Food & Service: How CFA Beats KFC

Business Insider: “Chick-fil-A restaurants sell three times as much as KFC locations — and it’s made the chicken chain No. 1 in the industry … The reason for Chick-fil-A’s dominance is a mix of excellent food and superior customer service, according to many analysts. The chain consistently ranks first in restaurant customer-service surveys, with customers raving about the restaurants’ cleanliness, quick, convenient service, and hardworking employees.”

“Chick-fil-A’s success on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis can be traced in part to the chain’s peculiar business model. The company accepts just 0.4% of franchisees, one of the most selective chains in the industry … franchisees are encouraged to become ‘entrenched’ in their communities, including involvement in local churches … the company attributes its success to investing in training employees. With only one location for each franchisee and a strongly cultivated company culture, that training may come more easily than at chains like KFC.”


Elvis Has Left The Cabin

The New York Times: Flight attendants “used to think of themselves … as hosts and hostesses of an exclusive party. But in today’s age of consolidation, when even the uniforms have lost their élan, much of that individual charm has worn off. Still, some flight attendants are not going gently. They are still doing what they can to keep passengers entertained or informed beyond pushing a button to play the video recordings of the in-flight safety videos.”

Consider Jack Sullivan, a Southwest Airways flight attendant who impersonates Elvis, complete with the sunglasses and scarves. Or the Spirit Airlines flight attendant who has taken to singing safety instructions to the tune of … Leaving on a Jet Plane. But few can match the worldwide appeal of Marty Cobb, a 10-year Southwest Airlines flight attendant, after a video of her comedic spinoff of the mundane safety directions spread quickly online in 2014.”

“Not all airlines are enamored of such displays of personality. Delta and American … said in statements that the airline appreciated it when flight attendants humanized their interactions, but that flight attendants were reminded that less was more when it came to in-flight announcements.” However: “A spokeswoman for Southwest also said that the company considered its crew to be its in-flight entertainment and that it hired flight attendants primarily because of their attitude.”


Study: LEGO ‘Guns’ For Greater Violence

Quartz: “The number of toy weapons such as miniature guns, knives, and harpoons featured in sets of tiny plastic LEGO building blocks has increased by 30% from 1978 to 2014, according to a study published last week in PLOS ONE by researchers at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. The increase was primarily driven by higher numbers of weapons offered in film-themed packs, most recently in 2012 with Lord of the Rings LEGO sets.”

“The authors say this reflects a growing trend among children’s toymakers, and hypothesize that toy manufacturers add more depictions of violence to their products in order to stay relevant alongside increasingly violent movies and video games.”

“In an unrelated blog post, LEGO has argued that “conflict play” allows kids to use toys to creatively act out variations of their own disagreements, in a way that helps develop their own conflict-resolution skills.”


Consignment Retail: What’s Old Is New Again

The New York Times: “Clothing resellers like Material Wrld, Crossroads and thredUP propose to make ‘refreshing’ your wardrobe more joyful, with their own trade-in kits and cash incentives to shop their wares to keep the cycle going. Ethical elimination is a theme (a corollary to ethical consumption). The manifesto of Crossroads, a favorite of college students who worry that their Urban Outfitter discards may end up in a landfill, is that ‘fashion shouldn’t come at a cost.’ Material Wrld aims to alleviate ‘fashion guilt’ with its own promise: ‘We’ll handle yesterday’s fashion so you can focus on tomorrow’.”

“Tradesy is like a dating site for your old clothes: You can post a photo, tell its story and the site will price your garment (a button invites online shoppers to ‘love’ your listings). Move Loot will do the same for your furniture; if a piece sells, the company will handle the exchange and arrange for pickup. So will Lofty, Chairish and Viyet, which sell high-end furniture, decorative items and artwork; curators from Lofty and Viyet will vet your items in your home. The luxury site the RealReal, a favorite of fashion-conscious New Yorkers, trades in artwork, designer clothing and jewelry.”


Are You Smart Enough for Warby Parker?

The New York Times: “As an aesthetic, antifashion as fashion is annoying and alienating, as many people who are over 40, not particularly slender or less prestigiously schooled can attest when visiting a Warby Parker outlet. There is democracy in a relatively low price, but a sense of exclusion is woven into the gestalt.”

“Are you really smart enough to be shopping at Warby Parker? Have you read even a fraction of the books displayed? It’s dispiriting in a way to see old-fashioned chain stores feel as if they must contort themselves to stay vital in what is becoming an ever more polarized retail culture. A store like Cohen’s never makes you feel like a loser. Maybe it should post that outside of every branch, and declare a social victory.”


Manhattan Saddlery: The Past as the Future

The New York Times: “When horseback riding was the dominant mode of transportation, equestrian shops were as common as fresh-pressed juice bars are today. East 24th Street was so populated with places to outfit and care for horses that it came to be known as Old Stable Row. Times have changed. And for the city equestrian, a rare breed in itself, the only remaining shop of its kind on Old Stable Row is Manhattan Saddlery.”

“The smell of leather permeates the sprawling two-story shop, greeting customers who arrive looking for saddles, bridles, halters, crops, stirrups and riding pants … Charlotte Kullen was shopping on a recent Saturday, as she does about once a week. At the shop she finds a receptive audience for her latest stories about Asantro, her horse. ‘It was his birthday yesterday,’ she said, displaying photos on her phone of the Dutch Warmblood, an athletic breed often used in competitions.”

Another shopper, Alex Roy, comments: “It’s funny, like any brick-and-mortar shop, if you think about it, you can buy anything they carry online … But you come here to talk to the people and to see the place.”


FDA Re-Designs Nutritional Label

Gizmodo: “The FDA just released its first major change to its nutritional labels in over twenty years … The deadline for the change is July 26, 2018. But you should start seeing the new labels much earlier, as manufacturers start to make the switch.” The new label is on the right.



Vinnie’s: Vegan Pizza Fit for a Prince

The New York Times: “Vinnie’s, about 200 steps from the Bedford Avenue stop on the L train in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, thrives by selling colorful pizzas designed for customers who post pictures of their food on social media before they take a bite. For such a small pizzeria, Vinnie’s has an outsize online footprint. It is home to the photogenic Mini Vinnie, a slice covered in tiny pizza slices that caught the Internet’s attention last year … When Prince died, a Purple Rain slice with violet-hued cheese was on the menu.”

Vinnie’s latest: “a pizza box fashioned out of pizza crust. The creation features a small pepperoni pie nestled between a base of Sicilian-crust pizza and a lid of garlicky, naan-like bread. It sounds like the kind of creation dreamed up in a stoner haze.” Vinnie’s co-owner Sean Berthiaume “said his goal was to reduce the number of pizza boxes piled up around the neighborhood. As for the inspiration, he added that he may be the ‘only person in Williamsburg’ who doesn’t smoke marijuana. ‘My dad says I’m getting residuals,’ he said.

Berthiaume and two friends bought Vinnie’s for $150,000 in 2007. “The new owners … focused on maintaining the existing clientele by selling New York classics, like meatball-ricotta, as well as attracting a new type of regular customer by introducing gluten-free options and dozens of nondairy, meat-free recipes. Vegan fare accounts for about a quarter of all sales … ‘It doesn’t look like a quote-unquote vegan spot, which I like,” said Juliane Casey,” who ordered a “vegan version of a macaroni-and-cheese slice and a vegan barbecue chicken slice. ‘The things I miss the most are pizza and mac and cheese,’ she said of eating a vegan diet. ‘When I see it on the menu, it feels like they care about you’.”


Picking Up the ‘Slack’ in Communications

The Economist: “It is rare for business software to arouse emotion besides annoyance. But some positively gush about how Slack has simplified office communication. Instead of individual e-mails arriving in a central inbox and requiring attention, Slack structures textual conversations within threads (called ‘channels’) where groups within firms can update each other in real time. It is casual and reflects how people actually communicate, eschewing e-mail’s outdated formalities, says Chris Becherer of Pandora, an online-music firm that uses Slack.”

“Slack’s rise points to three important changes in the workplace. First, people are completing work across different devices from wherever they are, so they need software that can work seamlessly on mobile devices … Second, communication is becoming more open. Just as offices went from closed, hived-off rooms to open-plan, Slack is the virtual equivalent, fostering a collaborative work environment … Slack’s default setting is to make conversations public within a firm.”

“Third, software firms are trying to automate functions that used to be done by people in order to make employees more productive. Slack has made a big push into ‘bots,’ algorithms that can automate menial tasks which used to be done by humans. Slack offers bots that compile lunch orders and projects’ progress reports, or generate analytics on demand. In the future employees will be able to chat with software agents to get more done, working alongside bots as well as their peers.”