The Lempert Report LIVE

Thanksgiving costs! Smartphones While Dining, #FoodNotPhones & the Rise of Tech-Free Feasts

November 20, 2023 Phil Lempert Episode 104
The Lempert Report LIVE
Thanksgiving costs! Smartphones While Dining, #FoodNotPhones & the Rise of Tech-Free Feasts
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered how the omnipresent smartphone is reshaping our dining traditions? Well, it's time to feast your ears on this episode of The Lempert Report LIVE! We're joined by Kathy Risch, SVP, Shopper Insights & Thought Leadership for the Acosta Group, who unveils some fascinating survey results addressing this very topic. Tune in as we chew over the generational tolerance for mobile devices at the dinner table and the surprising trend of tech-free feasts, especially during the holidays. 

But don't feel too stuffed yet, we're just getting started! We're also slicing into the world of food and retail, including Chick-fil-A's drone delivery service in East Brandon, Florida, and Amazon's game-changing concept, Amazon Fresh. Will this tech-meets-tradition venture be a hit or a miss? And with Thanksgiving hovering on the horizon, we'll explore the importance of switching off from the digital world and relishing the real one. So, prepare to have your assumptions roasted, your curiosities catered to, and your perspectives spiced up with this thought-provoking episode!

Phil:

Welcome to the Lempert Report LIVE. On today's episode, Thanksgiving prices and trends, a new look at meat and seafood consumption. Chick-fil-a goes airborne and, on the Bulls eye, can Amazon Fresh make it? On a programming note, based on input from you, our viewers, starting next week, TLR Live will be broadcast on Tuesdays. Same time, 11:30 AM Pacific/ 2:30 PM Eastern, and same places, just switching to Tuesday. So set your calendar. We have a special live #Food Not Phones report just in time for Thanksgiving. Acosta Group, an important partner in our #Food Not Phones initiative, conducted a consumer survey the role of phones at the dinner table which exposed significant cell phone use during family mealtimes, but found that cell phones are not welcome at the holiday table. Joining us is Kathy Rich, SVP of Shopper Insights and Leadership at Acosta Group, to tell us more. Kathy, welcome to the Lempert Report LIVE.

Kathy:

Great. Thanks so much for having me, Phil.

Phil:

So tell us, what did you find out?

Kathy:

Yes. Well, we conducted this survey just a couple of short weeks ago among our shopper community of consumers across the US, and we wanted to get an understanding of how people are actually sitting down at the table together for mealtime and the role that phones play. So, on this first slide, I just wanted to share with you my favorite insight from the entire dinner study, which essentially tells us that the family mealtime is a lot of while in the US. So this is great news that 64% of US households are actually sitting down for mealtime, for at dinner, together to share in the meal. And that's even higher among households with kids at 77%.

Phil:

So one of the things that really has happened over the past 10 or so years is FMI, with their Family Meals Initiative, really highlighted the fact that people weren't eating together and, because of their campaign and retailers throughout the nation and folks like Acosta Group getting behind it, it looks like we've been able to turn people back to the dinner table and family time. I know, Sally, you guys do that right?

Sally:

We do, and that is so great to hear that 77% with kids are experiencing a family meal time. So what a great campaign that FMI put together and it's good news to hear that we are doing that.

Phil:

So, Kathy, what else did you find?

Kathy:

Yes, and I do want it to mention one more quick thing, that I do believe that the pandemic and its time together and home the first time we had at eating meals at home is is responsible for a lot of the the behavior that way, and so it's just very encouraging to see how much households are still sharing meal time now that we're post pandemic.

Phil:

So even more important than ever, absolutely.

Kathy:

Yeah, yeah, definitely. One of the other things we we asked consumers about was just how they feel, or actually just asking about how they feel about phones being used at the table during meal time. So we're here to talk about, you know, the usage of phones and how much it's done, whether they like it or not, and this was just literally to find out how do you feel about the usage of phones.

Phil:

Kathy, let me interrupt. I'm not going to tell you how I feel, but I have a feeling that the way I feel and the way Kathy feels, and the way Tony feels about this, we're all going to align with what you found from the Acosta group. You know, consumer panel of, I think you've got over 40,000 people. So what did you find out about how people feel when people use their phones at meal time?

Kathy:

Well, most don't like it and, interestingly, the 42% feel that it's just downright rude, and so it's just very interesting. But I would like to call up the key difference here is by age. So it's much more accepting the younger the consumer, versus the older. So if you look at just the numbers on the page here, that only 23% of gents the feel that it's downright rude, whereas you have a much higher number with the older boomers. And it's just to show you that as the age got older, the tolerance and appeal definitely dies down.

Phil:

So, Sally, don't you think that a lot of that has to do with whether it's Gen Z or Millennials or Alpha. I mean, they've grown up with phones, we didn't, so as a result, we're probably a little less tolerant. What do you think?

Sally:

100% Phi, and it's not surprising to me that the younger generations want to have those phones. They want to be connected. All of the time they're tapped into their social media profiles. They like to take pictures. They like to take pictures of their food, so I can see why these younger generations are telling us that they're okay with it, but the older generations are 'no, let's put them away'.

Phil:

And, Kathy, I love the fact the way you worded this, the survey that 23% of generation says it's rude and 58% of boomers say it's rude. So you know, I love that. You're hitting it. You're hitting it strong for us.

Kathy:

Great. Well, yeah, now that we know how people feel about the usage of phones and kind of the mixed feeling that I talked about, we did also ask about just how much our phones I'm sure that's what everyone is wondering now is how much our phones actually used during the occasion, the middle time occasion where they are eating with others at the table, and a majority of the country has that happening, at least some of the time. Now it's not all of the time, as you can see from our numbers, but good majority of the time there is. They'll say that on occasion phones are being used, but you can see how much this does, again vary by household. That we spoke to Gen Z and Millennial household versus the older Gen X and then especially the boomers, and the actual occasions where there's phones used at the table is dramatically different.

Phil:

So what did you find out specifically about Thanksgiving?

Kathy:

Yeah, this is exciting with Thanksgiving coming up, that we knew that this was a very different meal time than the average typical week. So we wanted to understand how phones would be used and if there would be any rules. And, interestingly, almost 40% of household are actually not going to allow phones at the table at all for intent. And so that is a very interesting nuance that already ahead of Thanksgiving, they're planning to set that policy and that rule and not allow phones during that Thanksgiving meal.

Phil:

And any other insights about Thanksgiving?

Kathy:

Well, one thing, we always had a kids table.

Phil:

So we did to.

Kathy:

A large gathering. So you also had a table. Sally, did you have a kids table?

Sally:

We did have a kids table. It was in the garage.

Kathy:

So you had one. Among households with kids, 36% will be having a separate table for the kids. So I think that has a lot of implications. As we talk about phone usage at the table and we talked about four in 10 having a rule of not allowing phones at the table I think there's a whole other dynamic of will the kids table have a different rule than the adult table? Will there be a universal kind of understanding? I guess I kind of envisioned a lot more phones being used at the kids table than when I was growing up.

Phil:

So, athy, what comes to mind is when I was younger obviously pre-cell phone days it wasn't an issue about cell phones at the kids table. The reason for the kids table was one that we wouldn't annoy our parents, and number two, cause they had wine and they didn't wanna give us wine. So I think that's the difference. Kathy, kathy, thanks for all your valuable insights. Kathy's gonna stay with us, so stay tuned for our Q and A at the end of TLR Live, and Kathy will be back to take any questions or anything more that you're looking for. Now for the complete survey, just go to FoodNotPhones. com, scroll down and you have the whole Acosta Group presentation right there about everything that they learned about cell phone usage at mealtime. So thanks for supporting #FoodNotPhones, Kathy, this Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, our first insight. So, Sally, when I look at what's going on at Thanksgiving, according to the Farm Bureau, thanksgiving costs are down. This year it's down to $61.17 for a meal. We'll get to that in a second. Last year we're $64.05. The drop is mostly because the price of turkeys has dropped 22%. USDA says we've got about 220 million turkeys this year. Last year, if you remember, the price was up because a bird flu killed about 60 million birds. But what I don't understand is American Farm Bureau has been doing this for 38 years. So a feast for 10 people $61.17, and what it includes turkey cube stuffing, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, frozen peas, fresh cranberries, celery, carrots, pumpkin pie mix, pie shells, whipping cream and whole milk. How do you buy all that stuff for $61? I don't get it.

Sally:

It does seem difficult to meet that price point with all of those things on that list, and I think it varies. They've reported that it varies from region to region, the North being more expensive, the West being the second most expensive, and then the South and the Midwest being the lower cost areas.

Phil:

So when I look at what's going on in the supermarket world ,and we predicted this probably a month ago, after we saw Walmart's announcement, Costco's announcement, Aldi's announcement of what they were doing for Thanksgiving. Now BJ's is offering customers a free butterball turkey if you spend at least $150, Shop Rite, you have to spend $400, and you get a free turkey. Up to 21 pounds. Giant supermarket you can convert 400 membership points for a free turkey. I think that's really clever and it's something different than we've seen before as you relate to the membership and really ties into the loyalty program, target that we've talked about before. Thanksgiving meal basket to feed four for under $25, and also from casino. org. They did a survey and found that 84% of Americans and I don't believe this and later, when Kathy comes back, I'll get her take on this too, 84% of Americans are turning to fast food lanes to cut back on holiday costs. On Thanksgiving they did a Google trend analysis. They surveyed 2,000 Americans and they found that McDonald's reigned as the number one Thanksgiving takeout order. Sally, how many people do you know go to McDonald's for Thanksgiving?

Sally:

Zero and it's really sad to hear that. I don't want anyone to eat at a fast food restaurant on Thanksgiving day and you know I wanna tell anyone. Considering that the Target deal that they've got going is for $25, you can get enough food to feed a family of four and that's gonna include a 10 pound turkey, a five pound bag of potatoes, it's gonna include green beans and cream of mushroom soup, so you can make that green bean casserole that everybody loves and it's such a tradition. You also get cranberry sauce and you can get stovetop turkey stuffing mix and some gravy to go with it. So all of that you can get for $25. If two people go to a fast food restaurant on Thanksgiving day, they're going to spend $25.

Phil:

You're right, absolutely. I will take issue with one thing you said, though I happen to love green beans, I happen to hate green bean casserole. It has never, I'm not a casserole person, and green bean casserole just doesn't work for me, but whatever. So a new report has just come out from USDA that talks about meat consumption. That US meat consumption has increased 24% since 1975, but that's not the whole story. What's the whole story here?

Sally:

Well, the whole story, Phil, is that, even though meat production we're seeing that, though up it doesn't necessarily reflect our meat consumption, we're seeing that a large portion of this meat that is being produced is going to pet foods, which we have more pets than ever, so a lot of that is going into pet food, and then another large portion of it is being wasted.

Phil:

Yeah, and it really points out. When we look at numbers, and whether it's Nielsen numbers, whether it's USDA and BLS data and so on, we really have to dig deeper. So many people just log on, they pick a number and in this case we're looking at USDA production. It's not about consumption and there's a huge difference there and it's really important for us to point out that difference and when we look at data to be able to understand what we're really talking about. So they're saying 24%, but they're also saying that because of population growth, meat consumption has increased by 17% between 1970 and 2022. Huge difference. And you point out the whole pet food category, which uses 5.1 million tons of meat every year. That's about two billion farm animals and 25% of retail meat. 39% of seafood ends up in the trash bin. That's over 15 pounds of animal products in restaurants or wind up in our home garbage. So we've really not only got to look at these numbers, but the other thing that's really important for us to understand is that when people are looking realistically and I'm talking about more marketers than anybody else at these numbers, we tend to have a false sense of security that oh yeah, look, meat production is up and meat consumption is up, so we've got to temper that with reality, which is why there are people out there like Kathy, who can really hone in on those numbers and give us accurate information. So understand that when we see this data, we've got to go a step further. One thing that I really applaud and we had interviewed years ago at the beginning of Afresh their CEO and co-founder and they're really going full steam ahead helping with the waste problem and the latest announcement comes from Albertsons and their effort to reduce food waste has been by 2030, to have zero waste, and Afresh is helping them do that. So tell us a little bit more about Afresh and what they're doing.

Sally:

Yes, this is fantastic to hear. They are specifically focusing on AI-powered technology to manage ordering and inventory throughout their chain and they're going to use this technology so that they are not wasting meat, they're not wasting seafood, and this is an area where we are seeing a lot of waste. So it'll be great to see if this really helps out. Albertsons and maybe some other supermarket chains can apply the same technology.

Phil:

So it's really important that we all work together as an industry to be able to reduce that waste. And also, when we reduce the waste, there's more people, there's more food out there for people who are in need and hungry. So the next story that I want to talk about, I think, is absolutely absurd and, selle, I don't know if you're gonna agree with me or not on this, but I happen to admire and really like the food from Chick-fil-A. I think they do a really great job. If you look at their numbers, they do about double the average that a McDonald's do, and they're not 24 hours a day. They're closed on Sundays. But they've come up with this latest PR stunt for lack of a better word in East Brandon, florida, where they have Chick-fil-A delivery and they're delivering by drones. How stupid is this?

Sally:

Well, we here in the South I'll tell you, Phil, we agree, we love our Chick-fil-A here in the South and, yeah, there are a lot of great things to celebrate about Chick-fil-A. One, they have a reputation for treating their employees really well. They hire a lot of young people and are very motivating for young people working with them. They do a great job with their drive-through. They have people outside at your car window taking orders and payment, so you don't have to individually wait to pull up to a payment window and then one to get your food, so they do a really good job getting people through that drive-through. Now, drone delivery I'm not sure we need this. I mean, it sounds kind of fun to see it actually happen and you can go on their Facebook page and watch a video of this drone hovering over a grassy field and lowering someone's order with a cable all the way down. So it's neat and it's fun, but I'm not sure we need this. And I feel like Phil. There are a lot of other things that we as consumers need more Like. We need our food to be healthier or fresher. We need our prices the prices to be better. There are things that consumers probably need more than they do. Drone delivery.

Phil:

So, in all credit, Chick-fil-A has, over the past probably three or four years, been reformulating, making their products healthier, getting rid of a lot of preservatives and additives that were in them. So good for that. But I agree with you when it comes to the drone delivery. This is absurd and what I see and the video that I've watched repeatedly it comes down by cable, as you say, in a field, but I'm not sure how that really solves the problem that you've got to get to the field instead of going through the drive-through. But also what I see is if I was, if I was a different kind of person and I saw a Chick-fil-A delivery coming down on a cable and I didn't see anybody else around, I would run over there and like take the order, steal the order. Or if I was a kid I see the cable coming down I'd run over, I'd hold on to the cable so that the drone pulls me up.

Kathy:

So you can take a little ride, or I just pull down the drone.

Phil:

I don't know, but it's an interesting idea. We've talked about drones for a while for delivery, for food delivery. I just don't get it. I never will. I don't think it's realistic, I think it's dangerous. I think that if, in fact, drone delivery for food or fast food becomes pervasive, we're going to have more problems than anything else. So thanks, sally, and to everybody else, stay tuned, because Kathy's going to come back with us right after the Bullseye. So on the Bullseye. Amazon Fresh stores, was supposedly an innovative concept from the tech giant Amazon, representing a significant evolution in retail grocery sector. The journey of Amazon Fresh Doors is remarkable, combining cutting-edge technology with traditional retails to redefine the shopping experience. But neither Amazon, nor the industry, nor shoppers have been bowled over by its success. Let's take a step backward. Amazon Fresh began as an online grocery delivery service back in 2017, initially available in Seattle. This moved marked Amazon's entry into the fresh grocery segment, complementing its existing vast range of products. In 2020, amazon opened its first physical Amazon Fresh Store here in Los Angeles. This move was seen as a bold foray into brick-and-mortar retail, a sector traditionally dominated by established supermarket chains. I was there at the store, wrote about it then and, frankly, while there were some interesting and cool features. Overall, I was underwhelmed and pointed out its flaws at the time. Today, the 44 Amazon Fresh stores are distinguished by their integration of advanced technologies, notably the Dash Cart, one that I think has a huge potential. It's a smart shopping card equipped with sensors and a touchscreen, and allows shoppers to avoid checkout lines. Now these cards automatically scan the items as customers add them to their cards. It enables a seamless checkout process and it allows retailers to get rid of those dreaded self-checkouts. Then there's the Amazon Go technology and the Ask Alexa-enabled kiosks. Amazon Fresh has faced a lot of challenges the high costs associated with technology implementation and concerns over data privacy and job security in the increasingly automated retail environment. All these have been points of debate. No one questions the integration of AI and machine learning can further streamline shopping experiences, and Amazon continuous investment in logistics and supply chain efficiency is key to escaping those. But Amazon forgot one thing the human shopper. So according to Claire Peters, who's the vice president of retail and a veteran of Woolworth's supermarkets in Australia, Amazon Fresh is getting back to supermarket basics. Better and warmer in-store aesthetics, more colorful signage, better lighting, more in-store displays, more prepared food, more baked goods. In fact, they've added over 3000 SKUs to what he says rounds out the shopping trips, adding more snacks and more health and beauty products. Of note is that they're downplaying the Amazon logo, which, in the Woodland Hill store here in California that I first visited, was glaringly prominent. In fact, it shouted Amazon, much to the sagram of many shoppers that I've spoken to. Amazon stands for efficiency, tech, low prices not necessarily the winning formula for a food retailer. Those stores that have created an environment that underscores your relationship between the retailer and the shopper folks like Wegmans, publix, hivee, rayleigh's, gelsen's, schnook's I could go on and on those are the ones that the Amazon Fresh team need to be visiting and emulating. Amazon originally projected thousands of Amazon Fresh stores across the nation in a decade. Three years in, it's doubtful that they can achieve that goal, but getting back to basic supermarket merchandising and trying to understand the human shopper needs in an era where people are seeking a relationship with their local stores is a good step in the right direction. So, Sally, any Q&A for us or for Kathy.

Sally:

We do have a comment from John Pandol that I wanted to share about the Food Not Phones story. He says any best practices on when and how to enforce the no phone zone. A phone check doorman pass the hat and everyone surrenders their phones. How about honor system everyone turn off their phone, as opposed to physically surrendering the phones or a fine jar if your phone goes off.

Phil:

So let's bring back Kathy and Kathy, what do you think about John's suggestions there? Any to add?

Kathy:

Yeah, I'm more of the kind of honor system turn the phones on mute and face down and not in hands, versus having to hand them over. I think that causes some tension for some people, that they're just uncomfortable not having it near them. So that would be my vote.

Phil:

So, Sally, what are you guys going to do around your Thanksgiving table?

Sally:

Well, I like the phone basket idea. There's the counter really close by our dining room table, and I'd like to see a basket up on that counter and when mealtime starts those phones go in that basket.

Phil:

And for me I'd like to just smash my phone. In general, I don't need a Thanksgiving or any other time. So thanks everybody for joining us. Kathy, thank you so much for taking the time sharing the survey, producing the survey, looking at all the data and really sharing it with the whole industry. So thank you, thank Acosta Group for doing it and, to all of you, happy Thanksgiving and we'll see you back here next Tuesday. Don't forget, have a great turkey day.

Thanksgiving Prices and Phone Usage
Drone Delivery and Amazon Fresh Challenges
Thanksgiving Table Plans and Phone Basket