As the country remains on the edge of its seat while focusing on developments in the presidential election:

  • The people voted on new legislation for workers and new leadership in Congress.
  • Foodservice operations, retailers and brands continued to adapt to a new normal.

“Imagine this. It’s February. We have a vaccine in place. We’ve distributed a couple hundred million of them. Everybody’s coming back out to restaurants. They’re reengaging socially. Confidence is building. And we have 40% less capacity as an industry. That’s boomtown.”

Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer (Food & Wine)

Still Counting …

While the presidential race sorted itself out, influential figures concentrated on other outcomes of Election Day.

  • Voters in California passed Proposition 22, allowing food delivery platforms to continue employing workers as contractors. The Associated Press noted that unions and companies spent a record $225 million campaigning about the measure.
  • DoorDash CEO Tony Xu celebrated the vote and reiterated, “We are committed to working with lawmakers across the country and in Washington to develop tailored solutions that reflect the 21st century economy.”
  • Although it is the 8th state to set a $15 per hour minimum wage, The Washington Post reported that Florida is the first to reach the milestone via a ballot initiative. The wage increase will be phased in gradually through 2026.
  • Service Employee International Union and Fight for $15 cheered the news, while the Florida Chamber of Commerce worried that higher wages will hurt the tourist industry’s recovery.
  • In Successful Farming, Chuck Abbott reported that agriculture committees in both chambers of Congress will have new leaders in January.
  • In case the connection between food and elections wasn’t clear enough, Google Trends shared that Wednesday’s top searches were: “1. exit polls; 2. live election coverage; 3. Chinese food near me.” You’d think that after 7 months of pandemic restrictions, people would already know the answer to the last one.

“When working people come together, they can affect real change everywhere all across our country.”

Mary Kay Henry, Service Employee International Union

Foodservice in Flux

With economic recovery uncertain, restaurants are scrambling to survive until government relief comes through or business demand increases — neither of which look promising in the near term. This week, corporate earnings, new menu items and dining best practices drove foodservice conversations.

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Heather Haddon underscored the significance of Inspire Brands’ plan to acquire Dunkin’ for nearly $9B, bumping the Arby’s owner up to the second-largest restaurant operator.
  • Food Business News covered Starbucks’ earnings call, noting a “double-digit comparable store sales growth” forecast, closure of 200 underperforming stores and the opening of 850 new stores in the Americas in 2021.
  • CNN Business reported Friendly’s filed bankruptcy for a second time, striking a deal with a hedge fund company to keep most of its 130 East Coast locations open and staffed.
  • Yum Brands credited digital sales across its portfolio and Taco Bell drive-thru performance for a Q3 sales lift (Nation’s Restaurant News).
  • McDonald’s assured customers, “The wait is over.” The McRib sandwich will return nationwide on Dec. 2.
  • The New York Times asked, “What will happen to America’s urban centers when the restaurants are gone?”
  • Eater’s Digest podcast topic this week explored the tenets of fine dining with the unpredictable constraints of outdoor dining.
  • The Washington Post offered safety tips when planning to dine out in popular dining bubbles.

Retail Recon

Retailers across the country continue to embrace trends like consumer interest in established brands, frozen foods, delivery and meal kits.

  • Stop & Shop injected some fun into its stores by dedicating a special aisle (in stores and online) to 1990’s favorite foods like Froot Loops, Uncrustables and Sunny D. The retailer bragged, “Dude, we’ve got more cereals than Jerry’s got in his kitchen.”
  • Supermarket News weighed the pros and cons of retailers enlisting the help of third-party online shopping partners.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Nassauer reported on Walmart discontinuing the use of robots to stock shelves, as employees have been better at collecting groceries for online orders.
  • Winsight Grocery Business interviewed Nestle Foods Division President John Carmichael, who said that frozen food has outperformed every other category, with frozen pizzas up 50% year over year. Further riding pandemic-related food trends, Nestle announced plans to purchase meal kit company Freshly on October 30.
  • Your donated change adds up at checkout! Triple Pundit reported that Albertsons’ stores collected over $9 million in September to donate to child hunger relief through its Nourishing Neighbors community relief fund.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Four More Years (of the Same Issues)

Civil Eats senior policy reporter Lisa Held posted a retrospective on President Trump’s impact on food and farming. There is no doubt Trump has left his mark on many food production issues, such as school nutrition and international trade to food safety and food security. The article reiterates, “Most of these issues will be on the agenda for the next four years.”

Them Apples

“This system can sort 11 or more apples per second with 100% sorting accuracy, superior grading repeatability, and no bruising damage,” said Gene Lester, from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, describing some of the ways the agency is collaborating with industry and academic partners to solve food waste issues.

Vertically Pricey

Financial Times dissected vertical farming, which has garnered a good share of attention from entrepreneurs and investors, and asked if the attention is “hope or hype.” There are a few downsides, according to author Emiko Terazono: “Businesses must pay for specialised labour and face huge electricity bills for lighting and ventilation, while having to offer competitive prices to attract consumers.”

Restaurant Rescue

Food & Wine interviewed Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer, who shared his thoughts and suggestions for the future of the restaurant industry. “The next thing that people are going to do after they get their vaccine is go out to dinner. So I suggest that come December, January, February — which is traditionally, based upon region, not the busiest time of year for us — I think we’re going to have a boom, hugely, first and second quarter.”

Land O’Pivots

In a November 2 podcast, Fortune’s Beth Kowitt explored Land O’Lakes’ strategy to spare its members from dumping milk this spring, as many dairy farmers did early in the pandemic. In an interview with Kowitt, Land O’Lakes Heather Anfang explained: “We had to really step back and look. It’s a bit of a puzzle — where’s the milk, where’s it going, and what are the products that are now most relevant. … If you’re selling butter to retail, you know that team is on fire.”