Monthly Archives: July 2020

Yanking The Chain

Earlier today I prepped some chicken thighs for dinner. They’re the last of a 10-pound bag which was part of a 40-pound box we bought at the start of the pandemic. It was more of an opportunistic buy than panic buying. Many of the food distributors were getting rid of the boxes they would ordinarily sell to the restaurants which had been forced to close. We have a freezer and who doesn’t love a great deal? No, I’m not cooking 10-pounds of thighs this evening but I’ll admit that it’s been thigh week (bacon-wrapped thighs, chicken and black bean soup, and chicken enchiladas if you are curious as to where the other 8 pounds went) here.

Why do I bring that up this Foodie Friday? Because my opportunity buying was the result of a disruption in the supply chain. At the same time as I was getting chicken thighs, other folks were buying boxes of burgers and pork chops. What was unusual was that the same items we were getting dirt cheap were often unavailable in the supermarkets. That pesky supply chain again.

You’re probably aware of the toilet paper shortages. With people staying home, the paper made for institutions and offices was in lesser demand while people panic-bought the home version. The same thing happened with food and, in fact, is still happening if my trip to the market yesterday was any indication. There was nary a canned vegetable to be found other than the really large cans that might have otherwise gone to a commercial kitchen.

This from Bloomberg:

As consumers cook more at home, driving up grocery store sales, they’re steering clear of restaurants, which has big implications for how suppliers package and sell their meats and produce — and for demand. Restaurant portions are bigger, and meat, cheese, and butter, in particular, are consumed in higher quantities at restaurants, but so are vegetables.  Before the pandemic, Americans spent more than half their food budgets on dining out. Over the next 12 months, 70% of consumers plan to significantly decrease spending on restaurants, according to a Bank of America survey.

How does this apply to your business? It’s a reminder that every business needs to think hard about and prepare for disruption. It means doing things differently. As an example, I would never have considered a 40-pound box of thighs, even at the wholesale food price prior to the pandemic. The great price coupled with the uncertainty of the food supply chain at the time changed my mind.

The funny thing is that the food supply is quite plentiful. The issue is that the distribution system between the producer and demand is out of whack, which is causing massive headaches for every person involved: farmers, packagers, distributors, retailers, and end-users. While it’s the rare business that can bypass that broken system altogether, every business needs to make alternative plans just in case. Backups for your backups, I guess. Make sense?


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Going Viral

I was having a conversation this morning with a fellow who represents a number of the franchises with which I do business. He asked me how things have been going during the pandemic and how I thought things had changed. I thought about it for a minute and this is the gist of what I said.

For most folks, investing in a franchise, or starting a business of any sort, is a scary process. It involves risk, both professional and financial. Oh sure, there are some well-to-do folks I’ve worked with who are just looking to start something up on the side while they keep their day job, but the risk is still there. While the risk is decreased when you go with a franchise (proven system, strong support team, etc.), you’re still jumping out of that airplane. Maybe you’ve got someone strapped to your back who has jumped a hundred times before, but it’s still a scary process.

The pandemic has only intensified that fear. Every person that goes into the process to any deep degree has hit the “stuff got real” moment when they have to make the leap or back away from the door. When almost every news story each day is bad and when neighbors, friends or family might be hurt by the pandemic, it’s a lot more difficult to convince people that they’re making the right move. Couple that with the fact that many 401K’s became 201K’s almost overnight and many people would rather not add to the risk it seems we all take just by waking up each day.

Many of the folks who express interest in learning more are, unfortunately, not good candidates for many brands. They don’t have much liquid capital and due to what’s been going on, their credit may be damaged. Honestly, some are pretty desperate to buy themselves a job which is not a great reason for them to be looking at starting a business. The virus has made it harder to find really well-qualified folks in many ways. 

It hasn’t all been negative. Getting financing has rarely been less expensive for those who decide to move forward. The government has been delaying loan payments to help borrowers out. Some business sectors – in-home care, home repair and remodeling, cleaning, and some others – that were good businesses before are even better businesses now. I had one person who was looking at some food businesses shift overnight to wanting handyman businesses. That’s smart thinking because he is looking at the business as something that makes his goals possible and is unconcerned with the means to that end. Shifting on the fly is something we all need to be doing more of these days, right?

Those are my general thoughts about what’s happened to my business over the last few months. What’s going on with yours? How can I be helpful?

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The Mayo Clinic

For our Foodie Friday exploration this week, let’s consider an item that you probably have in your fridge – mayonnaise. I’m a big fan of the stuff, so much so that I used to get through periods of study in my dorm room with a box of Saltines and a jar of Hellman’s. Of course, now that I’ve moved down south, Duke’s is my mayo of choice. In fact, some folks refer to Duke’s as the mother sauce of the south. I don’t disagree.

Mayo is pretty simple stuff when you think about it. An egg, some lemon juice or vinegar or mustard (or all of the above), some salt and pepper, and vegetable oil is thrown together in a blender, food processor, or even just a bowl (fire up those whisking muscles) and you’ve got mayo. You can add herbs, adobo, sriracha, or just about anything else you’ve got lying around for additional flavor, but plain mayo is one of my favorite kitchen items.

You probably spread it on sandwiches. It there anything better than a tomato sandwich in summer? I think mayo makes that happen. Can one have a BLT without mayo? Not in my book. I’m a mayo on burger guy too (hey it’s really a BLT with a meat patty on it when you think about it). There are many other things to do with mayo that you might not have thought about. For example, the next time you make a grilled cheese, spread mayo on the outside instead of butter. You’ll thank me later. Rub it on your steaks before grilling. Not only will your seasonings adhere well but your steak won’t adhere to the grill. It doesn’t drip onto the flame either, so no flair-ups.

Mayo in baked goods? Well yeah – it’s eggs and oil, mostly. A little salty as well. How is a cake or muffin not made better? Coating anything you’re going to bread? Hell yes. It’s essential in Mexican Street Corn, even if you’re making it in a casserole dish and not on the grill. And did you know that we can learn some business from mayo too?

Here we have something that is all of the most basic ingredients transformed into something incredibly versatile. It’s what I always looked for in team members when I was hiring. Who understood the fundamentals? Who would work well with other equally qualified individuals? Who was capable, with some extra additions, of transforming into something different and perhaps even better? Who could be used for a seemingly endless variety of tasks?

I’m usually out of one thing or another in my kitchen but I am NEVER out of mayo. Hopefully, you’re thinking of it in a new light, just as you are about the types of folks you want on your team. What do you think?

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