This Week In Foodservice

Jerry Stiegler aggregates key industry information and provides brief analysis to help foodservice professionals navigate the data.

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Foodservice News This Week, Plus a Primer for the 2023 NAFEM Show

A primer for The NAFEM Show. Middleby’s latest acquisition. Will the “Skip the Stuff” bill hurt sales of disposables in New York City? Foodservice operators must contend with return-to-work issues, too. These stories and more This Week in Foodservice.

After a four-year, pandemic-induced hiatus The NAFEM Show will open the flaps to its foodservice equipment and supplies big top on February 1 in Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. And the excitement surrounding the show is palpable, more so than usual.

As a primer for The NAFEM Show, our team at FE&S pulled together a series of stories that touch on a variety of subjects that certainly will be hot topics on the show floor.

Take, for example, supply chain issues. While the supply chain continues to stabilize, lead times are nowhere near where they were back in March of 2020. In addition, the individual members of the supply chain continue to adapt and evolve to better navigate today’s business environment. For that reason, the working relationship among consultants, dealers, service agents and reps must continue to evolve, too.

In addition, supply chain challenges, labor issues and more have led operators to rethink the way they approach equipment both from the purchasing and usage standpoints. How they define value is a little different from years past. Further, what chefs want from their equipment, though, tends to vary greatly by segment, menu and more, as five culinarians told us.

Of course, the foodservice operators are not the only ones since the last NAFEM Show. Lots has changed with the event itself, as NAFEM president Rich Packer, CFSP, of American Metalcraft told me during a wide-ranging interview. Features from past shows like What’s Hot, What’s Cool are out and what’s in is @Centerstage, an educational venue located right in the middle of all the action.

Beyond all the new products and ways of thinking about procuring those products, the greatest excitement I sense heading into The NAFEM Show is that of people looking forward to reconnecting with one another. The products on display represent the social lubricant operators, dealers, consultants, service agents and anyone else associated with the foodservice industry will use as conversation starters. Seeing where it goes from there is half the fun. At the end of the day, though, it’s that sense of togetherness that makes the foodservice industry so special.

Foodservice News This Week

  • If they need plastic utensils and condiments, New York City restaurant customers better remember to ask. That’s because the “Skip the Stuff” bill passed by the NYC City Council barred restaurants and food delivery services from providing such items unless guests ask for them. The bill aims to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills each year. The bill still needs to be signed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams. But if Adams does sign the bill into local law, don’t expect a ton of outcry from restaurant operators. In fact, many of the “Skip the Stuff” bill as a way to lower costs, per published reports, because it means restaurants will reduce their expenditures on disposables and the like.
  • What returning to the workplace looks like is something all businesses must address and that includes restaurants. In fact, several studies show that restaurant or foodservice workers prefer working a 40-hour week in a condensed schedule, per The Food Institute. Whether employees were working 40 hours spread across three or four days, they seemed to like the flexibility it gave them to address home-related responsibilities such as childcare. Indeed, it seems coming out of the pandemic the idea of work-life balance has never been more important for employees across all business segments.
  • Middleby Corp. acquired Flavor Burst, a technology used in a variety of flavored beverage and soft-serve products. The company is based in Danville, Ind., and has annual revenues of $5 million. “Flavor Burst systems can be found in chain restaurants and retail outlets worldwide and are currently used on Taylor equipment (another Middleby line), a natural extension of our existing offerings, said Tim FitzGerald, CEO of Middleby
  • The union representing Peet’s Coffee employees won its first election, per published reports. Two Peet’s locations had shown interest in unionizing only to have one of its locations pull back its election plans. Peet’s joins fellow coffee concept Starbucks in facing union challenges.
  • Is eatertainment the most exciting segment in the restaurant industry today? One restaurateur thinks so and is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. Curt Skallerup is the founder of Altitude Trampoline Parks, which now has more than 90 locations. He sold the business to a private equity fund in 2018 and now, through Larks Entertainment, Skallerup plans to open at least six eatertainment concepts: Larks Shuffleboard Club, Larks Putt Club, Larkade, Obstacle Adventures, Blast Legends, and Larks Kitchen and Bar.
  • Growth Chains: The Original Hot Chicken opened a location in Woodstock, Ga. This is an American fast casual restaurant concept launched by the Experiential Brands platform of NRD Capital. Fast-casual Indian chain Curry Up Now opened a location in Elk Grove, Calif. Salad and Go opened three locations in the Houston markets of Katy, Richmond and League City. Bakery cafe chain Paris Baguette opened a location in Red Bank, N.J. The chain has 4,000 units worldwide including more than 120 in the U.S.

Economic News This Week

  • The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index declined 1.0% in December 2022. This comes after a 1.0% decline in November 2022. For the six-month period from June to December 2022, the LEI is down 4.2%, which is steeper than the 1.9% rate of decline from the previous six-month period, per The Conference Board. The Conference Board sees December’s decline as yet another indication of a recession in the near-term.
  • U.S. retail and foodservice sales decreased 1.1% in December 2022 compared to the previous month, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales increased, however, 6% compared to December of 2021. Total sales for the 12 months of 2022 were up 9.2% from 2021. Total sales for October 2022 through December 2022 period were up 6.7% from the same period a year ago. Sales at foodservices and drinking places increased 12.1% from last year or 2.8% in real terms.
  • The Producer Price Index for final demand declined 0.5% in December, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Final demand prices advanced 0.2% in November and 0.4% in October. The index for final demand increased 6.2% in 2022 after rising 10.0% in 2021. December’s decrease is attributed to a 1.6% decline in prices for final-demand goods. The index for final demand services increased 0.1%. Prices for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services edged up 0.1% December after a 0.3% November increase.
  • December sales of existing homes declined 1.5% compared to the previous month, per the National Association of Realtors. This marks the 11th consecutive month where existing home sales declined. December 2022 sales of existing homes declined 34.0% compared to the same month in 2021. Of course, this should come as no surprise given that the U.S. Federal Reserve continued to raise interest rates throughout most of 2022 in an attempt to slow inflation. In fact, in December interest rates hit their highest levels in 15 years.
  • Rising interest rates continue to impact the number of building permits issued and housing starts, too. Building permits for privately owned housing declined 1.6% in December 2022 from November, per the U.S. Census Bureau. Compared to December 2021, building permits were down 29.9%. Privately-owned housing started declining 1.4% in December 2022 from November. Compared to December 2021, housing starts declined 21.8% last month. An estimated 1.5 million housing units were started in 2022, which is 3% less than 2021.
  • Initial-jobless claims totaled 190,000 for the week-ending January 14, 2023, per the U.S. Department of Labor. This represents a decline of 15,000 claims from the previous week and the lowest number of claims since September. This was very unexpected as economists anticipated claims would be in the 214,000 range, per published reports. The 4-week moving average was 206,000, a decrease of 6,500 from the previous week. In other words, the U.S. labor market remains tight despite interest rate increases.