No matter the wobbly economy. In good times and bad, people love spending money on their pets.
The American Pet Products Association estimates owners will spend nearly $53 billion on their pets in 2012. That's a lot of Puppy Chow and a 3.8 percent increase over last year, which also set a record.
Pet services — boarding, pet sitting, grooming and day care — are expected to post the fastest rate of growth, beating out food, veterinary care and other categories.
So it comes as no surprise that Fetch! Pet Care is expanding into the Tampa Bay market. Founded in California, the pet-sitting company has about 130 franchises nationwide and wants to grow to 500 in the next few years, including four to six in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
CEO Paul Mann said an influx of top pet spenders prompted his decision to add services in Florida: baby boomers whose kids have left the nest, young professionals who have moved to the area without any family and dual-income households.
"It's proving to be a recession-resistant industry," he said. "People don't stop spending on their pets — just like their kids — and you could argue that they are spending more on their pets than their kids."
• Finally, a kids menu that doesn't make me yawn or pitch a fit. First Watch has a new menu that doesn't star cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and fries. Instead, how about a Fresh Fruit Crepe with low-fat organic strawberry yogurt and homemade granola? Or a Turkeywich with turkey and Monterey Jack cheese on sourdough and a side of fruit? Being a kid never sounded so tasty.
First Watch partnered with the National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell program, which emphasizes lean proteins, fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. The seven kids items sell for $4.99 each and include a drink. Order one and First Watch will give 25 cents to Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign.
• Ordering Publix subs, sliced meats and cheeses is now just a click away at many stores. As of Monday, the chain had online deli ordering at 42 Florida locations.
In St. Petersburg, that includes stores at Disston Plaza, 3501 49th St. N; Bay Pointe Plaza, 5295 34th St. S; and Carillon Town Center, 20 Carillon Parkway. In Tampa, that includes stores at the North Bay Commerce Center, 8975 Race Track Road; the Hillsboro Plaza, 2724 W Hillsborough Ave.; and the South Tampa Neptune store at 1313 S Dale Mabry Highway.
Customers can place orders online (publix.com/order) or at kiosks in select stores. Here's hoping it speeds up the line at the deli counter.
• Think you could make a living off taquitos and Slurpees at 7-Eleven? The convenience store company is holding a free seminar about franchising opportunities in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. The meeting runs from 6 to 9 p.m. today at the Hampton Inn, 5628 W Waters Ave.
Here's the lowdown: The company provides the land, building and equipment. You provide the startup cash — about $120,000 to $250,000, depending on the store, which includes the opening inventory, supplies, business licenses, permits, bonds and franchise fee. Contact Lucas Patton at (813) 468-6265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Thurston can be reached at email@example.com.