I haven't posted on a Yahoo restaurant stock board in ages. Some of you may remember me from the early 2000 period when I said BUY BUY BUY as much of this as you could afford. Those days are long, long, LONG gone. Casual dining is a casualty of the "quick casual" category - i.e., Panera, Chipotle, etc. Even Panera is starting to run into some small headwinds. Overall, I don't like the restaurant category, and I can tell you that the financials for DRI, especially the absolutely HORRIBLE results for Red Lobster, do not bode well.
I remember several years ago when I purchased my shares in MCD. The company was going through a lot of turmoil, but was showing glimmers of hope. I tried the (then in test stage) chicken mcwraps and the new premium salads. Both were great. Stores were being remodeled, and you could see the potential. I sold my shares a couple of years ago and nailed down a great profit. Thank you!
Here we go again ... MCD is losing its way. I predict this will become another "value" play in a few years. I would wait for shares to get hammered, then jump all over it. Watch and see ... it will happen.
Just got a nice LUV note today saying that Rapid Rewards will now require 16% more (yes, you read that correctly - 16% MORE) RR points per flight. And airlines wonder why I went from flying over 125K miles per year to almost ZERO today. Airlines SUCK.
It was a matter of time for something like this to happen. I suspect Quest will do the same thing and sell off its paramedical exam business, also to APPS.
I'm a regular poster on the Yahoo finance boards. Most of my posts relate to the performance of a company, or similar financial topic. This time, however, I want to comment on my recent visit to Cedar Point, which was Saturday, July 27th. In summary, our group of 12 people were highly disappointed with our day. I have not been to the park for 5 years, and it was obvious from the start that it was not the same Cedar Point I have enjoyed over the past 30 years. Throughout the day, rides kept shutting down due to mechanical issues. Lines were very long at the rides that remained open. The new "Fast Pass" system really slows down the lines for the regular patrons. What used to take 45 to 60 minutes now stretches into 2+ hours (Maverick). You're lucky to get on 6 or 7 rides, where I used to be able to easily hit a dozen or more. Finally, and this was the one that amazed me, was the new short-term locker rentals for most rides. You rent a small locker for $2 for up to 2 hours. Basically, you will need to do 3 or 4 of these during the day if you plan on riding any of the large coasters.
Bottom line ... my family is through with Cedar Point. What was once a great experience has been turned into a frustrating, quite expensive day. The value proposition just isn't there any longer. I used to own these MLP shares some time ago, and was considering them again. Not any longer. If this formula is being repeated at Kings Island, Carowinds, etc., then I want no part of this company.
I too have been on over a dozen cruises - on Royal, Princess, Celebrity, and Carnival. From what I'm seeing, from the types of failures being reported, and having decades of experience with operations management, there is a significant operational issue at Carnival that needs to be corrected. Is it improper maintenance, unqualified workers, or something else? Who knows. What I do know is that if Carnival doesn't get a handle on it, and soon, they will be hurting for a long time to come.
The Time Warner saga of pain continues. But there may be a happy ending. I am experimenting with a WiMax subscription that can be shared with several homes around me. We are considering all leaving Time Warner and sharing data off of a single hub. Down and up speeds exceed what we have now, and even with the loading factor will be better than the current situation. I see a potential service here that can help people cut the cord with monopolies like Time Warner.
Of all the companies I have dealt with in my 52 years on this planet, Time Warner is the absolute WORST of them all. The WORST. How this company is in business, and is profitable, is beyond me. The only reason, I believe, is that it has a monopoly in the majority of the markets that it serves. If people had more choice, I am sure they would move away from this company.
There are other options. Price out what it would cost to go to a WiMax (4G) hot spot and dump the TV channels. We did and we're not looking back. We're sick and tired of the monthly outflow for what is increasingly less of a value. Part of the blame goes to the content providers, who are gouging the cable companies for their content (case in point - ESPN, which to me is a completely useless channel yet costs TWC about $3 a head to carry).
I represent one of the millions of Time Warner customers that do NOT have a choice in internet provider. I am stuck with a monopoly that, quite frankly, I wish would implode into the Earth. For over two decades I have endured TCI Cable, then Adelphia, and now Time Warner. Whether it was the Rigas family or the current executive management of TWC, the results have been the same - lousy service, high prices and constant monitoring of my bill for "mystery" charges.
Never in my life have I seen such poor service. Only a monopoly could get away with this. Thankfully, this may change soon. I now have a couple of WiMax options competing with Time Warner. It can't happen soon enough. And to those that own this stock and think this is sour grapes, think again. This is a trend. People are increasingly dropping cable and choosing other options. Homes are teaming up and sharing high-speed connections to reduce their bill (I am within range of 5 neighbors - we could cut our bill by 80% each by sharing). $150 plus cable bills are not sustainable. Something has to give.
I agree that Celebrity is a step up from Royal. Using the GM analogy, Royal has decided they are going to take their Royal brand down to a "Chevy" level, just like Carnival. Celebrity is hovering at "Oldsmobile" to "Buick". However, as Carnival and Royal continue to duke it out, it's just a matter of time when they cross over from "Chevy" and head towards "Yugo". I see signs of it happening already.
Agreed. But having been a traveler for the past 30 years, I feel we have reached the point where we've crossed over into the "pain" area when it comes to travel and even vacations. The burden has been placed squarely on the consumer. If you're only 30 or 35 years old, you don't have the reference points of past experiences. If you're in your early 50's like me, you do, and when you compare 30 years ago to today you realize the level of service provided by the carriers (airline, cruise, etc.) is a mere shadow of what it once was.
I remember being on a Carnival cruise in 1986 where we had a personal wine steward come to our table to discuss the wine selections, then take 15 minutes to prepare the wine, decant it, wait for us to sample it, etc. Fast forward to today where they overcharge by a factor of 5 times for the wine, then just throw it at you and move on. The last cruise I took 2 weeks ago (RCCL Freedom of the Seas eastern Caribbean route) was just OK. We were greeted to a semen-stained bedspread trim pad on our bed, no ice in the room (latest cost-savings move by RCCL), filthy bathroom, average dining room service, and a noticeable drop in the quality of the food in the Windjammer cafe. And we're going to be Diamond after our next cruise, so we're not novice slouches. Compared to our first cruise on RCCL about 10 years ago, I'm wavering on whether my wife or family will ever cruise again. They claim there is value there, but it's becoming less and less obvious to me on any of the brands.
That's why my wife and I purchased a vacation property. We realized it was better to take the money we were wasting on vacations and put it towards something we could both enjoy and call our own. It also provides a hedge against inflation for our kids as I'm of the opinion the US dollar will one day debase away. I know this sounds pessimistic but in the last 5 or so years I'm not seeing all that much good around me, and as a result have decided to create my own "ecosystem" as it were.
I'm not a big fan of this idea, but I have been on 15 cruises and am increasingly understanding the issues going on behind the scenes, so some means of additional oversight are warranted. The sad truth is that the vast majority of ships have flags under poor regulation countries such as Panama so basically it's "buyer beware" when you go on a cruise. Read the fine print on the contract that you sign. You agree to arbitration at a venue of the CRUISE LINE'S choosing. Tell me who wins in that arrangement? This is why my wife and I pick newer ships - it's like a car, the odds are in your favor things should be OK.
From what I can tell, the US government is basically impotent in this area. The CLIA spends millions lobbying the federal government, so you know they will look the other way. However, the cruise industry is playing a game of Russian roulette and at some point will end up having a high ranking government official on one of its cruises that goes bad. At that point, expect the lax regulatory environment to shift the other way. One day I'll tell the story of a recent cruise my wife and I were on where there was a US congressman and his family on board where things went wrong. It is my humble opinion that the awareness of what is going on in this industry is starting to get noticed by the people that count...
I'm of the opinion they should have oversight similar to the airline industry - statistics, a passenger "bill of rights", and so forth. The CLIA will cry this will increase costs. If a cruise costs $50 to $100 more for a 7-day cruise and was much safer for the passengers AND crew, so be it. It makes sense. This "race to the bottom" by both Carnival and Royal Caribbean is getting ridiculous. As a regular cruiser I'm watching it unfold before my very eyes. At some point my wife and I will probably stop cruising - we're the regulars that keep the wheels turning in this industry - just imagine if tens or hundreds of thousands of others start thinking the same way. Nothing that a simple boycott couldn't help adjust the "attitude" of the industry...
We just completed a Freedom of the Seas cruise. We had a great time, food was good, etc., but guess what ... they couldn't find one of our bags for a day because ... drum roll please ... THE DOCK APPLIED CABIN LOCATION TAG FELL OFF! Imagine that! They slap them on in a hurry and you can't read the writing on them.
Do you do international travel? If so, how often, and have you been off the "beaten path" as I have? I have seen how Asian countries handle food products. This is why my suitcase is packed with foods when I go over. China is filled with "cancer" villages that are the result of rampant pollution problems, including excessive heavy metal exposure. Do you want to be eating #$%$ like that?
I have been a Costco customer for years. First we had the dog jerky issue with them, selling Chinese-made chicken. Now I see the bag of broccoli in my freezer says "Product of China" on it. I told my wife to take it back.
I have traveled to Asia several times, including multiple trips to China. Based on what I saw, let's just say I don't have a lot of confidence in the quality of food products, nor do I of their safety. I will not knowingly eat foods from China. My experience is that the Chinese cut corners any way they can.
Costco, you will lose customers if you keep this up. I have no problem letting people know the origin of your products, especially those from China.
Great to hear from you. Wow, we've been on this board, what, 12 years? How are things in St. Louis? I haven't been there for a long, long time. I no longer travel for my job (got sick of it) so I'm flying much less - like once a year, if that!
I agree with you, there will be a couple new category restaurants that will buck the trend, but why fight the trend? This is one of the easiest calls I have ever made. The evidence is all over the place, all you have to do is look.
From "The New Market Wizards", one of my favorite investment quotes, by James Rogers:
“I just wait until there is money lying in the corner, and all I have to do is go over there and pick it up. I do nothing in the meantime.”
Right now, I'm doing very little. Just waiting to go pick up some money lying in a corner.
I wrote a message a couple of week ago on this board ... and it disappeared! Anyway, I basically said that restaurant stocks are dead money this year. I have been following restaurant stocks for the past 20 years, and they have put two kids through Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, and finally college. That said, I just don't see how restaurants can do it in the next year or two. We are facing what I feel is a "perfect storm" situation for them:
* Wages just got whacked 2%, which people are just realizing now
* Minimum wage went up in several states (hits restaurants hard)
* Food costs have gone up significantly in 2012
My wife and I are doing well, but even we are looking at our budget and the first thing we're cutting out is extra trips to the restaurant. It's much cheaper to eat at home. I just don't see how restaurants, especially those that report same-store sales comps, are going to look good as an investment this year, and possibly into 2014. I'm sure there will be a few exceptions, but the category as a whole is dead money to me, and I'm staying away.
The only thing that worries me about RCL is how they keep cheapening their brand. I remember my first cruise on them 12 years ago, and compare it to today. It is much less of an experience now, and much more expensive, if you figure in all of the nickel and diming they do to you once on board.
Disclosure: Emerald level RCL cruiser (soon to be Diamond); 15+ cruises on several lines
Every year we schedule a cruise on RCL. Every year we learn of a new way that they cheapen the brand. This year's surprise - no more luggage tags sent to you prior to your cruise. You either print out paper ones (which rip off of the bags) or you have them done curb-side at your cruise (which wastes time and creates a burden on the loading crews - and their handwriting is bad!).
I wish RCL and Carnival would wise up already and stop this race to the bottom. PLEASE keep the features that make cruising worth it. I AM WILLING TO PAY FOR IT. So are most other cruisers. We're sick and tired of you putting more of the experience on us rather than your staff. We're also sick of all the "nickel and diming" on the cruise. If you want to go cheaper, then create a Yugo line of cruising where passengers can row the boat themselves. Otherwise, please stop cheapening your brand!
Oddly, you do not smell burning oil. You don't see the blue "puff" of smoke that is a telltale sign of oil burning. It just consumes it - quietly and without any signs.
Sentiment: Strong Sell