As e-commerce giant Amazon and major grocery chains across the country crowd into the meal kit service arena, it seems Blue Apron may be feeling the heat: The meal kit company announced Wednesday that it’s laying off 6% of its workforce as part of a companywide “realignment” effort. Several hundred employees will be realigned right out of the company, Blue Apron announced in a companywide email that it included in a recent filing [PDF] with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company says the realignment comes down to a reduction of about 6% of the company’s total workforce of around 5,000, both at the corporate offices and fulfillment centers. “A companywide realignment, like the one we announced, is always painful, and especially so for a close knit team like ours,” CEO Matthew Salzberg wrote in the letter, noting that company leadership and the board didn’t “take this decision lightly.” READ MORE: 7 Things We Learned About The Rapid Expansion Of Meal Kit Service Blue Apron “I want to assure you that we believe it was necessary as we focus the company on future growth and achieving profitability,” Salzberg adds. Things started to turn a bit sour for Blue Apron after its disappointing IPO in June, with stock sinking 17% in the first week after the offering. Things only got worse when Albertsons announced in September that it was buying Blue Apron’s rival, Plated.
Earlier this year, Ruby Tuesday revealed that it was exploring strategic alternatives — corporate speak for a sale — after experiencing continued declining sales and closing nearly 100 underperforming stores. Now, the company has settled on its alternative, a $146 million sale to private equity firm NRD Capital. Ruby Tuesday announced today that the chain will go private as it is acquired by a fund managed by NRD Capital, a firm specializing in franchised and multi-location business investments. Under the deal, NRD will pay $2.40/per share for all of Ruby Tuesday’s common stock, a 37% premium over Ruby Tuesday’s share price in March when the chain announced it was looking at alternatives. The deal, which is expected to close early next year, has been approved by Ruby Tuesday’s board of directors and NRD. It must still be approved by shareholders. “With a well-established brand, differentiated from other casual dining restaurants by its Garden Bar, we see significant opportunities to drive value for Ruby Tuesday,” Aziz Hashim, founder of NRD, said in a statement.
A Tough TimeRuby Tuesday, which currently operates nearly 600 locations, has seen sales dip in recent years. Back in March, the company announced sales had declined 4% during the third quarter. That loss is on top of declines the company reported in August when revenue declined 5.9% during the 2016 fiscal year, with same-store sales declining 3.7% over the previous year. Also in Aug. 2016, the company announced plans to close 95 underperforming locations as part of a “Fresh Start Initiative.” Performance at the targeted locations was not meeting exceptions, the company said. At the time Ruby Tuesday said it believed its Fresh Start plan will ultimately create long-term value for shareholders. Under the plan, the company says it will attract more women and young families, as well as increasing visits from current Ruby Tuesday guests.
We hate handing out tips to wannabe white-collar criminals, but if you’re going to use your job to steal millions of dollars in food, at least make sure you’re in the office to answer calls about your latest shipment of embezzled Tex-Mex arrives. An employee of the Cameron County, TX, Juvenile Justice Department stands accused of stealing some $1.2 million worth of fajitas over a nine-year period, reports The Brownsville Herald. How did he get caught? By being away from his desk. In August, a driver from a food service company that supplies the department’s meat called to let them know that 800 pounds of fajitas were on their way. Problem was, the woman who answered the phone had no idea what he was talking about. Not only hadn’t the county recently ordered any fajitas; they were never on the menu. That surprised the driver, who’d been delivering the fajitas for nearly a decade. The employee who’d picked the wrong day to be out of the office, returned to work, where he reportedly admitted to the long-running fajita theft. He was fired, then subsequently arrested. After checking documents from the vendor and the county auditor’s office, officials concluded that he’d allegedly swiped $1,251,578 worth of fajitas. “He would literally, on the day he ordered them, deliver them to customers he had already lined up,” District Attorney Luis Saenz told the Herald. “We’ve been able to uncover two of his purchasers, and they are cooperating with the investigation.” The county Juvenile Justice Department said it will be reviewing its policy in light of the crime. “The Juvenile Justice Department is working closely with the Auditor’s Office to institute procedures, controls and safeguards to avoid a recurrence of this type of situation,” Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Rose Gomez said in a statement. Saenz says the investigation showed a “total failure” of the chain of authority, and that someone should have caught this earlier. “If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit,” he told the Herald. “But this is the real thing.”
Last year Michael and I had the pleasure of traveling up to Camden to shoot one of our favorite Midcoast restaurants – Rhumb Line. We always try to time our meals at Rhumb Line on nice, warm days when we can grab a seat on the patio (dogs are welcome!) because the view of downtown Camden from the restaurant is one of the best in the areas. Although their daily offerings change throughout the season, I’ve never eaten at Rhumb Line and not ordered the crab claws. Michael is a huge fan of the blackened haddock fish tacos, and we always make sure to end every meal by sharing a slice of their tasty blueberry pie. Photos by Meredith Perdue.
Facebook wants to be your portal to the world. It’s where you can connect (in a sense) with others, keep up with current events (through the filters of you and your friends’ personal biases), watch videos (of people doing their versions of videos previously posted by others)… and also order lunch. Even though there are already a large number of popular apps and online platforms for food delivery, Facebooknow claims it has simplified the “complicated” process of ordering takeout or delivery through your phone by not actually hosting a single ordering platform, but by giving users single-point access to multiple platforms. Because people are already on Facebook to see what their friends say about restaurants and read about local eateries, the company says the move makes sense. The Order Food tool — located in the Explore menu in the Facebook app —combines options from food ordering services like Delivery.com or DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo, as well as restaurants like Five Guys, and Panera, Facebook says, and puts them all in one place. Once you’ve found what you want, you can select which delivery service you want to use, and order using an existing login or sign up from within Facebook. Reviews of local spots from your friends will also be available if you want to find out more about a restaurant before you order. People will be able to browse restaurants near them that take orders via Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow, Zuppler, EatStreet, Slice, and Olo. You can also order directly from nationwide chains including Papa John’s, Wingstop, Panera, Jack in the Box, TGI Friday’s, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Chipotle, Five Guys, and Jimmy John’s. The new feature is rolling out across the U.S. on Facebook for Android, iOS, and desktop.
When it comes to ice cream, everyone has a favorite flavor. But if you want to become a true ice cream flavor connoisseur, one expert suggests starting with a simple classic – vanilla — and building your tasting skills from there. Scott Rankin, a professor and the chair of the Food Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells Consumerist that it’s a great idea to become an expert on what a good vanilla ice cream tastes like by buying a pint or so of different products whenever you go to the grocery store. RELATED: What’s The Difference Between Ice Cream, Frozen Custard, And Gelato? Here are a few things to look for when you’re tasting ice cream at home.
1. Clean Flavor“In general, most good ice creams, including vanilla, have a very ‘clean’ flavor,” he explains. In other words: If you take good quality milk and dairy ingredients, they should have “virtually no aroma” after they’ve been pasteurized. Along with a robust vanilla flavor, the ice cream should have a a “little cooked flavor to it,” but that’s about it. If there’s anything extra to it — or it resembles the flavor of say, a sheet cake from a mix — it usually doesn’t reflect what Rankin considers a premium ice cream. Use the standard of good dairy ingredients, Rankin suggests, meaning it should taste nothing more like cooked, sweet milk. “That should be your golden standard.”
2. ComplexityLike “fine wine or a sophisticated beer” that tells a story, a good vanilla should have a rich bouquet — for example, fruity, raisin-like, or smoky — instead of monochromatic. “If it tastes like more wedding cake, like the sheet cake you get at a wedding” or somewhat like a can of frosting, that’s indicative of lesser quality products, Rankin notes.
3. WeightIce creams can vary “terrifically” by their weight, Rankin notes, so it’s a good idea to pick up that pint before you buy it: If it feels heavy, and then you grab another pint and it feels light, that means one likely has more air in it. In general, heavier pints will be reflective of higher quality. “If you put air into it, it makes it very light and fluffy,” he points out, which is not bad, per se, but “for that pint of ice cream, you’re buying a lot of air instead of ice cream.”
4. ColorVanilla ice cream mix is very, very white, Rankin explains, with the exception of ice creams that use a high level of vanilla extract , which can make the resulting product a bit more brown. Haagen Daz, for example, is a bit off-white because of the amount of vanill ain it. Even if you’re buying a custard that uses egg yolks or egg solids, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will make it yellow. In general, vanilla ice creams should be pretty white — the color of milk, essentially, and not yellow or butter-colored.
A local organization is stepping up to help put a turkey on the table for those less fortunate this Thanksgiving.
It may look like an ordinary package of salmon, but according to a new investigative report, that fish you bought for dinner may actually be funneling money into the pockets of the North Korean government, and possibly supporting less than ideal working conditions for factory workers in the process. The Associated Press says a recent investigation it conducted found that the North Korean government has been sending tens of thousands of workers into factories worldwide, including seafood processing plants in China that then export those products to the U.S. and other countries.
North Korean Workers In China’s Seafood IndustryAlthough it’s illegal for U.S. companies to sell anything from North Korea anywhere in the world, the fish at your local supermarket may still have been handled by a North Korean factory worker: As the AP explains, China and North Korea have an agreement that allows factories to contract for groups of North Korean workers. Dozens of fish processing companies in Hunchun, China — as well as other manufacturers — now employ workers from that country. Although the workers are reportedly paid salaries similar to what Chinese workers make, anywhere from 50-70% of the money they earn is reportedly sent to the North Korean government, with workers receiving as little as $90 per month. While the AP did not get access to factories in the area to assess conditions, its reporters found that workers often have contracts for two or three years, and they can’t leave early. And while Chinese workers have workplace protections that let them take time off, North Korean workers rarely take sick days or quit, the sales manager at one seafood processor told the AP. It’s not easy work, either, the AP reports, with shifts up to 12 hours and usually only one day off each week.
Who’s Importing This Seafood?After conducting dozens of interviews and researching trade records and other confidential documents, the AP says it has identified three seafood processors that employ North Koreans and export products to the U.S. And according to shipping records the AP viewed, those companies sent more than 100 cargo containers of seafood, with more than 2,000 tons of fish, to the U.S. and Canada this year. American distributors like Sea-Trek Enterprises and The Fishin’ Company both reportedly imported seafood from factories employing North Koreans. The Fishin’ Company told the AP it has cut ties with Hunchun processors, although food may remain in the supply chain for more than a year. Both companies expressed concerns about North Korean laborers to the AP, and pledged to investigate. Some seafood arriving from China was branded with names like Walmart or Aldi’s Sea Queen line. A Walmart spokesperson told the AP that the company learned in an audit a year ago that there could be labor problems at a Hunchun factor, and that Walmart has banned their suppliers — including The Fishin’ Company — from getting their seafood processed there. We’ve reached out to Aldi for comment on the AP’s story, and will update this post if we hear back. In the meantime, the president of the largest seafood trade association in the U.S. said his group is now urging all its companies to take another look at their supply chains “to ensure that wages go to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a dangerous dictator.” “While we understand that hiring North Korean workers may be legal in China,” John Connelly of the National Fisheries Institute told the AP, “we are deeply concerned that any seafood companies could be inadvertently propping up the despotic regime.”
To quote Sir James Paul McCartney (CH, MBE), “Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so / Can’t buy me love, no no no, no.” You also can’t, according to the Food and Drug Administration, list “love” as an actual ingredient in your granola. The FDA recently sent a warning letter to Nashoba Bakery in Massachusetts, reeling off a number of apparent violations observed during a recent inspection — including improperly cleaned mixing bowls and ingredient barrels; debris on various surfaces and items; indications of insect presence — but the one that jumps out involves the claim that the bakery misbranded one of its products by including a non-existent ingredient on the label. “Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient ‘Love.’ Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name,” the FDA warns. “‘Love’ is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient.” The chief executive of Nashoba says the FDA’s admonishment “just felt so George Orwell.” “I really like that we list ‘love’ in the granola,” CEO John Gates told Bloomberg, noting that customers ask what makes it so good, and it’s nice to say there’s love in it. “Situations like that where the government is telling you you can’t list ‘love’ as an ingredient, because it might be deceptive, just feels so silly,” Gates says. While Gates might have an understandable argument about the whole “love” thing, his company still has a lot of more serious offenses to answer for, per the FDA notice. As mentioned in the letter above, the letter cites instances of dirty mixing dirty mixing bowls and utensils and items with potential allergen contaminations. For example, a “crawling insect” underneath ready-to-eat foods in the pastry area, and “approximately five flies” in the ready-to-eat cooling area and processing area, “all near or on food.” The FDA inspector also noted that Nashoba “failed to have employees remove unsecured jewelry or other objects which might fall into food, equipment, or containers.” RELATED: How Did This ID Badge End Up In My Jerky? “This is an example of a company whose actions — or lack of actions — put their customers’ health at unnecessary risk,” an FDA spokesperson said in a statement to Consumerist. “The information about ‘love’ as a listed ingredient was included, but is not among the agency’s top concerns, and focusing only on that particular violation detracts from the multitude of serious violations reflected in this letter.” The FDA says it expects the company to “correct the serious violations found on FDA’s inspection, as noted in the warning letter.” The company plans to reply to the FDA and will comply with the agency, but Gates tells Bloomberg that some of the requirements “don’t sit right” with him.