Florida, October 22-31, 2017

Visiting Tampa (and nearby areas including Sarasota) Florida this week I have a few observations about business and the economy:

Overall, this area of Florida has a mix of affluent, middle, and more than a few low income people judging by the housing stock. But overall mostly prosperous looking. Shopping and restaurants not overly busy this time of year but not exactly dead either.

I went to a PopEyes which is a growing popular chain recently purchased by Restaurant Brands International (owner of Tim Hortons and Burger King). Pretty quiet at 1:30 pm and overall with a very limited menu (think KFC). I was not impressed. I don’t think it has anything close to the sales power of a Tim Hortons location or even a Burger King.

I checked out a couple of Circle K locations (owned by the Canadian giant, Alimentation Couche-Tard). They are reasonably busy. Smaller and not as fancy as most Canadian locations but with beer sales they probably do well. Also, very friendly service. Behind on technology, since when your prepay gas inside the store you have to know the amount you want to pay whereas in Canada it just charges you for whatever you take.

We ate at Panara Bread which is now owned by a German company. Service seemed slow by nature of the way things are ordered. They had run out of the type of bread one of us wanted and the coffee was cold. So, unimpressive overall.

I went to a Walmart Neighborhood market store to see what those were like. This is basically just a big grocery store. It was all fine except the checkouts were all self serve and seemed prone to people needing help so it ended up slow to check out. Meanwhile the Walmart annual report said they were focusing on speed and convenience! (If so, they have work to do). My Canadian debit card would not work at Walmart. What year is this again? This is in Florida which has hordes of Canadians visiting every year.

Went into a Dollar Tree store to see how that compared with Dollarama. Nothing costs more than a dollar and it is truly impressive what they can offer for a dollar. But this store was a bit grimy perhaps mostly because it was old. Nothing like the cleanliness of a Dollarama – which in fairness are mostly all quite new.

A restaurant I would recommend (too bad it is not a publicly traded chain) is a small little chain called Boca ktchen bar market. I had “SMOKED CACHACA CHICKEN Tecumseh Farms chicken, Brussels hash, crushed chimichurri” Not cheap but healthy and exceptionally tasty.