This year, instead of the traditional turkey, Nicole Beckler’s Thanksgiving table will feature two Cornish hens: the perfect sized birds for a dinner for two.
Beckler, a travel agent based in Florida, downsized her dinner after deciding against flying to New Jersey to celebrate the holiday with her family.
“Since New Jersey is kind of locking down again, I thought it best to stay here,” she said.
Like Beckler, many Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving differently this year. Health experts have warned against traveling home or gathering in large groups as the number of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. explodes. But celebrating Thanksgiving — even in a different way — could also lift spirits after a stressful year.
“Showing gratitude in even small ways can reduce stress and provide hope for the future,” said Barbara Fiese, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois.
Kroger’s internal data science and analytics firm found that 43% of shoppers are planning on spending the holiday only with their immediate family. Retailers, like Walmart-owned Sam’s Club, have responded by stocking smaller turkeys and shrinking their packages of yeast rolls.
Struggling restaurants see the break with tradition as a possible opportunity to attract customers who don’t want to labor over turkey, stuffing and all of the side dishes for a much smaller party.
Bayan Ko, a Chicago restaurant that fuses Cuban and Filipino cuisine, is among the restaurants selling Thanksgiving feasts for the first time. For $195, customers will receive the restaurant’s take on the holiday meal, which includes three types of meat, four side dishes and flan for dessert.
Thanksgiving meals prepared by restaurants don’t come cheap, especially when compared with the average cost of preparing the meal at home. This year, according to estimates from the American Farm Bureau Federation, a Thanksgiving dinner for ten people costs an average of $46.90 when the ingredients are bought at the grocery store. But customers are looking to offload the stress of cooking the turkey, as well as supporting local businesses.
“We’re having fun, so it’s livening up our spirits as well,” said Bayan Ko co-owner Raquel Quadreny.
The restaurant sold out of its Thanksgiving packages, with many going to regular customers, according to Quadreny.
“What we made in one day is more than we’ve been making every week since Covid cases got worse in Illinois,” she said.
As Covid cases in Chicago have surged in recent weeks, Quadreny estimates that its sales have been cut in half. City officials outlawed indoor dining once again at the end of October, with the state following suit shortly after. Bayan Ko never reopened its indoor dining room in the summer or fall, choosing instead to draw customers to its outdoor patio.
Summit House in Summit, New Jersey has also been exercising caution in light of the recent surge in cases. Thanksgiving arrives a week after the restaurant opted to suspend in-person dining, both indoor and outdoor. Instead, it’s focusing on its grab and go business, which includes preordered meal packages for the holidays.
The restaurant’s holiday packages started with its Mother’s Day bundle this year and will continue with meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Owner Dylan Baker said that about 200 Thanksgiving dinners will be prepared by Summit House.
And for the restaurants that have been selling Thanksgiving dinners for years, slow kitchens mean that they can take on more orders than usual.
Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford, Connecticut has been offering Cajun-fried turkey dinners for more than 15 years. This year, the eatery also cut its turkeys in halves or in thirds in response to consumers looking for smaller meals. Varano said that they cut off their orders this year at 150, 50% higher than its usual number.
“Since business has been so terrible, it’s nice to know at least this week we’re going to get some sales into the register with the holiday takeout,” said James Varano, owner of Black-Eyed Sally’s.
And restaurants are continuing to look ahead to the next holiday for another boost to sales. Black-Eyed Sally’s and Summit House will be making Christmas dinners. Summit House will also offer a prime rib package throughout December. Bayan Ko is planning on creating a bundle for New Year’s and weighing another one for Christmas.
‘Tis the season to shore up your savings.
One campaign, called “In the Black Friday,” spearheaded by the National Financial Educators Council, encourages consumers to avoid debt this holiday season and save for longer-term financial goals.
Already, shoppers said they plan to spend less overall this year — shelling out an average of $997.79 in total, down $50 from 2019.
Pre-pandemic, holiday spending had been edging higher nearly every year, resulting in credit card balances that take longer and longer to pay off.
In 2019, Americans racked up about $1,325 in holiday debt, up 8% from the year before, according to MagnifyMoney’s annual post-holiday debt survey.
Although credit card interest rates have fallen since the Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rate to near zero in March, credit cards are still one of the most expensive ways to borrow money.
Card rates are near 16%, down from a record high of 17.85% in July.
If you only made the minimum payments on a $1,325 balance, it would take more than five years to pay it off, while racking up more than $600 in interest charges (assuming an interest rate of about 15%).
Wrapping your credit cards with financial goals is one way to keep your spending in check, advised Pamela Yellen, the author of “The Bank On Yourself Revolution.”
“Every time I take a card out, I see a picture or some words that represent a goal that’s important to me,” Yellen said. “I get the opportunity to stop and decide whether what I’m about to purchase is more important than that goal.
“If it is or it doesn’t undermine my goal, I might go ahead and buy it,” she added. “If it isn’t, I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m a step closer to my goal because I chose to not purchase the item.”
David McInerney, CEO, FreshDirect
FreshDirect customers have nothing to fear after the company was bought by the Dutch owner of Stop & Shop and Food Lion, the grocery delivery service’s CEO said Tuesday.
Ahold Delhaize and Centerbridge Partners, a private equity firm, announced Wednesday that they would be buying FreshDirect. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Ahold Delhaize will acquire a majority stake and Centerbridge Partners will have a minority investment of 20%.
“Hopefully the only differences that customers see are the benefits,” FreshDirect CEO David McInerney said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
The Dutch company already has a foothold in U.S. grocery e-commerce through Peapod, which was the first company in the country dedicated to online grocery delivery. But FreshDirect’s specialty is fresh food, which represents about 60% of its total sales, and it has a higher market share than Peapod in the New York tri-state area.
McInerney said that he appreciated how Ahold Delhaize plans to preserve the e-commerce company’s brand. FreshDirect will keep its name and will still independently operate its New York City facility.
“I think combining the knowledge of both companies, we can make it even more competitive and compelling,” Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller said.
Stockpiling during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic made online grocery sales soar, and the trend seems to be sticking. Muller said that the pandemic accelerated Ahold Delhaize’s e-commerce business by several years.
“Being that we’re on top of our game right now … strong double digit-growth, we were naturally attractive, given where the world is in terms of adoption of online food,” McInerney told CNBC’s Becky Quick.
The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.
Correction: David McInerney is CEO of FreshDirect. An earlier version misspelled his name.
Walmart and McDonald’s are among top employers of Medicaid and food stamp beneficiaries, report says
Cars drive past a Walmart store in Washington, DC, on August 18, 2020.
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images
The question of how much taxpayers contribute to maintaining basic living standards for employees at some of the nation’s largest low-wage companies has long been a flashpoint in the debate over minimum wage laws and the ongoing effort to unionize these sectors.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., commissioned the study, which was released Wednesday by the congressional watchdog agency. The Washington Post was the first to report on the data. Sanders, who has run for the Democratic nomination for president, is a leading progressive lawmaker and a consistent critic of corporations.
The GAO analyzed February data from Medicaid agencies in six states and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — known as SNAP, or food stamps — agencies in nine states.
Walmart was the top employer of Medicaid enrollees in three states and one of the top four employers in the remaining three states. The retailer was the top employer of SNAP recipients in five states and one of the top four employers in the remaining four states.
McDonald’s was among the top five employers of Medicaid enrollees in five of six states and SNAP recipients in eight of nine states.
About 70% of the 21 million federal aid beneficiaries worked full time, the report found.
“U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America,” Sanders said in a statement Wednesday evening. “It is time for the owners of Walmart, McDonald’s and other large corporations to get off of welfare and pay their workers a living wage.”
McDonald’s USA said in a statement that the company believes the data from the report was taken out of context and framed in a misleading way, citing that McDonald’s and Walmart are some of the largest employers in the country.
“The average starting wage at U.S. corporate-owned restaurants is over $10 per hour and exceeds the federal minimum wage. McDonald’s believes elected leaders have a responsibility to set, debate and change mandated minimum wages and does not lobby against or participate in any activities opposing raising the minimum,” the company said in a statement.
McDonald’s announced last March that it would no longer lobby against minimum wage hikes. CEO Chris Kempczinski told CNBC in November that the company would be open to discussing the minimum wage as he called on Congress to pass another Covid-19 stimulus package.
“If not for the employment access Walmart and other companies provide, many more people would be dependent on government assistance,” Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield said in a statement. “We support efforts to raise the minimum wage while we continue to make investments in our associates.”
The GAO report comes after Florida voted to increase its minimum wage over the next six years until it reaches $15 an hour. It is the eighth state to approve a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the second-most populous state to do so.
President-elect Joe Biden supports a $15 federal minimum wage. The federal minimum rate has remained at $7.25 per hour for more than a decade.
Earlier this year, Costco, Amazon and Target raised their minimum pay to $15 per hour. On Wednesday, Starbucks announced it would raise wages for its baristas.
The sun sets over a McDonald’s store on October 21, 2019 in Edgewater, New Jersey.
Kena Betancur | Corbis News | Getty Images
In the past, companies such as McDonalds and Walmart have responded to pressure on lawmakers to pass mandatory minimum wage laws with ad campaigns touting their jobs as entry level, and therefore never intended to provide the sole source of income for a family.
McDonald’s launched a memorable marketing campaign in 2016 pitching itself as “America’s best first job” and suggesting that teens and young adults make up the bulk of its workforce.
But many advocates for a mandatory minimum wage saw the McDonald’s ads as an attempt to gloss over reality, which is that millions of McDonald’s workers struggle to support families on the wages the company pays.
— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed reporting.
A worker stands inside Starbucks in midtown during the coronavirus pandemic on May 20, 2020 in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
Starting Dec. 14, baristas, shift supervisors and cafe attendants will receive a pay increase of at least 10% if they were hired before Sept. 24, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC. Employees who have worked at a company-operated location will receive an increase of at least 11%. And starting wages will be hiked 5% to help cafe managers find more staff.
The coffee chain is known for giving its workers more generous benefits and pay compared with other retailers and national restaurant chains. It already pays above minimum wage.
Business Insider first reported the memo written by Rossann Williams, the president of company-operated Starbucks locations in U.S. and Canada. Williams wrote the memo on Nov. 2, the day before the presidential election.
In March, Starbucks was among the companies that offered catastrophe pay to its workers as Covid-19 cases surged in the U.S. As it reopened cafes in its home market, it began phasing out the benefit.
The pay hikes come as voters express support a higher minimum wage. The federal wage has been $9.25 per hour for more than a decade, and the restaurant industry is expecting a hike during Biden’s tenure as president.
But states and cities are being more proactive. Most recently, Florida voted to increase its wage floor over the next six years until it reaches $15 an hour. It is the eighth state to approve a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the second-most populous state to do so.
“Hosting? Plan a super spread,” reads a full-page advertisement printed in Giant Food’s Savory magazine.
Source: Giant Supermarket
A grocery store chain in the mid-Atlantic region is apologizing for an unfortunate blunder with a Thanksgiving advertisement printed in the latest edition of its magazine.
“Hosting? Plan a super spread,” reads the full-page ad seen in the December issue of Giant Food’s magazine, Savory. The text appears below a photo of several small eats and appetizers made for groups, including a fruit tart, cheese board and shrimp cocktail ring.
The phrase “superspreader event” has become shorthand amid the pandemic to describe places where the coronavirus has spread to a large number of people, though it’s not recognized as a scientific term. Experts told TODAY that a lack of social distancing or mask-wearing have been common threads of superspreader events, which over the months have included crowded college parties, weddings, family parties and busy bars.
Government leaders, scientists and medical professionals have been warning about gathering during the upcoming holiday season. The Centers for Disease Control even issued guidelines, with recommendations like staying home and avoiding travel or planning get-togethers outside.
Giant, which operates in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia, acknowledged the mishap with the phrasing of its ad in the following statement to TODAY:
“We apologize for our advertisement in Savory which used the language Super Spread to describe an abundance of food. While, in hindsight, the choice of words was a poor one, Giant had no intentions of insensitivity. We continue to encourage people to practice safe social distancing practices for celebrating the holidays in line with CDC recommendations. 2020 has been exceptionally challenging for so many reasons and this year the holidays will be celebrated very differently, but we hope that food can still be a source of joy and comfort and that the ad reflects that spirit.”
The same issue of Savory magazine also featured an advertisement for Campbell’s with a green bean casserole recipe that said, “Slay the Spread this season.”
Boxes of Huggies brand diapers move along a conveyor belt at the Kimberly-Clark manufacturing facility in Paris, Texas.
Laura Buckman | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Call it the Covid baby bust.
Experts are forecasting declining birth rates this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, putting pressure on the consumer giants that manufacture infant formula, baby food and diapers, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Barclays is predicting that births in China will fall 8% this year, while the Brookings Institute is estimating that U.S. births could shrink by half a million, citing the impact of an economic recession, according to the newspaper. This comes as birthrates in the U.S. and China are already at their lowest levels on record.
A sharp decline in the number of births this year means that Nestle’s Gerber and Reckitt Benckiser‘s Enfamil will have fewer parents buying their baby formula. Pampers owner Procter & Gamble and Huggies owner Kimberly-Clark could also see lower sales for their baby segment as a result.
In recent years, as births in the U.S. and China have slowed, consumer giants have turned their attention to selling premium baby items. Procter & Gamble, for example, is making diapers that use tape or mimic the fit of pants. Last year, Huggies introduced Special Delivery, a premium diaper that is made from plant-based materials and is free of parabens, fragrance and elemental chlorine.
Momofuku joins Goldbelly’s delivery service as consumers seek out far-flung comfort food during the Covid pandemic
Customers dine at Momofuku’s outdoor seating in the East Village as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 26, 2020 in New York City.
Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images
Goldbelly is adding chef David Chang’s Momofuku to its national delivery service as the coronavirus pandemic drives customers and restaurants to the e-commerce site in droves.
CEO Joe Ariel founded Goldbelly in 2013, when he was living in New York City and couldn’t find a local restaurant to meet his hankering for Nashville hot chicken or Southern-style biscuits. It’s since raised more than $33 million in funding, and its latest round@m, in 2018, was led by restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments.
Prior to the pandemic, Goldbelly was adding restaurants to the platform at a steady clip. But as lockdowns went into place across the United States, eateries that had previously eschewed delivery services and takeout had to pivot.
Like DoorDash and Grubhub, Goldbelly is one of the beneficiaries of the abrupt shift in behavior. It’s almost doubled its restaurant and customer count on its website this year, with establishments like Shake Shack, the burger chain founded by Meyer, joining its ranks. Including Momofuku, the company has nearly 700 restaurants listed on its marketplace.
“Many partners who were interested but somewhat reluctant have now embraced giving the platform a chance and said to us that they couldn’t believe they hadn’t done it sooner,” Ariel said.
But Goldbelly also has some key differences from the third-party delivery apps that work with local restaurants. It ships food items anywhere in the country, rather than being bound by a two- or three-mile radius. Restaurants have the freedom to fulfill their orders during lulls, like mid-afternoon or at midnight, when the kitchen is closed to takeout and delivery customers.
And it’s the restaurants, rather than Goldbelly, that are responsible for creating and shipping their food items. The business model means that Goldbelly is profitable, according to Ariel.
But eateries also benefit from joining the e-commerce site. Ariel said that some restaurants are seeing higher sales volumes on Goldbelly than from their dining rooms before the pandemic.
The pandemic introduced another facet to the Goldbelly experience: live cooking classes with famous chefs like Daniel Boulud. The classes are free with the purchase of the related meal kit.
Goldbelly uses a team of scouts, internally known as the “gravy seals,” to scour the country and social media for restaurants beloved by their customers or offering unique regional specialties. Eateries on the platform run the gamut from nationally known establishments to mom-and-pop restaurants.
Goldbelly founder and CEO Joe Ariel
The company also works with the restaurants to decide on the price that the consumer pays, which ultimately includes the platform’s transaction fees and the hefty expense of overnight shipping the food anywhere in the country. The food can come frozen, already assembled or as parts of a meal kit to cook the dish easily.
Ultimately, the New York bagels or Philadelphia cheesesteaks will cost more than if a customer bought them in person. But the service is for consumers who find themselves far flung from the comfort food they want to eat. And as the current crisis restricts travel and some consumers decamp to the suburbs, they are willing to pay the premium price. The service has also transitioned from being used for special occasions to something sought out more frequently.
“As the world has changed, it’s become much more of a weekly and monthly event,” Ariel said.
The fourth quarter is typically Goldbelly’s busiest time of the year, thanks to the holidays, according to Ariel. The approach of Thanksgiving means an influx of orders for pies, specialty side dishes and turduckens.
“This year, it’s going to be a different level because people aren’t traveling to see their families,” Ariel said.
Goldbelly customers are buying multiple items to ship to different people, creating their own virtual Thanksgiving dinners via Zoom. Corporate employers are looking to give their workers and clients Goldbelly’s meal kits and virtual cooking classes in place of in-person office parties.
Of course, the pandemic is also introducing new challenges to Goldbelly. Vaccine makers are worried about potential delays in their rollouts due to a shortage of dry ice. Goldbelly’s merchants use the solid form of carbon dioxide for shipping some of their items, like ice cream, across the country overnight.
Goldbelly has an entire department devoted to brainstorming how to keep food items frozen — or at least cold — before they arrive to customers.
“It’s something we’re keeping our eyes opened for, but we have a few different approaches to attacking that before it becomes more of an issue,” Ariel said, adding that the majority of Goldbelly orders do not use dry ice.
For Goldbelly and the rest of the world, a vaccine also means a return to traveling, dining inside restaurants and all of the other occasions that were abandoned during the pandemic. But Ariel thinks that consumers will continue to order from Goldbelly as frequently as they are now.
“We believe that the nationwide delivery of your favorite foods is going to continue to be a value proposition that’s really exciting for a lot of people, especially those that experienced it and made a deeper emotional connection with our brand and the platform during this time,” Ariel said.