Applebees: What Is (not) Hip

Quartz: “It turns out, Applebee’s perhaps isn’t cut out to be a sophisticated, modern bar with a menu that sports chicken-wonton tacos and Sriracha lime sauce shrimp. Since the beginning of the year, the company’s stock price has plummeted by nearly 50%. It’s currently sitting at its lowest point in more than five years.”

“In a recent conversation with investors, Applebee’s executives were blunt about what went wrong. They called out the brand’s overt attempt at attracting a younger, affluent crowd as a strategic misstep that wound up alienating boomers and Gen-X consumers. Even worse, the rebrand never succeeded in luring younger diners.”

“By contrast, Texas Roadhouse made a conscious decision to avoid a rebrand and found success. It stuck to its straightforward menu, designed for those who enjoy the routine of sticking to the same dishes.”

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Digital Scale Cuts Ikea Food Waste

Fast Company: “By the end of August 2020, Ikea wants to cut its food waste at its stores–both in its restaurants and in its smaller bistros serving cinnamon buns, hot dogs, and soft serve–in half. At the heart of this plan is a digital scale. Whenever employees in Emeryville (CA) toss food waste from the kitchen into a bin, it now records the weight of the food. On a touchscreen mounted on the wall above the bin, employees quickly record what type of food was lost, and see feedback about the cost of that food and the carbon footprint. Over time, the patterns in the data will help the company make changes.”

“Ikea began piloting its new food waste system in 2015, and began rolling it out to stores in December 2016. By May 2017, it had launched in 20% of its stores, reducing nearly 80,000 pounds of food waste and saving the company more than $1 million. It’s now in the process of rolling it out to all of its 400 stores, which serve 650 million customers a year.”

Andrew Shakman, CEO of LeanPath, makers of the digital scale, comments: “The moment you start measuring with technology you begin to change awareness levels and you cause people to start to think differently. Whereas in the past they could just throw something in the garbage, now they have to stop and for a moment; they have to record something about it. In that moment, you’re not just collecting data, you’re communicating your values.”

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The Spotted Cheetah: A Cheetos Restaurant

The Wall Street Journal: “The Spotted Cheetah, a pop-up restaurant specializing in dishes made with Cheetos, has sold out all of the roughly 300 reserved slots for its three-day run, say officials with PepsiCo ’s Frito-Lay division that makes the snack … Spaces were gone within six hours of last week’s announcement of the opening, officials said, adding that there is currently a waiting list of more than 1,000 people should anything become available.”

“The Cheetos restaurant, helmed by celebrity chef Anne Burrell, will feature several varieties of the snack in close to a dozen dishes … Menu items, priced from $8 to $22, include Cheetos meatballs, Cheetos grilled cheese with tomato soup and Cheetos-crusted fried pickles. There are even desserts made with Cheetos, albeit the Sweetos variety of the snack.”

“Ms. Burrell, a fixture on the Food Network, said the challenge was to ‘elevate’ Cheetos, but not get too fanciful. ‘There’s a fine line to walk,’ she said.”

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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.”

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Kellogg Story: The Battle of Battle Creek

Bryan Burrough: “If by chance you are reading this over your morning cornflakes, be warned … it turns out that the turn-of-the-last-century origin and evolution of the cereal industry was a very nasty and unpleasant bit of business, as Howard Markel chronicles in The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek … Dr. Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan, tells the story not only of two titans of American commerce and medicine, the brothers John Harvey and William Keith Kellogg, but of the institutions they founded, John’s Battle Creek Sanitarium and Will’s Kellogg cereal colossus—not to mention their long-running feud, one of the more spectacular in the annals of business.”

“Many of John’s patients struggled with the age’s great scourge, ‘dyspepsia,’ a medley of gas, diarrhea, heartburn and upset stomach. An American diet long on animal fat, salt and sugar produced what one historian called ‘the great American stomach ache’ … The Kelloggs (and others) thought that an easily digestible corn cereal might solve all the problems.” However, John “refused to aggressively sell the Kellogg cereal because he thought it unseemly for a medical doctor, and his increasingly famous sanitarium (“the San”), to sell a commercial product.”

Will “made a deal with John to leave the San and start a cereal company of his own, which in time became a global conglomerate. Litigation between the two brothers began almost before the first Corn Flakes box could be shipped from Will’s factory. John sued. Will countersued when John finally sold a cereal of his own. The litigation went on for years, finally ending only in 1920, by which point the damage was irreparable … In the end, the Kellogg brothers’ fortunes reversed. Will, dour and lonely, became one of the country’s wealthiest men … John, though internationally famous well into the 1930s, slowly lost many of his holdings, including, in 1920, the sanitarium itself.”

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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.”

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David Chang & The Dropped Napkin Theory

Quartz: “Chef David Chang’s restaurants are pilgrimage sites for foodies from Sydney to New York. But the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group recently disclosed that he gets inspiration on kitchen management from a US fast-food chain where a double cheeseburger, fries, and a drink together cost less than a small plate of pea shoots at Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York.”

Chang comments: “Every time I go to In-N-Out, if there’s time permitting … I stay there until I see one of the employees drop something. ‘Cause it’s always so busy. They drop something, they don’t know they drop something, and then someone else picks it up. Let’s just say they dropped a napkin. They pick up the napkin. They don’t go, ‘Hey jackass, you dropped this,’ like most people would do. They pick it up, they don’t say anything.”

“Previous research has found that organizations that show concern for employees’ development and welfare have higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction. Unhappy workers make more mistakes, have more accidents, and are more likely to be absent. One key to maintaining happiness among the rank-and-file is to ensure good behavior at the top of an organization. Researchers have found that employees are more motivated to help co-workers when they see people in leadership positions going out of their way to do the same.”

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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.”

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Is Starbucks Ubiquity Hurting Its Sales?

Quartz: A Montreal-based investment bank says Starbucks “has saturated the American market so much that it’s now losing sales competing with itself.”

“On average, for every one Starbucks location in the US, there are now about four others within a one-mile radius to compete against … Over all in 2017, more than 62% of Starbucks now compete with at least one other Starbucks coffeeshop … the number of Starbucks alternatives within a mile of a Starbucks location in the company’s busiest regions have increased from three to five since 2012.”

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Ambient Computing: Invisible & Omnipresent

Steve Vassallo: “Slack and Airbnb—like Pinterest, Instagram and Kickstarter—are recent successes founded by designers, people who are devoted to the practice of building impeccably considerate technology. Design is the key to building the next great wave of companies.”

“I think we’re entering the age of ‘ambient computing,’ when personal technology will become invisible and omnipresent. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, the Internet of Things, and other nascent tech will fade into the background of our lives. Technology will no longer come in the form of gadgets.”

“In this new era, design will be ever more critical to how we build and use our technology. The 21st century will be the century of the designer founder, when core value for businesses is created by entrepreneurs who have a deeper, more intuitive sense for the human condition.”

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