Posts Tagged ‘Maryland’

Burger King’s New Slogan? – “We Deliver for You”

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Couch potatoes of the world can find something new to cheer about.  If sitting at the drive-through at your local Burger King isn’t working for you,  a few stores in Virginia and Maryland are now home delivering meals — for a $2 charge on a minimum order of $8 to $10.  Burger King is is trying out home delivery in an effort to boost slumping sales and regain its position as the nation’s # 2 fast-food giant.  This is of an experiment, chains usually use discounts and other incentives at the start of the year to counter a seasonal sales slump.

During the fall, the Miami-based chain started testing delivery at four restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area. The company plans to expand the test to 16 more locations before deciding whether or not to make it a large-scale effort.  Customers can order online or by phone.  Although home delivery is widespread for some fast foods — like pizza — it is much harder to do with burgers and fries can get soggy very quickly, so fast delivery is key.   Jonathan Fitzpatrick, the chain’s chief brand and operations officer, notes that Burger King has developed new packaging technology “which ensures the Whopper is delivered hot and fresh, and the french fries are delivered hot and crispy.”

“There are some real food-quality issues here,” said Ron Paul,  president of the research firm Technomic. “But there’s no question that consumer expectation for having things delivered has risen.”  In some markets, delivers books the same day they’re ordered. Groceries are being delivered more often. And retail giants, such as Target, even offered home delivery of fresh-cut Christmas trees.

To promote its home delivery, Burger King has established a dedicated web page that makes it easy for customers in the right area send in their orders.  Delivery is available between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. and does not include breakfast food (including coffee), milkshakes or fountain drinks. The drivers will “try to deliver” within half an hour.

Writing for MSNBC, Marisa King notes that “Why delivery? Burger King has run a delivery service outside the U.S. for many years and has had great success with it all across the globe including in Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, Columbia and Peru, according to a company spokesman.” But another reason for Burger King’s foray into delivery service could be that it’s about to be unseated by Wendy’s as America’s No. 2 burger chain (behind No. 1 McDonald’s) for the first time since Wendy’s was founded in 1969.

According to Burger King, it will use “new delivery packaging technology, in conjunction with thermal bags,” that will keep deliveries fresh. In a major metropolitan area like New York City, delivery service from big box retailers down to the local corner bodega is all but expected.  Hundreds of restaurants have signed on to Web delivery services such as Seamless and GrubHub as a hassle-free way to transport food to customers’ doors. Grocery delivery sites such as Fresh Direct and have thrived in the Big Apple as a convenience for busy shoppers who want to avoid crowds.

Carmen Lobello of Death and Taxes magazine, takes a more negative note.  “While totally unnecessary, given that pizza home delivery has been standard for years it’s almost a wonder it’s taken so long for burger joints to catch on. Though not quite. One of the main problems with Burger King’s food — other than taste and ingredients — is that there’s a huge difference between a fresh fast food burger and fries and one that’s been hanging out in a bag for thirty minutes. The moment the temperature of a BK meal passes from hot to room temperature, it transforms from food into garbage.”

Domino’s, whose business is 70 percent delivery, is watching  with a smile. “We wish them luck,” spokesman Tim McIntyre says. “There is a reason that not all pizza places deliver: It isn’t easy.”

Loudoun is the Nation’s Wealthiest County

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Ten of the 15 richest counties in the United States are located in Washington, D.C.’s Virginia and Maryland suburbs. According to 2010 Census Bureau data, with three counties exceeding the $100,000 mark, life seems pretty good in these areas, even as the U.S. median household income declined 2.3 percent between 2009 to 2010.  Even so, the richest counties boast a median income that is about double the national average of $49,445.  Only one county west of the Mississippi River – Douglas County in Colorado – made the list.  The other counties are in the New York and New Jersey suburbs.

Loudoun County, VA, with a median household income of $119,540, takes first place. With a median household income that is $16,000 higher than second-place Fairfax County, VA, Loudoun has trounced the competition on its way to becoming the richest county in America.  Loudoun borders both West Virginia and Maryland and is the site of Washington Dulles International Airport.  The Appalachian Trail runs along its western border, and the area was principally agricultural until the airport was built in the 1960s.  The population has continued to increase since then, with the area nearly doubling between 2000 to 2010. The poverty level is just 3.2 percent.

As of the 2010 Census, Loudoun County is estimated to be home to 312,311 people, an 84 percent increase over the 2000 figure of 169,599.  That increase makes Loudoun the fourth fastest-growing county in the United States.  Loudoun County is home to world headquarters for several high tech companies, including Verizon Business, Telos Corporation, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and Paxfire.  Like Fairfax County’s Dulles Corridor, Loudoun has economically benefited from the existence of the airport, which is mostly located in the county.  Western Loudoun County retains a strong rural economy and the equine industry has an estimated revenues of $78 million.

Second place Fairfax County, VA, is one of the largest counties in terms of population (1,081,726 residents in 2010), but it is also notable for its high-priced real estate.  Fairfax is one of only two counties to break the half-million mark in home values, with the median value of $507,800 for an owner-occupied home.

In descending order, the next richest counties in the Washington, D.C., area are Howard County, MD, with $101,771; Arlington County, VA, with $94,986; Stafford County, VA, with $94,317; Prince William County, VA, with $92,655; Montgomery County, MD, with $89,155; Calvert County, MD, with $88,862; St. Mary’s County, MD, with $88,444; and Charles County, MD, with $87,007.

Eugene Lauer, Charles County’s Economic Development Director, said he is not surprised that southern Maryland counties made the list.  “I think it’s great.  A lot of people may not know this, but we have ranked fairly high for a number of years,” he said.  “We know we have an affluent, highly-educated, qualified workforce in Charles County, and we have excellent students who will be in the workforce of tomorrow,” according to Charles County Commissioner Candace Quinn Kelly.  Lauer said Charles County’s low unemployment rate also helps drive up its ranking.  “Our unemployment rate is 5.4 percent.  That’s fourth or fifth best in the state, better than Maryland as a whole, which is 6.7 percent, and the U.S., which is 8.5 percent,” he said.

Dean Frutiger of the Council for Community and Economic Research though has a serious caveat.  “To rank something based on simply income does not take into account real cost of living issues,” said Frutiger, who calculates the nationwide Cost of Living Index.  After you factor in the local costs for items like housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation – D.C. metro area incomes go down by about 43 percent.  According to Frutiger “That $119,000 a year median income in Loudoun County, reduced by the cost of living index, means you’re down to $83,000.”

Foreclosures Decline, But Expect a Spike Thanks to Banks Settlement

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Foreclosure filings declined eight percent in February, the smallest year-over-year decrease since October 2010, as lenders began working through a backlog of seized properties, according to RealtyTrac Inc. A total of 206,900 homes received notices of default, auction or repossession last month, down two percent from January, according to the data firm, which noted that one in every 637 households received a filing.  Those numbers could rise sharply in coming months.

Banks slowed foreclosures for more than a year as attorneys general in every state investigated charges of shoddy and incomplete paperwork.  A $25 billion settlement with the five largest lenders removed some roadblocks to property seizures and gave the go-ahead for future actions, Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac’s chief executive officer, said.  “February’s numbers point to a gradually rising foreclosure tide.  That should result in more states posting annual increases in the coming months.”

“The pig is starting to move through the python,” said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac’s director of marketing.  The banks “have already adjusted their foreclosure practices to fit the terms of the settlement.  We expect that to continue as (the settlement) gets finalized,” Blomquist said.

The settlement clarifies the way in which foreclosures must be handled.  That is expected to let banks speed up their processing, putting many delinquent homeowners into the foreclosure process.  Cases could move forward after being on hold for months — even years — with their delinquent owners still living illegally in the properties.

“The foreclosure and mortgage settlement filed in court earlier this week will help pave the way to a properly functioning foreclosure process by providing a clear roadmap for necessary foreclosures,” Moore continued.  “That should result in more states posting annual increases in the coming months.  Not surprisingly, many of the biggest annual increases in February were in states with the more bureaucratic judicial foreclosure process, which resulted in a larger backlog of foreclosures built up over the last 18 months in those states.”

Cities with the highest foreclosure rates were Riverside-San Bernardino in California (one in 166 housing units); Atlanta (one in 244); Phoenix (one in 259); Miami (one in 264); and Chicago (one in 302).

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of the Inspector General’s report found that several banks violated servicing standards and foreclosure procedures and engaged in extensive robo signing.  The banks agreed to follow new servicing standards and offer relief to borrowers by providing $10 billion in principal reductions, $3 billion in refinancing loans and $7 billion in alternatives to foreclosure.  Foreclosures in the 26 states with a judicial foreclosure process rose 24 percent over last year, while activity in the 24 states that follow a non-judicial foreclosure process fell by 23 percent

Default notices, the initial step in the foreclosure process increased more than 20 percent in 12 states, including Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, South Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida.  State attorneys general have filed lawsuits against major lenders in New York, California and Nevada in recent months, further slowing the pace of foreclosures in those states.