Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon lights the way into a new decade

Tonight's Blue Moon ushers in the 10's

Happy 2010

Y2K + 10

Can it really be ten years ago that the world feared the ticking of the twelve clock hour? We watched first as Australia turned the century with no Y2K disaster, then Asia, Europe and finally here in the United States the relief was palpable. Ten years, Google, Twitter, Facebook, text messages, iPhone, housing bubble, great recession, out-sourcing, rise of Asia and Blogger.

Change is undergoing Moore's Law which doubles knowledge and capacity every cycle. What will the world be like in 2020?

Happy 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SWOT Analysis

The sun has completed it journey around the Sun yet again. Amazing, we live on a living mass orbiting a fiery ball, which itself is orbiting the center of the Milky Way galaxy, which is moving through the void of space with a cluster of other galaxies toward the future. Whether you believe in the Big Bang, Biocentrism, self manifestations, quantum fluctuations, particle spin or multiverse universe's you got a business and a life to make sense out of.

SWOT analysis is here to help you analyze your strengths, weakness, opportunities and obstacles.

Creative destruction

Barry Mcguire's rendition of his classic "Eve of Destruction"

Scott Thurm's WSJ article

Companies always fail or get acquired. But the past decade was unusually tumultuous: Two investment bubbles grew, then burst, each followed by a recession. The Internet matured into a crucial cog of commerce and spawned innovative upstarts while ravaging one traditional industry after another. Global players from emerging economies muscled their way into business's top ranks. Wall Street was remade almost overnight by the financial crisis. And governments reversed a decades-long retreat to lay a more forceful hand on the global economy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What are you feeling like on Dec 31, 2010?

This is a very simple exercise. Imagine your world in one year. Feel it, understand it, breath it. Now work backwards until today and outline how you got there. That is your path, follow it!

Jump into the icy waters

Jon Gordon reminds us to trust

thought of all this as I prepared to jump into the icy cold water-to take a symbolic plunge that this would be the year of NO FEAR. Regardless of the circumstances I was facing, this would be the year where I would trust and go for it. This would be the year I would be bold in actions and faith and humble in spirit. No longer could I do it alone. Now I needed a miracle and I decided to act as if my future depended on me and pray like it depended on God.

By jumping into the ocean I was declaring that no longer will I allow fear to cut off the flow of abundant and positive energy in my life. No longer will I allow fear to paralyze me. Instead of fear I would trust.

There are two ways to do this, trust and believe it will work or live in the shadows buried under the immeasurable weight of fear. Trust and belief is much more fun and feels a lot better regardless of the outcome.

Happiness is the point

Kevin Huffman's article offers hope;

Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches positive psychology at Harvard and has written extensively on happiness, calls it "the end toward which all other ends lead." He writes: "Wealth, fame, admiration and all other goals are subordinate and secondary to happiness; whether our desires are material or social, they are means toward one end: happiness."

If happiness is the point, four in five Americans already are on the right track, and that should make all of us more optimistic about the decade to come.

What are your power users doing?

Seth has a insightful post today about watching the behavior of your power users.

Amazon and the Kindle have killed the bookstore. Why? Because people who buy 100 or 300 books a year are gone forever. The typical American buys just one book a year for pleasure. Those people are meaningless to a bookstore. It's the heavy users that matter

The same logic applies to any business, if those customers who accounted for the majority of your sales no longer frequent, the model needs to change fast.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie theaters need to go upscale

Mary Ellen and I went to see the hilarious comedy "It's Complicated". The popcorn and Diet Coke however were just ok. Most movie house have cavernous entry areas where you can purchase snacks. Why can I not purchase a cup of coffee, a sandwich, a smoothie or some other culinary delight. Why has anyone not figured out a food court for the large movie theaters?

Changing the business model in the new decade

As we leave the Double Naughts, what will the new business model look like.

John Sviokla offers this model,

The general message is very clear — open up; involve your audience in crafting solutions as well as the information about your firm's offers to other customers. The economics of this type of customer care are superior to anything that can be done with internal resources alone. When I did an analysis of a customer service organization at IBM many years ago, the codification of solutions into a knowledge base shifted first call resolution from less than 60% to over 90%. Customers were happier. The technical staff could spend their time on new products instead of chasing down customer problems. What's not to like?

The future will be more connected, with more ability for people to share their impressions, stories and advice. In an ever-more crowded information market, the natural tendency will be for those people who lead the tribes to become important influencers. Those who generate great new content will be the market movers. Isn't it time to get involved in this emerging customer service structure now — while there is still time to build a reputation based on "earned media"?

So my questions for you are:

  • Are you transparent?
  • Do you lead your tribe?
  • Have you unlocked the talent latent in your customer base?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday season is a great time for serendipity

Amy Wilkinson offers encouragement for all those holiday gatherings, stay aware and observe without judgment because,

Serendipity strikes when diverse groups congregate," Wilkinson adds. "Season's greetings can turn into season's meetings when people share creative ideas."

This is a unique time of the year when people gather from across geographies and sectors. Listen to them talk and be alert to excitement or frictions that might uncover new opportunities.

It should be personal

Meg Ryan had a great line in the movie "You got mail." She said "putting me out of business was just business to you however it was personal to me."

Adam Bryant has an interview with Jeffery Swartz,

You know the line in “The Godfather” — “Nothing personal. It’s just business.” At Timberland, I want to make it clear from the beginning it is personal. Not invasion-personal, like I need to know what’s going on in your life. But if you aren’t going to play at the level of personal, it’s probably not going to be nourishing for either of us.

A willingness to be exposed, a willingness to acknowledge the personal dimension, a willingness to value the personal dimension — from the beginning, that’s what we’re after. I’m saying that there’s no chance that our company, in a cruddy industry in a world that’s in an L-shaped recession, not a V- or a W-shaped recession, is going to be able to reinvent itself with the speed and ease that it needs to unless we bring more than our intellects to the table.

I’ve got to find people who are comfortable with fuzzy logic, who are comfortable being exposed, who are comfortable being wrong, who don’t value as the first notion, “I got the answer, Boss.”

Q. Sum it up for me.

A. Comfort with ambiguity is one thing and faith in a solution is another and a commitment to fight for a worthy outcome is the third.

Method to Menu magic

Sarah Kershaw explains how a little menu magic can rev up sales. It is all perception.

Tabla is just one of the many restaurants around the country that are feverishly revising their menus. Pounded by the recession, they are hoping that some magic combination of prices, adjectives, fonts, type sizes, ink colors and placement on the page can coax diners into spending a little more money.

“There is constant tinkering going on right now with menus and menu pricing,” said Sheryl E. Kimes, a professor of hospitality management at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. “A lot of creative things are going on because the restaurants are trying to hold on for dear life to make sure they get through this.”

Deep and elemental

Seth Kahan explains a simple life enhancing exercise to alter a deep and dark December.

On New Year's Day Create a 2-page Document that Pulls All This Together:

  1. The one-page list of all your engagements
  2. A new area to master
  3. Business growth intentions for the next six months
  4. Personal reflections on life

This short doc is a great reference for gong forward. There is something powerful about the simple act of documenting your intentions. In fact, each of these five simple acts is profound in its impact and the synergy of the collection is extraordinary. Time to reflect and listen to your inner wisdom is irreplaceable - you must do it. To achieve an exceptional life, reflection is mandatory. The time when the end of one year meets the beginning of another is perfectly fitted for it.

This work is deep and elemental, with a quiet power. Draw on the natural rhythm of the calendar and use it to your benefit.

Ask those who believe why?

Knowledge at Wharton has an article about Guy Kawasaki Ten Commandments of entrepreneurial success;

Learn who's buying your product, ask them why and give them more reasons. That's a lot easier than asking people who aren't interested 'why not,' and trying to change their minds."

Ice Cream's new business model

Maureen Farrell outlines a new business model for ice cream,

Skip the ice cream parlor with 31 flavors. Moobella's vending machine pumps out scoops, in 96 flavors, on-demand, in about 45 seconds. This patented technique for churning and freezing ice cream from a room-temperature dairy mix has been 17 years--and nearly $50 million in R&D--in the making. Two prototypes are running at Northeastern University in Boston and Worcester Polytechnic University. Pinnacle Food Services will market the machines mainly to cafeterias in universities, parks and zoos. Cost: $400 per month, plus ingredients. Moobella raised another $18 million in venture funding in September.

The return of Fine Dining

Greg Burns article illustrates that fine dining never went away only the frequency of visits were curtailed.

Ironically, embracing the past might be the best way to attract a younger, 40-and-under crowd, he said: "It would be new to them. The styles always come back."

So does the economy -- eventually.

Baldwin thinks the downturn bottomed out in August, and he sees the numbers moving in the right direction. But it's still slow. "The period of self-deprivation is behind them," he said of his customers. "The trends are in fact better this holiday season than in recent months. We'd like to see the slope of the line a little steeper."

A line out the door waiting for tables would be nice too.

The abundance of candidates

Aye yes, what a joy it is to advertise a job and receive 350 candidate applications. The employer is definitely in control here, the great recession has created an abundance in this one area. However some employers have taken this opportunity to skew the balance even further and are using economic conditions to squeeze the proverbial "blood from the stone".

There is a very fine line between maximizing resources and treating employees like 'cow chips". Guess what folks, in a few years the mistreated, under appreciated employees will watch as your business model flames out big time. Demography is destiny and the economy will recover. The only sustainable business model is recognizing that you are in a relationship with your employees. This is not a one off transaction but an ongoing relationship. Employers need to stop acting like jackasses.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Everyone and everything is a gift. The secret to happiness is to accept everything that comes along with Thanksgiving and want for nothing more.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

A visit from St Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stone soup recipe

Auren Hoffman's recipe for stone soup,

In this story, a hungry traveler visits a village with nothing but a large stone. The villagers ask him about the stone and he says it is the main ingredient for creating stone soup. He then convinced the villagers to create stone soup by first getting a large cauldron and inserting the stone. Then, he convinced them to fill the cauldron with water, then chicken, then vegetables, then spices and flavoring until the soup was complete and the entire village benefited from the stone soup.

Counting calories

It seems that customers can count calories after all. A USA Today story offers,

Diners consume far fewer calories at dinner and afterward when the calorie content of entrees is listed on the menus along with information on how many calories they should consume in a day, a new study shows

Volunteer during the season.

Roger Dooley points us toward a new study that purports that volunteering helps with cognition.

"Cognitive activity embedded within social settings may further increase task novelty, interactive problem-solving skills, and motivations to sustain these activities," the authors wrote.

"In addition, these activities are generative in giving meaning and purpose to one's life (volunteering, civic organizations, assisting others), which may make them more rewarding and personally enriching than highly stimulating activities performed alone. As a result, individuals may place more value on these activities beyond their immediate personal benefit and may sustain interest longer."

Basically it says, helping other people makes you smarter. What if your business donated your employees to help a cause on one day a quarter. You will be doing some good in the community and making your staff brighter in the process.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas week ideas

Rosabeth Moss Kanter offers this tidbit for getting through the next two weeks and maybe changing your life and the lives of those around you!

Peace on earth — or at least in the office. A period of amnesty or apology for past conflicts or troubles can pave the way to a fresh start.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Speed up the service.

People will believe they had more fun if you finish quicker than they thought. Karen Hopkin explains

So they asked people to take a 10-minute test. And then they pulled a fast one: For half the volunteers, they called “time’s up” when only five minutes had passed. The other half had to labor for 20 minutes before their 10-minute test was done. The result? Compared with the folks for whom time stood still, the finished-in-five team said they had more fun.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Change the things you have the power to change

Seth offers this bit of wisdom today

Smart businesspeople focus on the things they have the power to change, not whining about the things they don't.

Motivate by progress

Sean Silverthorne post offers the recipe to help motivate employees,

The single biggest thing managers can do to up the progress quotient, according to the authors, is “scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive, and holding up resources.”

2010 Menu Trends

Technomic predicts the following menu trends,

1. New Spin on Old Favorites: Comfort Foods
2. Exploring New Corners of Asia (and the world)

3. Frontiers of Flavor
4. Back to the Future: Tending Our Gardens and Farms
5. Breakfast ’Round the Clock
I never understood why you could only get breakfast at breakfast!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

McD's unlimited Wi-fi

A news release came out today that McDonald's is offering unlimited Wi-fi. First the coffee experience, then joining the sustainable movement and now unlimited Wi-fi. WOW, the journey from the dark side is complete. I expect that eating fast food will no doubt be the healthiest option very soon!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Right Ear

Do not even talk to customers or staff unless you are talking to their right ear!

Changing Minds' post offers this;

When you want to persuade someone about something does it matter which ear they listen with? Apparently it does. Recent research by Marzoli and Tommas in Italy shows that if they listen with the right ear, they are far more likely to comply with requests.

We used to provide that service but given the economy

I heard a sales clerk utter those words today and I nearly went ballistic on him. The reality that he was clearly not trained tempered my rage.

Number 1, I do not care why you are no longer providing the service.

Number 2, Not providing the service is not a sustainable business model.

Return of the tavern

Katy McLaughlin's piece explains a sustainable business model

they used to call this model a neighborhood tavern. Welcome back!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Triangle Cuts

What is the optimal way to cut a sandwich?

NPR explains;

If your bread is square, and if each side is 4 inches long, you have 16 inches of crust. Cut that bread down the middle, and you get 8 inches of crust-free surface. Cut that same bread diagonally, Calter calculates, and you end up with almost 11 inches of crustless surface. That's a substantial increase.

The number 3 has always been more popular than 4, says Calter, who writes about the intersection of math, art and culture. Three is mother, father and child, he says. Three is the beginning, middle and end. Three is birth, life and death. Without three, there could not be a best — only a good and a better.

Geolocation functionality

Those words did not even exist a few years ago, soon maybe next year it will be the killer mobile app.

Pete Cashmore's top trends for 2010

What's clear is that location is not about any singular service; rather, it's a new layer of the Web. Soon, our whereabouts may optionally be appended to every Tweet, blog comment, photo or video we post.

The return of barter

Not that it ever really went away, however the mechanics of it made the process difficult to access for the majority of businesses. It is making a comeback as this WSJ story relates,

As they struggle to keep customers and pay the monthly bills, restaurants are swapping food for services like oven-hood cleaning and pest control.

Bartering helps restaurants fill seats, reassuring prospective customers who might be turned off by the sight of a vacant eatery. It also attracts new customers when tradespeople bring friends along, reduces some costs, and helps retain employees who can't scoop tips off empty tables.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dual Concepts

Listening to an NPR piece this morning got me thinking about dual concepts. I have always been a purist. Concept clarity has always been one of my tenets for success. However, I am willing to concede the possibility that I am misguided in my adherence to that business model. The story is about a a breakfast place,

Scramblers, a breakfast diner in Springfield, Mo., got a roommate last June: Andoro's Pizzeria.

The Italian eatery moved into the same restaurant as the bacon-and-eggs joint to keep costs down for both businesses. The arrangement has allowed a new restaurant to open, and an existing one to stay afloat in a tough economy.

The idea is not new, however just like a lot of people are moving back in with family or taking on boarders to help defray the cost this restaurant rented out the night business which was laying fallow. Forget the logistics for a moment and concentrate only on the concept piece. Is this a workable business idea? I think it is, we are not taking about a hot dog stand also serving pizza, salad, and beer. We are talking about two distinct concepts sharing a space, sharing customers, and sharing infrastructure. It can work when dayparts are distinct, however it can also work when it isn't such as lunch in this case. It will not be long before savy entrepruneurs start testing new concepts with the confines of their exisiting ones

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cooking class as a profit center

Ruth Fuller's post explores restaurant offering cooking class

"People in this economy are not going out to eat as much, and they are done with fast food," Maish said. "After coming to a class, they can get in their kitchen, sip a glass of wine, attack one of my recipes -- and in a half-hour they can have the same quality meal as if they came into the bistro."

Across the Chicago area, home-cooked meals are becoming more of a necessity as families like Todd's struggle to pay the bills. But the home cooks and professional chefs alike say that necessity can come with a touch of class.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving wishes

The secret to happiness is to "welcome all that comes along with Thanksgiving and want for nothing more." Thanksgiving is a day like all days were we should begin with gratitude for the opportunity to begin again.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

51 million jobs were created

Tom re-frames the discussion brilliantly,

We added—yes, I said ADDED—51 million jobs.
And we lost 57 million jobs.

That is, bizarre as it may seem, in the space of a year there was a churn of over ONE HUNDRED MILLION jobs. (Micro-tizing the math, we didn't "lose a job"—on average, we created 8 jobs and lost 9 jobs for a net of minus 1—and repeated that musical chairs drill enough times to end up 6 million in the hole.)

And this is how it always goes, though typically, thank God, the pluses exceed the minuses.

While the above offers not a smidgeon of relief to jobless Jane or Joe next door, there is long-term good news imbedded in these stats. We are not in fact dependent on a jobs recovery at GM or Chrysler to get us back on our feet. We are dependent, over the long haul, on an out-of-work employee starting a Web-based business and through valiant effort creating three new jobs in the next 18 months.

Long live the caffe

The WSJ's post bemoans the outcast state of the true caffe.

And yet it seems that we're losing the coffeehouse—less to the usual suspects like the Internet and Dunkin' Donuts than to our own politeness. We've brought the noise level down to a whisper and are in the process of losing even the whisper: Enter the modern cafĂ© and the loudest sound you'll hear will be someone typing, in ALL CAPS, an angry blog comment. We've become a nation of coffee sophisticates—to the point where McDonald's feels compelled to roll out some semblance of an espresso program—but we're still rubes when it comes to the real purpose of the place: It's not the coffee. It's what your brain does on it

Urban dwellers are becoming the majority

Wendy Waters' post details the trek from farm living to urban dwelling.

Five trends she has noticed,

  • The widespread daily $5 Latte habit
  • Dozens of people sitting in a cafe, all texting on their cel phones but not talking to each other
  • Ordinary people having personal trainers
  • How busy a restaurant patio is on a warm day, with both men and women (in the 1950s these people would all have 4 kids at home)

Pumpkin Pie shortage, Oh My

Depressions, rainy days and now a shortage of pumpkin pie filling. Enough already, let me off this ride. There has to be another train going in the right direction somewhere. Let's find it and get on it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lifetime Value of a Customer

Too often when a customer walks into the restaurant for the first time there is no emphasis placed on the lifetime value of that customer to the business. The consideration is skewed heavily toward this one transaction. Where management may occasionally remember the lifetime value equation, the staff tends to be especially weak in this area. The concern for extracting the largest tip or increasing the check amount during this one transaction takes precedence with the staff. When was the last time a server ended a transaction by saying "come again soon and ask for me"?

Seth's post offer some kindle to this discussion;

Instead of comparing what you invest to the benefit you receive from the first bill, the first visit, the first transaction, it's important to not only recognize but embrace the true lifetime value of one more customer.

Write it down. Post it on the wall. What would happen if you spent 100% of that amount on each of your next ten new customers? That's more money than you have to spend right now, I know that, but what would happen? Imagine how fast you would grow, how quickly the word would spread.

Imagine if your staff embraced customers as lifetime partners in the business. Actively tried to build a book of business by their service and in doing so grew the restaurant. Imagine that every customer is not a single transaction, but a continual stream of transactions. How do you treat that customer? Why are you not doing that to every customer that walks in the door? This is a cultural discussion, your establishment either treats all their customers as a relationship or it does not.

It is pretty obvious which establishments value the lifetime customer!

Back to the value equation

Darren explains business models that work

“The limited-service sandwich chains that continue to perform well have conveyed a strong value equation to their customers—from craveable flavor profiles to reasonable pricing to convenience of ordering,” says Darren Tristano, EVP at Technomic, a foodservice industry consultant. “Given the challenging economic environment, leaders should understand the shifting expectations of their customers and be prepared to make the necessary changes to remain relevant, while keeping a watchful eye on margin erosion concerns.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

There are finance options

Seth had a great post about how to secure funding,

Need to raise money for a restaurant? It's hard for an investor to figure out how to win by owning equity (because it's so easy for the owner of the restaurant to manipulate profit). But if the investor gets 4% of every check paid, that's money back starting on the first day.

This type of financing will become the preferential method for investor to undertake risk.

Now, Warren and Goldman want to help too.

Goldman Sachs apologised for its role in the financial crisis on Tuesday and pledged $500m over five years – or about 2.3 per cent of its estimated bonus and salary pool for 2009 – to help 10,000 US small businesses recover from the ­recession.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why are they not listening?

Are you communicating to the right Ear? ChangingMinds Blog explains

where loud music makes listening tricky, and tried a series of experiments. When they tried asking for a cigarette in the left ear or the right ear of their subjects, they found that almost twice as many requests to the right ear were successful.

This confirms a tip I've heard before that when doing a presentation you will be more successful if you stand to the left (as you face the audience). Of course then more of what you say will reach the right ear than the left ear.

The explanation is that sound in the right ear goes to the left brain hemisphere, which is used more for verbal communication. The left hemisphere also has been associated with approach behaviour as opposed to the right hemisphere avoidance tendency.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nudging the low calorie options

How do you get customers to eat healthy selections and still turn a profit. The Nudgeblog has this post;

Incentivizing convenience of ordering low calorie food, by clustering these options together at the top of the menu, seems to have a significant impact.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wine wheel

Chart porn points us to a wine wheel,

Dipstick to measure toxins

Better check those vendors before you sell it to your guests TR's post explains,

Now a team of chemists at McMaster University in Ontario have published a paper in Analytical Chemistry that describes a new biomonitoring technique using treated paper on a stick that can quickly identify trace amounts of pesticides in your chicken soup, or your first early morning cup of joe.

As reported in R&D:

The scientists describe the development of a new paper-based test strip that changes color shades depending on the amount of pesticide present. In laboratory studies using food and beverage samples intentionally contaminated with common pesticides, the test strips accurately identified minute amounts of pesticides. The test strips, which produced results in less than 5 minutes, could be particularly useful in developing countries or remote areas that may lack access to expensive testing equipment and electricity, they note.

Translate a menu.

Dave Johnson's post introduces us to a new app.

PicTranslator is an iPhone app that translates certain sorts of text from any one of 16 different languages. Just take a picture of the text, crop the frame to the text you want translated, and then, after a short wait, you get the English equivalent. A small number of the languages (including French, German, and Spanish) will even pronounce the text for you in the original language, so you can sound like a tourist who is making some small attempt to respect the local culture.

Act the way I want to feel.

Gretchen Rubin's post offers insight on feelings.

Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. More than a century ago, philosopher and psychologist William James described this phenomenon: “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.” By acting as if you feel a certain way, you induce that emotion in yourself.

I use this strategy on myself. If I feel shy, I act friendly. If I feel irritated, I act lovingly. This is much harder to do than it sounds, but it’s uncannily effective.

Here how to implement this in your business. If your employees want to feel like they are loved and appreciated by your customers, have them act as they already are.

The sum of the past

Seth is very strong in his post this morning about the definition of work. If you are defined by your work then you need to do that work no matter how hard.

The definition of "can get" is essential. Maybe it seems like this gig or that gig is the best you can get because that's all you're exposing yourself to. Almost always, the best gig I could get is shorthand for the easiest gig I could get.

Surviving is succeeding, no doubt about it. Doing the work is better than not doing the work. Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress. But, and it's a huge but, you define yourself by the work you do, and perhaps you need to redefine what you're willing to take and where you're looking for it.

SBUX recovers

Starbucks came out with their earnings this week and it seems the recession is over. The customers are back and spending.

Happy days are here again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Focus on aspects that raise revenue.

Angel investors want you to focus on aspects of the business that generate revenue. Kermit Pattison's article addresses the metrics investors use.

There has been a sea change in risk sensitivity; the more self-sufficiency a company demonstrates, the less risky it appears. “Bootstrap it as long as you possibly can to validate your business model and to get some traction,” Mr. Cerullo said. “The more traction you have, the more leverage you are going to have in a valuation negotiation with an angel or private equity investor.”

Entrepreneurs should find ways to finance their own growth: working without salary, moonlighting, seeking grants, running lean operations and focusing on an aspect of the business that can generate revenue.


Are you kidding me?

Things are getting out of hand now.Technomic reports a decrease of on-premise liquor consumption.

Total alcohol sales in all away-from-home venues are expected to decline 2.5 percent in 2010. The biggest declines will be seen in casual full-service restaurants and high-end white tablecloth restaurants.

Be consistent throughout

Bruce Buschel's post offers a list of tips for servers;

Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before guests are seated.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Halos Eve

It is very scary out there tonight. There are ghosts and goblins wandering the earth unimpeded by their chains. Even more scary is the economy which continues to struggle at all levels. I was visiting my favorite bakery cafe when I asked the proprietor how things were? She replied that she wished she had a little more business. Ever the bright know-it-all, I informed her that the recession had ended and happy days were here again. She looked bemused and informed me that there are a lot of her customers that are unemployed and they do not believe the recession has ended...

Really now who should we believe, the uninformed baker who is on the front lines of this economic malaise or the bright intelligent ivory tower types who tell us that "prosperity is just around the corner and all boats will be lifted by this incredible economic recovery" Always the optimist, I am siding with my friend the baker. It is very scary out there this All Halos Eve.

What people pay for?

The thrill of possibility, the chance for recognition, the chemical high of anticipation. That's what people pay for. Seth Godin

Seth's quote is interesting because it encapsulates the thought process of the first few moments in any dining or purchasing decision. The purchaser examines the menu offerings while engulfed by the atmosphere that has been created by the entrepreneur. The decision resulting from those moments of contemplation is based in large measure on the thrill of possibility.

Have you heard the recession is over

Yea, it was all over the news the other day. I was not really sure how to respond. I thought I would go out to a restaurant and party. I was of course concerned that everyone else was doing the same and the place would be packed.

Fortunately that was not the case. Apparently no one but me was in a celebratory mood and the traffic count that night was way down. Cheer up I told the manager the recession is over.

Culling the customer base.

Jackie Huba's post reminds entrepreneurs that they actually have a duty to protect their good customers from their more disruptive brethren. It is ok and even beneficial to say "NO" to an individual who is disrupting another guest's experience.

To which Tim wrote on his blog:

"Fabulous.You sir are exactly the type of patron that I never want to see at an Alamo Drafthouse ever again. People who continue to talk when the movie has started are impolite, self-absorbed losers who were never taught common decency by their parents. WE DON’T EVER WANT YOU AT THE ALAMO. Please take your business elsewhere for the rest of your life....To our friendly customers, stay vigilant, report talkers and keep our theater safe from the raging hemorrhoids of cinematic society."

This happens all the time inside stores, movie theaters, sporting events, airline flights; an obnoxious customer makes everyone uncomfortable, and everyone in charge is oblivious.

Difficult Conversations

Peter Bergman's post offers three concrete steps to diffuse any awkward conversation;

  1. Ask questions. I would ask open ended, exploratory questions. Who, what, when, where, how, why, etc. Questions that would clarify what she was saying and feeling. Questions that would help me unpack the situation from her perspective. I would stay away from leading questions and statements that pretended to be questions but wouldn't fool anyone, like "You don't actually believe that, do you?"
  2. Actually listen. I would shut up and hear what she had to say. And I would avoid thinking about anything except what she was saying. I would also try to hear what she wasn't saying but was implying, the desires, fears, and assumptions that were behind what she was saying.
  3. Repeat and summarize. I would recap what I heard, trying to use the same words she did. I would also summarize what I heard and check with her to see if I understood her correctly. If she told me I didn't get it, I wouldn't ask her to repeat herself because, well, she would and I'd hear the whole thing over again. What I really wanted to know is what I got wrong. So I'd ask her what I missed. Once she told me, I'd repeat that part again and ask her if I got it right this time.

Most importantly, I wouldn't bother to defend our decision until her anger was diffused. And I picked a sign for myself: once she took a deep breath and relaxed her shoulders, I'd make my point.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Customer satisfaction is getting vocal.

Reuters' post discuss how the economy is impacting your guest's tolerance of less than exceptional service.

"The survey for online restaurant marketing service Livebookings also found nearly a quarter admitting they are more likely to moan about poor service due to the economic downturn."

People have less money or are feeling less wealthy in most cases and they are simply not going to tolerate exchanging their few discretionary dollars for a dining experience that does not meet their expectations. The study identifies the percentage that would complain, more problematic for your business are those who feel the experience was sub par and choose not to return. In those cases you have no idea why they did not return. The customer just vanished, and guess what if your business has a trend of vanishing customers, the business will also vanish.

What does your business smell like?

Cynthia Graber's post about the effects of smells has some direct implications;

grab whatever product you use to clean. Maybe it’s something that smells really citrusy. Do a bit of cleaning. Then take a few deep breaths. Believe it or not the odds are now higher that you’ll make decisions that are both more fair and more generous than you would have without smelling the cleanser. That’s according to research published in the journal Psychological Science.

Time to start pumping citrus into the air in your business.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fingers of instability

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
- Shakespeare

Have you ever wondered why some restaurant concepts flourish while others flounder? Have you done everything "right" and gotten a less than satisfactory result? Have you had a successful concept, opened your second one and stumbled badly? Well the problem is the finger of instability that permeates all elements of our existence. Actually the scientific term is self organizing criticality.

Mark Buchanan's "Ubiquity" describes the situation in this fashion;

"What counts in the critical state are not complex details but extremely simple underlying features of geometry that control how influences can propagate"

All one can do is their very best, everything else is whether or not their is enough underlying geometry to propagate the business.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How is your 2010 plan coming?

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
– Harriet Beecher Stowe

There is carnage all around you. Some of your friends have shuttered their dreams. Economists are telling you the worst is over however you see people losing their homes in your neighborhood. Against this backdrop you need to create a plan for 2010.

Ivana Taylor has some great questions for your (Plan 2010)

  1. What is my situation right now?
  2. What scares you about this?
  3. Given what you’ve said, what is your default future?

Now take a look at that and decide if that’s right for you. Is this default future ok with you? I’m assuming the answer is probably no. So let’s try this again.

  1. What’s the situation right now?
  2. What missing in this situation, that if it were present, would open new possibilities? Is it risk-taking? creativity? passion about the business? Caring for the customer?
  3. What future is possible now that you’ve brought in the missing ingredient?

Trending toward 2010

Robert Passikoff's trends for 2010 has some interesting nuggets,

In case your brand didn't get the memo, here it is: Consumers are on to brands trying to play their emotions for profit. In the wake of the financial debacle of this past year, people are more aware then ever of the hollowness of bank ads that claim "we're all in this together" when those same banks have rescinded their credit and turned their retirement plan into case studies.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What is the best way to learn?

Jonah Lehrer's post offers this reassurance,

getting the wrong answer helps us remember the right one...By challenging ourselves to retrieve or generate answers we can improve our recall. Keep that in mind next time you turn to Google for an answer, and give yourself a little more time to come up with the answer on your own.

it is ok and even beneficial to learn from mistakes

Credit card round trip

hat tip Chart Porn

Communal Table, good idea gone nowhere

Christopher Borrelli article lists the ten worst trends of the decade. Among them he listed the Communal Table. I hated the communal table concept because I thought, "I do not want to sit with perfect strangers who are going to ruin my evening." I was young and stupid back then.

The table does not work because everyone has the same mindset I used to have. There is an old proverb which escapes now, however the essence is that we age when we close ourselves off from new people and new experiences. When we are tried of trying to be social we become less than we were. Humans are a social animal, we need communal tables, granted we need a little Nudge

You need to have goals.

David Hammond reports on a pizza bet,

Scharoff "must eat sausage pizza for every meal during the month of October. The pizza must contain crust, sausage and cheese. All toppings, with the exception of lettuce on Taco Pizzas -- yes, he loves them -- and arugula and prosciutto -- he has no idea what either of these are -- must be cooked into the pizza. He cannot have dessert, chips or side dishes of any kind. No salads, no cereals, no slaw. Any significant caloric intake must be pizza."

Living the dream!

Red wine and fish

Steve Mirsky's article explains the silly notion of pairing red wine and fish. Sommelier's may have to return to their studies.

It’s one of the most vexing problems in modern science: which wine to order with the Chilean sea bass. One thing’s for sure, though—you’d only ever order a white wine, never a red wine with fish. The flavors just clash. But now researchers have pinpointed the problem with red wine and seafood. And some reds may actually go fine with fish.

So look for red wines with low iron.

Where does that cup of coffee come from?

Hat tip Chart porn

What happened to all the matchbooks

Katrina Heron's article visits an old standby,

matches appear to be struggling back from the brink to reassert their pre-eminence among the rabble of coasters, business cards, cocktail napkins and swizzle sticks charged with hawking a restaurant’s good name. In an era of instant information access and viral publicity, logo-bearing matches may have the edge as ambassadors that convey distinction in their very physicality.


Thomas Friedman's column deals with education, however its application is universal

Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spectre of deflation.

BLS report on wholesale prices. Prices seem sticky to me.

Finished foods:  Prices for finished consumer foods inched down 0.1 percent in September after 
rising 0.4 percent in August. The index for eggs for fresh use, which declined 9.8 percent, led the
decrease in finished consumer food prices.

Solar solutions to restaurant energy needs.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

In all, Chipotle has committed to panels that will produce 500 kilowatt hours of electricity, making Chipotle the largest direct producer of solar energy in the restaurant industry.

“Our effort to change the way people think about and eat fast food began with our commitment to serving food made with ingredients from more sustainable sources, and that same kind of thinking now influences all areas of our business,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “Today, we’re following a similar path in the way we design and build restaurants, looking for more environmentally friendly building materials and systems that make our restaurants more efficient.”

Closing out the guest experience.

The guest experience does not end after the guest has consumed their last morsel. Everything that occurs from the presentation of the check to the time the guest physically leaves the confines of your space (i.e. drives or walks away) or munches on the last remnants of their doggie bag is part of the experience.

Too often, a perfect meal is tarnished because the restaurant failed to follow through and close out the guest experience in a congruent fashion. The last memory tends to be the one that has traction.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Cognitive Dissonance of tipping.

Cognitive Dissonance is defined by wiki as,

"is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The "ideas" or "cognitions" in question may include attitudes and beliefs, the awareness of one's behavior, and facts. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors"

When you go to a neighborhood diner and the server is exceptional and the bill is $20 you would tip $4 (20%). If you dine at a more upscale establishment and the service is ok, the bill is $40, you would tip $6 (15%). If you go to a fancy restaurant and the service is so-so, the bill is $80, the tip is $8 (10%). In all three cases the server took the order, brought a beverage, soup and an entree. The server in the neighborhood diner worked much harder and made the dining experience more pleasurable, however because of the price points and the whole IRS taxing tips based on a percentage of gross sales etc. the server at the high end steak house receives a higher income. That causes an unfairness in the mind of the customer and makes the higher end dining experience less desireable.

The question is how does a proprietor mitigate the effects of that dissonance on their customers?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Return of the Customer

James Surowiecki's article debunks the death of conspicuous consumption.

But the evidence for a radical shift in the way we consume seems more like the product of wishful thinking (there’s a palpable longing among pundits for Americans to become more frugal) than anything else. In many categories, spending has dropped only slightly, if at all. And, while these are very tough times for retailers who believed that spending could only go up, retail sales rose briskly in August. Before we go proclaiming this the age of the American tightwad, a little perspective is in order. Even after the worst recession of the past seventy years, retail sales this year will be about where they were in 2005. Does anyone really think that four years ago Americans were misers?

Are you ready for the return of the customer?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Is a guest intellectual property?

A guest has a dining experience and then tweets about it. A server tweets or blogs about a particular guest that visited your restaurant. Who owns that information? Does the server have a right to discuss anything that occurs in the restaurant that you the proprietor are responsible for? Does a guest have a right to expect privacy within the confines of your establishment? Do we need to actively restrict employees with confidentiality agreements. Do we need to have a guest sign a confidentiality agreement?

Transparency in a wired world is a area of the law that is certainly in development. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Keep the intent high

Bill Caskey nails it when it comes to how you should interact with your customers. He is describing the unsuccessful Chicago 2016 bid however the business lesson for all entrepreneurs is crystal clear.

That’s because most of we sales people fail when it comes to our intent. I describe INTENT as that which is in your heart that governs how you attract or repel prospects to you.

High Intent is when everything is about THEM, YOUR CUSTOMER, YOUR PROSPECT, YOUR TARGET.
Low Intent is when everything is about YOU, YOUR NEEDS, YOUR COMMUNITY, YOUR DESIRES.

Rio it is in 2016

Being a Chicago Cub fan one would think I can handle a less than perfect outcome. However the greatest city in the world was not awarded the 2016 Olympic games and it feels horrible.

Raise a glass of cheer to the incredible efforts of Chicago 2016 organization, you did us proud!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The customer has a task, help them fulfill it..

Jeff Sexton's post spells it out pretty clearly,

prospective customers are task oriented – they have lives and they are not visiting your business because they are interested in you, or your company, or how you’d like to “position” yourselves within the industry. Your visitors have a problem and they are really only interested in whether or not you have a viable solution.

An entrepreneur's sole reason for existence is to provide that viable solution.

Dine out for a cause this week

It is time to do something positive in a sea of discontent. It is time for the Great American Dine Out

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The investor paradox

Go it alone or bring on investors is an age old quandary. Avoid investors if you can however they are a necessary evil at times.

Nolan Bushnell's article highlights the battle

Start-ups are by their nature messy. Management will make mistakes, markets will be slower to take shape than you anticipated, and the technology will be buggy. In a bootstrapped company, you can survive because your expenses are low and you are accountable to no one but yourself. But in a funded company, you must demonstrate to your investors that you are making progress even as cash flow continues to be negative for a much longer time, requiring added rounds of investment.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cloudy summer in the city:

Wow with depressions, decreases traffic counts, a tough cold winter in the forecast and now the lack of summer sunshine this old town really needs a party. Tom Skilling's article confirms what we already knew.

But perhaps one of this summers most lasting legacies was its lack of sunshine. Summer 2009 goes down in the books as the cloudiest on record. Never since sunshine records began 115 years ago has a June-through-August period hosted less of the possible sunshine. Sunshine is measured in minutes and the summer's total was 42,887 of the season's possible 80,626 minutes of sun, or 53 percent of possible sunshine -- 67 percent is considered normal.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Coffee Mug Ads

Coffee Mug ads were a staple of diners in a long ago era. I had not seem one in some time. We visited a new diner for breakfast this morning and there it was. A splash of advertising on the coffee mug. The was an ad for a beauty salon, a car repair, a dentist and of course an attorney. Each time I looked at my coffee mug there were the ads staring back at me.

The ads of course helps the restaurant defray the cost of the mugs and in a long ago era also created community. Ads are intruding into every aspect of our life so I would like to enjoy my coffee in peace without the additional stimulus.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Compelling technology that connects

Dina Berta's article highlights the way to be where your customers are. Your customers live on their iPhone's. Are you there?

“The breakthrough iPhone and iPod touch have really given us the ability to deliver a compelling experience to customers, which includes simplicity, personality and attention to detail,” said Steve Els, founder, chairman and co-chief executive of Chipotle.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chicago restaurants supporting the 2016 bid!

Way to go Tim!

Brandau's article highlights the bid efforts

Visitor marketing company Concierge Preferred has taken the lead in mobilizing the restaurant community on behalf of Chicago by hosting several events to drum up support, said president Tim O’Malley. By coordinating a dine-around event for the IOC and international press this past spring and a hospitality industry rally set for Sept. 4, Concierge Preferred has tried to strengthen Chicago’s case as a modern, world-class dining destination capable of entertaining the world.

“We’re on the radar already, because the world is talking about us,” O’Malley said. “If we’re chosen, the spotlight is going to be shining brightly on Chicago for the next seven years, and five to 10 years after that.”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Miserable middle

"Everything looks like a failure in the middle. Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work." Kanter's Law

Rosabeth Moss Kanter's piece offers a framework to reach the happy ending.

>>>Tune into the environment. What has changed since you began the initiative? Do the original assumptions hold? Is the need still there?
>>>Check the vision. Does the idea still feel inspiring? Is it big enough to make extra efforts worthwhile?
>>>Test support. Are supporters still enthusiastic about the mission? Will new partners join the initiative?
>>>Examine progress. Have promises been kept and milestones passed? Are there early indicators, tangible demonstrations, that this could succeed? Can the next wave of results sustain supporters and silence critics?
>>>Search for synergies. Can the project work well with other activities? Can it be enhanced by alliances?

Too many No's, and it might be time to cut losses and move on. But if the answers are mostly Yes, it is not over yet. You are still in the middle and still in the game. Renew the dream, regroup to remove roadblocks, surround yourself with supporters who cheer you on, and stick with it. Recognize the struggle of middles, give it some time, and a successful end could be in sight.

Those who master change persist and persevere. They have stamina. They are flexible. They expect obstacles on the road to success and celebrate each milestone. They keep arguing for what matters. And who knows what might happen? Persistence could keep innovations alive, convince companies to avoid draconian cuts, influence hiring managers to take a second look, or even persuade local politicians to save the city zoo.

Seth Godin explores this middle discussion brilliantly in his book "the dip"

Reading coffee fortunes

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Harbingers of the end 666

Wine in plastic bottles, OMG. Jerry Hirsch's article outlines

How about a bottle of the '02 Chateau Plastique?

The ubiquitous 750-milliliter glass wine bottle is starting to get competition from a plastic upstart.

The bottles carry a "use by" date -- plastic doesn't provide quite the same seal as glass -- and as such aren't likely to find their way into the cellars of serious wine enthusiasts.

For those who aren't as picky, however, the wine is likely to cost less. And oenophiles say that for wine that hasn't, er, expired, the taste will be the same.

"The wine doesn't know what package it is in," said W.R. Tish, a wine educator who writes a blog called Wine Skewer. "It tastes the same whether it is in a plastic bottle, a plastic bladder inside a box, or a glass."

Wi-Fi freeloaders

The Chicago Tribune has taken on an issue that has vexed coffee houses since the dawn of the town square. As a business you want your location to have energy and that requires people, however when those people become an expense and even worse a deterrent, what should you do?

Every morning, by the time you squeeze into the long line at the coffee shop, the laptop brigade already has staked out some of the best seats. The early arrivals are still there at lunch. And after lunch. And into the mid-afternoon, nursing a cup of coffee or a bagel and . . . tap-tap-tapping away on their laptops. Taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Oblivious to the commotion around them.

Oblivious to . . . you and the notion that you might briefly need a place to sit.

We've wondered, how do restaurants make money on these cyber squatters? Now there's an answer, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal: Many don't. At least, not enough money.

Some restaurateurs in the Big Apple are crabby about this. They say the customers plant themselves in the primo seats of their establishments to freeload off the wireless service. Some patrons appear with a tea bag for a free hot water refill, the paper reports, or "quietly unwrap homemade sandwiches."

Before wi-fi it was books and magazines. Before that it was parchment and scrolls. How long should you allow a person who buys a small coffee to linger at a primo window seat that you are paying $50 a square foot for?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The multi talented Watermelon

Erica Marcus' introduces the varied uses of watermelon

Your color and sweetness remind a lot of folks of tomatoes and, in fact, you marry well with tomatoes - as the market salad here demonstrates. I tried my hand at substituting you for tomatoes in various recipes and produced a Caprese salad and an orecchiette with watermelon that, while attractive, were not terribly good. On the other hand, my recipe for a BLW (bacon-lettuce-watermelon) sandwich is a winner.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ambiguos pricing:

Today is summer festival critique day, earlier I discussed the how brand clarity must be projected across all channels of customer interaction. This post addresses the whole notion of ambiguous pricing.

If more than one customer requires an explanation on the pricing on your sign, be it at a summer festival or in the restaurant, change it. The lasting memory of a customer transaction will not be happy if a customer thinks they are paying $4.00 for a large blended iced coffee when the price is actually $5.75. Case in point, a vendor had sign in large letters Iced Coffee sm - $3.00, large -$4.00, jumbo $5.75 on the right side of the board. The left side of the board read Smoothies and Blended Iced Coffee and listed the flavors. At the bottom in small print sm- $4.00, large $5.75, jumbo $8.00. Looking at the board I thought, a large blended iced coffee was $4.00 and was all set to order one. The customer in front of me had the same reaction. She ordered a large blended iced coffee thinking it was $4.00. When the clerk ask for $5.75 she pointed to the sign and said "it says $4.00", the clerk explained "that the iced coffee is $4.00, the blended iced coffee is $5.75 and I can put that in a small cup for you." Guess what, the clerk made that customer fell like "Cow Chips". Making customers feel bad about purchasing from you is not a sustainable business model. Yes you got the extra $1.75 in sales, however the future value of that customer is now ZERO, Zilch, Zip, Nada.

The sign was creating confusion which creates bad feelings. No business exists to create bad feelings. Fix your sign. This vendor is also another example of brand minefield issues because of the ambiguos pricing.

The brand minefield of the Summer Festival

Ah summer, the most glorious time of the year. There are summer festivals in nearly every corner of this country. Wow, what a great opportunity to introduce your restaurant to a brand new audience, bond with old friends and just have old fashion summer fun.

Hold on there Bunky, you might be great at running a restaurant however that does not mean you will be great at participating in summer festivals. Your participation in any summer festival or let us expand that, your participation in any channel needs to be coordinated with your brand. I have been attending quite a few of these summer festivals and have witnessed some horrible presentations from really good restaurants. The image you present at these festivals needs some thought. Too often restaurnats just slap up the tent and get at it. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This callous behavior creates a minefield for your brand to disintegrate completely. Not only will your introduction to new audience not be fruitful, but your old friends will start to rethink their high regard for your hospitality skills.

Dayparts in everything

Fascinating chart in the NY Times about how people spend their day.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lemonade stand as a harbinger

Steven Berglass' 3 point test to determine if you should be an entrepreneur starts with;

Did you build a lemonade stand as a kid?

Trite as it sounds, true self-starters have the tenacity and resilience to keep fighting. A store of aggression helps. As Nietzsche observed: "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how."

Player or Victim

Fred Kofman's "Conscious Business" offers this differentiation:

Players takes total responsibility for everything that happens to them and others

Victims have external factors that explains events in their entirety.

Which are you Player or Victim?

Less Bad

All the business news is less bad, which passes for fantastic in this negative vortex we are passing through. Glenfiddich has come out with 50 year scotch to help us celebrate, as this story from the Guardian relates:

The first smell is of citrus; grapefruit, to be exact. The next is a floral note that those more expert than I identify as rose petals, and finally there is a hint of green tobacco. It has a fresh, clean aroma that is matched by my first sip, which reveals more citrus, traces of soft vanilla, caramel and even a little smoke.

It is easily the finest whisky I have ever tasted, but then it should be. The tiny amount of golden liquid I have been allowed to sample, which barely covers the bottom of a commemorative glass, would probably cost £500 in the unlikely event that I were ever to find it in a bar. If you want to buy a whole bottle of it, it's yours for a mere £10,000.

This whisky in question is The Glenfiddich 50 Year Old

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Customer Service is so 20th century

Tom's post defines the next level of differentiation:

But customer service, like product quality, has become a basic, expected deliverable. Without it, you fail. With it, you are only at parity...

...Good customer service can help differentiate you only if it is a gateway to building relationships with customers. Customer relationships differentiate you from the competition in a way that customer service (or products) never can.

Tour de Vita:

Seth's post details on which part of the journey progress is made:

I look forward to the uphill parts, because that's where the work is, the fun is, the improvement is. On the uphills, I have a reasonable shot at a gain over last time. The downhills are already maxed out by the laws of physics and safety.The best time to do great customer service is when a customer is upset.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Branding in reverse

This is fascinating. Steve Johnson's report really opens up a whole new chapter in the Starbucks saga:

A Seattle outlet of the 16,000-store coffee behemoth is being rebranded without visible Starbucks identifiers, as 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It will be hard not to be green:

Walmart is about to supercharge the green revolution. Are you ready because your customers will be asking? Sandra Jones' article

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is taking steps to give the phrase "green" a measurable definition with an initiative to put eco-labels on the hundreds of thousands of products that end up on its store shelves, sources say.

The idea is to give products a simple, standard rating that allows shoppers at a glance to determine how sustainable a product is, akin to a nutritional label on food.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Coffee conversations

Let me try to comprehend this. The people that I am having a conversation with when I drink my coffee are not really there? I am good with that.

Susan Cosier's article examines a study about the link between caffeine and hallucinations

Have you ever heard a song when none was playing, clearly seen someone’s face when no one was there or felt the presence of a person, only to turn around to an empty room? If you’ve consumed a lot of caffeine—the equivalent to seven cups of coffee—you are three times more likely to hear voices than if you had kept your caffeine intake to less than a cup of coffee, according to psychologists at the University of Durham in England. Their recent study shows that overingesting the stimulant slightly increases your risk of experiencing other hallucinations as well.

Caffeine heightens the physiological effects of stress, lead author Simon Jones says. When someone feels anxiety, the body releases the hormone cortisol, and when people drink plenty of caffeine-infused tea, coffee or soda, their body produces more of the hormone when they encounter stressful events. Researchers have proposed that cortisol may trigger or exaggerate psychotic experiences by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine flowing into the brain’s limbic areas, evolutionarily ancient regions involved in emotion, memory and behavior.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Active listening is an art

Steven Berglas' article offers this;

The main thing to realize about listening is that it's an active process. For example, to truly absorb what someone is saying, you must be able to paraphrase that person's words. Irrespective of whether the message rings true or not, you still have to grasp the thesis.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Read for fun:

Dawn Foster's article about preventing burnout proposes a strategy that I wholeheartedly endorse.

Reading can be very relaxing, and I usually have at least one non-fiction book to expand my horizons while also reading a fiction book just for fun. ... Take a few minutes every evening to read something you enjoy. The key to making this work is to read something you enjoy so that it feels like a reward, not a punishment.

Smaller portions as a business model.

A twenty year study chronicled in Karen Kaplan's article confirms the following,

The study comes as some validation to the cadre of several hundred true-believing Americans who profess to practice caloric restriction in their daily lives. It was also welcomed by scientists who study the biological mechanisms of aging and longevity.

"It adds to the evidence piling up that caloric restriction, independent of thinness, is a healthy way to stay alive and healthy longer," said Susan Roberts of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, who wasn't involved in the study. "Less diseases in old age has to be something most everyone wants."

The question is simple, "can a sustainable business model be built around smaller portions?" The assertion of the health benefits has been common knowledge for some time. If fact during the study period, the American diet and the restaurant industry has been enamored with the "go large' mentality that is in direct contrast to the findings of the study.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Menu embellishment

Chicago Tribune article encourages restaurateurs to review their flowery prose.

"Grilled to perfection"

What is perfection? Can you boil cabbage to perfection? We want a stove with a "perfection" setting.

"World famous"
Having a German tourist say she liked your chicken salad does not make it world-famous.