Sanderson Farms Inc. priced a public offering of 2 million shares of its common stock at $53 per share. The poultry producer said late Wednesday that it plans to use the offering's net proceeds along with some other funds to pay for the creation of a new retail poultry building in Kingston, N.C. and may possibly build a new big bird poultry facility near Goldsboro, N.C. It may also use proceeds to lower debt and to invest in cash and cash equivalents.

The offering is expected to close on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press. Shares of Sanderson Farms gained 31 cents to $53.92 in afternoon trading.

Source: Associated Press

Overnight fire damages poultry plant

Fire damaged a North Carolina chicken processing plant. Plant Operations Manager Chris Chavis says employees at the House of Raeford facility on Charles Craft Drive in Maxton reported the fire around 11 o’clock Thursday night.

Lt. R.M. Gibson with the Laurinburg City Fire Department says 120 firefighters and rescue personnel from 12 fire departments responded to the fire.
Officials also called in a hazmat team after reports ammonia tanks inside the plant were leaking. There are no reports of injuries. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


Restaurant Performance Index reaches 2-year high

Driven by a solid improvement in restaurant operators' outlook for sales growth, capital spending plans, and staffing levels, the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) rose to its highest level in 27 months in February. The comprehensive index of restaurant activity stood at 99.0, up 0.7 percent from January and its strongest level since November 2007.

"The RPI's strong gain in February was the result of broad-based improvements among the forward-looking indicators," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. "Restaurant operators' optimism for sales growth stood at its strongest level in 29 months, with capital spending plans also rising to a two-year high."
"In addition, restaurant operators reported a positive outlook for staffing gains for the first time in more than two years," Riehle added. "This bodes well for replacing the more than 280,000 eating and drinking place jobs lost during the recession."

A video of Riehle providing a monthly restaurant industry update is available on the Association's Web site,

The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 96.7 in February -- up 0.1 percent from January's level of 96.6. February, however, represented the 30th consecutive month below 100, which signifies contraction in the current situation indicators.

Restaurant operators reported negative same-store sales for the 21st consecutive month in February, with the overall results similar to the January performance. Twenty-eight percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between February 2009 and February 2010, compared with 27 percent of operators who reported higher sales in January. Fifty-seven percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in February, matching the proportion who reported negative sales in January.

Customer traffic also remained soft in February, as restaurant operators reported net negative traffic for the 30th consecutive month. Twenty-five percent of restaurant operators reported an increase in customer traffic between February 2009 and February 2010, down slightly from 26 percent who reported higher customer traffic in January. Fifty-five percent of operators reported a traffic decline in February, compared with 54 percent who reported lower traffic in January.

Along with continued soft sales and traffic performances, capital spending activity continued to drop off. Thirty percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion, or remodeling during the past three months, down from 32 percent last month and the lowest level on record.

In contrast to the trends in the current situation indicators, restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about improving conditions in the months ahead. The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators' six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures, and business conditions), stood at 101.4 in February - up 1.2 percent from January and its strongest level in 29 months. In addition, the Expectations Index stood above the 100 level for the second consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the forward-looking indicators.

Restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead. Forty-four percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared with the same period in the previous year), up from 33 percent who reported similarly last month and the strongest level in 29 months. In comparison, just 16 percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, down from 22 percent last month.

Restaurant operators are also more optimistic about the direction of the economy. Thirty-eight percent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, while just 13 percent expect economic conditions to worsen during the next six months. Last month, 29 percent of operators said they expected the economy to improve in six months, and 18 percent expected economic conditions to deteriorate.

Along with an improving outlook for sales and the economy, restaurant operators' plans for capital expenditures continued to expand. Forty-eight percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 43 percent who reported similarly last month and the strongest level in two years.

For the first time in more than two years, restaurant operators reported a positive outlook for staffing gains in the months ahead. Twenty-two percent of operators expect to increase staffing levels in six months (compared with the same period in the previous year), while just 16 percent plan to reduce staffing levels in six months.

Source: National Restaurant Association

Opening Day opens hot dog season (and baseball)

The economy may still be lukewarm, but America's love affair with hot dogs is red hot, especially in the nation's ballparks, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's annual survey.

The NHDSC predicts that ballparks around the country will serve 21,378,064 hot dogs this season, enough to round the bases 29,691 times. If laid end-to-end, the dogs would stretch from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, with enough left over to give a hot dog to every fan at every Colorado Rockies' home game for the entire 2010 season. In addition, the NHDSC predicts ballparks will sell 4,933,853 sausages this year.

When it comes to individual stadiums, Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, tops the survey again this year. Fenway Park will serve up more than 1.67 million hot dogs during the 2010 season, according to projections. Always boiled and grilled, the Fenway Frank is served on a New England style bun (split from the top) and topped with a choice of mustard and relish. Of note, Fenway is also the first MLB ballpark to install a Hot Nosh Glatt Kosher hot dog vending machine.

Moving into second place this year in our survey are the Chicago Cubs of Wrigley Field, where fans are expected to consume 1.54 million hot dogs this season. It's no surprise that the stadium's top dog is the Chicago Dog, an all beef hot dog topped with sport peppers, a pickle spear, diced tomato wedges, diced sauteed onion, green relish, celery salt and yellow mustard in a poppy seed bun. Also making its Wrigley Field debut this year is the High Plains Bison Foot-long Buffalo Dog, a footlong bison dog served with blue cheese, coleslaw and buffalo sauce.

Rounding out the top three is last year's second place finisher, the Philadelphia Phillies. Fans are expected to consume 1.45 million hot dogs at Citizens Bank Park this season. To give the dog its due, the Phillies are asking fans this year to select a new signature hot dog for the park. The top three finalists are the South Philly Hot Dog, an all-beef hot dog topped with broccoli rabe, spicy roasted peppers and sharp provolone on a crusty Italian roll; the Olde Philadelphia Hot Dog, an all-beef dog topped with Amish pepper hash, dill pickle and yellow mustard on a poppyseed roll; and the Summer Hot Dog, an all-beef dog topped with cucumbers, pickled onion salsa and ancho pepper sauce on a pretzel roll. Fans may vote through April 12 by going to The winner will be served throughout the 2010 season.

Dodger Stadium finished fourth in the poll, with 1.2 million hot dogs projected, with Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, coming in fifth with 1.15 million in projected sales.

"There's no question that hot dogs and sausages hit home runs year after year," said Tom Super, spokesman for the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. "Even with vast additions to stadiums' menus, fans still relish the hot dog as their number one food choice at the ballpark."

Other stadiums around the country offer a range of options to hot dog-hungry fans. At Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., fans nosh on the Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smoke, a half-smoke sausage covered with chili, shredded cheese, diced onions and mustard. Pittsburgh Pirates' PNC Park features The Pittsburgh Dog, a foot-long hot dog topped with diced tomato, coleslaw, grilled onions, provolone cheese and French fries. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington offers the "Mini Triple Play," a mini hot dog, mini bratwurst and mini cracked black pepper sausage on a mini hot dog bun, along with Nolan Ryan sausage on a stick. Petco Park, stadium of the San Diego Padres, is home to the Sonoran Dog, which comes wrapped in bacon. The stadium also offers its own recipe Grandstand Mustard. A staple at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is the Arizona Dog, an all-beef foot-long topped with nacho cheese sauce, chorizo sausage and corn tortilla strips.

And back by popular demand at Dodger Stadium this year, thanks to a Facebook campaign pushing for its return, is the spicy Picante Dog. The Picante Dog joins the famous Dodger Dog, which was first introduced in 1962 and is such an icon that it has its own Bobblehead figurine.

When it comes to hot dog's close cousin the sausage, no one is in the same ballpark as the Milwaukee Brewers, home of the world-famous Klement's Sausage Race in the sixth inning of each game. It is projected that 910,000 sausages will be served this year at Miller Park. Miller Park is the only stadium in Major League Baseball where sausages outsell hot dogs. In fact, the stadium sells more sausages than 22 teams sell hot dogs.

The New York Mets finished a distant runner-up to the Brewers, with approximately 376,650 sausages expected to be sold at Citi Field this year. Finishing third in the NHDSC's second-annual sausage consumption survey is U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, with 325,000 projected in sausage sales.

While both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets opened new stadiums last year, only one team this season is moving to a new home -- the Minnesota Twins. With the team's move to Target Field comes some changes to the menu, which will feature Minnesota-focused signature items inspired by local restaurants, Twins' greats and regional ingredients.

When it comes to dogs, say goodbye to the Dome Dog and hello to Minnesota-made Schweigert hot dogs. These dogs were a fan favorite when the Twins last played home games indoors. Fans may choose from a new hot dog lineup that includes the Original Twins Dog, a traditional pork and beef hot dog made from the same recipe as the ones served in the team's first ballpark and the Twins Big Dog, a quarter-pound all-beef dog that will be served at portable grills and select concession stands.

Source: National Hot Dog and Sausage Council