Red Lobster Appears Doomed For Failure

Ever since I was old enough to actually enjoy eating fish, Red Lobster has been a pretty solid option for getting some seafood.  We don’t go very often because we have a local place that we enjoy much better, but we’ve been a number of times over the years.

Recently, Red Lobster was sold by their former parent company, the Darden Group (who also owns Olive Garden as the most comparable type of restaurant), and the new holding company, Golden Gate Capital, just completed the sale, and has already announced some changes.

They boil down to two changes: They’re going to charge more money and they’re going to try to present the restaurant as more fancy.  Both of these things are with the intent to curb years of steadily declining sales.

After reading the article and absorbing the strategy, I think that Golden Gate Capital may have just wasted a whole lot of money.  Personally I don’t see things working out.  Here is why I think that Red Lobster may be doomed for failure based on the strategy and their history:

  • People love promotions – Red Lobster wants to get away from low priced specials and many promotional items.  On paper their reason looks good: Promotions like that tend to erode the brand, so why not end the erosion?  In reality, the damage has been done and it’s going to be next to impossible to unwind that clock.  People are used to promotions, and by eliminating them, the people that would have come in the door are now going to go elsewhere.  If you want to see how eliminating promotions works out, let’s remember the massive failure that almost sent an iconic department store chain into bankruptcy.
  • Chain restaurants aren’t fancy – Apparently laying food out on the plate is another big part of the turnaround strategy.  Instead of having the fish side by side with the other items (potatoes, rice, vegetables), the fish will now be placed on top of those items.  This will make the fish the centerpiece of the…..You know what?  I can’t even finish the sentence.  This strategy might make a difference in a high end restaurant with one or two locations, but for a chain restaurant with thousands of locations, this is not going to be a difference maker.
  • Things run their course – I was originally going to split this post into two parts, the reason I think the strategy stinks (which I did), and what they should do instead.  Then, I got to thinking that maybe there really isn’t anything much they can do.  Many things simply come and go in terms of popularity.  Maybe Red Lobster has been around for long enough that it’s simply run out of steam.  It happens.  Especially in the food industry where tastes change and what’s cool one day is replaced by the new cool thing down the street the next day.

Simply put, I think Red Lobster is going to continue on the downtrend.  I just don’t see how different pricing or plate arrangement is going to change that.

Readers, what do you think?  Is Red Lobster a brand that can be revived or is it a brand that has run its course?  What do you think about the new approaches?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Trans Fats: When Zero Plus Zero Equals Heart Disease

Eliminating trans fats from food seemed to be the ‘big thing’ at the end of the 2000’s and the first part of the 2010’s.  And, if you look at most labels, you’d think that we were fairly successful at this.

Except you would be wrong.  Read on.

What Are Trans Fats?

mb-201311nutritionTrans fats are produced by hydrogenation, which is the process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.  The reason for doing this is to make the oil last longer.  Without hydrogenation, the oil would break down sooner, meaning the products in which it’s contained would not last as long.  So, the long and short is that hydrogenation was a pretty standard practice.

Why They’re Bad

This didn’t seem like any big deal except when it was discovered that hydrogenation was directly responsible for increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and heart disease.  Long story short, trans fats are terrible for you.

Where were they?

Pretty much everywhere.  Cookies, baked goods, chips, really anything containing oil that had a long shelf life were all fair game.  In addition, fried foods were often culprits,

Once this correlation was discovered and the alarm was sounded, there was a big wave to get rid of them.  Cities started banning them in foods.  Article after article was written.  The FDA even got in on the game and changed product labeling standards so that trans fat contents were disclosed as part of the standard nutrition label.

The FDA to the rescue…or not?

The new labeling went into effect a few years back and made ‘Trans Fat’ one of the items that was required in addition to calories, fat calories, sodium, and other items which are pretty standard.

I remember seeing a lot of the new labels and noticing that items contained trans fats.  Then, it seemed, one by one, products started getting re-formulated to where the Trans Fat listing was 0g (zero grams).

Understandably, they’d even tout this on the front of their product ‘Now Trans Fat Free!’

Except in many cases it’s not true.

See, the FDA allowed rounding.  And, they allow rounding down, so that if a serving of food contains anywhere less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, they can say that it has none.

What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that any amount of trans fat is bad.  It’s not like you can consume 10 grams per day before it starts being bad.  Even a gram or two per day increases the bodies chances of having higher cholesterol and heart disease.

Meaning, it doesn’t take long for a few servings of food that each have, say, 0.4 grams of trans fat, to add up into unhealthy levels.

All the while, people are eating them, oblivious to the fact that they’re harming their bodies.

What To Do?

Right now, you can see through the lies by looking at the ingredients list.  If you see anything that contains the word ‘Hydrogenated’ in any form, then there are trans fats in that product, regardless of what it says on the nutrition label.

You should probably assume that most fried food contains trans fats as well.  Even though many fast food makers ‘eliminated’ trans fats from their fries and other foods, they still contain enough trace amounts that it should be assumed you’re eating them.

How This Should Be Fixed

I believe that the FDA made a big error when they allowed for this loophole, especially given how little it takes for trans fats to cause health problems.  Honestly, the only way a product should be allowed to have a 0 g (zero gram) listing is if it contains none at all.  If it’s anything less than the 0.5 gram threshold, then it should have to be noted as such.  Manufacturers will complain that it’s hard to measure with accuracy at those levels, but even if the label read <0.5 grams (less than 0.5 grams), it still alerts the consumer that there are trans fats in the product.

This is important.  While I believe that every individual is responsible for their own health and understanding the things that they put into their body, this is so important that I don’t think that the current standards are inadequate for this product.

Think of it this way

Trans fats are a problem.  If they eliminated 90% of the problem but the other 10% is still causing problems, then the labeling should not allow the 10% remaining to stay in existence.

I’m making up those numbers, but I hope I’m also making my point.

Readers, do you look beyond the Trans Fat listing on the nutrition labels and into the ingredients list to get the true reading?  Did you know that this loophole is out there?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Identify Clever Marketing Ideas To Stand Out

A couple of months back, we saw a Groupon for a local frozen yogurt place that had recently opened.  We looked into it and found that the prices were about the same as a couple of other places we’d recently visited and enjoyed.  They operate under the ‘new’ model where you pay by the ounce, so you get as much yogurt as you want, put as many toppings on as you want, and pay at the register based on the weight.

The Groupon was for a $40 gift card that you would pay $20 for, effectively giving you a 50% discount.  Even though we hadn’t been to this particular establishment, we took a chance.

When we went in for the first time, it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t spectacular.  The first thing that I noticed was that it was very small.  They basically sublet a small space within a grocery store, so this was by far the smallest frozen yogurt place I’d been into.  They had three machines, each that dispensed two flavors, or that you could swirl together by dispensing from the middle lever.

The yogurt was good.  The limited selection bugged me a little bit (as did the fact that they didn’t have crushed peanut butter cups as a topping that first time) but for the price, I was happy.

Both my wife and I became fans of them on Facebook, and a few days after we first went in, we saw a post that basically said that they were now serving nine flavors.  I didn’t think anything about this until the next time we were about to go in, when I wondered, just how did they offer nine flavors.  This didn’t make sense for two reasons:

  1. Most yogurt machines at these places have two bins per machine.
  2. This place was so limited on space I couldn’t see where they’d put another machine in without either re-configuring the space or having yogurt machines all over the store.

My question was answered when I went in and saw that things were just as they were.  They didn’t add any machines at all.  So how did they go from six flavors to nine?

mb-lightbulb201308They simply provided a ‘name’ to each of the ‘blended’ flavors on each machine, and I’ve noticed that they slightly modified what flavors go into each machine.

The first time we were there, they had chocolate and vanilla in the same machine.  The second time we went they had vanilla and blueberry in one machine, and the third flavor, which was just blending these together, was ‘Blueberry a la mode’.  They moved the chocolate over to a different machine, and when they added White Chocolate Mouse, they were able to combine these into ‘Chocolate Snow Storm’ as the third flavor.

I loved it.

They weren’t lying and they never actually presented it as we’re serving more flavors.  But, since they were using social media as an outlet, it allowed them to list nine flavors instead of six all while serving the same stuff they were before.

Think outside the box

How many of us are in the business of marketing ourselves?  The answer is that we all are.  Every time you apply for a job, or even go to your current one, you’re marketing yourself in a way.

Every time you meet someone new, whether it be a blind date, a new co-worker, a new boss, or anyone that you may interact with again in the future, you’re marketing yourself in some way.

This can be applied anywhere

Keep this in mind, and also think about the frozen yogurt place when you try to differentiate yourself in some way.  You don’t have to re-invent yourself. You don’t have to change everything.  Heck, as they showed, you may not need to really change anything except how you present yourself.

Think about this from a clothing perspective.  Do you need a brand new outfit, top to bottom, to stand out?  It would probably work, but maybe you just need one thing to make yourself different.  A new shirt.  A new tie.  A new scarf.  It can be simple yet it can add that extra ‘flavor’.

The yogurt place didn’t jump to the top of my favorites list as a result of their clever marketing shift, but they did win a little more appreciation on that second visit.

Oh, and the fact that they had crumbled peanut butter cups on that visit certainly helped, too!

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

As If I Needed Another Reason To Love Honey Maid Graham Crackers

Those who know me well know that I’m a kid at heart when it comes to food.  If there’s a food that kids love, chances are, it ranks on my list of favorites too.

When I get a night to myself and am responsible for my own dinner, I always reach for a box of macaroni and cheese.

Put a snack table out, and I’m all for the chips.

Bake twenty types of cookies and I’m going for the chocolate chip cookies.

And, one of my favorite snacks ever is a graham cracker.  I have them on hand at all times, and not just for making s’mores.  It’s also worth noting that while I will buy many items with a generic replacement, graham crackers are not on that list.  They must be Nabisco Honey Maids.  Originals, please!

I eat them so regularly that I know the exact configuration of the packaging.  Each box has three sleeves.  Each sleeve has nine crackers.  Each cracker has four pieces.  That’s 108 pieces of deliciousness in every box!

So, when I recently saw that the box had changed, I was not happy.  See, many people don’t know that changing the packaging design is a way to sneak in a change in the amount you get, and it’s never in your favor.  Most times, when you see words like ‘GREAT NEW LOOK, SAME GREAT TASTE’, what they don’t say is ‘NOW INCLUDES LESS’.

Though, that’s often the case.

So, I bought my Honey Maids, took them home, and immediately compared it to a box we had on the shelf.  I was expecting something to change, like maybe you would get eight graham crackers in a sleeve, or that they’d cut the number of pieces in each cracker from four to three, or some configuration where you’d end up with less.

It was not so!  The only thing that had changed was the box!  Each box still contained exactly what it did prior to their change.

Thank you, Nabisco, for resisting the urge to change your sizing at the same time you changed your packaging, for I’m sure it had to have crossed somebody’s mind at some point in the process.  Thank you very much!

Sincerely,

Money Beagle
a.k.a. The ‘kid’ who will love graham crackers forever

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Easy And Amazing Biscuits

You rarely see recipes or anything really to do with cooking on here, but this is one item I had to share.  These may be the best homemade biscuits I’ve ever tasted, and they’re so easy too.

Mrs. Beagle makes these.  What do they go with?  Anything!

You’ll need:

2 cups of Bisquick
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of 7-UP
1/4 cup of melted butter

What to do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450
  2. Melt the butter
  3. Mix Bisquick and sour cream
  4. Add the 7-UP to the mix.
  5. Sprinkle a little Bisquick onto your rolling surface.  Pat the dough out.  Don’t knead it or use a roller, just use your fingers.
  6. Pour the butter into a 9×9 baking pan
  7. Cut 9 biscuits into circles (or just place balls evenly around the pan)
  8. Bake for 12 minutes or until they turn light golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool for five minutes

For me, the hardest part is the last instruction.  It’s hard to wait even that long!

These are so simple that even I could do them!

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Is Paula Deen’s Goose Cooked?

By now, I’m sure everybody has heard about the quick and rapid fall from grace that has taken place with Food Network star Paula Deen.  Answering questions about a lawsuit filed against her, she admitted to having used racial slurs, which set off a wave of backlash that continued to build and build, until it was basically a rogue wave, wiping out everything in its path.  Namely, her career.

Pretty much every store or brand that she’s worked with has dropped her, including the flagship Food Network, but also restaurants that had her name on them, stores that carried her product, and pretty much everything in between.  The most comparable fall from grace I’ve seen for someone in her line of work was back when Martha Stewart fell apart and ended up in jail.

What Did Paula Do Wrong?

I think Paula Deen erred in three major ways, all of which had she done them differently, would have dramatically altered the outcome of her situation

  1. Not said the slurs in the first place – Obviously, had she never said what she said, there would be nothing to talk about.  I know everybody has said things that they regret saying, and if it’s true that she said them thirty years ago, I guess I’m surprised that she even remembers them in great detail.
  2. Acted nonchalant about them – When she admitted to having used the slurs, what made it exponentially worse for her was when she basically tried to play it off as not a big deal, and was not even sure that it would have been offensive.  I think the way that she addressed it (and the fact that her publicists did not get in front of it) was a major fail.  Had she admitted that she used the bad words, made a heartfelt apology, and explained her thoughts on equality, I think she would have come much further ahead.  As it was, when she finally did those things, they rang hollow after her initial comments.
  3. Waited too long to address it – After the tide started building against her, she waited a few days before addressing it and issuing apologies.  That’s forever in this day in age.  That allowed the buzz to grow and grow.  Had she issued her public apology days sooner, or appeared on the Today show when she was originally supposed to (the week prior), she might have had a chance.  As it was, every passing hour meant that public tide could build, social media could continue to eat away at her reputation, and executives could have boardroom meetings to discuss their future.  Time was not in her favor.

It’s been a swift and rapid fall from grace.

So, does she deserve to fall?

I see both sides of the story here.  On one hand, what she said is something that is insulting, deragatory, and in this day in age, is inexcusable.  On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that she’s the only Food Network celebrity that’s made such a mistake.  I really think that at this point, as much of her fall is attributable to the handling of the situation as it is to the initial situation which prompted it.

That being said, I personally think that she was sort of falling out of favor as it was.  Let’s face it, most people who knew anything about Paula Deen was that she was the queen of butter.  Any recipie she had included at least a stick of butter somewhere along the way.  At first, it was sort of fun, then it became kind of a joke, and then she announced that she had diabetes and was sort of backing away from all that decadence.

Which was great for her, but I think it changed what people knew her for, and she started losing interest.  Let’s face it, watching her melt pounds of butter into a cake batter was a lot more fun than using yogurt or something instead.

In other words, I think her brand was sort of fading.  Had this come out a few years ago when she was still the queen of butter, I’m not sure the fallout would have been as severe.  I think more of her sponsors might have stuck by her.

But I could be wrong.

Is she coming back?

I personally don’t think she’ll be back, for the combination of the reasons I sort of hinted at, namely that she was already past her peak of popularity, and second that the wave of negativity is probably too high.

That being said, who knows?  Mike Vick came back after his dogfighting scandal and subsequent prison sentence.  Tiger Woods came back after his huge fall from grace.  The biggest difference, again, is that those guys were still at their peak when they took their fall.  I think that will be the underlying difference.

Also, keep in mind that it’s probably easier to become a Food Network celebrity than it is to be a top athlete.  I’m sure there are a hundred women waiting in the wings with their sticks of butter who would be more than happy to take Paula Deen’s place.

It’s never easy to watch someone’s career derail in the public light, but at the same time, she made plenty of money over the years.  Hopefully she had the good sense to manage it wisely.

What are your thoughts on Paula Deen?  Is her fall from grace deserved and do you think her goose is cooked?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.