Will Covid-19 expose the ghost firms?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

    Demand for in-restaurant dining is likely to fall as well, though estimates vary. Since the average small business carries less than a month’s worth of liquid reserves, and the wait for a vaccine is likely to be at least a year, many restaurants will simply be unable to survive the shrinking of the market.

    I call these places ghost restaurants because they are still walking around, so to speak, visible to us and listed on Yelp, but not really alive and without much of a future.

    In a few months’ time, a significant number of these ghost enterprises will be gone. My drive around Northern Virginia, rather than being rich with culinary choice, will soon become fairly desolate — and the overall economic landscape will indeed be much emptier.

What else in our current capital structure might qualify as “ghost”?

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Posted in Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Bailey's Crossroads, Centreville/Manassas, Crystal City/Pentagon City/National Airport, Economics of Dining, Eden Center, Fairfax, Falls Church/Seven Corners, Herndon/Reston/Ashburn/Chantilly / Dulles Airport, Leesburg/Winchester, McLean, Merrifield / Mosaic, Springfield, Vienna/Tysons, Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comfort foods make a comeback

    Comfort foods from big brands are seeing a resurgence, executives say, as consumers seek familiarity and convenience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Many shoppers have favored fresh and specialty brands over Big Food’s processed products in recent years, while others have opted for cheaper store brands. Now, the world’s largest makers of packaged foods say frozen pizza, pasta sauce, and mac and cheese are rising in favor as consumers in lockdown eat at home.

    Nestlé SA NSRGY 3.04% became the latest to detail the trend Friday when it reported stronger organic sales growth for the first quarter driven by Americans stockpiling its DiGiorno pizza, Stouffer’s frozen meals and Hot Pockets sandwiches. Baking brands like Toll House and Carnation also performed well, it said…

    Overall, U.S. store sales of soup rose 37%, canned meat climbed 60% and frozen pizza jumped 51% for the week to April 11, according to research firm Nielsen…

    “We’ve seen time and time again that big brands tend to do well when people are feeling anxious and under threat,” Chief Executive Alan Jope said. He added that he expects the shift to larger brands to last a couple of years.

I wonder how general this trend is. I have seen data that readers are buying more long classic novels, and I am struck by my anecdotal observations of satellite radio. I am driving much less than before (where is there to go?), but per minute it seems I am more likely to hear “Hey Jude” and “In My Life” on the Beatles channel than in times past. Who wants to go out for their periodic 20-minute jaunt and have to sit through 6:34 of George Harrison’s “It’s All too Much”?

Here is the full WSJ story by Saabira Chaushuri. As for food, I am more inclined to consume items that can be easily shipped and stored, and if need be frozen. That favors meat and beans, and disfavors fresh fruit and bread. Frozen corn is a big winner, as are pickles. The relative durable cauliflower and squash do better than some of the more fragile vegetables, such as leaf spinach. I am not desiring comfort food per se, but I do wish to cook dishes requiring a relatively small number of items (otherwise maybe I can’t get them all), and that does almost by definition overlap with the comfort food category.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Posted in American, Food Stores | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Pickles are underrated

You are going to be running to the refrigerator for snacks anyway, so why not make the most of it? Pickles are cool, fresh, delicious, and just the right size for snacking. At the same time, they are not too delicious, and they are pretty good for you, more so than say chips or candy. They store well too. I have been ordering from Number One Sons (kimchee too, and they deliver in my area), while one very smart reader (Alex R.) recommends Oregon Brineworks, especially the spicy ones.

Soon I’ll be turning to books and movies for your lockdown.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Posted in Eclectic, Favorites - Current, Fermented Food | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Support your favorite restaurant!

If you wish to support your favorite restaurant, and the American economy at the same time, perhaps consider buying a gift card from them? They get the money now and stay solvent, and you can cash in the card later, when conditions have returned to normal.

Best if you can do this on-line!

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Posted in Economics of Dining | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Which are the safest restaurants to eat in?

This is my subjective impression, not based on scientific sampling. Nonetheless, I think you should prefer cooked, hot food from a cuisine whose associated country already has had a traumatic experience with coronavirus. They will take the risk more seriously. You should avoid uncooked salads from lackadaisical countries that have been slow to respond.

In other words, I believe Chinese food is safest. Furthermore, entry restrictions have been on Chinese people for some time, so the chance that your cook or waiter picked up the coronavirus from China and is still carrying it is very small, whereas Italians have been free to come and go with no real questioning at the airport.

Chinese restaurants also tend to be in the suburbs, and they pack in the tables less closely.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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King of Koshary

King of Koshary, web site, 5515 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA, 571-317-7925 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | TripAdvisor | zabihah | Reddit | Arlington Now | Ylp]

Excellent fish dishes, from Alexandria (Egypt) and elsewhere. Very good marinade, the rice side dishes are some of the best rice in the area. The Alexandrian chicken and rice dish is to be recommended as well. Also good for sitting and talking – this place deserves to be much better known than it is. Very mom and pop, and attached to a butcher shop.

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A Taste of Burma

A Taste of Burma, web site, 126 Edds Lane, Sterling, VA, 703-444-8511 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

(Previous review (2006)) Excellent place, maybe the best Burmese around? As usual, in a Burmese place try some of the salads. The noodle dishes are excellent, especially the curry noodle with chicken. Then try the beef slow-cooked in coconut cream. Recommended, this place should be better known than it is.

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Posted in Burmese, Herndon/Reston/Ashburn/Chantilly / Dulles Airport, Virginia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lubbock, Texas notes

Hill BBQ is perhaps the best I have had — ever. It is open Thursday and Saturday only, get the burnt ends and beef ribs. Next in line is Evie Mae’s, better known on the barbecue circuit, but still mostly unsullied by tourists and so the lines remain manageable.

There is no real center of town, but you can visit the world’s largest windmill museum (it is windy there), a prairie dog park, and Robert Bruno’s self-constructed, funky Steel House on a nearby lake. There are Confederate memorials remaining by the main courthouse. You will see tumbleweed. There is a strange man walking around town with a tricolor hat.

The economy is cotton, health care, and Texas Tech at about 40,000 students. Buddy Holly was from Lubbock.

It still has a strong regional feel, much as say parts of the Dakotas do. The dinosaur displays in the museum are labeled “The Original Longhorns.”

I would go long on Lubbock: no NIMBYs (yet), the housing stock is rising in quality, they are opening an entertainment center downtown, and it could be the next Marfa but on a larger scale. What’s not to like?

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Balagger Ethiopian Restaurant and Bar

Balagger Ethiopian Restaurant and Bar, web site, Build America Plaza, 3813E S. George Mason Dr, F, Falls Church, VA, you have to go around the back, usually they open at 10 a.m. and close at 2 a.m., soccer on the big screen. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Ylp]

Probably the best Ethiopian restaurant of the entire lot right now. The best yellow lentils. The yeyashe kitfo is currently my favorite Ethiopian dish in the area. It doesn’t even look like kitfo, it “feels” cooked, and tastes more like South Asian food than an Ethiopian dish. Very good breakfast entries, and some of the best injera. Consistent all around.

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Wang Dynasty

Wang Dynasty, web site, 4929 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD, 301-654-1188 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | TripAdvisor | Bethesda Mag | Ylp]

Run by the people who used to do Michael’s Noodles in Rockville, this place is easy to describe: “Good for Bethesda, not nearly as good as Rockville.” Voila! They have dry hot pot, dumplings, noodles, and many other dishes along Shaanxi and Sichuan lines. Again good for the area, but I would not make a special trip to eat here.

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Posted in Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Chinese, Maryland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment