Posts tagged with "COVID-10"

Pie in the sky: During pandemic, Home Run Inn churns out 80,000 frozen pizzas a day

June 8, 2020

In early March, Home Run Inn—the official pizza of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field— began building up its inventory of frozen pizza at its southwest suburban Chicago plant, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit home.

The family owned company was nonetheless unprepared for the surge in demand, as worried consumers loaded up on the stay-at-home staple before hunkering down for the foreseeable future, The Chicago Tribune reports.

“It was absolutely crazy,” said Nick Perrino, 33, who heads up the frozen pizza division for Home Run Inn. “The pandemic had people stocking up on frozen pizza, making sure they had product.”

-year-old pizza empire that grew from a single Chicago tavern, Home Run Inn operates nine restaurants in the city and suburbs, and a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Woodridge, Illinois. Frozen pizza generates about 75% of the company’s revenue, but with its restaurants limited to pickup and delivery since March, the balance has shifted even more dramatically.

Home Run Inn sells frozen pizza in more than 40 states and is the No. 12 brand in sales nationally, according to IRi, a Chicago-based market research firm. It is the number-one -selling frozen pizza in the Chicago area.

“If we could make double, we’d be able to sell double,” said Perrino, whose grandfather began serving pizza at the family’s Little Village tavern in 1947.

Home Run Inn went all in on frozen pizza March 16, shifting to a seven-day production schedule for its 130 line workers. The plant has been churning out about 78,000 frozen pizzas a day, up about a third from the pre-pandemic operation, the Tribune reports.

The company closed the plant for a day on April 6 after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. When it reopened, new protections were implemented including mandatory masks, increased cleaning schedules, and social distancing in the break rooms. Plant workers received a $2 an hour pay boost and an increase in the number of sick days.

In some cases, line workers are closer than 6 feet, but the protective measures generally have been successful, with seven cases of COVID-19 across the company and none since late April, Perrino said.

Manufacturing was backed down to a six-day-a-week schedule in April, when it became clear the new normal in the pizza business may last for a while and the grueling schedule was unsustainable, Perrino said. Demand has flattened in recent weeks, enabling Home Run Inn to resume production on some of its specialty pizzas, such as its classic sausage margherita.

While Illinois and other states are beginning to reopen for business, Perrino said the shift to frozen pizza may endure for some time, as consumers remain wary of venturing beyond their freezer for a sausage and pepperoni pie.

“Habits have changed, ” Perrino said. “Times are uncertain, the economy is uncertain. But one thing we do know is that people always need to eat.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

What’s cooking: The quarantine diet

May 12, 2020

Now that we’re all sheltering in place, convenient and soothing comfort foods—like hot dogs, soup, and macaroni and cheese—are outselling the healthy options that prevailed pre-pandemic, Axios reports. Kimchi and kale? Not so much.

In fact, a lot of the foods that were trending at the beginning of this year—the plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and products billed as organic or sustainable—are not on our radar anymore,.

It’s back to the 1950s and 1960s, as frozen foods (vegetables, pizzas, entrees) enjoy historic sales increases, while canned goods and processed foods (soups, beans, tomato sauce) have been flying off of supermarket shelves.

And, Axios notes, meal kits are king:

On the beverage sidethe “sober curious” consumers who made “Dry January” such a big thing this year have been drowned out by the bored and anxious, who are driving up booze sales, quaffing “quarantinis” and hoisting Corona beer during Zoom happy hours.

“It goes back to what I can control and what will calm me down,” Suzy Badaracco, CEO of Culinary Tides, an agency that tracks trends for the food industry,  tells Axios.

By the same token, dairy, once villainized, is making a comeback. “It’s a complete protein, and it’s calming to the senses,” Badaracco says. “Whether it’s ice cream or cheese or butter—it’s comfort food.”

Faux meats — plant-based foods that are eaten primarily by non-vegetarians — have lost steam during the pandemic, and that trend will continue, Badaracco says. Even with a national meat shortage, she thinks people will seek out alternative sources of protein, like legumes, rather than imitation burgers.

“COVID-19 will push meat eaters back to animal protein at an accelerated pace, while vegetarians will celebrate plants being plants,” she predicted in an interview with the online news outlet.

And “sustainability sales,” which include organic foods, will continue to decelerate “due to cost, not desire,” Badaracco says.

Research contact: @axios

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey chips in 28% of his personal wealth, $1B, to COVID-19 relief fund

April 9, 2020

“I hope this inspires others to do something similar,” Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter and Square, said on Tuesday, April 7, of his plans to donate $1 billion—or just under one-third of his total wealth, to relief programs for the novel coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

Dorsey said he would put 28% of his fortune, in the form of shares in his mobile payments company Square, into a limited liability company that he had created, called Start Small. The new company would make grants to beneficiaries, he said, with the expenditures to be recorded in a publicly accessible Google document.

“Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime,” Mr. Dorsey said—fittingly enough, in a series of tweets announcing his plans.

“ After we disarm this pandemic,” he tweeted, “the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and UBI [universal basic income]. It will operate transparently, all flows tracked here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-eGxq2mMoEGwgSpNVL5j2sa6ToojZUZ-Zun8h2oBAR4 …

According to the Times, Dorsey, 43, joins a growing list of celebrities, world leaders, and techies who are earmarking some portion of their wealth to fighting the spread of the coronavirus and its effects.

Oprah Winfrey has donated more than $10 million of her personal wealth to COVID-19 relief efforts, while other Hollywood personalities — including Justin Timberlake, Dolly Parton, and Rihanna — have also made contributions. Last week, the Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, said he would donate $100 million to American food banks through a nonprofit, Feeding America. And Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, also has organized relief campaigns through Facebook and his own philanthropic organization with his wife Priscilla Chan, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Even so, the Times notes, Dorsey’s contribution stands out for the sum he is putting in and for how much of his net worth that represents.

He said the first $100,000 donation would be to America’s Food Fund, a high-profile effort committed to feeding the hungry. It was started in a GoFundMe page last week collectively by Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Apple. To date, $13.4 million has been raised toward the goal of $15 million, contributed by 7,500 donors.

“Life is too short, so let’s do everything we can today to help people now,” Dorsey tweeted, followed by an emoji of a peace sign hand gesture.

Square declined a request for an interview with Dorsey. Twitter declined to comment.

Research contact: @nytimes

Facebook contractors must work in offices during coronavirus pandemic—while staff stay home

March 16, 2020

Silicon Valley has come up with its own high-tech version of Cinderella, the fairy tale maiden who was forced to toil endlessly for her otherwise privileged family.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook is encouraging staff worldwide to work from home—part of a so-called social distancing strategy to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But some in the social network’s army of contract workers—already often treated like second-class employees—have complained that they have no such luxury and are being asked to choose between their jobs and their health, The Intercept reports.

Discussions on Facebook’s internal employee forum reviewed by The Intercept reveal a state of confusion, fear, and resentment, with many precariously employed hourly contract workers stating that, contrary to statements to them from Facebook, they are barred by their actual employers from working from home, despite the technical feasibility and clear public health benefits of doing so.

The discussions focus on Facebook contractors employed by Accenture and WiPro at facilities in Austin, Texas, and Mountain View, California, including at least two Facebook offices. (In Mountain View, a local state of emergency already has been declared over the coronavirus.)

The Intercept has seen posts from at least six contractors complaining about not being able to work from home, and has communicated with two more contractors directly about the matter. One Accenture employee told The Intercept that their entire team of over 20 contractors had been told that they were not permitted to work from home to avoid infection.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept that “for both our full-time employees and contingent workforce there is some work that cannot be done from home … for content reviewers, some of this work must be done from the office for safety, privacy and legal reasons,” adding that “we’re exploring work from home options on a temporary basis, and have already enabled it in some locations.”

The spokesperson added that Facebook is “taking additional steps to limit contact for those in the office, like physically spreading people out, limiting in-person meetings, eliminating social visitors, making changes to food service, increasing office cleaning, and encouraging people who don’t need to be in the office to stay home.”

In some cases, workers said they’ve been told that the only way they can stay home is by using the finite paid time off days they’re allotted each year.

 “Despite guidance from Facebook,” reads one contractor post, “contractors are being asked to come into the Mountain View office to work, unless they have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2.” This employee added that “We are being told that if we choose not to come in, whether it be for health concerns or out of an abundance of caution, that we will have to use PTO, [paid time off] and it’s unclear if our absence is going to be counted against us.”

According to a post from an Austin Facebook contractor, Accenture “is only sending home people who ‘exhibit flu like symptoms in the work place.’” This contractor added that he “just saw 3 people get sent home and we’re all still in the office trying to focus on our work like cross contamination doesn’t exist for 14 days prior to symptoms showing up…At this point, I’m at a loss.”

“Most people here are sick, coughing, and sneezing,” wrote a Facebook contractor in Mountain View. “The office ran out of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers, there are no masks or thermometer.” At this office, the disparity between Facebook’s full-time employees and their hourly support staff is particularly galling: “Some employees who work in the same building got paid 2 weeks of staying home! So how is that fair? Why their lives matter more than others? Why some of us have to choose between risking their work or their health?”

Neither Accenture nor WiPro could immediately comment to the Intercept about the situation.

After The Intercept contacted Facebook, sources said the company deleted at least once lengthy thread on the PTO grievances, with one Facebook employee saying in the online workplace forum that the deleted post “contained false and misleading information about COVID-19 that was causing unnecessary panic for some people working in the [Mountain View] office.” This employee added that “going forward,” the company “will remove any posts or comment about COVID-19 flagged to us that contains misinformation.”

Research contact: @theintercept

Trump’s COVID-19 panic is plain to see

March 2, 2020

Coronavirus claimed its first victims in China, and the illness has now appeared in at least 48 countries, with cases soaring in Europe and the Middle East. Last Wednesday, February 26, in response to criticism about his Administration’s response, President Donald Trump held a press conference addressing the epidemic—and tried to convince the American public that everything was under control and there was no need for panic.

His performance—as Brian Stauffer’s cover illustration for the next issue of The New Yorker magazine suggests—was not entirely persuasive. Trump screams ―with a surgical mask over his eyes―in Stauffer’s image for the March 9 issue, headlined “Under Control.”

Although Trump attempted to control the message, reassuring the American people, “We’re doing really well,” in fact, The New Yorker reports, the president is harboring two legitimate–and major—fears:

First, if covid-19 spreads inside the United States, the White House could be held responsible for botching its response to the virus’s outbreak. Democrats are already sharpening their knives.

“The Trump Administration has been asleep at the wheel,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the Senate Minority Leader, said on February 24, on the Senate floor. “President Trump, good morning! There’s a pandemic of coronavirus. Where are you?”

The other threat to Trump is an economic one. If the stumble in the stock market is a one-off event, it won’t have much impact politically. But, if Wall Street goes into an extended slide, or if the broader economy gets hit badly as the virus spreads, it could change the political environment going into the election.

As the possibility of a pandemic rises, the president must prove that he can handle the emergency. Claims that he fired the nation’s pandemic expert are incorrect. In fact, Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, the pandemic expert, left the national Security Council of his own volition after John Bolton was appointed National Security Adviser. Bolton then went on to close down the unit that Ziemer had been running—a unit that had managed the global fight against Ebola. That unit has not been replaced.

Research contact: @NewYorker