Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cravings and fun

Mark Brandau highlights a NPD finding about restaurant behavior

Cravings and fun atmospheres drive consumers to restaurants rather than the local supermarket when time-starved families need a solution to the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” according to a new report from The NPD Group.

The market research firm found that nearly two-thirds of prepared foods sold at retail come from traditional supermarkets, but there are advantages that restaurants can leverage to prevent further erosion in their takeout-meal market share from what NPD calls food stores.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reinvent yourself.

Megan Conniff shares Aaron Kennedy's advice,

  • Love, love, love your restaurant idea … all aspects of it: menu, design, culture, location(s). You’ll need this passion to get you through the difficult times emotionally and physically.
  • Quickly gather feedback directly from customers and staff members to adapt your concept; thoughtfully migrate it to optimal, to the bull’s-eye.
  • Keep it fresh. Continue to reinvent yourself within your unique brand/culture. You must stand for something that’s also important to your customers. Stay true to that, but continue to get better and better at it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where does what we eat come from?

Hat Tip: Chart Porn

Gone to the dogs

Sharon Peters' article highlights the inevitable trend.

Alfresco dining is going to the dogs.

From coast to coast, an ever-growing number of eating establishments, many of them high-end, are opening their patios to diners who want to share their eating-out experience with their pets.

Using T to unlock creativity.

Susan Bagyura offers this tip on unlocking creativity

The best way to do this is to have on a board or paper a big T. At the top of the T on the left, write “Why we can’t”. On the right side of the T, write “How we can.” Put a big X completely filling the left side of the T and refuse to entertain any reasons why you can’t do something. As a group, just focus your minds on how you can do something. Write all the ideas down without judging. If someone slips out with words such as “that won’t work”, just say next and look for the next idea. This is a simple but very power technique which has brought many people amazing results.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The dark side of no reservation.

A democratizing trend, born of another trend (casual quality dining), though one that could lead (the story failed to point out) to a third trend so ominous I shudder at the possibility: the List Keeper gaining more power. Do we want to leave that much control in the hands of the List Keeper, a species already so power mad and purse-lipped.


There are reasons restaurants take reservations and reasons restaurants don't accept reservations. When his company conducts surveys on the topic, said Scott Jampol, senior director of consumer marketing for the online reservation service OpenTable, "diners overwhelming tell us" the ability to make reservations are important to them. Indeed, when I spoke to Davina Baum, managing editor of, she said she prefers "the security of a reservation to waiting past an hour, until I'm no longer hungry." Then again, talk to high-end restaurants that don't take reservations and managers say the cost of Open Table — which can charge a restaurant thousands of dollars a month — and reservationist salaries are reasons for a no-reservation policy.

The spark of passion requires work.

Chrissy Scivicque shares the work required to ignite the passion.

When people are passionate, we often say they have a “fire in the belly” or that they’re “firing on all cylinders.” Fire is full of energy and heat. It’s what we all want to feel inside—a sense of passion for what we do and what we stand for.


Passion is what drives us forward in life. Without it, we feel empty and cold. With it, we feel energized and full of fire. Too often, we make the mistake of thinking that passion just appears. For a lucky few, it does. For the rest of us, we have to create sparks and fan them, gently and over time, until they burst into powerful, glorious flames.

Quick decision making

Janine Popick shares lessons learned from running a business,

QUICK Decision Making - Sure we'd all love to know every piece of information on a subject before we make a decision around it, but then, no decisions would ever be made. I've had employees belabor every possible aspect of a decision, but in the end it wasted some serious time. Inform yourself as much as you think makes sense, and ask yourself one question: "What's the worse that could happen?" I'm a huge proponent of "doing something" and either being successful or cleaning up a mess and learning from it, versus "doing nothing" and learning nothing.

Somebody dust off the Tequila

Technomic forecasts more alcohol sales,

“Our expectations for segments like casual dining, fine dining and bars are much higher than they were six months ago,” stated David Henkes, Vice President at Technomic and the director of the firm’s on-premise practice. “Consumers are returning to restaurants, and that’s good news for the sales of alcohol and related products,” says Henkes. Beer and spirits-based drinks should benefit the most, while wine sales will still lag due to consumers trading down to less-expensive wines, or ordering by the glass instead of by the bottle

What is the context of the decision?

Alexander Stein shares that you need to consider the context of a decision,

Every decision is situationally distinct, with its own unique sets of ingredients, parameters, and ramifications. There’s no shortage of pundits bloviating on the golden rules of being (or appearing) decisive and vivisecting leaders who are not. But static generalized guidelines about how to be a leader who makes excellent decisions are usually situationally useless. Good decision-making is a learned, entirely individualistic process. Knowing more about how you operate is part of every successful business owner’s job.

Timing and context can change everything. Ed was treating his executive activities as if his life literally depended on it. At one time in his life, that was true in its own way. But no longer. Even supremely unflappable people can become psychologically disoriented in highly charged moments, and your usual capabilities can slip. So take your time. Agility and decisiveness aren’t in opposition to being thoughtful and deliberative.

Sometimes, the most important part of a good decision is understanding what’s driving you to make it.

Worrying about the weather

The last couple of weeks in Chicago has been interesting because almost without fail the weather prognosticators have uniformly forecast rain and at times torrential flooding rain. The actual weather has been a string of absolutely gorgeous summer days. The meteorologist's are using the finest tools at their disposal, however the weather gods have a different agenda.

There has been considerable consternation about the weather because we are in the middle of summer and many a street fair, wedding or other social gathering has been planned around outdoor activity. All the consternation has been for naught because the weather has been perfect.

The point I am dancing around is that the best available information is not a guarantee of an event occurring. At times one must be as a child and enjoy whatever comes along on a sunny summer day without worry.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Staying positive in the face of doubts.

Jon Gordon relates

The concept of the “overnight success” is a myth. Get rich quick schemes don’t work. Life is a test and a deciding factor of whether we pass or fail is the answer to the following question “Are you going to stay positive in the face of your doubts, fears and challenges?”

Staying positive is not about putting on a fake smile or believing you can do it all yourself. Rather it’s about being optimistic and living with hope and having faith. The measure of our success will not be determined by how we act during the great times in our life but rather by how we think and respond to the challenges of our most difficult moments.

Seth relates

Do you have an elevator pitch that reminds you that you're a struggling fraud, certain to be caught and destined to fail? Are you marketing a perspective and an attitude of generosity? When you talk to yourself, what do you say? Is anyone listening?

You've learned through experience that frequency works. That minds can be changed. That powerful stories have impact.

I guess, then, the challenge is to use those very same tools on yourself.

Stay positive!

Facial recognition coming to your restaurant

I am not so sure that complete and total transparency is a boom to the restaurant business.

Mark Cuban talks about possible next steps in location based apps.

Of course there would be a battle over whether or not a store or venue should be “opt in” vs automated recognition, but that’s not a software issue. The reality is that its solves “the path of least resistance” issue with check-ins for location-based software. Individuals never do any of the work. The store/host recognizes you are there and rewards you for allowing your identity and information to be captured and linked. If Amazon can “welcome us back” and offer us personalized specials, why shouldnt brick and mortar establishments ?

Even more interesting is the fact that Facebook provides a database of 500mm people and their names from around world. While not all profile pictures are going to be valid in facial recognition software, most will. Few people exclude their basic name and picture information from public search, so FB could be the first to provide a database of names and faces to the commercial world of facial recognition.

This application has a lot of commercial uses however, I personally would not like to frequent a bar that recognizes me when I come via facial recognition software.

The handshake test works

Arte Nathan explains the mechanics of,

“handshake” test — that’s where you just walk up, smile and introduce yourself to someone and watch how they respond: If they react to the unexpected greeting with an enthusiastic smile and greeting back then it’s fair to assume that’s their natural style.

In the service industry, most employees spend the majority of their time responding and reacting to things said, done and requested unexpectedly by people they don’t know. Thus, responding enthusiastically, affirmatively and with a smile to an interviewer that an applicant doesn’t know is a key indication of how they’ll most likely act as an employee when faced with a similar experience with a guest. This simple test, which is hard to fake (not unlike a blush), screens for the things that we can’t teach — that smile and attitude has to come with someone to the interview and the job.

A gathering of angel investors

Rieva Lesonsky explains the new angel investing requirements

Under the proposed changes, the minimum annual income for an accredited investor would have increased from $200,000 to $450,000, and minimum assets would have increased from $1 million to $2.3 million. Experts estimated the changes would have eliminated between half and two-thirds of current angel investors from being able to invest in small businesses.

In May, a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Dodd and other senators restored the definition of “Accredited Investor” to the former income and asset levels, with just one change: a primary residence can no longer be listed as an asset. The 120-day waiting period was removed; instead, the amendment directs the SEC to issue rules within one year for disqualifying offerings and securities sales involving “bad actors” (people with a record of violating certain federal or state laws).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Face down into the sand

One of the true joys of summer in Chicago is riding the lakefront bike trail. The other day the rider in front of me lost their balance and rode off the trail and into the sand. Riding a bike on soft sands always ends the same way. The rider ends up face first in the sand. The rider dazed, confused and unbowed, raises himself from the soft sand, dusts himself off, places the bike on level ground again and rides off.

The ride continues.

Staycation destination.

Is your restaurant a staycation destination? It needs to be. Consumers by choice or economic reality (they have no cash and lenders are reducing their credit facilities) are curtailing formal vacations with in town "night outs" and weekends.

Is your restaurant a destination that can offer a brief respite from the woes of everyday existence? There is a growing market for staycation destinations.

Rapid, clear, frequent feedback

Jessica Stillman relates Tom Chatfield recommendations about the use of gaming ideas in talent management.

  • Rapid, clear, frequent feedback. This is absolutely central to all forms of learning and engagement. With many of the most intractable problems in the world today, like global warming and pollution, it can be almost impossible to learn or understand something when consequences and feedback are distant from causes. Showing a clear link between things, and allowing people to experience this experimentally, allows learning to take place: you need to be shown and to experience exactly how an action plays out, what it caused, whether your attempt worked or not.
  • Uncertainty. This is the real neurological gold mine so far as gaming is concerned. Dopamine elevates when you get a little prize for doing something, but what really lights up the brain is the unexpected reward: the one that couldn’t be predicted. The right amount of well-calibrated uncertainty can create intense engagement.

The cost of a pickle.

The ongoing battle between rules and principles is relentless as Roger Dooley relates his memory of the pickle story and the lessons of customer service.

Did that speaker cost the store millions in lost sales? Who knows? But there’s little doubt the story lodged in the brains of those who listened to it. I didn’t even know the guy, and I still remember the story many years later. I’m sure he had lots of great information about how good companies take care of their customers, and impressive statistics that demonstrate the effects of good service. But what’s the ONLY thing I remember? The pickle story! Likely I would have remembered the name of the supermarket chain, but it wasn’t one that served my area; I’m sure many of those who heard the story first-hand DID remember the name and stored it as an essential part of that story.

We know that stories CAN sell in part because they make our brains light up in sympathy with what we are hearing, and that anecdotes are more powerful than statistics. The pickle story is a great example of a story that will persist in the minds of those who hear it and affect the perception of the unfortunate merchant for years to come. The only luck that merchant had was that the event occurred before the advent of social media, so they were shared the indignity of being blasted on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

All failures are not equal

Seth shares some failing strategies

FAIL OFTEN: Ideas that challenge the status quo. Proposals. Brainstorms. Concepts that open doors.

FAIL FREQUENTLY: Prototypes. Spreadsheets. Sample ads and copy.

FAIL OCCASIONALLY: Working mockups. Playtesting sessions. Board meetings.

FAIL RARELY: Interactions with small groups of actual users and customers.

FAIL NEVER: Keeping promises to your constituents.

Living your brand message

Your staff and you are the brand of your business. That recognition carries certain responsibility. You must act in such a way as to do right by your brand. Every action you and your staff engages in reflects rightly or wrongly on your brand whether it relates to the brand directly or not. An employee having a cigarette behind the dumpster or a manager's conduct at another unrelated place of business affects how people view your brand

John Kindle relates several stories about the preparation for a presentation. The message will be meaningless unless you live your message.

Everything you do before you start your speech is part of your show-before-the-show. Robert Orben said that the speech begins in the parking lot. Others have said that the speech begins with you walk out your front door. How do you behave at the airport ticket counter when your flight is delayed? A member of your upcoming audience could be standing behind you while you are being nice or rude to the desk clerk. When we were stuck in San Francisco traffic, Alan Weiss shared with me, “I never honk within ten miles of a client.” Since he doesn’t know for certain where his clients are, he never honks! Always be on your best behavior before a speech. You never know who is watching.

It is certainly not easy to live your brand message every minute, however in this viral video connected world it is the only option.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Apply layer after layer to your work.

Does your work have a dreaming quality to it? Perhaps a successive ultrathin layer might just the trick?

" to analyze the master's use of successive ultrathin layers of paint and glaze - a technique that gave his works their dreamy quality.

Specialists from the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France found that da Vinci painted up to 30 layers of paint on his works to meet his standards of subtlety. Added up, all the layers are less than 40 micrometers, or about half the thickness of a human hair, researcher Philippe Walter said Friday.

The technique, called "sfumato," allowed da Vinci to give outlines and contours a hazy quality and create an illusion of depth and shadow. His use of the technique is well-known, but scientific study on it has been limited because tests often required samples from the paintings.

Cupcakes, another trend with frosting

Sumathi Reddy explains the virtues of cupcakes

“One segment of the industry that seems to be adding the most outlets is cupcake cafes. This could be a fad, or not,” Barbara Byrne Denham, chief economist at real-estate services firm Eastern Consolidated, wrote in a report Thursday.

Cupcake businesses big and small seem to back up Denham’s position. (Call it buttercream economics.)

From New York-based national chains like CRUMBS Bake Shop to small start-ups like Butch Bakery in Long Island City, the cupcake industry seems to be recession-proof. A cupcake truck that launched this year and Sprinkles Cupcakes, a popular West Coast chain, opens its first New York location later this year.

In the East Village, cupcake-centric bakery Butter Lane has grown from six to 20 employees in the past year and a half, said Pam Nelson, the owner.

“People still want a cupcake,” said Nelson. “I think it’s kind of an indulgence and the price point is still low. For three dollars people can buy something for themselves instead of spending 100 bucks on a dinner and still feel like they’re treating themselves.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

Food Ambassador in Chief

Why is the New York Times doing a food story about Chicago's mayor? Anyway regardless of your political leanings, "The Mayor" is truly the city biggest cheerleader.

On Tuesday, he joined about 50 chefs from many of the city’s fanciest restaurants at a news conference to promote the third annual Chicago Gourmet event, which will be held Sept. 25 and 26 at Millennium Park, a sort of Taste of Chicago for connoisseurs. Admission to the event, which attracted 3,000 people last year, is $150 a person.

“These chefs, to me, represent the creative class of society,” Mr. Daley said. “We have to realize how important they are to the city.”

The mayor clearly shares the theory, expounded in Richard Florida’s 2002 book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” that cities must attract people whose livelihoods involve imagination and innovation.

The culinary convention, Mr. Daley said, fits well with the city’s strategy of promoting itself as a destination for those seeking fine food and wine.

Reposition the Cinnamon Roll

There is a scene in the movie "Other Peoples Money" when Danny DiVito says there was once many firms that made buggy whips, then the demand for buggy whips started to wane with the advent of the automobile, eventually there was one buggy whip company left and they made the best damn buggy whip on the planet. Did you want to be a shareholder in the that company?

Cinnabon a very delicious concept is facing a decline in traffic problem because it is positioned inside of shopping malls.

part of a strategy to increase Cinnabon’s current customer base and attract new users to the brand outside of the mall markets it primarily trades in.

“What’s happening specifically in the malls is traffic is going down and we need to increase the amount of customers who stop in front of our stores,” Bales said. “We need to do that by reinventing the brand over the next three years; that’s what we’re working on now.”

The initiatives at Cinnabon, which is a division of Focus Brands Restaurant Group, are currently being tested or are going into test at the company’s four corporate-owned stores

Keep them bigger burgers coming

Matthew Barakat reports on a trend that shows no sign of fatigue

But the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America last year was Five Guys, which specializes in double-pattied behemoths the size of a softball.

And that's just the tip of the arugula. So-called "better burger" joints are one of the fastest-growing parts the restaurant industry. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay launched Bobby's Burger Palace in the Northeast. Elevation Burger is expanding into Kuwait. Mooyah Burgers & Fries, Meatheads and the Shake Shack are looking to expand.

Higher-grade beef, fresher or more creative toppings, and better buns are bringing customers in the door.

Finally an answer.

Michael Sheridan reports on the age old question.

It's a question that has plagued man for centuries: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Well, scientists in England say they've found the answer: The chicken!

Researchers wrote in a recently published report that it all comes down to one protein - ovocledidin-17 - which helps in the formation of the egg's hard shell.

This essential ingredient in the formation of the egg can only be produced inside a chicken, scientists from universities in Sheffield and Warwick concluded.

Now we can all breath a little easier and concentrate on less weighty matters.

Test , Measure, Implement again and again

Testing, measuring and implementing is the secret sauce to any successful endeavor.

Brad Sugars recommends it as a secret to keeping the cash flow spigot on during every economic scenario;

Once you get your company up and running, you can expand on these strategies and also look to increase your value adds at different buying, sales or customer contact points along the way. The key is to test and measure what works and what doesn't, because no strategy will work perfectly for you every time.

If you market correctly and test and measure everything you do--keeping your winners and killing your losers--you will eventually find your cash flow "sweet spot." That will lead to larger profits, increased cash flow and a healthier, more successful business over time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Early adopters also eat out more

Technomic has a report on early adopters

What this means is that early tech adopters—a group that is highly active in social media sites—may be the first to broadcast their opinions about the latest limited time offer or new restaurant concept. “Restaurant chains are working hard to tap into the reach of social networks,” says Erik Thoresen, Director of Product Innovation at Technomic, “but the opportunity is also sizeable for independent and regional chains that develop a strong local following among early adopters.”

Put a sock in it

It used to be if one customer had a problem with another they would tell the server or manager or they would have to get up and confront the annoying party themselves. Things can change quickly.

Here is a little ditty from Barbara Peterson about seat to seat chatting on planes. Can restaurants be far behind?

For those who want to connect, few airlines can match Virgin America for mingling opportunities. In addition to its Internet service, it offers seat-to-seat messaging via its seatback video screens. It has also teamed up with to create a party atmosphere on specific flights (reportedly at least one couple who met this way became engaged). But there is also the potential for spurned advances and hurt feelings.

“Seat-to-seat chatting could lead to a negative form of social networking,” said Jeanne Martinet, a social commentator who writes the blog. “What if someone spots another passenger doing something annoying?” she asked. In the past, that person might have simply suffered in silence. Now, Ms. Martinet said, “It would be tempting to message them, ‘Can’t you get your big feet out of the aisle?’ ”

if you can sing you can sell.

What is the process by which you can communicate effectively on an organic level with customers, employees, friends and family? Roger Dooley shares the result of a study that gives an insight.

Most people do tend to use prosody, particularly when talking to babies and pets who may understand the emotion more than the words. But, we vary in how much we use prosody in normal conversation. The researchers found that the subjects who used prosody most often in everyday speech showed the highest levels of activity in Broca’s area and also scored high on empathy measures.

It’s unlikely most of us would hire a salesperson who spoke in a flat monotone, but this work suggests that an individual with a melodic manner of speaking would likely be better able to identify with customers’ emotions. (Note that what the researchers measured wasn’t musical skill or ability to carry a tune, but rather the melodic inflections used in speech.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How important is attitude in hiring?

“Your attitude is the only difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”
Adam Byrant interviewed Dan Rosenswig about leadership

One is attitude. Some people spend a lot of time focusing on how difficult things are. You don’t get jobs like these unless the situations are difficult. So I like to hear people talk about how they love to approach a challenge, and that’s the thing that gets them excited.

I’m also looking for people who appreciate the fact that the definition of success is the company and not an individual. I’m looking for people who can communicate. I mean, quite frankly, most of the things that break down when you are running a business are transparency and communication. If you have people who are reluctant to share information with their peers, particularly in a very small company, it’s not a healthy dynamic.

And I look for people who generally, as I said earlier, think big, want to achieve big, aren’t afraid. They have that level of humility to know it’s entirely possible we may not succeed, but, man, it’s worth trying.

Hiring questions

What’s the most important qualification I should be looking for when hiring?

Attitude. If you get a weird feeling about someone’s attitude during the interview—when they should be on their best behavior—you don’t want to find out how that person might come off to your customers.

What’s the one interview question I should be asking?

“ Why did you leave your last job?” It gives a clear indication of what is important to them in an employer and in a job. It will also help you see if they’ll be a good fit for your concept.

How can I be a better boss to my employees?

Practice servant leadership. Get to know each employee and do what you can to help them maximize their potential and reach their goals. That involves asking for their opinions, which can lead to a lot of great ideas.

Competition comes from everywhere

Andy Hanselman's interesting take on the lessons from the World Cup

Skills alone are not enough. In today’s competitive markets, you can have the most skillfull people in your team, but that’s not enough. It’s about making sure that they know what’s expected of them, having clear roles and responsibilities, playing to their strengths, and it’s about ensuring they have the right attitude at all times (even if they are tired)


It’s all about the now. Reputation and history are irrelevant. We’re in a fast moving world and your competition can and does come from anywhere. It’s about competing in today’s marketplace, not yesterday’s -– past performances are meaningless

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is changing your hours of operation an option

The Great Recession, Reset and all around ridiculous economic malaise continues on. You have cut every cost, squeezed every last penny out of your margin, focused entirely on the customer and still the struggle has no visible resolution. Maybe it is time to look at hours of operation. Do you really need to be open the hours that you are?

Can you close some days and maybe offer cooking classes, special dinner parties or other use of your space without shuttering your business? Be open Thursday through Saturday for dinner only. Discontinue the lunch business entirely, the night business if your a QSR sandwich or breakfast place?

Prior to the Great Reset everyone was concerned with maximizing the rent per square foot by increasing top line revenue. Maybe just maybe reducing or redistributing top line revenue leads to a higher, sustainable bottom line which will fuel current survival and future growth?

So you want to lead.

Art Petty has some great questions to help you decide

Leading would be easy if it weren’t for the people. We are complex, emotional creatures, all driven by our often unspoken intentions, dreams or battles. We’re darned complex to guide, motivate, inspire and coach, and we don’t easily place our trust in those that we reference as leaders.
  • Accolades and hearty slaps on the back are uncommon responses to your best leadership efforts. In reality, the best moments of a leader are often celebrated in silence.
  • Ambiguity, uncertainty and change are on the menu daily. As a leader, you’ll leave your comfort zone far behind, and you quickly discover that someone moves your cheese almost every day.

Back to intestinal fortitude (IF). IF is what kicks you out of bed everyday, knocks down your demons of self doubt, scoffs at ambiguity and gives you the confidence to fight the good fight, serving, developing and guiding others. IF helps you deal with ethical dilemmas, tough decisions and the sticky spots along the way. And finally, IF is what you draw upon to gain the courage and energy to persevere on what may often seem like a thankless task. It reminds you that this job has little to do with you and everything to do with the people around you.


6. Do you have the moral courage to stand tough and take the heat for your team during times of adversity? Leaders are made during tough times and by taking the unpopular path on difficult issues. If you don’t like the idea of being a human shield, it’s time to dust off those individual contributor skills.


Don’t get me wrong. The personal rewards from leading far outweigh the burdens. Nonetheless, without Intestinal Fortitude, you won’t last long enough to realize what a remarkable experience it is to serve and guide others.

It is not my birthday really

Jan Dennis discusses how well intentioned promotions can go awry. A surprise at a dinner can be welcoming or annoying depending on a certain point of view,

“Not all customers want to be entertained,” she said. “Some just want to escape and be left alone. So the bottom line here is that businesses really need to consider their target audience before creating rituals that are effectively forced on people.”

The study examined rituals that are embedded into sales and service practices, creating a virtually mandatory branding tool that seeks to deal businesses a unique drawing card but gives customers little chance to opt out.

Researchers analyzed how customers are swayed by the sights, sounds and other frills of those nearly inescapable business rituals, from at-the-table food preparation at Teppanyaki-style restaurants to eateries that serenade diners celebrating birthdays.


“Businesses should not just be on autopilot when they’re creating rituals,” she said. “They really need to understand the difference between optional and embedded, and the potential consequences of forcing customers to sit through certain rituals.”

Host a culinary vacation.

Kitty Bean Yancey highlights a rise in culinary vacations,

"Back in 2000, (a kitchen vacation) was a small niche market. Now it's not," says Olivia Townsend, owner of Epiculinary Distinctive Cooking Journeys. While women make up much of her clientele, she is seeing more interest among married duos, including "where the man initiates and drags the woman along."

Couples form the majority of cooking clientele at Trout Point, says co-owner and instructor Vaughn Perret, 51. Trout Point, in the upscale Relais & Châteaux chain, offers various culinary weekends spring through fall, when it closes for winter and two of the three owners move to Granada, Spain, to give courses.

"This year, there's been a spike in interest — almost all classes are filled," Perret says. "I think people are less dazzled with commercial (food)" and want to make their own.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chief Enabling Officers

Vineet Nayar has an interesting take on what a leader should be in this post command and control world

The time has come for chief executive officers to transform themselves into chief enabling officers who enable, encourage, and enthuse employees.

How will I be a contribution today?

How fantastic, Knowledge@Wharton has a piece about Benjamin Zander

Zander decided to focus on his contributions to the world, not just his achievements. "Unlike success and failure, contribution has no other side," he wrote in The Art of Possibility. "It is not arrived at by comparison. All at once I found that the fearful question, 'Is it enough?' and the even more fearful question, 'Am I loved for who I am, or for what I have accomplished?' could both be replaced by the joyful question, 'How will I be a contribution today?'"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The necessary traits to thrive

Courtney Rubin outlines the findings of a new study

Top of the list for successful entrepreneurs is the ability to collaborate. Those who can delegate, build strong relationships with their management teams, employees, and others are more likely to click with customers.

The other five traits frequently found in flourishing small business owners:

• Being self fulfilled. Good small business owners put a high price on the fulfilment their companies provide them, relish being their own boss, and enjoy being in control of their personal income. They value "doing something for a living that I love to do," "being able to decide how much money I make," and "being able to have the satisfaction of creating something of value."

• Future-focused. Small business owners who thrive are good at both short- and long-term planning. They're as likely to have a well thought-out plan for the day-to-day running of the business as a road map for how to run the business for years.

• Curious. Good entrepreneurs are always reading and asking questions. They want to learn everything from why a particular business failed to how to find, motivate, and keep good employees.

• Tech-savvy. Perhaps not surprisingly, the best small business owners invest time and money on their company's website and are likely to "rely a great deal on technology to help make our business more effective and efficient." (For more on why social media is worth a company's time, check out this guide.)

• Action oriented. Successful founders are proactive and always "differentiating ourselves from our competitors," survey respondents said. They were less worried than other small business owners about the state of the economy, and more likely to look at adversity as "a kick in the rear to help you move forward."

The case for softer chairs and higher prices

Kathleen Parker shares,

Joshua M. Ackerman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sought to answer those questions through a series of psychological experiments. He concluded that an object's texture, hardness and weight influence our judgments and decisions.Again, the obvious: Weight conveys importance ("weighty issues") and hardness is associated with rigidity.

Apparently, we don't have to touch things only with our hands to get a feel for something. Our posteriors are equally receptive to hard-soft messaging. Hence the chair experiment, in which subjects were asked to make offers on a car. The dealer would refuse the first offer and a second offer immediately followed.

Those sitting on hard chairs made lower second offers than those sitting on softer chairs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Timeless lessons about talent acquisition.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter describes what happens when leaders neglect continuity. Any business is people management. It begins, middles and ends with the individuals in your organization.

The lessons for leaders: Your job is to provide resources and support that build the confidence of players in themselves, each other, the team, and the excellence of the surrounding system. Ethics, fair play, mentoring, smooth transitions, continuity, and collaboration should not be luxuries or lip service; they create the margin of victory.

The unofficial neighborhood firework index

Judging from the pyrotechnics in my neighborhood the recession is over or any reason to celebrate is a good one. The front lawn of my humble home offered a view to fireworks the equal of many an organized event.

Suppliers become banker of last resort if they can., Angela Moore shares a developing trend in this story,

Sam's Club, a unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said Tuesday it was testing a program to offer qualified members small-business loans in amounts ranging from $5,000 and $25,000. The service would be offered online through a partnership with Superior Financial Group

In its announcement, the retailer cited studies in which small businesses weren't able to get loans.

This guy knows how to make espresso.

Monica Eng's article highlighting Michael Phillips from Intelligentsia.

"It was a great honor to win the WBC this year and frankly a bit overwhelming. The kind words have poured in from all over the globe and I couldn't be happier to have them addressed to a barista making coffee in Chicago because this city deserves a bit of recognition for the scene it has been developing."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wine by any other price

The price alters our sensory experience. A fifty dollar lobster tastes better than a twenty dollar lobster even if it is the same lobster. Jonah explains the results of a study.

Bloom argues that essentialism plays a big role. We automatically believe that more expensive wine has a tastier essence, and that belief alters our sensory expectations. Those expectations, in turn, alter our perceptual interpretations, so that what we experience conforms to what we expect to experience. The essence of the thing has thus been confirmed: more expensive wine tastes better, even if the expensive wine is really Gallo Hearty Burgundy. This helps explain why so many food advertisements focus on the "essence" of the product, whether it's Coors being brewed from Rocky Mountain spring water, or Evian coming straight from the French Alps. The marketers know that the easiest way to increase our pleasure isn't by telling us how pleasurable the product is: It's by weaving an engaging story about essences.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The power of an Idea

"The ancestor of every action is a thought"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

234 years ago men who once served the Crown pledged their Lives, their Fortune and their sacred Honor to an idea "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The posterity of that Idea continues to this day and is a shining beacon to all who sail their vessels across the raging sea of uncertainty. Ideas are powerful beyond measure.

Taste of Americana: Hot Dogs on the Fourth of July

On the Northwest side of Chicago is Superdawg There is something about a hot dog on the Fourth of July under a hot summer sun.

The Fourth of July

According to the colors represent the following;

"The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

business lesson of the Fourth of July

Declaration of Independence

Martina McBride singing God Bless America

Beyonce singing America the Beautiful

Happy Fourth of July

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to respond to a no

Geoffrey James offers three possible answers however I voted for this one

#2: Investigate. “OK. I can see that I can’t help you right now. What can I do now in order to work with you more closely, next time you’re in the market for a similar product?”

It isn't what it is

Scott reminds us to cut through the crap.

Stop saying, “It is what it is.” Wrong. It isn’t what it is. It is what you’ve chosen it to be. It is what you’ve given yourself permission to accept. It is what you’ve allowed to exist into your life. It is what you’ve assumed you’re stuck with.

Screw “it.” I loathe the word it. “It” is a personal responsibility dodger. If you don’t like it, change it. And remember what Tony Robbins says, “The only reason you don’t have what you really want is because of the story you keep telling yourself about why you can’t have it. Is it (really) what it is?

Clouds illusions.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now, From up and down, and still somehow, It's cloud illusions I recall, I really don't know clouds, at all. ... Joni Mitchell

Mikal Belicove gives us a primer on cloud computing

The cloud simply means applications and services that people access via the internet instead of installing software on their own computers. If you're online, you're somewhere in the cloud. The reason for so much discussion about these services lately is that, over recent years and months, many valuable services that once required installing applications have become available as cloud services. Often, businesses can use free versions of these applications in the cloud, while full-featured versions are available at low subscription rates.

Exactly what does the server do?

Chris Brogan is relating a story about how confidence affected an interaction with a"Order takers" should not be paid 20% gratuity. Servers should be trained to interact with the customer and sell. I am sick and tired of being waited on by horrible "order takers". If the server can not or will not interact then fire them. They are hurting your business. Chris's points on confidence are spot on. If you have a position, state it confidently. If your wrong, admit it and move on.

The guest at the table next to mine asked their server, “What do you think of the halibut special?” The server replied, “I’m not really sure. What did you have in mind when you came in?


I take great pride in my confidence and conviction in matters that are important to me. I use confidence as a leadership trait all the time. And I admit when I’m wrong as often as is necessary to make those two traits worth a damn.

Oh, and one last detail:

The halibut looked pretty, but my first bite had three bones in it, and it tasted a bit too fishy in their preparation. I would’ve given the guest the wrong advice. But I’d have meant it, and she’d have bought it. And if she complained, I’d tell her that I was clearly wrong, and offer her another meal. That’s what happens.

Confidence. Conviction. Practice them.

They can not resist what you put in front of them

Temptation is money maker. The more temptation you place in the path of your customer the more likely they are to purchase. ChangingMinds has a article on "restraint bias"

The bottom line is a warning: 'Restraint bias' is real. The more we believe we can control our urges, the more risks we take and the more we end up giving in to pressures from the subconscious. If you want to say 'No' to yourself, realise the danger and keep yourself out of temptation's way.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What really happened to capitalism?

David Harvey explains and RSA animates the crises of capitalism.

Hire the runner

Seth questions whom you should hire?

If you choose to run a project, on the other hand, you're on the hook. It's an active engagement, bending the status quo to your will, ensuring that you ship.

Running a project requires a level of commitment that's absent from someone who is managing one.