Numlock News: May 8, 2023 • Pizza Wars, Tequila, Fraudulent Cows
By Walt Hickey
Hooked On A Feeling
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 made $114 million domestically, a hair under expectations, but more than made up for in the higher-than-anticipated $168.1 million made overseas, with a remarkable $28.1 million in China alone. Hollywood films have had a lot of trouble getting traction in China, with even the smash hit Super Mario Bros. Movie, which is up to a $1.16 billion global cume, performing weakly there. If there’s a lesson to be drawn from the weekend, it’s the endurance of Evil Dead Rise, which has made $114.8 million worldwide over three weeks in cinemas. That horror flick was supposed to get dumped off on streaming, but continues to bear out that horror remains a durable box office draw.
Begun, The Pizza Wars Have
The ongoing armistice negotiations of the Chicken Sandwich Wars have distracted global powers from a new conflict emerging between several prominent national pizza chains, yet another challenge facing the Quick Service region. While pizza joints were some of the biggest financial winners of the pandemic era, the three largest factions — Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa Johns — all reported weaker sales last year, and war is all but inevitable as the pie shrinks. In Q1, same-store sales were down 6 percent at Pizza Hut, 3.6 at Domino’s, and Papa Johns’ growth was a mere 1 percent. Pizza Hut is inviting the third-party delivery apps in, while Domino’s is reconsidering its hardline stance against it, going so far as to open up call centers to free up employees at its stores. Papa Johns is pushing AI into its call centers, and Little Caesars is adding more pepperoni to its Hot-N-Ready Pizzas, a daring strategy not unlike the one that won the day when their namesake defeated Little Vercingetorix at Little Alesia during his conquest of Little Gaul.
Consumers love high-quality tequila with 100 percent blue agave, and indeed all but two of the top-selling brands of tequila are 100 percent blue agave. Here’s the thing though: That’s bullshit. The Consejo Regulador del Tequila allows for 1 percent of volume to be additives that include caramel coloring, oak extract, glycerine and a type of sugar syrup called jarabes. An estimated 70 percent of bottled tequilas use additives that they don’t need to disclose. The additives smooth over differences between barrels, and they add flavor to tequila that was distilled to near neutrality, which today is a big problem because the spike in demand means that distillers are using young agave plants rather than agave that is five to seven years old, which produces a tequila that has a weaker (if any) agave flavor. This is freaking out people who make great tequila, as they fear that if most consumers are drinking tequila that’s full of artificial elements, they’re going to forget what the actual, bona fide, 100 percent agave tequila actually tastes like.
A prominent cosplay event got 14 million viewers on the BBC this weekend, as a decent chunk of the country tuned in to watch the Archbishop of Canterbury announce in an elaborate costumed ceremony that a wealthy septuagenarian who is king still very much continues to be king. Much like when Disney puts new skin on tired old animatronics in an archaic attraction, this resulted in a brief surge of interest in the country. The event, sort of an elaborate Make-A-Wish thing put on by the landed gentry of the previously globe-spanning but today barely even European island, was put on for the benefit of a guy named Charles. The man, who until recently was more closely linked to Wales, is best known to a global audience as a relative of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Harry Windsor of California. The most acute ramification is that none of the British people I know will be at work tomorrow, not because of some kind of wildcat general strike in enlightened defiance of the disgraceful notion that anyone is born inherently better than anyone else, but because the new boss gave them the day.
You know your extremely organized and clean friend who has a closet or drawer that is the most disorganized, horrifying thing you’ve ever seen and it’s their greatest shame? Anyway I bring this person up for no particular reason. In other news, Germany has absolutely no clue where its cables, pipes and power lines are buried, and they have 5.7 million kilometers of them buried somewhere but unfortunately people didn’t really keep good track and it’s causing massive problems in green electrification because new infrastructure projects keep digging up and breaking the old ones. There are now approximately 100,000 accidental cable cuts per year. In Lower Saxony alone, roughly 11,000 local road authorities keep the data.
A huge fake cattle scheme has been uncovered, with the USDA indicating to people who had business dealings with a rancher Brian McClain that they may not be getting paid or getting cows. The inventory of cows on paper with his lender was 88,000 head of cattle, when in fact the actual number of live animals was just 10,000. The scheme goes back six years, with attempts to seek investors offering a guaranteed 30 percent return on investment, investors who were paid back with borrowed money.
The company Twitter has staked its future on the success of its Twitter Blue program, a subscription service it’s been pushing as the ad market in general and its ad business in particular falters. The retention numbers are looking pretty bad: Of the roughly 150,000 early subscribers to Blue when it launched in November, only 68,157 still maintained a subscription as of the end of April. That means that 81,843 of those users — 54.5 percent of the early user base — already dropped their subscription, which would generally be considered to be abnormally high, as the overall annual churn rate for your typical subscription-based business has been found to have 5.57 percent leave annually.
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