Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Moody’s Bottom (Restaurant and Retail) Rung

bcbgMoody’s on Tuesday published its “U.S. Bottom Rung,” a list of companies that the corporate credit ratings agency thinks are at the most risk of defaulting on their debt. There are 283 companies on the list, which is current as of March 1, including the names of some beloved restaurants, retailers and food companies.

Why do this? The Wall Street Journal offers some possibilities:

“Sounds like Moody’s may be trying to get out in front on defaults, given they were perhaps a little behind on subprime mortgages and commercial mortgage-backed securities,” said David Resnick, managing director at investment banking firm Rothschild Inc. which works on many corporate bankruptcies and restructurings.

Moody’s and credit-rating rival Standard & Poor’s were criticized by the Senate in hearings late last year about the effectiveness of the ratings agencies.

The Journal also says Moody’s enters risky territory by naming some companies that say they are in, as the paper put it, decent fiscal health.

Check Out Line: America’s still got to eat


Check out those popular fast-food chains.

The recession might force consumers to skip meals at pricey restaurants, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting chains like McDonald’s.

Global sales at McDonald’s restaurants open 13 months or more jumped 7.7 percent in November.  Same-store sales rose 4.5 percent in the United States, where bargain hunters enjoy the Dollar Menu.  In November 2007, U.S. same-store sales rose 4.4 percent.

Check Out Line: Sales up at Burger King, profit misses view


Check Out Burger King missing Wall Street views but saying sales grew 12 percent worldwide, with sales at restaurants open at least a year up 3 percent in the United States and Canada.

Lower-cost fast-food chains have benefited in the economic downturn, while higher-priced sit-down restaurant chains like Applebee’s and Chili’s Grill & Bar have been hit particularly hard, as consumers slash discretionary spending to adjust to falling home prices, a credit crunch and higher food and fuel costs.

The Governator wants to slim you down


schwarzeneggerblog.jpgCalifornia Gov. (and “Terminator” star) Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday signed a law that would make the Golden State the first in the nation to require restaurants to post calorie counts and other nutrition information on menus.

The move from the nation’s most populous state is just the latest salvo in its war on obesity.

Less fried frozen fish, more endless shrimp


shrimp.jpgFrozen seafood is never as tasty as fresh, a problem Red Lobster, whose menu hosts various fried frozen fish dishes, is trying to overcome.

Following a quarter of disappointing sales at its Red Lobster restaurant chain, Darden is trying to change the ”perception that the menu at Red Lobster is primarily comprised of frozen seafood prepared in a fried manner and not having a lot of interesting innovation, flavor profiles, culinary expertise,” said Darden’s CEO Clarence Otis on a call with analysts.

Check Out Line: It’s a bad idea to raise the turkey you sell


turkey.jpgCheck out why Heinz didn’t suffer like Hormel did in the past quarter.

H.J. Heinz came in with a quarterly profit that beat Wall Street expectations, helped by price increases and new product sales, while Jennie-O turkey seller Hormel Foods saw its earnings dip.

Food companies have found it tough going as commodity costs shoot up, but Hormel was particularly hard hit. The reason? It raises the turkeys that it eventually sells — meaning spiking corn feed costs hurt its results. 

Check Out Line: How oil prices and consumers influence earnings


consumer.jpgCheck Out how the spiking price of oil and lifeless consumer spending are affecting more consumer companies.

Supervalu, whose chains include Albertsons and Save-A-Lot, didn’t see any increase in its total quarterly sales. Its food sales were actually down 0.7 percent, but the company saved itself in part with lower expenses, and reported a higher quarterly profit.

Tomatoes got you scared? Check out these Web sites


Food safety officials in the United States are still searching for the cause of a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 167 people in 17 states and is believed to be linked to raw round, plum and Roma tomatoes. 

If you want to see whether your state has reported a case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a site that shows the state-by-state breakdown.