Last week, we marveled at Sonya Thomas and rumors that in a Thanksgiving contest, the 106-pound Alexandria, Va., native ate more in one sitting than many of us did over the entire holiday. To summarize, we're talking seven pounds of holiday victuals in 12 minutes.

We were pleasantly surprised when Ms. Thomas took us up on our offer to drop by Fool HQ and say hello. If we kept her too long talking about the nuances, strategies, and rigors of the professional eating circuit, we apologize. But what a blast!

So, if you've sensed we're covering the restaurant and food stocks a bit more closely of late... well, now you know.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

JetBlue It

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

If you trust the visibility report from the cockpit, you probably saw this coming. Wall Street darling JetBlue(Nasdaq: JBLU) is starting to show signs of mortality. Engaged in a sharp descent since peaking in October, it's becoming clear that even in the stodgy airline sector, there is no company nimble enough to avoid being copied.

Discounted carriers running light in terms of overhead cargo are starting to clog the formerly friendly skies, and while that's great news for you as a traveler, it's not a welcome event for JetBlue. The edgy airline is blaming the California wildfires, in part, for a dip in operating margins, but we all know that it's the popularity of discounting rivals that's really heating up.

As unfortunate as the Southern California blazes were, they actually didn't make much of a dent as the company's load factor last month rose to 81.6% from a 79.3% showing a year ago. Yes, the fires were pretty much a late October event, under control as the month started, but if you still see smoke it, just might be the company trying to throw off the damaging impact of its fellow low-cost carriers.

Just as Southwest(NYSE: LUV) flew circles around the competition with its familiar fleet of 737s and frills-free flying, JetBlue upped the ante with perks like leather seats and live satellite television. Because it was essentially starting from scratch, it was able to avoid the costly infrastructure of the major carriers.

But succeeding, with profitability in a sector grounded with deficits, proved to be the beacons that lit up the landing strip for the competition. Delta(NYSE: DAL) launched its hip Song upstart, and others like Spirit and AirTran(NYSE: AAI) have been quick to offer bargain fares to thrifty travelers.

AirTran's penchant for a flexible multitasking workforce produced labor costs that ran just 29% of the carrier's operating expenses last year. Southwest, on the other hand, was at 39%.

That doesn't mean JetBlue is doomed. Far from it. The company's capacity, as measured by available seat miles, has grown by 53% over the past year. However, it does mean that the competition can no longer be ignored. Everyone knows that the key to making a business model fly in the airline sector these days is to offer low fares on a low-cost structure. It's not rocket science.

Well, actually, I guess it is.

Quote of Note

"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable." -- Sydney J. Harris

VOIP Gold Rush

Companies developing Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) solutions are creeping back into the limelight after falling off a cliff in the 2000 telecom meltdown. Part of the renewed focus is thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) meetings to debate the future of Internet Telephony (count on government discussion of regulating revolutionary technologies to grab major attention). The FCC wants to examine the issue more closely, as concerns about such things as how the FBI would tap conversations and how E911 calls would be directed properly are unresolved.

The reason for all the regulatory chatter? VOIP technology completely sidetracks the way voice communications are normally done. Traditionally, phone calls are placed on the network of phone lines and switches developed over the last century. But VOIP bypasses this route for calls and directs voice conversations over upgraded data networks. This also means that it bypasses standard methods of levying and taxing voice services.

In the 1990s, the promise of talking cheap (or even free) through a computer led to dramatic rises for stocks such as Net2Phone(Nasdaq: NTOP). But as capital spending evaporated, companies developing advanced switching gear to enable voice and video over data networks cut budgets and workforce drastically. As spending is back into the lexicon again, new speculation has arisen about when, not if, VOIP will take off -- and who will profit.

The major telecom equipment suppliers -- names such as Lucent(NYSE: LU), Nortel Networks(NYSE: NT), Cisco(Nasdaq: CSCO), and Alcatel(NYSE: ALA) -- are playing in the space to some degree. The major carriers have also already announced service packages that include some level of converged voice and data services as well, so it is on the verge of going mainstream. VOIP has already gained traction in the enterprise space -- Verizon Communications(NYSE: VZ) and Alcatel, for instance, announced a huge network deployed in a Las Vegas school district.

Much like the early days of the electronic telegraph and radio, though, speculators abound in the VOIP realm. At this early stage, it's hard to weed out the hype and justify lofty valuations in some players. Several companies deriving significant business in VOIP -- such as 8x8 Inc.(Nasdaq: EGHT) and Sonus Networks(Nasdaq: SONS) -- have already risen severalfold this past year. But there's likely to be another phase of shaking out of an already-crowded space in the near future, so adventurers beware.

Shameless Plug: Need a Broker?

If you want to buy stocks, you're going to need a broker. And who wouldn't want to own stocks? There is no place over the past 100 years where your long-term savings would have fared better than the stock market -- not in bonds, not in real estate, not in gold, and certainly not in Beanie Babies. Our Broker Center makes it super-easy to pick the right broker for you, so check it out!

Will TiVo Get Betamaxed?

There's so much to like about TiVo(Nasdaq: TIVO). It is a great product with rave reviews and a tech-savvy, cultish following. It has been revolutionizing the way we watch TV. It continues to increase its number of subscribers. It has even been steadfastly approaching profitability.

However, while TiVo -- a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick -- was the first company to offer the ability to record, pause, and even rewind live TV, investors were shaken Thursday by hints that competitive products could spell trouble for the company.

The stock dropped more than 4% after a Reuters article voiced concerns regarding Comcast's(Nasdaq: CMCSA) plans to develop its own digital video recording (DVR) device, which it plans to roll out next year. Many hoped that TiVo would provide its own service to cable operators, much like it has in a very successful and lucrative deal with satellite provider DirecTV, a unit of Hughes Electronics(NYSE: GMH).

Jeff Hwang pointed out last month that fears of losing the DirecTV connection seem to have passed. This is a good thing, considering that DirecTV has 11 million subscribers, and that number appears to be growing.

And thank goodness for the DirecTV deal. After all, that Comcast is the No. 1 provider of cable services is a little troubling, when you think of the lost potential of a TiVo/Comcast hook-up. Comcast has 21 million subscribers. Had the two teamed up, it could have done a lot for TiVo's dominance in the market, not to mention revenues.

So far, all signs indicate that competing DVR products won't make TiVo's service obsolete, like VHS recorders did to Betamax, unless one of the competing products comes up with some serious innovations. (Allowing you to plug yourself in as an extra on your favorite show? "Choose-your-own-adventure" plot lines? Programming your TV to watch your kids while they watch it?)

Competing DVR products from a company like Comcast, easily accessible with service fees bundled onto a bill that already comes every month, could stunt TiVo's growth. However, right now it seems there's no need to panic; TiVo's got a whole lot of people evangelizing it, and the DirecTV deal provides a great deal of comfort. It still brings millions of potential subscribers to the table, who may very well all talk up the power of TiVo.

Discussion Board of the Day: TiVo

Do you think competition will rewind TiVo's potential, or is this company going to continue on the fast-forward track? Tune in to the Fool's TiVo discussion board.

More Fool News

For a list of all our stories from today, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com, Bill Mann gives a Road Map to Great Companies....Whitney Tilson divulges A Value Investor's Secret.... Rick Munarriz's Dear Eisner implores the Disney chairman and CEO to fire back at his many critics.

Contributors:
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Dave Mock, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim