Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Universal card in your phone

The phone card is starting to roll out, Rick Broida explains

Today, that tool is Starbucks Card Mobile, a free iPhone app that kicks physical cards to the curb.

Well, almost. The app was initially designed to help you manage actual Starbucks cards. You could check your balance, reload depleted cards, and view your transaction history.

When everyone starts to accepts a phone scan of a credit card for payment, the journey to the dark side will be complete.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The rise of lentils

I grew up on lentils, peas and garbanzo beans. I thought they were part of everyone's diet. They are tasty, easy to prepare and every versatile. I love them on rice, pasta, with or without meat sauce and they go with fish.

Blake's AP article highlights the growing trend,

Lentils are a hot topic among gourmets these days, with recipes for them popping up in most major food magazines.

Lentil and other legume farmers hope to capitalize on this interest and convince consumers and food producers to use them in breads and cookies as well as the more traditional soups and stews. To do this, they've formed a new marketing venture aimed at promoting the health and other benefits of lentils, dry peas, garbanzo beans and other so-called "pulse" crops.

Passion is the secret.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter's guide to understanding passion,

To determine whether your passion matches your aspirations, try these 12 questions.

1. Do I feel strongly about the need for this?

2. Does the idea fit my long-held beliefs, values, and convictions?

3. Have I dreamed about something like this for a long time?

4. Do I think that this is vital for the future of people I care about?

5. Do I get excited when I think about it, and convey excitement when I talk about it?

6. Am I convinced that this can be accomplished?

7. Am I willing to put my credibility on the line to promise action on it?

8. Am I willing to spend time to sell it to others who might not understand or support it?

9. Can I make this the major focus of my activities?

10. Am I willing to devote personal time, above and beyond organizational time, to see that this happens?

11. Do I feel strongly enough to ignore negativity and fight for this?

12. Am I committed to seeing this through, over the long haul?

Passing the passion test is doesn't guarantee success, but without it, the journey can't even begin.

Looking to Sketch a restaurant

Dave Johnson introduces a new iphone app.

if you have an iPhone and you find yourself feeling hungry, you can zero in on dinner without typing a single character.

Yahoo! Sketch centers you on a map and then invites you to sketch a search zone with your finger [iTunes link]. Draw a circle around your current location, or an oval along the highway, or any geometric search parameter that suits you, and Yahoo quickly returns a list of restaurants in the area.

This is how people find you in the 21st century. Are you ready to WOW them when they walk in?

Chocolate is good, who knew?

Another day another wonderful study confirming the beneficial effects of consuming chocolate.
Maria Cheng reports in the Tribune,

According to a new study, small doses of chocolate every day could decrease your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 40 percent.

Have you had your chocolate today?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Only a thousand days left

Today is 3/27/2010, by my math that means there are 1000 days until 12/21/2012. Entrepreneurs have been struggling through the Great Recession, decrease customers counts, lower check average, low employee morale, horrific customer satisfaction surveys and a general malaise in the economy for what seems an eternity. The good news if you believe the dire predictions of the "end times," is that this will soon be over.


Earth Hour

What are you doing tonight at 8:30pm?

This planet is the only home we will ever have. Let's help it stay habitable. Our lives depend upon it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Economic round up

GDP was up 5.6% in the fourth quarter, did anyone notice?
The roads, stores and restaurants look empty to me.

Subway is serving breakfast.

Starbucks is paying a dividend.

Darden is reducing its price incentive promotions.

That about covers it, at least it is Spring.

Beer sweet beer

Joshua Lurie introduces a trend in desserts, beer;

in Southern California, beer is even finding its way into desserts, as pastry chefs use it to make dishes that are not only sweet but also have layered textures and flavors that wouldn't be possible otherwise. What started with quirky beer and ice cream floats has now spread to shakes, cakes, gelato, fritters and even candy.

Spring in the blossom of a flower

The vernal equinox occurred on March 20 at 5:32pm Greenwich Mean Time, however Spring officially arrived today as the forsythia in front of my house bloomed.

Welcome Spring!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Does organic benefit outwiegh the costs and is organic sustainable?

Julie weighs in on the organic food debate

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the National Organic Program, says that organic is a “production philosophy” and an organic label should does not imply that a product is superior. Moreover, some say there’s no need to eat organic to be healthy: Simply choose less processed food and more fruits and vegetables.

The crux of the argument often comes down to the nutritional benefits of organic foods, something that’s hard to measure. To compare the nutrient density between organically and conventionally grown grapes, for example, researchers would have to have matched pairs of fields, including using the same soil, the same irrigation system, the same level of nitrogen fertilizer and the same stage of ripeness at harvest, said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center, a pro-organics research institution.

There are multiple complex issues here. One, the need to feed seven billion people daily; Two, sustainability of production methods; Three, overall impact on the environment; Four, sustainable business model.

Michael Specter in his book "Denialism" purports that the popular culture disdain of all things chemical flies in the face of reality. The improvement in the human life span has been largely due to chemical assistance in food production and disease eradication.

On the individual level, it is a cost and information decision. What is your definition of organic and what is the alternative if you do not buy organic?

On a business level, having a business model that utilizes organic can provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace if you can sustain the source.

On a geopolitical level it is not possible to feed seven billion people organically.

The geopolitical will override all other considerations. You can a have large niche of organic products, however the future is in plastics, chemicals and nanotubes.

Have you hugged your chef this week?

Well you should!

Chicago Chef Week

Water everywhere?

Treehugger's great image about water.

Restaurants should not serve plastic bottled water ever and every process should involve conservation.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Reflections on a bridge

Bridges in the city of Chicago are wonderful places because they provide a scenic grand view. One should not shuffle papers, search out lost items in a pocket or fumble with your phone while crossing the bridge. The unintended results of such activity is never positive. Experience teaches many lessons, the most essential is patience.

Sandra Jones' article makes clear that the economy is sailing in very uncharted and treacherous waters.

Retail sales in the Chicago metropolitan market fell 8.7 percent, to $92.9 billion, in 2009 from the year before, marking the biggest annual decline since at least 1985, when Chicago-based Melaniphy began tracking the figures. The dismal performance follows a 4.8 percent drop in 2008, a record decrease at the time, the report said...

The restaurant and bar scene, by far the largest retail category in the city, was particularly hard hit as fewer business executives dined out, tourism waned and more people ate at home. Sales at drinking and eating places in the city fell by $270 million, or 5.4 percent, to $4.7 billion.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teachers Everywhere

Alan Webber's book "52 Rules of Thumb" offers this rule which I hope everyone will adapt.

Stay Alert! There are teachers everywhere

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

tax the heck out of unhealthy foods

Here is a gamechanger for you!

The researchers say their findings suggest that the taxes were more effective than subsidies. This conclusion doesn't surprise Karlan. He sites the theory of loss aversion: "People are just more responsive to price increases than decreases."

Karlan says a "sin tax" — charging more for unhealthful foods — would not change families' diets or approach to nutrition overnight. But it could serve as a first step in raising awareness of bad habits, alerting us to the kinds of things we choose to snack on.

Pizza Wars in NYC

Stunning as it seems there is a pizza war in New York,

The shops are two of a growing number of New York delis and pizzerias offering $1 slices, a phenomenon that has delighted, dismayed and disturbed pizza lovers, food bloggers and rival pizzeria owners while defying a basic fundamental of the city’s economy — charging as much as you can whenever and wherever you can.

About 15 eateries around the city now sell dollar slices of pizza. The owners of 99¢ Fresh and 2 Bros. have turned bargain pizza into a business model: There are four 99¢ Fresh shops in Manhattan, and four 2 Bros., too. Next month, 99¢ fresh will open its fifth shop on 34th Street near Third Avenue

A solution to every complaint

Margaret Heffernan details how to find solutions to every complaint,

I introduced a rule: all complaints to me had to be accompanied by at least one proposed solution.

The rule was a big success. Here’s why:

  • It made people consider why things were the way they were, and what the costs of fixing them might be. Many aspects of a business aren’t perfect but just aren’t worth fixing. The cost, in terms of time, attention and resources, is too high, the return too slight. But it takes time for a leader to explain that, and it’s better if your employees figure it out for themselves. They learn to prioritize, just as you have had to.
  • It helped me, as the chief executive, distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Nothing is more important in running a business than creating an environment in which everyone feels welcome to raise questions, concerns and doubts. If you create the conditions in which legitimate concerns are raised easily, each employee is an early warning system. But you want everyone focused on fixing the faults that have real impact.
  • It generated good ideas. Instead of my software engineers complaining that the sales team made impossible promises, they asked to go on sales calls to ensure promises were practical. That didn’t just save a lot of anger and disappointment; it meant we could also offer easy product enhancements the sales team had never dreamed of.
  • It made every employee act and feel like an owner. They took responsibility for a business they felt invested in, rather than behaving like whining children.

Who v how many.

Seth's philosophy offers a business model for everyone,

In the race between 'who' and 'how many', who usually wins--if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.

Awaken the possibility

Benjamin Zander has a great motivation tool to awaken the possibility in anyone. He only teaches "A" students. He actually tells them on the first day of class that he will give them an "A". The first assignment he gives them is to write an essay as if it is the last day of class and they have earned an "A". The assignment is for the students to detail the efforts they have made throughout the semester to warrant that "A" grade.

They are "A" students! How do "A" students act? If your staff were graded in such a fashion that they are all "A" staffers, how would they act?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cash flow version of the Ides of March

The perils of cash flow mismanagement can seek up on a business much like Brutus joined in on the death of Caesar. Ask any accountant, business guru or turnaround specialist and they will all tell you the same thing. The cash flow is the life blood of the business. Knowing where the cash is coming from and where it is going is number one on the hit parade. You must absolutely get a handle on the cash flow of your business. It is not enough to have people handle that. An entrepreneur is ultimately responsible for their business and knowing in detail where the money comes from and where it goes is non-negotiable.

Gender differential growth.

Rhonda Abrams lays out the case for gender differential growth,

Whatever the reason, a failure to grow through hiring contributes to wide-spread stereotypes of women business owners. Overwhelmingly, according to Count Me In's survey, poll respondents felt women weren't serious about growing substantial businesses:

• 86% said women were satisfied with just small businesses.

• 84% said women are more risk averse.

• 81% said women need to be in control and are hesitant to hire.

And here's the kicker:

• 78% said profits don't mean much to women business owners.

Seriously? Are we back in the days when women were perceived as making "pocket money" rather than supporting a family or growing a real business?

C'mon ladies. If you want to create a business of substantial financial value, you're going to have to hire. And here's another truth: being a good, fair boss is one of the most important contributions you can make to society and one of the most satisfying things you can do in your career.

Men hire and fire quicker and are more risk tolerant. Not necessarily good things, however it apparently impacts growth arcs.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When in NY I need a cup of coffee

NYTimes has mapped it out for you

Make time for learning

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go. Dr Seuss

Life is a journey not a destination. Life requires continual course adjustments. Life requires continual learning. Being an entrepreneur is hard. There is no time for anything other than your business.

Ok, your business requires that you exercise your mind and body to keep them flexible and resilient. Schedule time for exercise, take a class or read a book every day. Your business demands that you make time for learning.

Elements of a good story

Dave Lutz lays out the elements of a good story

A great story will include these elements:

  1. Real people like your members, attendees or exhibitors.
    Don’t just look for those in leadership positions.
  2. A difficult problem or challenge.
    What are the top three issues impacting your attendees’ business success? What are the real reasons members don’t register or exhibitors decline to show their wares? Are the challenges different for each of your primary segments? Consider stories for each.
  3. How did participating in your events help them solve their problem?
    Details are important. Err on the side of brevity.
  4. A powerful emotional connection.
    This is what really makes your story have an impact or even go viral. Work hard to find that emotional hook. Stories that have a strong emotional ending are usually the ones that have the greatest impact.

If yours is not a compelling story, the likelihood on connecting with your audience is slim.


Why has the concept of a restaurant with books not gone mainstream? Why do large coffeehouse chains not include more reading material in their locations? Why have large bookstores not embraced a more enhanced restaurant concept in their business model? Will the e-reader be the death of books or is this the new business opportunity waiting to be incubated?

Engage the customer

I always feel that newbies act like Claude Rains in Casablanca when he utters, "I am shocked that there is gambling going on here." Entrepreneurs spend huge amounts of money opening a restaurant or any business for that matter, and then they forget to engage the customers they hope will frequent and fund the enterprise.

I understand that some people are not naturally extrovert and feel uncomfortable talking to or engaging the customer. Folks that is the business model you have chosen to undertake. You must engage the customer. Slapping a product on a plate and letting it go is not sustainable in it of itself. It needs a little engagement to nurture the process.

Hey talk to the customer. Tell them story, ask them about themselves and invite them back. Hey we are all afraid. The customer is afraid, the proprietor is afraid and the staff is afraid. Time to break the fear with a little engagement

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Improv to innovate

Jessica Stillman explains the benefits that Improv can have to help your business innovate.

I’ve always thought that the quickest and smartest folks at the brainstorming phase of design have been those who do standup and improv. They never say no. They never miss a beat. Improv requires players to accept what they are given, build on the ideas of others, and encourage wild ideas.

Everyone thinks that they know how to brainstorm, but in fact, brainstorming is usually plagued by problems like self-censoring, competitiveness, and ridicule…. Improv is a great way for students to learn to defer judgment.

Observing without judgment is a crucial quality in life and business.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Targets are good if you use them correctly

Process improvement:

Do not throw at a target, throw through the target. That is how you get to the other side

Speed preparation to improve experience

Speed of preparation is a factor that can lost in all the discussions of menu, improving service, upselling and creating customer advocacy. How does the amount of time necessary to prepare a menu item relate to other items on the menu? The experience of the guests will be impacted substantially if different people in a party order items that require different preparation times.

In a global perspective all items should be prepared in such a way that they essentially have the same preparation time once ordered. I understand that is not possible for all items, however as much as possible the items on your menu should require identical preparation times.

How can you achieve this you ask? This is where prep becomes very important. Clearly there are quality, texture, taste and architecture considerations, however adding menu items whose prep time is not in sync with other items is a recipe for bitter taste in the customer experience.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Your People

Seth has a quote by Andrew Carnegie,

Carnegie apparently said, "Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors......Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory."

The question is can you say that about your people? If you can't you need to change that now!

Order a healthy pizza

Pizza is nature's most perfect food. Alison Johnson offers suggestions on how to order healthy pizza,

Go for thin crust. It has fewer calories and carbohydrates than hand-tossed and deep dish crusts; stuffed crusts are the worst offenders. Some businesses and frozen brands also offer whole-wheat crusts.

Choose the right meat. Pepperoni, sausage and bacon are three of the fattiest foods. Try grilled chicken, shrimp or turkey. If none of those flies with guests, go with Canadian bacon or ham.

Load up on vegetables. Some of the best options are olives, bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. Low in calories and high in vitamins and fiber. For sweet tooths, pineapple is a great choice.

Go heavy on sauce … Tomato sauce is a rich source of antioxidants that may guard against heart disease and other health problems. It also is likely to include nutritious herbs and chopped garlic, which may help control cholesterol and protect against certain types of cancer.

… and light on cheese. A lot of the calories and fat in pizza com

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fire the idiot!

Experience keeps a tidy school, but fools will learn in no other. Franklin

This gem from the annals of horrible customer retention methods.

Sandra Jones' report

The Dallas-based video rental firm made the new rules "to be consistent with the industry," said company spokeswoman Michelle Metzger. She said the dollar-a-day charge is not a late fee but an "additional daily fee," akin to keeping a rental car for longer than planned.

Coinstar Inc.'s RedBox, a DVD vending machine firm that like Netflix has been cutting into Blockbuster's market share, charges $1 a day for video rentals.

Blockbuster said last week it lost $435 million in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 3 as sales at stores open at least a year fell 15 percent. The company closed hundreds of stores in 2009 as it refocused on kiosks and a mail-order rental business.

If you lost $435 million, sticking it to your customers is the wrong business model. Does the concept of charging for what has no incremental value seem like a sustainable model? I do not think so.

Forget all that positive attitude crap!

Elizabeth King Humphrey shares a recent study.

Each study found that people in a bad mood performed tasks better than those in a good mood. Grumpy people paid closer attention to details, showed less gullibility, were less prone to errors of judgment and formed higher-quality, persuasive arguments than their happy counterparts. One study even supports the notion that those who show signs of either fear, anger, disgust or sadness—the four basic negative emotions—achieve stronger eyewitness recall while virtually eliminating the effect of misinformation

Take that all you positive warm and fuzzy guru’s.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The rise and fall of Olympic icons.

"All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players;They have their exits and their entrances;And one man in his time plays many parts”

The Olympics offer another life lesson. For a fortnight individuals rise from the abyss of obscurity and capture the imagination of the world and then return to the abyss from which they sprung. There are many opportunities in your business to rise from obscurity. The challenge is to marshal that opportunity into the resonating success of your business. Critical mass visits unexpectedly, are you prepared?

Branding at the primal level

Patrick Hanlon’s book Primal Branding outlines the seven ingredients to create a brand that truly resonates.

successful brands, come with a
creation story,
a creed,
sacred words,
leader who's overcome stiff opposition.

Does anybody want to use cash anymore?

As if you do not have enough on your plate with social media all around you, here come new payment systems and subsystems. A long time ago, cash was the only thing a business accepted as payment. Then came store credit. After that the credit card was born. Debit cards debuted, paypal was born and now according to Daniel Roth’s article the future of money is the phone or the web.

That may not sound like much, but it sends a message: Moving money, once a function managed only by the biggest companies in the world, is now a feature available to any code jockey. Ivey is just one of hundreds of engineers and entrepreneurs who are attacking the payment ecosystem, seeking out ways small and large to tear down the stronghold the banks and credit card companies have built