Posted on June 14, 2013 by Keith
An unlikely source for our Foodie Friday Fun this week – the folks over at Freakonomics. I’m a big fan of both the books and the podcast because their whole schtick is looking at things very differently albeit from an economic point of view. Today it’s the cronut, an invention by a NYC baker which is a cross between a doughnut and a croissant. As Freakonomics reports:
Cronuts are so popular that lines form at 6 a.m. — 2 hours before the shop opens — and Ansel runs out within minutes. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (and Craigslist) there is even a cronut black market, with unauthorized cronut scalpers charging up to $40 apiece for home delivery (a mark up of 700%). And of course there are cronut knockoffs appearing all over the world. Ansel has even trademarked the name “cronut.”
So here we have an interesting and, hopefully, common problem – you do invent a better mousetrap although once it’s out there it’s not particularly hard to duplicate. You can try to protect it via patents or trademarks but the former is costly (and the laws are changing) and the latter is hard to protect for something such as this. Why? Because it is almost a “generic” term such as Kleenex or Xerox (tissues and copying, respectively). The article has a great overview of the laws involved if you’re interested. So what can you do?
In two words, be better. Two more: be smarter. You are, after, the original, and that’s an edge – sort of like what distinguishes the official sports league websites from all the other sports sites that are out there (scores and stats are commodity content, after all). People like that – getting the original as long as the original lives up to its reputation (anyone think Hyrdox are better than Oreo’s? Seriously?). The inventor has a head start and it’s a small business. Why blow the profits on enforcing the potentially unenforceable hundreds of miles away from your base of operation? We don’t take the time often enough to think about the real value behind an argument made in principle. What fees might come in from licensing the name to a bakery in LA? What might it cost to get those fees?
I’ve never had a cronut. I might even break my general eating habits to try one next time I’m in NYC (assuming I can get one). What I won’t do – and what you shouldn’t either – is sacrifice smart business thinking over some grandiose idea. Be better, be smarter, and you’ll reap the rewards. You agree?
Filed under: food, Reality checks | Tagged: business, business thinking, Food industry, Foodie, Freakonomics, Strategic management | Leave a Comment »
Posted on June 7, 2013 by Keith
It’s Foodie Friday and I know you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. Sorry about the infrequent posts this week. I’ve written before about the golf outing I go on every year and I’m in Myrtle Beach with the crew celebrating our friendship and playing an awful lot of (bad) golf. We come to Myrtle for the golf and fellowship – we definitely don’t come for the food. In 19 years of visiting we’ve found a few (and only a few) decent restaurants and so we’ve taken to cooking for ourselves a lot. While our food definitely tops out at the “advanced amateur” level, it beats most of what we’d pay for here. That said, the restaurants – a mixture of national chains, Calabash seafood joints, and sports bars – don’t make it worth the effort of money we’d spend on dinner for 12.
Why I bring this up is that they seem to do a good business which raised the question in my mind of standards. We’re not food snobs – most of us enjoy simple food prepared well using high quality ingredients and we’re not looking for fancy sauces or molecular gastronomy techniques. The standard to which we hold professionals is very different (apparently) from the one most of the folks visiting here seem to have.
The business question is this. I don’t think the cooks are less skilled nor the service staff any less capable. I do think that they’re playing to the bar set by their clientele and that’s a trap for any business. We need to be focused on “best” and not on”this will get us by.” Many folks like fried seafood buffets (a specialty around here) but using old oil for frying or frozen, imported fish rather than changing the oil regularly and fresh local catch is meeting the low expectations that come either from not knowing any better (McDonald’s is fine until you taste Fatburger or In & Out) or from a business that doesn’t focus on repeat customers. Very few businesses are afforded that luxury.
Since golf is delayed by a tropical storm passing through (good planning I know), we’ll be cooking another meal here. That’s some restaurant’s loss (and given this group it’s a substantial loss). Our job in business is to make eating out at our place a more attractive proposition than staying home. The higher we set our own bars the more likely we are to do that.
Filed under: Consulting, food, Helpful Hints | Tagged: advice, business thinking, Food, golf, management, Strategic management | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 31, 2013 by Keith
Foodie Friday Fun time! Today our topic is a sauce many of you have had with crab cakes, french fries, cold beef filet, or many other dishes called remoulade. Other than spelling, and the fact that it’s good, that’s about where the agreement ends.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was chatting with a dear friend and fellow cook on the topic (we had dined at a place with excellent remoulade years ago and were trying to figure it out) and realized that we didn’t even know where to start. Unlike many dishes, remoulade is a bit of a chameleon, changing itself based on its enviroment.
Cajun remoulade is different from French, which varies from Belgian. Is it mayonnaise-based or more of an aioli (I know – splitting hairs bit still…)? Is there ketchup in it or not? Anchovies? Do we use French cornichons or a dill pickle? Capers – in or out (is that a master’s thesis topic or what)? In fact, maybe it’s more of a condiment than a sauce? Tell a cook to make a remoulade and you’ll get one of several things, each of which is “right” based on the cook’s background. It’s unlike one of the “mother sauces” which are very specific. Which is the business point.
Most business issues are like remoulade – there is more than one right answer. As my friend said, “there are so many different ways and you don’t know which one is right for the job, maybe you should just give them a list of options and let them pick the one that suits their needs the best.” Good advice for consultants like me and other business folks like you. What can hamper our business success is thinking that there is just ONE way to accomplish the goal. We need to focus on “a” right answer, not “the.”
We haven’t quite deduced how this restaurant made their remoulade – they’re out of business now so we can’t go back and ask – but we’ll keep trying. What we do know is that their answer to the remoulade question was unique and worked for them with their food. That’s just like the answers to most of your business questions are. You with me?
Filed under: food, Thinking Aloud | Tagged: business thinking, Cook, cooking, Food, Foodie, managing, Remoulade | 1 Comment »