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A Kiss, Toilet Paper and Other Signs of Recession


John Hamburger, left, publisher of the Restaurant Finance Monitor; David Rosenberg with Gluskin Sheff; and Brian Belski with BMO Capital Markets.

Brian Belski, chief investment banking strategist at BMO Capital Markets, strode onto stage and planted a large smooch on his fellow panelist’s cheek, David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff. From there, the two economists with contrasting points of view were off on a lively discussion on opening day of the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference.

Their topic: Is a recession on or off the table in 2020? Rosenberg said it’s already here. “Corporate earnings have gone down three quarters in a row,” he declared, citing Apple as a prime example. “Apple’s earnings are down 10 percent the past year. The earnings actually peaked three years ago. We’re in an earnings recession. There’s no doubt about that.”

He continued: “Everybody says, ‘I don’t see the recession. I don’t see the recession. I don’t see the recession.’ It’s sort of like” (and here he made a loud ‘sniff, sniff, sniff, sniff’ in the air) “I don’t smell the carbon monoxide, do you?”

“I’m not that good that I can time the day, the week, the month it’s going to happen, but it’s out there. And it’s going to happen.”

And there was more: “So I’m going to tell you something. 30 percent of the U.S. economy right now is in recession. And if I told you 30 percent of your body is sick, I don’t think you’d be feeling so good.”

The bullish Brian Belski was unbowed, citing among other things the buying habits of the U.S. consumer. “What are we really good at? Buying stuff. Buying stuff,” he said twice. 

“The true elasticity of Apple, Disney Plus …Netflix, that’s what they’re spending” money on, he said, referring to millennials.

“Sell capacity. Buy scarcity. It doesn't matter if we’re going to agree, there’s always stocks to buy. Amazon private label is coming next. They’ll have toilet paper, they’ll have soap. Why would you ever, ever walk into a store to buy that? You won’t.”

 As for corporate earnings: “The fundamentals are better than most people think,” Belski said.

The Restaurant Finance & Development Conference continues through Wednesday at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, presented by Franchise Times’ sister publication the Restaurant Finance Monitor.


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About This Blog

The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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