Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to share with everyone a classic op-ed I read back in 2006, a fun piece written by Rick Moranis entitled: My Days are Numbered

The average American home now has more television sets than people ... according to Nielsen Media Research. There are 2.73 TV sets in the typical home and 2.55 people, the researchers said. — The Associated Press, Sept. 21.

I have two kids. Both are away at college.
I have five television sets. (I like to think of them as a set of five televisions.) I have two DVR boxes, three DVD players, two VHS machines and four stereos.
I have nineteen remote controls, mostly in one drawer.
I have three computers, four printers and two non-working faxes.
I have three phone lines, three cell phones and two answering machines.
I have no messages.
I have forty-six cookbooks.
I have sixty-eight takeout menus from four restaurants.
I have one hundred and sixteen soy sauce packets.
I have three hundred and eighty-two dishes, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs and glasses.
I eat over the sink.
I have five sinks, two with a view.
I try to keep a positive view.
I have two refrigerators.
It’s very hard to count ice cubes.
I have thirty-nine pairs of golf, tennis, squash, running, walking, hiking, casual and formal shoes, ice skates and rollerblades.
I’m wearing slippers.
I have forty-one 37-cent stamps.
I have no 2-cent stamps.
I read three dailies, four weeklies, five monthlies and no annual reports.
I have five hundred and six CD, cassette, vinyl and eight-track recordings.
I listen to the same radio station all day.
I have twenty-six sets of linen for four regular, three foldout and two inflatable beds.
I don’t like having houseguests.
I have one hundred and eighty-four thousand frequent flier miles on six airlines, three of which no longer exist.
I have “101 Dalmatians” on tape.
I have fourteen digital clocks flashing relatively similar times.
I have twenty-two minutes to listen to the news.
I have nine armchairs from which I can be critical.
I have a laundry list of things that need cleaning.
I have lost more than one thousand golf balls.
I am missing thirty-seven umbrellas.
I have over four hundred yards of dental floss.
I have a lot of time on my hands.
I have two kids coming home for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Color Me Green

Blink:
The green economy will provide a stimulus for job growth, but equally important is a nationwide green outreach program to curb America’s profligate energy consumption behavior.

Read On:
I attended AASHE 2008, a conference for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (
http://www.aashe.org/). Attendees were all energized by Obama’s mantra for hope and change, which was a perfect platform for keynote speakers addressing the conference's theme: Working Together for Sustainability On Campus and Beyond. One keynote speaker that especially piqued my interest was Van Jones, an environmental activist whom I first became aware of in Thomas Friedman’s 2007 op-ed entitled The Green-Collar Solution. Mr. Jones is the founding leader of Green for All (http://www.greenforall.org/). In his own words: “The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low-income people – while honoring the Earth.”

Mr. Jones’s energizing speech clearly outlined the key pillars it will take to build a green economy. Good stuff, especially how we need to repower America with clean energy. Van Jones is a strong supporter of eco-visionary Al Gore’s challenge for 100% renewable and clean energy within a decade. Yet it suddenly occurred to me that all the green economy solutions being proposed today are reactive in nature to an intolerable environmental situation. Equal focus needs to be placed on our profligate energy consumption behavior. One starting point would be to create community outreach programs complete with educational materials on how each one of us can reduce our daily consumption of energy. Think of what an economic stimulus this would be to our economy – trainers, implementation of educational materials (web-based or old fashion printed materials) and community centers that would conduct workshops. Sounds like job creation that would also helps us achieve Al Gore’s renewable energy vision.

One last thought. Listening to Van Jones’s speech in a room full of academics reminded me of a great line from Adam Gopnik’s book, Paris to the Moon. “Institutions instruct, parents teach.” My apologies for being candid, but it all begins in the home.

Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Premium Choices

Blink:
Despite the roller coaster economy we are experiencing this year, the rise of the luxury market in the next decade will breed an “elitist” consumer who will pay premium dollars for a status experience. Consequently menuing will change to target these consumers.

Read On:
A wine lovers package at the Hilton Arc De Triomphe in Paris starting at 290 Euros per night (the equivalent of $375 at today’s exchange rate) complete with two tickets to the Paris Wine Museum and a wine tasting. Don’t forget to add in airfare and transportation to and from the hotel if you are only planning on spending one night in Paris. Sounds like a bargain for the individual who recently paid $34,350 for Lot 87, Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982 in its original wooden case at Zachy’s (
http://www.zachys.com/retail/) inaugural Hong Kong auction. Here in Philadelphia, the Cheese Steak capital of the World, you can get a $100 Kobe Beef Cheese steak. A little too rich for your tastes? How about something simple like candy? Mars Inc. just jumped into the $2 billion plus premium chocolate market and introduced Premium M&M’s. “A little luxury with each bite,” according to their spokesperson Eva Longoria Parker. The six-ounce package retails for $3.99. I still hope they melt in your mouth, not your hands: (http://www.mms.com/us/)

Despite all the economic turmoil we have been experiencing, the market for luxury goods continues to grow in leaps and bounds. By the year 2012 it is expected to exceed $450 billion in Global sales. Who is fueling this affluent consumption boom? The “elitist” consumer, individuals who seek to buy premium products/services thanks to the experience factor, but also as a status symbol to flaunt their new wealth. Some market researchers believe the core of these consumers is the emerging “middle-class millionaires” – people who have total assets (hopefully real assets) between $1 million and $5 million.

How is this currently impacting the foodservice industry? As I stated earlier in this post, exotic white tablecloth experiences are surfacing as I write. Dining in the dark at Opaque in California where patrons definitely don’t have to worry about watching their calories since they are unable to read any calorie postings. Don’t forget to make a reservation at Masa, the 26-seat sushi bar in Manhattan for a $300 per person sushi dinner. Not ready for an over the top eating experience? Maybe you just want to settle for a premium cocktail – try the $3,000 Sapphire Martini at Mezz, the “ultralounge” at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, complete with a sterling silver pick holding a pair of platinum-mounted diamond and sapphire earrings.
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Sound outrageous? Definitely, but look for this trend to continue, not just for the emerging “middle-class millionaires” that frequent fine dining establishments, but also for mainstream consumers whose profligate spending behavior will lessen their probability of making logical versus image choices. In foodservice, menuing will change as follows:

1.) More specialty menus in a majority of all commercial segments with QSR being the exception, will be utilized for premium beverages (everything from alcohol to signature coffees, teas or hot chocolates), desserts made with exotic ingredients, etc.

2.) Branding the source of origin for proteins including sustainable seafood, will command premium prices for entrees, a trend pioneered by Bill Niman and Orville Schell with their nationally recognized brand, Niman Ranch. They publicized how their animals were raised under humane conditions, all the ways from their feed to the time they were dispatched: (
http://www.nimanranch.com/index.aspx).

3.) Operators, in response to the economy will realize that price and value are two different concepts. Price is simple; it is the amount of money a patron is willing to pay for a meal. Value is dependent on price, but far more complicated in that it also takes into account subjective criteria like tastes and preferences that equate to experience. As a result, more priced fixed or special tasting menus will evolve that will deliver the status experience being sought out by “elitist” consumers.

Premium choices will become the badge for the 21st century consumer. Consumers everywhere will be motivated by status brands and symbols. This is a good time for foodservice operators to jump on the bandwagon.