Yelp Closes In On OpenTable

The New York Times: “A new crop of competitors is challenging OpenTable as never before, picking off the high-profile restaurants that are critical to attracting consumers, by offering better deals and newer technology. And for all the diners they do seat, neither OpenTable nor its competitors have yet loosened the telephone’s grip on reservations, roughly two-thirds of which are still made by phone, according to Yelp, which once partnered with OpenTable and is now a rival.”

“Yelp now offers several features to help restaurants manage their reservations — a surprising twist for a company that many restaurateurs love to hate for its sometimes-withering user reviews. Yelp says more than 4,000 restaurants now use its service for reservations. The company doesn’t need to attract marquee dining spots to entice users, who are already coming to it for reviews, giving it a major advantage.”

“Yelp Reservations charges a restaurant $249 a month … the flat-monthly-fee model used by most of the new reservation services helped discourage a restaurant practice that infuriates customers: holding back tables during prime hours. Some restaurants do that because they know they can fill the tables on their own at those times, and they like to seat valuable guests who show up at the last minute.”


Highball Machine: Fizzy Whisky on Tap

The Wall Street Journal: “At Kinfolk 90, a bar in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood … many customers are opting for a whisky and soda … The booze is a Scotch-like whisky from Japan. And it is delivered via a beer tap-like device that ensures the desired 3-to-1 ratio of fizzy water and alcohol. The cocktail, simply called a highball, is a mainstay at bars in Japan, where such machines are common. And to hear some proprietors of New York establishments tell it, the drink could be the next big thing in the city.”

“The cocktail’s appeal is rooted in its simplicity, noted Kinfolk 90 General Manager John Van Lieshout. But the machine “adds a degree of artistry to it,” he said. The bar can sell as many as 50 of the $12 cocktail on a busy night, he said. Mr. Van Lieshout also flavors his highballs with some grapefruit essence, delivered as a finishing mist via a spray bottle.”

“Kinfolk 90 is the first bar in New York City with a highball machine, having purchased it from Beam Suntory … a Beam Suntory official said the price tag is in the four figures. Beam Suntory hopes to have the machine, which it says is tailor-made to be used with its Toki whisky, in at least 10 New York bars by early 2018 and in dozens of establishments during the next five years.”


Does Rudeness Affect Job Performance?

The Wall Street Journal: “When we’re pressed at work, it’s tempting to let manners slip … a growing body of research suggests that rudeness can harm an employee’s well-being and job performance. When rudeness feels like a threat, it occupies cognitive resources and focuses our attention on processing the unpleasant interaction, says Amir Erez, a management professor at the University of Florida.”

IN 2015, Dr. Erez conducted a study of doctors and nurses who had been subjected to disparaging words. He comments: “The results were scary. the teams exposed to rudeness gave the wrong diagnosis, didn’t resuscitate or ventilate appropriately, didn’t communicate well, gave the wrong medications and made other serious mistakes.”

“Mistreatment in other workplaces may not lead to such critical failures, but persistent low levels of rudeness—such as being ignored or put down, particularly by someone in a position of power—can threaten an employee’s sense of belonging, according to research published this year in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. This isolation, in turn, can bring on stomach problems, sleeplessness and headaches.”


Love Symbol #2: Prince as Pantone

Variety: “In a fitting and unusual tribute, the Prince Estate, alongside Pantone Color Institute, announced today the creation of a standardized custom color to represent and Prince. The color, of course, is a shade of purple … “Love Symbol #2” was inspired by his custom-made Yamaha purple piano, which was originally scheduled to go on tour with the artist before his death from an accidental drug overdose.”

“The Estate is in conversation with various partners about collaboration on products that incorporate the custom color.”


Sour Milk Sea: Dumping Moo Juice

The Wall Street Journal: “Dairy makers are hoping puréed fruit and genetically screened cows can help win back consumers who have soured on milk … Danone’s Sir Bananas product combines milk with puréed fruit, which it hopes will stand out from other flavored-milk drinks and is now available nationwide. Fairlife LLC, a partnership between Coca-Cola Co. and Select Milk Producers Inc., is selling ‘ultra-filtered’ milk it says contains more calcium and protein than regular milk. It is also offering milkshakes containing antioxidants and prebiotic fiber, which is intended to aid digestive health.”

“The dairy companies are fighting over a shrinking pool of milk demand. Milk sales in the U.S. dropped 14% in dollar terms for the year through June compared with that period in 2013, according to Nielsen figures. That is one reason U.S. farmers are pouring excess milk into their fields and manure pits. Farmers in parts of the Northeast and Midwest dumped more than 250 million pounds of milk last year, according to the USDA. They are on pace to dump even more milk this year.”


Why Do Startups Lie About Their Age?

The Wall Street Journal: “In a business where everyone is searching for the next big disruptive concept, old age is rarely considered an asset. As such, some companies make their stated dates of founding subject to change … Investors say startups often reach for the youngest age possible to make it seem like they found success quickly … Like Hollywood, Silicon Valley usually doesn’t bat an eye at this practice. Venture capitalists say they know some companies fudge their year of founding in the press. There is no hiding their true age from investors, who see it in official documents.”

Venky Ganesan, a partner at Menlo Ventures, comments: “This is a Hollywood phenomenon that has crept up into the startup world. There is such a premium on thinking that you’re an overnight success. I think it’s sad, and it undermines credibility for everybody.”

“Some startups that spend years developing their product say the clock doesn’t start with those years. They count time from the day they came upon a solution that worked—never mind time spent looking for ideas or toiling at approaches that failed … David Gurle, chief executive of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Symphony Communication Services LLC, isn’t amused by startups that play the age game. He founded private-messaging startup Perzo in 2012. After Symphony, another startup, acquired it in 2014, it began targeting financial-services clients. He proudly cites 2012 as Symphony’s founding year, despite its permutations.”


Fake Music: How Spotify Pads Profits

Ben Fritz: “As anyone who has used Spotify knows, popular playlists are often featured when you open the app, above recommendations based on what you’ve listened to. So what’s the problem? Reports in the New York Times and elsewhere suggest that Spotify may have special deals with so-called ‘fake artists,’ paying them less than the standard share of its revenue that goes to Arcade Fire or Beyonce for each play … Listen to whatever you want, in other words, but might we suggest these appetizing options that carry a better profit margin for us?”

“Netflix also highlights its own shows first: “The more that people watch Netflix originals, of course, the more the company can control its own destiny rather than engaging in sometimes-difficult negotiations to buy content from other studios and networks.”

“You probably don’t care about ‘fake artists’ on Spotify for the same reason other recording artists and record labels do: Because they worry they’ll make less money. But just as it’s important to know who owns your favorite newspaper or who contributes money to your elected officials, you should care about what Spotify and other streaming services would like you to hear or watch. Because it may be the songs and videos that make them more money, not the ones you’re most likely to enjoy.”


Surprise #1: Google+ Is Most-Loved Network

The Washington Post: “Google+ has topped the American Consumer Satisfaction Index’s 2017 list evaluating how users feel about Internet social media companies … For those who don’t remember the social network or didn’t think it was still around, Google+ was Google’s largely failed attempt to answer the rise of Facebook and Twitter … It didn’t take off for many reasons, including: its complexity, the fact that people were pretty set in their social media ways and Google’s somewhat ham-handed attempts to require people to use it to comment on YouTube.”

“But Google+ did find footing with groups looking to make community pages, and now has an estimated 111 million users, according to Forbes — about one-third of Twitter, or 1/6 of Facebook. It’s continued to work on the product for those customers. And that, at least in terms of customer satisfaction, seems to have paid off.”

This “could indicate that, the smaller or more specialized an audience, the more you can do to focus your network to fit. The survey credits Pinterest’s high ranking, for example, to ‘increasing site efficiency and search technology’ as well as moves to make it easier to shop directly from the site … For Facebook, the right path may not be as clear when looking for direction from 2 billion users. The upshot of the report seems to be that if you want people to be happy on the Internet, you should go niche and really listen to your community.”


Sephora Studio: Where Small is Beautiful

Fast Company: Sephora “is tinkering with a new kind of store: an intimate boutique embedded in a neighborhood. The very first of these stores, which will be called the Sephora Studio, is launching on Newbury Street, the charming upmarket shopping street in downtown Boston, full of historic brick and stone buildings … While most Sephora stores make a big statement with their large storefronts, this small store attempts to blend into its locale.”

“At the center of the store, there are eight makeup stations where customers can book personal consultations. The product assortment is much smaller, focused on makeup, although there is a small selection of perfumes and skin care. Staff members will be well-versed in Sephora’s broader product range and may direct customers to products that can be shipped to them for free.”

“There are no cash registers, since staff members can process payments digitally, on their phones. At makeup stations, beauty advisers can take pictures of the client, then note all the products they test together, which is then emailed to the client and added to their online profile.”

“The brand is about to launch other small-format stores in similar shopping streets in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Hoboken in New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. These stores will not replace the bigger store format, but rather complement them.”