Chick-fil-A, Still Disappointing in 2017

img_20170127_091302Chick-fil-A is advertising more breakfast options. But in order to bring egg white grill to the menu they dropped the spicy chicken biscuit. Just like the way they stopped offering cole slaw when they introduced super food side salad. Chick-fil-A doesn’t add new menu items without taking something away. So you don’t really get “more items” you get “different items.” Because Chick-fil-A doesn’t want more customers, they want different customers.

The ad above, and the marquee sign out front, is pushing their line of English muffin sandwiches. McDonald’s has add the Egg McMuffin for years and recently added the low cal Egg White Delight. Chick-fil-A is copying McD’s menu hoping to attract McD customers. Chick-fil-A was better than McDonald’s but in order to compete has changed their business model to become the same as McDonald’s.

When Kentucky Fried Chicken introduced grilled chicken, to attract a more health conscious customer, they didn’t quit making fried chicken. Chick-fil-A was founded in Atlanta by good ‘ol boy Truett Cathy. Since his passing the powers that be have been slowly transforming the chain into something else. The egg white grill tested well in several markets including Manhattan. It was developed by the same north of the Mason Dixon Line kitchen manager that invented the super food salad; kale and “broccolini” replacing the same coleslaw that had been served by Truett Cathy for decades. Truett built an empire cooking fried chicken. The next generations of Cathy’s are determined to build… something else. And they’re building it out of kale and English muffins because they don’t want more customers, they want different customers. Healthier, snootier, Yankee customers. Because all those families that ate Truett’s food for so many years are no longer good enough.

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There Were Two Crowds in DC

screenshot-2017-01-21-at-12-17-03-pmI questioned the validity of these images when I first saw them but it turns out the crowd on the D.C. mall was somewhat smaller than Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. The images are real but let’s consider what we’re looking at and what it means.
1) Obama’s 2009 inauguration was historic. He was the first African-American president in American history. While many of us were not in DC pretty much the whole nation watched that ceremony.
2) The temps were in the 20’s but it was a bright clear day.
3) The 2009 attendance set a record at 1.8 million. Obama’s second inauguration in 2013 only drew about half that number, roughly 1 million people on the national mall. Obama did not get as many votes in 2012 as he had in 2008, and there was not as much talk about hope and change after his first four years in office either.
4) Trump’s inauguration took place in the rain. A final number of attendees has not been released yet and it will be hard to do without any satellite images available (because of the cloud cover).
AND FINALLY THE MOST SIGNIFICANT FACT:
5) Obama’s inauguration was a historic event attended by Democrats, Republicans and independent voters. 40 Congressional Democrats refused to attend Trump’s inauguration and there were huge crowds of protesters outside the secure mall area. Republicans didn’t do that in 2009. There was a huge crowd in DC for Trump’s inauguration but this picture doesn’t show the thousands of people who were breaking windows, setting fires and trying to cross police lines. There were two crowds in DC on January 20th, only the ones hoping for a brighter future and a better tomorrow are pictured above on the right. The other crowd is committed to seeing American fail, working towards that end, and then saying “See, we told you Trump would fail.”

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What the crap?

Saw this at Walmart today:

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I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t. I’m just passing through life, in this case my favorite retail giant, noticing things and making comments. This is my two cents worth. 

On the one hand, I know what this is. A few years ago some of us began using emoticons, regular keyboard punctuation marks combined to look like smiley faces and other images. : -D  As email gave way to texting and social media, the most common emoticons were coded to produce icons or animated graphics. 😀 The steaming pile of poo became an increasingly common way to say that an idea stinks or the person you’re talking to is full of it (to put it mildly). Text message and Facebook comment emojis spread to stickers, t-shirt designs, coffee mugs and now The Emoji Movie is coming August 4, 2017. The plush pillows are a marketing tie in. If there is a dollar to be made somebody will find a way to make it.

On the other hand, you can walk into your local Walmart and buy a pile of crap. Not just any pile of crap, a plush friendly looking one that kids will want because all the characters are made to look cute. This is a real product you can buy, geared toward adolescents and young adults. I think it says something about where we are as a society.

And don’t forget, it’s a pillow.

“Now I lay me down to nap,
place my face upon this crap.
If I die before I wake…”

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It’s Not Trump’s Flag

The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that burning an American flag was a protected first amendment right of free speech. A proposed amendment in 1990 to criminalize burning the flag fell short.

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So what are flag burners protesting? It must obviously be the United States. Burning a nation’s flag seems like a clear sign you hate that nation. But the protesters around Trump Tower are upset about Tuesday’s election results. The same flag would have flown over the White House if Hillary had been elected, and for that matter flies over the Obama White House presently. It’s not Trump’s flag. It’s the American flag, it’s our flag, and it symbolizes the freedoms and liberties that allow us to do things like vote in elections and march in protest. Why desecrate the very symbol of those freedoms? Imagine burning a Russian flag marching through Moscow or ranting about the Communist Party on the Internet from anywhere in China.

If you want to protest Trump, burn a red ballcap. But if you hate America enough to burn the flag it shouldn’t make any difference to you who becomes president. If you burn the flag today I can’t take you seriously the next time you raise the flag because some you like happens.

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Opinion: Self Driving Cars

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Uber self-driving cars use 24 cameras, 7 lasers and active radar to see the road, vehicles and other hazards.

Uber has just rolled out a pilot program in Philadelphia. Customers can request a self-driving car when calling for a ride. The program has spent 18 months in development and is being testing in Philadelphia because of the difficulties driving there presents. The city is not laid out on a typical grid and presents some “aggressive” traffic patterns. During this phase of testing the program, a driver will be in the car just in case a situation arises.

Only 48% of Americans polled are willing to give self-driving cars a try. That’s the detail I wish to focus on. I think that number will change as time goes by. I have no demographics on that statistic but I would bet you could see a definite trend if the data were broken down by age group. Consider: I am 40 years old and have a cell phone with me at all times.  I text, share pics, look up directions, etc. Young adults – 18 to 25 year olds – have grown up with smartphones as a regular part of daily life. There are exceptions, but people my parents age tend to use a cell phone only for voice calls. They do not text or use the internet features.

There was a time when spending cash or writing a check were the options for paying things. Sending a check through the mail was the default mechanism for paying bills. I would say the majority of people today swipe their debit card for daily purchases and either go online to pay bills or have those payments automatically drafted from their account. But my dad was something of a holdout from a bygone age. He did not use a debit card anywhere expect to make a withdrawal at an ATM. He didn’t trust direct deposit or electronic funds transfer of any kind. In my experience old people still write checks.

As new technologies emerge, it takes time for people to adjust and make them a normal part of our daily lives. Switching from check writing to debit card swiping, and from shopping in person to online, was a change some people were uncomfortable with and perhaps unwilling to make. Self-driving cars are totally new to all of us but in 20 years a generation of Americans will have grown up with such technology. As time goes by we will get over the shock of seeing driverless cars, the technology will continue to improve, and in the meantime a generation of older adults will die off. In a few decades the same poll will have very different results. Some may always have reservations about trusting a computer to do the driving; but in 50 years it will not be 50% of those surveyed.

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Third Party Candidates 2016

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are not the only candidates running this November. But who are the other candidates and why should we consider voting for them?

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New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is running on the Libertarian ticket. He is currently polling around 8% nationally. The Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, is polling at about 4%. Those numbers are actually impressive compared to previous national elections, which illustrates the fact that Americans and not impressed with the major party nominees. Neither of these people, nor any of the other dozen candidates whose name will appear on the ballot, will ever be elected president. You are entitled to vote your conscience, and more people will go rogue this year than ever before, but at the end of the day it will be either Trump or Hillary that gets elected.

The Republican Party has gone into full meltdown over Trump getting the nomination. Former Republican presidents were noticeably missing at the convention and GOP members continue speaking out on what seems like a daily basis. Here’s the truth from a purely pragmatic point of view: Democrats will vote for Hillary Clinton. Republicans will divide their vote between the Donald, vote for another candidate, or simply not cast a vote for president. The result will be Hillary Clinton gets elected.

I know plenty of people, and I mean Republicans and political conservatives, that don’t want to vote for Trump. I get that. Plenty of Americans will not be casting a ballot that probably thought that would never happen. But for me it all comes down to one question: Do you want Hillary to win? My conscience does not allow me to acquiesce to that. Your options, like it or not, is to let her have it or oppose her. Not voting will allow her to win. Voting for Johnson, Stein or Captain Kangaroo will allow her to win. And whether you vote your conscience, abstain from voting, or write in Jeb Bush, we will all be living together in Hillary’s America. She will select a cabinet, she will make appointments to the Supreme Court, etc. 

There will be three presidential candidate debates. Right now it looks like Trump and Clinton will be the only two on the state. Watch the debates. Listen to the claims and then do your own research. My advice is to find something about Trump you like. If Hillary wins I want to be able to say I did everything in my power to prevent that. And that includes encouraging people to vote Trump, whether I like it or not.


These are my opinions and I’m entitled to them. You can disagree with me in the comments if you so choose, but before you do know that I have already decided your wrong. If you want to push a third party candidate, you need to write a blog post. 

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To My Friends at Chick-fil-A

Let me start by saying I’m a longtime fan of Chick-fil-A. I worked at a Dwarf House during college and learned a great deal of the company’s history during that time. I have eaten at four different Dwarf House locations, including the original in Hapeville, as well as Truett’s Cafe in McDounah and the one and only Truett’s Luau in Fayetteville. I brought my whole family to Chick-fil-A appreciation day back in 2012 and encouraged all my friends to do the same.

Dwarf House 2

Truett's Luau, July 2016

Truett’s Luau, July 2016

I would estimate that 90% of my Chick-fil-A visits over the past two years have been during breakfast hours. And almost exclusively my breakfast item of choice has been the spicy chicken biscuit with a small coffee. I know from earlier this year, when the super food side took  the place of coleslaw, that Chick-fil-A doesn’t add a new menu item without doing away with an old one. I found out just yesterday, the hard way when I placed my order, that the new Egg White Grill replaced the spicy chicken biscuit. It is still available in 55 markets across the US but not in the Southeast, where I happen to live and the dozen or so Chick-fil-A locations I frequent are located.

The company published an article/ blog post that explains the Egg White Grill tested well in several larger markets, including Manhattan. Manhattan? That’s a long way from Hapeville. David Farmer is Chick-fil-A’s vice president of menu strategy and development. He and chef Ford Fry brought us the Superfood Side earlier this year, replacing many customer’s long-time favorite coleslaw with a “healthier, lower calorie” side dish made up of kale and broccolini.

I think Dan Cathy and company need to get rid of David Farmer as fast as humanly possible. Just a couple of years ago Chick-fil-A overtook KFC in the number one chicken spot based on annual revenue. Think about that; an Atlanta based restaurant that’s only open six days a week now outsells Kentucky Fried Chicken. And that happened before Farmer started adding low cal side dishes and breakfast items that tested well in Manhattan.

Let me suggest a menu strategy: Leave it alone. If David Farmer is interested in grilled chicken and kale dishes, let him moved to New York and open a restaurant. Chick-fil-A has a loyal and expanding customer base built on what they always done well, deep frying chicken and waffle fries. The pre-Farmer menu tested well in the Deep South for over 50 years. I don’t know if Dan Cathy is asleep at the wheel or quietly waited for his father to pass away so he could take the company in new directions, but one thing is certain: this would never happen if Truett were still alive.

I don’t hate Chick-fil-A and I can’t honestly say that I will never eat there again. But consider: A few years ago, I ate at Wendy’s about once a week. On a regular basis I would order a spicy chicken sandwich and replace the fries with Caesar side salad. Then they ruined the Caesar side salad. They didn’t get rid of it, they just took a delicious item on their menu and made it awful in every possible way. I wrote letters to corporate; blogged about it; asked friends to complain. They told me they were sorry but nothing changed. I never stopped going to Wendy’s but now I average once or twice a year when I take my family.

Consumer sovereignty works because companies desire to make and sell the products customers want to buy. Some corporations spend a lot of time and money trying to guess what consumers want next. Sometimes they guess right, and sometimes they build the Ford Edsel or Nehru jackets. In this case, they took away something the fan based loved and replaced it with something their ad guys keep trying to convince us we want. Egg White Grill is the Microsoft Vista of the food industry.

Chick-fil-A, you have built a successful business that appeals to the masses. If you want to turn that into a niche market of overpriced items that appeal to hipsters and millennials (i.e. Starbucks) there may not be anything I can do to stop you. But I’m asking nicely, please, listen to the voices of so many that miss what you were just one year ago. My FB posts about the spicy biscuit keep getting comments about coleslaw, bbq sauce and something about ranch sauce that I don’t quite understand. What are you doing? Why are you catering to new markets in the New England states and turning your back on generations of customers down South? Yesterday I was angry. Today I’m just sad. I loved you Chick-fil-A. I guess I’m going to miss you.

Clark J. Bunch
Plainville, GA

 

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