business news in context, analysis with attitude


•  From the Houston Chronicle:

"The next time the wind blows and the lights go out along the Texas coast, odds are your local H-E-B will be open for business, providing food, ice and a place to cool down, thanks to a new power player in Houston.

"After years of struggling with finicky diesel generators, the grocer has contracted with Enchanted Rock Energy to provide backup power from on-site natural gas generators at 50 locations in Houston and will eventually in introduce them at stores across the state. Using an innovative business model, Enchanted Rock will operate the generators from a control room in downtown Houston and will make money using them to back up the state's electric grid almost every day."

The story goes on:  "The idea of using small, distributed generators in many places is not new, but making it financially feasible is. And it sets the stage for renewable sources to become the primary source of electricity and backup generators like Enchanted Rock's to become the stopgap. It also reduces the need for expensive transmission lines and large-scale power plants.

"Enchanted Rock has accomplished this without subsidies or government-funded research."

•  From the Baltimore Sun:

"A labor union that represents workers at Giant and Safeway said Wednesday that it has reached a tentative contract with Giant but is recommending Safeway workers reject that company’s offer and possibly go on strike.

"The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 said earlier Wednesday that more than 25,000 Giant and Safeway workers in Maryland and the region could go on strike over wages, health care and retirement benefits.

"The local has been negotiating new contracts that would cover employees at hundreds of stores in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, and some breakthrough occurred with Giant … Union officials said Safeway’s proposal would freeze new hires in Maryland and Washington at minimum wage for the next three years, maintain a 24-hour cap on weekly hours for part-timers hired after Oct. 30, 2013, making them ineligible for benefits, offer top-of-scale increases far below those in other parts of the country, cut health care funding and cut future pension benefits."

The Des Moines Register reports that Hy-Vee has purchased four former QuikTrip locations in metro Des Moines and will reopen them as convenience stores" under its Fast & Fresh Express banner.

The story describes Fast & Fresh Express as "a smaller version of the West Des Moines-based grocery chain's Fast & Fresh concept. Occupying a niche between convenience stores and supermarkets, Fast & Fresh stores currently operating in Iowa offer groceries, pre-made dishes and a growler craft beer station alongside traditional convenience store items and gas pumps."

•  MyRecipes has a story about how Burger King is testing a new menu item in New Zealand - the “Chip Butty,” or Fry Burger, which basically is a french fry sandwich.

According to the story, "Essentially, Burger King decided to put a bunch of fries - or 'chips' to subjects of the British commonwealth - between two buns, slathered them in ketchup and mayo, and called it a day. If you loved all the carbs of a fast food combo meal but hated the main course’s protein, today is the greatest day of your life."

Not everyone is impressed:  "Leave it to a country not exactly known for its cuisine to think that jamming french fried potatoes between bread counts as a meal."  The reviews are mixed, and My Recipes suggests that for the moment at least, it seems unlikely that it will be exported to America.