Do You Know What Your Employees Are Doing for Thanksgiving?

Mortgage Rates Fall Again. Panic-Buying Has Resumed. And One Reason Capitalism Isn’t Polling Better

THANKSGIVING

As Covid cases continue to surge, employers are asking employees to stay home and keep celebrations small: “Bosses say they worry family get-togethers could lead to more infections in workplaces and staffing crunches—though employment law limits how much say companies have on workers’ off-duty time. Those legal restrictions haven’t stopped some companies from taking measures to encourage employees to limit their Covid-19 exposure over the holiday and to safeguard workplaces. Some are offering workers paid time off for potential post-Thanksgiving quarantines, while others are asking employees to sign pledges stating that they’ll keep celebrations small.” READ MORE

For those planning safe Thanksgiving gatherings, Zoom is lifting its 40-minute limit: “Normally, the platform offers free meetings for a maximum of 40 minutes (participants can then simply start another free meeting -- making it the most popular choice for video conference on the market). Paid plans range from around $150 to $200 per year for unlimited meeting minutes. The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on small gatherings during the holiday season.” READ MORE

OPPORTUNITIES

Europe’s businesses learned to stay aggressive during their first lockdown: “While the current round of restrictions is expected to cause the euro-area economy to shrink this quarter, they’re less severe than the blanket lockdown imposed in March. The wide usage of masks, better testing, and social distancing rules are allowing more businesses to stay open. ... In Brussels, Laurent Gerbaud was determined not to be caught out again after his downtown tea room had to close during the initial outbreak. His plan amid the pandemic-induced recession was simple, if unexpected: expand.”

  • “With fewer tourists and office workers in the city center, he opened a second shop in a residential neighborhood to capture more business from the work-from-home crowd, responding to one of the big changes of 2020, and one that may persist.” READ MORE

Brooklyn Dumpling Shop is franchising a modern take on the automat: “The partnership with franchise developer Fransmart could extend the brand to 1,000 North American locations and ‘25 mass gathering areas’ around the world, said Fransmart CEO Dan Rowe in a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The restaurant has yet to open a location, but has been generating buzz for months about its ‘zero human interaction’ experience. Customers order via phone or in-store kiosk, receive a notification when their dumplings are ready, and pick up their meal from temperature-controlled cubbies accessed by scanning a code on their phone.”

  • “The kitchen will operate using technology from Miso Robotics, maker of automated fry cook Flippy.”

  • “The menu features 32 dumpling varieties along with spring rolls, beverages and desserts. A ‘dumpling lab’ in the front window will show the dumpling-making process.”

  • “The first unit will open in Manhattan next month.” READ MORE

While independent restaurants struggle, chains have the capital to adapt: “At Chili’s and Maggiano’s, the buzz is about their booming new side hustle—It’s Just Wings. Same at Applebee’s, where its startup, Neighborhood Wings, is doing a brisk business. Both are online-only ventures that the chains quickly set up in hundreds of their kitchens—fresh takes on a business that the industry likes to call digital restaurants. The push into this model was tepid for years, but the pandemic created an urgent scramble to find new customers and put idle kitchen staffs back to work in a bid to revive a sector among the hardest hit by months of social-distancing and rolling lockdowns.”

  • “Chili’s and Maggiano’s, both owned by Brinker International, launched It’s Just Wings out of 1,000 locations in June. It’s already on pace to hit $150 million in sales in its first year, which would account for about 5 percent of annual revenue.” READ MORE

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GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

Treasury secretary Mnuchin has moved to cut off emergency lending: “In a letter to Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell, Mnuchin not only said that several of the programs would wind down at the end of the year, but he also requested that unspent money allocated to the Fed under the first stimulus effort, the Cares Act, be reallocated by Congress. However, the Treasury Department does not have the sole authority to reallocate the funds and would need to secure Fed agreement. The letter triggered a rare public statement from the Fed on Thursday evening. ‘The Federal Reserve would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue to serve their important role as a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy,’ the central bank said.”

  • “The decision to curb the Fed’s lending powers comes as new economic data signals the U.S. economy is being newly battered by a spike in coronavirus cases, triggering a new wave of government-ordered closures, restrictions and shutdowns.”

  • In a statement Thursday night, Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called for the programs to be extended and warned that ‘American businesses and workers are weary of these political machinations when they are doing everything in their power to keep our economy going.’” READ MORE

THE COVID ECONOMY

Mortgage rates have never been this low: “Mortgage rates fell to another record low last week, for the 13th time this year. The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 2.72 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That's the lowest level in the nearly 50 years of the mortgage giant's survey. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 2.28 percent.”  READ MORE

Home sales just hit a 14-year high: “October’s gains marked the fifth straight monthly increase and one of the best stretches for the housing market in several years. While home sales showed some signs of life before the coronavirus outbreak, they are running much hotter now. ‘In the pandemic, nothing has been more surprising—positively surprising—than single-family housing,’ said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. As more Americans are working remotely, he said, ‘this is a fundamental shift in underlying housing preferences.’”

  • “Some families are leaving large cities or other crowded living circumstances in response to Covid-19.”

  • “They have been willing to splurge on single-family homes despite a troubled job market and soaring home prices.” READ MORE

Panic-buying has resumed: “Consumers are panic-buying key items again as the coronavirus surges across the country — paper towels, disinfecting wipes, baking mixes and wine — but this time around, grocery chains and food manufacturers say they will be able to meet America’s urge to hoard and keep supply chains moving, even during the holiday season.”

  • “Boxed.com, a website that sells household products in bulk, says sales of essentials have doubled since last week, as shoppers stock up on cleaning and disinfecting products (up 134 percent from a week ago), baking mixes (132 percent), wine (126 percent) and toilet paper (123 percent).”

  • “‘People are hunkering down again,’ said Chieh Huang, the company’s co-founder and chief executive. ‘It’s not the Oh, my gosh, the world is ending panic we saw in early April, but we’re definitely moving in that direction.’” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

Starbucks is giving its baristas a raise: “Starting Dec. 14, baristas, shift supervisors and cafe attendants who were hired before Sept. 24 will receive a pay increase of at least 10 percent, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC. Employees who have worked at a company-operated location will receive an increase of at least 11 percent. And starting wages will be hiked 5 percent to help cafe managers find more staff.” READ MORE

Perhaps this is why capitalism isn’t polling better: “A wrongful death lawsuit tied to COVID-19 infections in a Waterloo pork processing plant alleges that during the initial stages of the pandemic, Tyson Foods ordered employees to report for work while supervisors privately wagered money on the number of workers who would be sickened by the deadly virus. Earlier this year, the family of the late Isidro Fernandez sued the meatpacking company, alleging Fernandez was exposed to the coronavirus at the Waterloo plant where he worked. The lawsuit alleges Tyson Foods is guilty of a ‘willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety.’”

  • “According to the Black Hawk County Health Department, more than 1,000 workers at the plant — over a third of the facility’s workforce — contracted the virus.”

  • “In a written statement issued Thursday afternoon, Tyson Foods’ president and chief executive officer, Dean Banks, said: ‘We have suspended, without pay, the individuals allegedly involved and have retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct an independent investigation led by former Attorney General Eric Holder.’” READ MORE

Episode 40: We’ll Find Something for Them to Do: Starting with a conversation about crucial hires Dana White and Laura Zander have made recently—an operations manager for Dana, a salesperson for Laura—we found ourselves exploring some of the great unresolved debates of entrepreneurship this week. For example, which comes first when hiring: filling specific needs or finding places for good people? With sales people, do you motivate by paying commission or build a team by paying salary? And in finance, do you bootstrap to maintain control or raise capital to grow faster? Dana and Laura tell us what’s been working for them.

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