Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

A Morning at Whole Foods Phillips Crossing

Breakfast at Whole Foods Phillips Crossing Grand OpeningI awoke at 6am this morning to be down to the new Whole Foods Market store at Phillips Crossing here in Orlando. Located at the intersection of Sand Lake Rd and Turkey Lake Rd, it has prime visibility from several of Orlando’s most trafficked roads. It’s also not so fun trying to get into the parking lot during morning rush hour. My efforts were rewarded, though, in the form of a parking spot right near the front doors – “rock star parking” as my roommate likes to call it.

She wanted to be there early enough to partake in the advertised “free breakfast” that started at 8am. The store passed out several flavors of croissants, such as raisin and chocolate, along with coffee and your choice of pulp or no-pulp orange juice. Delicious it was…orderly it wasn’t. Even though we were only forty or so people back from the serving area, set up near the front doors, it was word of mouth that alerted us to the presence of the food. We then had to decide between saving our current place in the entrance line or stepping out into a second line to get our breakfast. My roommate and I took turns going, but since the two lines were right next to each other, it turned into a big glob of people near the entrance.

At 9am, Whole Foods opened the store with speeches and a ceremonial bread breaking, and we slowly filed in. In addition to the breakfast, the store had advertised free reusable bags to the first 250 people inside. Unfortunately, like the breakfast, it wasn’t clearly announced where to get the bags, so we were left to find them ourselves. Minor glitches, I guess. At least we were finally inside away from the growing heat and humidity of the day.

Inside Whole Foods Phillips Crossing during the Grand OpeningNow, I’ll admit…I’ve never visited a Whole Foods before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The company said this was the largest store in Florida to date, and it was indeed huge. Approximately 1/3 of the store is dedicated to the deli and prepared foods area. Set up like a huge buffet, trays and trays of already made foods ranging from the traditional chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetable medleys sat alongside more international fare like Asian noodle dishes and four kinds of lasagna. You could grab a quick slice of several varieties of pizza or take home a container of one of the over 15 types of soups and chilis. Vegan and vegetarian options co-existed with meat and seafood dishes, and as one who lives with food allergies, I appreciated that most had ingredients lists clearly posted.

Meat, dairy and seafood occupy the back aisle of the store, while a large produce section occupies the wall opposite the deli. In the center of the store, frozen, prepackaged and health and beauty offerings filled several rows of shelving. Maps of the entire store are handily placed near the doors so you can grab one and shop.

In fact, there was so much food to check out, it was a bit overwhelming, especially with the large crowd of people milling about. Thankfully, the sampling was plentiful this morning.

Gelato at Whole Foods Market Phillips CrossingI tried prosciutto, salami, three kinds of cheeses, vegan roasted red pepper soup, hummus made from edamame and another made from sweet potatoes, and organic pineapple, oranges and strawberries. I ate tender smoked beef brisket covered in a deliciously sweet, not too-smoky BBQ sauce that actually had me sucking my fingers. My sweet tooth enjoyed fresh coconut and mango gelato, several flavors of cookies and more pastry nibbles from the bakery. And I washed it down with samples of Rainforest Crunch coffee and a health drink made from almond soy milk and a chocolate-flavored greens-infused protein powder (actually not too bad, but it would have been better if it was mixed together more).

Considering the fact that Whole Foods sells organic foods and prepares its precooked offerings in-house, the prices were very reasonable. Most pre-made offerings were priced between $7.99 and $9.99 a pound, with soups/chilis starting at $3.95 a container. Prepackaged items were competitively priced with other supermarkets I’ve visited around town. And I was excited to find that they do take coupons (hey, these days, that extra 50 cents or so can really help when multiplied by several coupons).

Will I go back to this store? Definitely, though I might wait a week or two for the opening crowds to thin out a bit so I can peruse at my leisure. But if you want to check out the store this week, our previous post lists all the special events that will still be happening through this weekend.

Have you been to the store yet? What did you think?

Whole Foods Opening Dr. Phillips Location This Week

It seems like the signs have been up at the intersection of Sand Lake Rd and Turkey Lake Rd in the Dr. Phillips area forever, with not much evidence that the newest Orlando-area Whole Foods Market store was actually going to open. But open it finally will this coming Wednesday, June 25th.

whole foods market coffee sectionFor most of the last week, I’ve been so inundated with advertising touting pre-opening tours (completely booked up every time I checked) and a huge grand-opening party, that it seems as though this is the biggest thing to hit the southwest side of O-Town since the theme parks. Of course, all the hype only serves to fuel my curiosity about the place, so I guess it’s doing its job.

Strange then, that when I went to the company’s website to find out more specific details about the opening, I had to click through several layers of pages to actually find any information on it.

At any rate, it appears the grand-opening celebration actually extends through the weekend, though the bulk of the celebrations are happening on opening day. To save you the time of digging for the info, here’s what I’ve been able to uncover:

  • On Wednesday (June 25th), Whole Foods is offering up a free breakfast starting at 8am on the patio. At 9am, the doors open and the store welcomes its first customers. The first 250 customers will receive a free Whole Foods Market reusable shopping bag, and the first 150 kids get a free kid’s pack (no mention of what that includes). Enjoy samples and product demonstrations throughout the store and cooking demonstrations in the lifestyle area, as well. From 11am-2pm and 4pm-7pm they’ll also be serving up free BBQ. Sounds yummy! I’m also told there will be live music performances throughout the day.
  • On Thursday (June 26th), the store is hosting a sampling session of their chocolate, desserts and Allegro coffee from 7-8pm. Friday, there’s another sampling session from 7-8pm, though this one is wine and cheese.
  • Saturday (June 27th) and Sunday (June 28th), enjoy more BBQ samples from 11am-5pm, kids cooking demonstrations, live music and product sampling. First 100 customers of each day also get one of those reusable shopping bags.

For more information on the new store, visit the Whole Foods Market website.

I’ll be there a few of the days with my foodie roommate, who is super excited there’s finally a Whole Foods near us. I’ll report back with photos. Of course, if any of you go, feel free to drop us comments on what you thought or give us links to any blog posts you might do.

Goldenrod Chevron False Advertising

chevron.jpgThis morning on the way into work my fuel tank started creeping towards the big “E” and as the light popped on I knew I’d have to either fuel up now or stop after work, when my heart would really rather be on the road heading home for the week. Like every other Central Floridian, or American for that matter, the notion of having to fill ‘er up conjures images of cash draining from our pockets. So, of course, I began scouring for the lowest gas price I could. All of the sudden on Goldenrod between Colonial and University I spot it, CHEAP GAS!

And what a deal it was, $3.029 on a week when the average has been closer to the $3.09 spectrum. So Chevron would earn my business, offering a competitive price for a tankful of liquid unleaded go. Swiping my card with confidence that I had done my duty saving my family a few shiny dimes for the day I began to pump. But then I glanced at the pump display and saw something odd. For some weird reason the pump told me unleaded was being served up at 3.069. Probably just an incorrect display, so after I’m done I check my receipt. Sure enough I had been charged $3.069 for my fill up.

Hey, things happen, it’s only a few pennies per gallon, a little over 50 cents more for the tank, so I figured I would just go inside and let the store clerk know about the discrepancy. Maybe the big giant beckoning sign had not been updated by mistake, and the clerk should know before a figure of authority happens by and they get fined. But to my surprise, the employee at the counter said no, that was not an error. The amount on the sign was the promotional price if you use cash or a Chevron gas card. Keep in mind that this sign is the ONLY price advertised outside of the true price listed on the pump itself. Looking back at the big sign again I did notice a much smaller sign a bit down the pole, a good 4-5 feet away from the giant price numbers that read “Cash or Chevron Credit Card”.

Now, I’m no specialist on advertising regulations within the fuel industry, but my gut tells me that having a giant sign declaring a price that is not the actual price you pay would be considered false advertising. Having a totally ambiguous message placed some distance away from that price does not merit a valid qualifying statement. That little sign could be easily interpreted as “we accept cash or Chevron cards” or “atm inside and applications for Chevron cards”. In no way does it clearly tell consumers that “the price listed is not the price you pay unless you use cash or a Chevron credit card”. In fact, I would argue that because EVERY other gas station throughout the history of ALL mankind puts the real price on their giant sign, this Chevron station was intentionally trying to mislead consumers into pulling into their station over others on the false notion that their gas was cheaper.

I call BS and would encourage people to not patronize the Chevron station on Goldenrod between Colonial and University.

Tribute or Trademark Infringement?

Local pizza restaurant NYPD Pizza is being sued for trademark infringement for “..”intentionally and purposefully” designing its logo to look like the department’s fabled shield and of decorating its pizzerias to resemble police precincts, complete with bills that look like summonses.”

NYPD Pizza owner Robert Russo, a transplanted New Yorker, argues that the logo, decor and bills are a tribute to the department which he holds in high esteem.

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Russo’s attorney is quoted as saying “We think the consumers are sophisticated enough to know the Police Department is not involved in running pizzerias,”

At least not here in Orlando.

So, what do you think? Acceptable tribute or trademark infringement? Or does anyone other than the New York Police Department even really care?

OIA – Busy AND Environmentally Friendly!

Although the count is dropping, Orlando International Airport still managed to push more than 3 million passengers through its doors and onto airplanes in the month of June (the latest month counted), marking four consecutive months of passenger counts over 3 million.

Here’s how the count breaks down for the four months:

March………3,320,172
April………..3,213,051
May………..3,046,130
June……….3,001,175

oia_logo.jpgYou can see the decline from March to June, but I would expect to see July rise when the next statistics are released since that is such a heavily traveled vacation month, especially for families.

In addition to record-breaking passenger counts, OIA is at the forefront of testing environment-friendly fuel alternatives for its fleet of operations vehicles. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which operates the Orlando International Airport, is one of the first governmental entities in the Central Florida area to test bio-diesel fuel in daily operations around the airport.

oia_tower.jpg Bio-diesel, which has been approved for use in trucks, buses, tugboats and other general diesel equipment with little or no modifications to existing engines, is a blend of 80 percent petroleum diesel and 20 percent renewable domestic resources such as soybean and restaurant waste oil, which are cheaper to process and use, as opposed to regular diesel fuel.

Reports are that some 1,000 test vehicles are currently using about 1,000 gallons a day with no adverse effects and because the bio-diesel is a clean burning fuel, passengers and visitors to OIA should experience no noticeable difference, other than perhaps a lessening of the usual sharp odors associated with regular diesel fuel.

So the next time you fly out of OIA, eat lots of french fries at the food court…you’ll be helping to set records and power airport vehicles at the same time.

Billionaire Mickey

Yesterday Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger announced that the House That Mickey Built made a record $1.13 BILLION in profit (yes profit) in its third quarter. That, good folk, is a LOT of cheese!

Iger attributed the increase over last year’s third quarter paltry $811 million profit to the success of “Cars” (I’ve GOT to go see that soon or I’ll have to wait for the DVD) at the box office, excellent sales figures for “The Chronicles of Narnia” DVD and higher revenue from Disney’s sports media arm, ESPN. There’s also no doubt that record-breaking park attendance resulting from the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland in California contributed to the jump in revenue and profits.

Which takes us back to a few days ago when Disney announced an immediate hike in its single-day ticket price, bringing the cost up to $67 per adult. The reason for the price hike just before an announcement of record setting profits? Both industry analysts and Disney itself expect that park attendance will be flatter this year as a result of the 50th Anniversary Celebration spike; sort of a self-correcting of the market.

mickey_mouse.jpgThat’s why Mickey is standing there with his hand held out for more money from each person that buys a one-day ticket. To battle the expected leveling of park attendance, the Mouse will get more per person in order to keep Theme Park revenue from dipping too greatly. The premise is simple; if you can’t get more bodies, get more bucks.

It will be interesting to see if this works for Disney or if a backlash occurs and people skip “The Happiest Place On Earth” and opt instead to go to Universal Studios or Sea World. Travel polls already suggest that Orlando is dropping from its former high ranking spot on lists of favorite destinations in America. Higher ticket prices being charged by a company that just announced its profits hit the billion dollar mark may not sit well with travelers who are already being pummeled by higher gasoline prices.

Sentinel Parent Company in Financial Straits.

Tribune investor urges split or sale of company

What does this mean for our own Tribune-owned Orlando Sentinel? Not much really, but it would be interesting to hear how announcements like this affect morale around our local newspaper. Tribune’s debt rating also got lowered to “junk” status which I imagine won’t do much for their stock prices.

Sentinel employees are allowed to buy Tribune stock at a 15% discount to encourage employees to invest in the company. Anyone over there selling off their stock just in case? Most likely Tribune will sell off one of its other properties but wouldn’t that be a hell of a thing if say someone like News Corporation picked up our little paper (considering that it is one of the only Tribune papers turning a profit still, I think)?

I know some Sentinel peeps graze here once in a while, how’s the feeling over there?

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