Category Archives: News

The Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on 24-Hour Dining

The pandemic’s impact on late-night dining and retail operations can still be felt years after its onset. Yelp statistics indicate a significant decline in 24-hour service availability, with restaurants experiencing an 18% drop in 24-hour operations from 2020 to 2024. Notably, New York City saw a 13% reduction in its 24-hour restaurants.

This trend extends beyond eateries to retailers, pharmacies, and gyms, which haven’t resumed 24-hour operations since the Covid-19 took hold in America. The change reflects shifts in consumer behavior, including preferences for earlier dining and decreased late-night alcohol consumption, as well as increased labor and food costs which force establishments to curtail hours.

While approximately half of IHOP’s locations and 75% of Denny’s restaurants are resuming 24-hour service on weekends, the overall landscape for 24/7 operations remains challenging, due to concerns about staffing difficulties and public safety.

Despite these obstacles, the desire for 24/7 service remains, evidenced by the enduring appeal of late-night dining as a cultural symbol in America. The transition back to pre-pandemic levels of late-night activity will likely depend on a resurgence of nightlife and events that drive demand for such services.

Cocoa Prices Set New Record

Cocoa prices have skyrocketed to new levels, outpacing bitcoin and some precious metals in value growth. The surge reached its peak just before Valentine’s Day, with prices topping $10,000 per metric ton. This marked a significant jump from the 1977 record of $5,400. This increase has added a premium to chocolate products, including seasonal items like Easter bunnies.

The primary cause of this price surge is a supply deficiency, due to adverse weather conditions and climate change impacts in West Africa, the world’s leading cocoa-producing region. This has led to consecutive years of reduced harvests, urging prices upward as manufacturers and retailers grapple with the rising costs.

The supply crunch is exacerbated by the challenges of ramping up production in other regions. The global cocoa supply is projected to decline by nearly 11%. Speculative trading has further inflated prices, suggesting that high cocoa costs may persist.

Chocolate makers are adapting by increasing prices and downsizing their products. As a result, consumers are facing higher prices for chocolate goods. Nonetheless, chocolate remains a sought-after indulgence.

This situation underscores the urgent need for sustainable cocoa farming practices to ensure stable supply and fair compensation for growers.

The Rising Cost of Bananas

Trader Joe’s has increased the price of its iconic 19-cent bananas to 23 cents. After more than two decades of price stability, this 20% hike reflects rising costs that are being felt across the nation.

While food inflation has been somewhat moderated, the impact on household grocery bills remains tangible. Trader Joe’s 19-cent banana has long stood as a testament to the store’s commitment to affordability, earning it the title of customers’ favorite produce item. Bananas, in general, have been an economical choice for Americans, thanks to competitive market dynamics and their role as a “loss leader” to attract shoppers.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that banana prices have remained fairly consistent at 62 to 64 cents a pound from February 2023 to February 2024, the World Banana Forum has issued warnings about potential price increases due to climate change. Nonetheless, Trader Joe’s has managed to reduce prices for other products, like almonds and bell peppers, showcasing its effort to balance affordability with cost pressures.

On his podcast, Inside Trader Joe’s, former CEO Dan Bane recounted the conversation that inspired him to sell individual bananas. Bane asked an elderly customer why she decided not to purchase a bag of bananas, and she responded, “Sonny… I may not live to that fourth banana.” The store has sold bananas individually from that day on.

First US Commercial Wind Farm

The United States is celebrating the inauguration of its first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. This marks a significant milestone in the nation’s journey towards sustainable energy. Located east of Montauk Point, New York, the South Fork Wind farm was developed by Danish energy giant Ørsted and utility company Eversource. It comprises 12 turbines, capable of transforming wind into clean electricity. In a ceremony on Long Island, New York, Governor Kathy Hochul symbolically activated the wind farm, signifying a giant leap forward in clean energy production.

This pioneering project showcases America’s commitment to combating climate change, and sets the stage for the expansion of offshore wind energy, which is essential for achieving a carbon-neutral future. The Biden administration has already endorsed six commercial-scale offshore wind initiatives and has introduced new offshore wind lease areas, underscoring their determination to embrace renewable energy.

South Fork Wind’s 132 megawatts of capacity will power over 70,000 homes. Governor Hochul emphasized the historic significance of this achievement, envisioning it as a turning point that future generations will remember.

The United States is awaiting the completion of its second large offshore wind farm in Massachusetts.

Anu Saad’s Vision: Leveraging Cancer Data to Save Lives

This article was originally published on January 17, 2014.
Based on the Forbes article from May 29, 2000 entitled: “The Gift of Data”

As CEO of a cancer testing startup, Anu Saad has leveraged her company’s vast trove of patient data to launch a lucrative new business in packaging and selling medical information.

In 1998, Saad provided critical usage insights to Genentech on its new breast cancer drug Herceptin by analyzing her startup’s database of 40,000 HER2 gene test results. This allowed Genentech to effectively target pre-launch marketing, contributing to Herceptin’s blockbuster sales of $300 million in 2000.

Under Saad’s leadership, the startup realized rich opportunities in monetizing its cancer databases. With over 565,000 patient profiles and processing 12% of US cancer screens annually, Saad has signed partnerships with two dozen pharmaceutical firms who pay handsomely for analysis of biomarkers, genetics, treatment outcomes and more. For example, Novartis paid the startup to analyze bone metastasis rates across different cancer types to inform clinical expansion opportunities for its breast cancer drug Zometa.

To expand the startup’s data capabilities, Saad recently acquired two firms – one for clinic data and tumor samples and another for 1.7 million cancer patient records. By pooling these resources with the startup’s internal databases, Saad has developed detailed profiles on over 100,000 patients to better inform treatment and drug development.

While the lion’s share of the startup’s $85 million revenue still comes from core cancer testing services, Saad has overseen over 50% growth in its information services business, already generating $8 million annually. However, Saad stresses that commercialization of data is firmly grounded in achieving the fundamental mission she set out for her company – leveraging medical insights to develop more effective diagnosis and treatments for cancer patients. It is this commitment by visionary leaders like Saad that enables life sciences firms to translate vast data resources into improved patient outcomes. Under Saad’s leadership, her startup has emerged as an information powerhouse that promises to catalyze major advances in cancer care.