, pull 1.3 million people out of poverty, nearly half of them children.”

The head of the National Federation of Independent Business took a sour view of the RTWA. Juanita D. Duggan is NFIB’s president and CEO.

“The House dealt a devastating blow to small businesses today, risking record growth, job creation, and already increasing wages,” she said in a statement. “In states and municipalities across the country, a mandated minimum wage hike has consistently led to lost jobs, production, and income, and it must not be replicated on the federal level. NFIB members from dozens of states were on Capitol Hill this week sharing their concerns over this costly legislation, and we urge members of the United States Senate to heed their call and prevent this bill from moving forward.”

On July 8, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report that opponents and proponents of the RTWA cite. According to this report, “There is a two-thirds chance that the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 3.7 million workers.”

Yet, Business for a Fair Minimum Wage supports increasing the federal minimum wage. One member of this coalition is Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 will be a win-win for businesses and workers,” she said in a statement. “It will help small businesses like my members by putting more money in the pockets of customers — boosting consumer demand and job creation.”

According to Dorfman, the businesses that do pay low wages, such as the current $7.25 federal minimum, “may save on immediate payroll, but they experience the significant expense of higher turnover, low morale and a less productive workforce.”

What are the prospects for the Senate approving the Raise the Wage Act? We turn to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“Research shows that hiking the minimum wage to $15 would kill jobs and depress the economy at a time when it’s thriving for the American people,” he said on Fox News and retweeted. “We are not going to be taking that up in the Senate.”

The GOP controls the Senate. Will some Senate Republicans break ranks with Senate Majority Leader McConnell to support the RTWA?

“We hope for the sake of our economy and businesses across this country that Sen. McConnell reconsiders his misguided opposition,” Holly Sklar, head of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, told MultiBriefs in an email. “We all need to remember that working people are also customers. Increased pay means increased consumer buying power.”

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