Maybe You Should Just Hire Your Waiter
“In my mind, restaurants are the best business education that exists,” says a senior manager at a restaurant management company.
Here are today’s highlights:
This could be another tough summer for seasonal hiring.
Innovation may not be as important as we’ve been led to believe.
Silicon Valley is finally souring on faking it until they make it.
In Detroit, two refugees from Burundi are living the American Dream.
THE 21 HATS PODCAST: DASHBOARD
There will be no Dashboard podcast today: In a weak moment, I gave Gene Marks the day off. It won’t happen again (I hope).
Can’t get a reservation? Now you can buy one on a reservation marketplace: “If you’re yearning to try Carbone’s spicy rigatoni vodka or the Polo Bar’s bacon cheeseburger, it could take you months — and some luck — to get a reservation. But a website called Appointment Trader may be able to get you a table tonight—if you’re willing to pay several hundred dollars. The site, which started in 2021, lets people with existing reservations sell them on a virtual marketplace. And it gives diners the chance to snag a table at a very exclusive restaurant, like Rao’s, where reservations have become harder to get than Taylor Swift tickets. Though the platform trades reservations in hundreds of cities, Mr. Frey said, it is beginning to reach a significant customer base in New York City, where the site gets half of its traffic. In the process, it has become a growing concern for some traditional reservation platforms.”
“The idea for the site was born from the frustration of trying to make a high-demand reservation, said Jonas Frey, the site’s founder, who lives in Miami.”
“He started the platform as a way for people to buy hard-to-get appointments at motor-vehicle departments, but quickly expanded it to include restaurants, hotel rooms, bars, and clubs.”
“Mr. Frey, 35, created an algorithm that uses cell-phone data he bought from vendors to identify the most popular restaurants and when they’ll be packed to set the price of each initial bid. So far, more than $2.4 million in reservations have been sold, according to the site.”
“Appointment Trader takes a cut of about 20 to 30 percent from the reservation’s sale price, depending on the type of reservation.” READ MORE
Restaurant work can be a terrific training ground for employees, but the pandemic has cost many in Gen Z that opportunity: “As a result of the pandemic's shutdowns and isolation, members of Gen Z missed out on typical opportunities to learn how to navigate real-world situations and interactions. Now, as they're preparing to enter the workforce, they're at a competitive deficit. ‘The pandemic really accelerated a shift toward digital communication skills,’ says Laura Mills, head of early career insights at virtual workplace experience provider Forage. ‘[Gen Z] is incredibly adept at shorthand on their phones, social media platforms and gaming platforms communications, but those communication styles don't lift and shift to a multi-generational workforce very well."
“Mills has worked in early career development for over a decade, and when she's recruiting, she says she always favors a resume with significant restaurant or retail experience over one with a better GPA.”
“‘In my mind, restaurants are the best business education that exists,’ says [Leon Graves, senior solutions manager at Restaurant365, a restaurant management company].” READ MORE
This could be another tough summer for seasonal hiring: “Between low unemployment and tight caps on worker visas, summer hiring is going to be tough. Take summer pools for instance: many are under construction to get ready for a busy season. But getting pools ready is one thing. Finding pool lifeguards is another. Last year, more than half of the country’s 300,000 public pools had to limit operations because they couldn’t find staff. ‘Either they needed to shorten their hours, close down certain days of the week, or some cities and municipalities couldn’t even open half of their pools that they had,’ said Bernard J. Fisher at the American Lifeguard Association. This year, he said, it’s likely to be worse.”
“It’s been tough to staff summer jobs for years, so businesses have tried to get visas to bring in foreign labor. But even with more worker visas available this year, there still aren’t enough workers to fill all the open jobs.”
“‘And they need everything from cooks, to waitstaff, to landscapers,’ said Steve Hubbard at the American Immigration Council. ‘All those different types of jobs that you see at a resort or at a recreational facility that you may visit in the summer.’” READ MORE
Microsoft’s Verified ID will confirm that LinkedIn users actually work where they say they work: “Microsoft is expanding its digital identity technology to LinkedIn with a new tool that lets companies give their employees a way to prove to the outside world that they’re not fibbing about their place of work. LinkedIn will offer a new workplace verification system that uses Microsoft Entra Verified ID to issue credentials. Employees of participating companies will see a prompt in LinkedIn to confirm their workplace using these credentials. When complete, the employment verification will appear on their LinkedIn profiles.”
“Microsoft says it’s testing Verified ID for LinkedIn with more 70 organizations, including consulting firms Accenture and Avanade, and Microsoft itself. The company will start to roll out the technology more broadly on LinkedIn later in April, says Joy Chik, Microsoft’s president of identity and network access, in a post Wednesday morning.” READ MORE
Jason Fried says innovation is overrated: “Innovation should almost never happen. It's incredibly rare. It mostly happens by accident, not by intention. It's wonderful when it does, but you merely fluctuate in and out of it. It's not steady state. Work is mostly mundane. It's mostly maintenance. It's mostly local improvement and iteration. Work is mostly ... work. Any innovation is an outlier, nearly a rounding error. Even the most innovative projects or products are full of rote, prosaic stuff that still needs building. The poetic magic may be in the 5 percent, but the bulk of the work is in the other 95.” READ MORE
Adam Grant says smart email practices can help managers reduce stress: “In a series of experiments, the researchers Laura Giurge and Vanessa Bohns demonstrated what they call an email urgency bias. When people received emails outside work hours, they thought senders expected faster replies than they did. The more recipients believed they needed to respond quickly, the more stressed they felt — and the more they tended to struggle with burnout and work-life balance. The stress was mitigated when senders took a simple step: communicating their expectations. Just saying something like ‘This isn’t urgent, so get to it whenever you can’ was enough to alleviate the perceived pressure to respond quickly.”
“And clarifying expectations isn’t just good for our well-being: Evidence from the transition to remote work during the pandemic shows that when managers are explicit about their communication expectations — including target response times — their employees report being more productive and effective in their daily tasks.”
“When we place too high a priority on the speed of our email replies, we destroy our ability to focus. Interruptions derail our train of thought and wreak havoc on our progress. When you know you don’t have to reply to emails right away, you can actually find flow and dedicate your full attention where you wish.” READ MORE
Institutional investors are having a big impact on the housing market: “Deep-pocketed institutional buyers have rushed into the booming market for single-family rental homes in recent years, and in no state more so than in Texas, according to a 2022 report from the National Association of Realtors. (‘Institutional buyers’ can refer to corporations, hedge funds, private equity firms, small businesses, and LLCs of all stripes, including those formed by mom-and-pop landlords who own multiple properties.) Dallas-based Invitation Homes, a real estate investment trust, is the nation’s largest institutional owner of single-family rentals, with roughly 80,000 homes in sixteen U.S. markets, including about 5,000 houses in Texas.”
“With home prices and rents skyrocketing since the Covid-19 pandemic—though both have cooled some lately, due to rising interest rates and worries about the economy—affordable-housing activists have accused corporate investors of driving up home prices, as well as rents and fees; muscling out first-time home buyers; evicting tenants at higher rates; and worsening the racial gap in wealth and homeownership.”
“Reflecting such concerns, two bills introduced in this year’s state legislative session by representative Gina Hinojosa, a Democrat from Austin, are aimed at reining in corporate landlords. One, HB 1056, would require investment firms that lease homes in Texas to register their ownership information, county by county, with the state comptroller. The other measure, HB 1057, would bar an investment firm from entering into an ‘executory’ (or tentative) contract to purchase a single-family home before the thirtieth day after the home is listed for sale.” READ MORE
Funeral homes may have to start disclosing their prices online: “The Funeral Rule, which took effect in 1984, requires funeral homes to provide written price lists to people who visit in person, and to share pricing over the phone on request. But the law is mum about listing prices on the web, as well as communicating by email or text. ‘Funeral homes are not required by law to post prices online,’ said Lois C. Greisman, associate director of the F.T.C.’s division of marketing practices. Consumer advocates, including the Funeral Consumers Alliance, see online pricing as increasingly important because people may find themselves shopping for services while mourning the loss of a family member who lives far away.”
“The F.T.C. reported last fall that just under a quarter of funeral home websites provided a full price list, while most offered “little to no” price information.”
“The National Funeral Directors Association, which represents about 11,000 funeral homes, said it supported voluntary disclosure of prices. If the commission does amend the rule, the association said, it recommends that an online price requirement should apply only to funeral homes that have existing websites. Homes should not be required to establish a website to comply, the association said.”
“The median cost of a funeral, including a viewing and burial, is about $7,800, according to 2021 data from the National Funeral Directors Association. A vault — a coffin container often required by cemeteries — adds about $1,600. The median cost of cremation, including a viewing, is about $7,000.” READ MORE
As the charges mount, fraud starts to lose its luster: “Taken together, the chorus of charges, convictions and sentences have created a feeling that the startup world’s fast and loose fakery actually has consequences. Despite this generation’s many high-profile scandals (Uber, WeWork) and downfalls (Juicero), few startup founders, aside from [Elizabeth] Holmes, ever faced criminal charges for pushing the boundaries of business puffery as they disrupted us into the future. The funding downturn may be to blame. Unethical behavior can largely be overlooked when times are good, as they were for tech startups in the 2010s.”
“But when the easy money dries up, everyone parrots the Warren Buffett proverb about finding out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out. After FTX filed for bankruptcy in November, Brian Chesky, the chief executive of Airbnb, updated the adage for millennial tech founders: ‘It feels like we were in a nightclub and the lights just turned on,’ he tweeted.”
“In the past, the venture capital investors who backed startups were reluctant to pursue legal action when they were duped. The companies were small, with few assets to recover, and going after a founder would hurt the investors’ reputations.”
“That has changed as the unicorns have soared, attracting billions in funding, and as larger, more traditional investors including hedge funds, corporate investors and mutual funds have entered the investing game.”
“The startup world celebrates failures, and if you’re not failing, you’re viewed as not taking enough risks. But it is unclear whether that defense will hold as the scandals become more humiliating for everyone involved.” READ MORE
Hamissi Mamba, a refugee from Burundi, learned to speak English by watching “Peppa Pig:” “He [and his wife, Nadia Nijimbere] also had a big dream: to bring the food of their home country to Detroit. He competed in a local entrepreneurship program in 2017, and the couple won the $50,000 prize to help them get their restaurant started. They finally opened the doors to their airy restaurant, Baobab Fare, in early 2021 — in the throes of the pandemic. The accolades have rolled in. In February, the couple were named for the second time as semifinalists for best chef in the James Beard awards, and in March, Mr. Mamba won an episode of ‘Chopped,’ a cooking competition on the Food Network, and with it, $10,000. Now they are donating that prize money to Freedom House Detroit, the nonprofit that helped Ms. Nijimbere, and other asylum seekers like her, escape persecution.”
“Mr. Mamba, who had earned a college marketing degree in Burundi, began taking business classes through Freedom House and testing the city’s appetite for their food. He persuaded local chefs to lend him their restaurants for an evening so he could host pop-up dinners featuring his menus.”
“Winning the contest, and the $50,000 prize, in 2017 — beating out nearly 160 other competitors — changed everything. It was the couple’s big moment that changed the trajectory of their business dreams.”
“They have 38 employees, mostly fellow refugees they’ve met through Freedom House Detroit. They are working on a second location and have expanded into wholesale packaged foods, such as hot sauce and a passion-fruit juice that was so in demand during the pandemic that they were selling 300 bottles a week.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
We’re Still Buying Inventory: This week, Jay Goltz tells William Vanderbloemen that even with an inventory glut, a cash crunch, and a weakening economy, he’s not going to stop buying goods for his home store. “It's kind of like cutting Samson's hair,” Jay tells us. “I don't want to mess with telling the buyer, ‘Stop buying stuff.’ Because that's the business we’re in.” All of which has Jay feeling the pressure, but he’s very glad he’s been maintaining a credit line equivalent to 10 percent of sales. Plus: William explains how hiring can go wrong even at a staffing company and how he managed to raise his prices without actually raising his prices.
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Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren