The Mom: Can you please go clip some chocolate mint from the garden?
The 12 y.o.: Is it white, milk or dark chocolate mint?
The Mom: Can you please go clip some chocolate mint from the garden?
The 9 y.o.: So. Exactly how much faith does it take to move a mountain?
The 12 y.o.: As much as the mountain weighs. You know, mass, force, acceleration. It’s Newtonian physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Waffle House, a chain of, you guessed it, waffle houses, stands out as a business that is well prepared for natural disasters and supply chain disruptions, so much so that FEMA director W. Craig Fugate coined the term “Waffle House Index” as an indicator of preparedness. Waffle House addresses disaster planning from a number of different angles, so it’s instructive to take a look at the company’s operations and identify some key common denominators. Any business that bounces back quickly from a disaster is a resilient one and resiliency is a key tenet of sustainability. So what can your business learn from Waffle House?
Communicating with Employees in a Disaster
As noted elsewhere on Triple Pundit, communication is a top marker of solid disaster planning. This holds true on a macro level, regarding effective government emergency response. It is also essential for individual businesses. Walter cites Panos Kouvelis, a professor at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, who stresses that Waffle House checks with employees before a disaster hits to make sure they know who is available to work in the affected area. Reporter Jeff Hullinger of Atlanta-based 11-Alive TV expands on that thought, noting that Waffle House has been known to reach out to employees with four-wheel drive vehicles to help ferry supplies, and it brings in employees from outside the disaster area so local employees can take care of their families and property. The lesson here is to make sure you know what your employees can do in an emergency – and make sure they are motivated to do it.
Operating on a Shoestring
Another important feature of disaster planning is the ability to operate at less than full capacity. According to Kouvelis, Waffle House will open with a limited menu when necessary, and that actually forms the basis of the “Waffle House Index.” If a community hit by disaster has a Waffle House open with a full menu, the index is green. Open with a limited menu means yellow, and closure means red, indicating that the community is in serious trouble. Referring back to Mr. Hullinger again, Waffle House waitresses have been known to show up for work even when local public safety officials can’t make it, so if your local Waffle House can’t open then you know things are pretty bad out there.
Employees as a Resource
Knowing what kind of vehicles your employees drive is one way to catalog the kind of extra help they can provide in an emergency. Knowing that your employees are trained and educated to respond is another way. When the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan this spring, businesses were able to weather energy shortages by calling upon their employees to conserve energy by taking simple measures like using the stairs instead of the elevators. Here again Waffle House shows the way, with a focus on energy and water conservation measures that includes simple measures like turning off lights in unused back rooms.
Disaster Planning Help from FEMA
FEMA recommends a couple of disaster planning toolkits that can help you measure your preparedness and take steps to make improvements. The American Red Cross Ready Rating Program is a free self-assessment program that promotes long term improvement through yearly membership renewals. ReadyBusiness offers handy downloadable brochures, checklists, and other materials including advertising.
Business and Long Term Disaster Mitigation
Aside from factors within a business owner’s control, a number of crucial external elements can also come into play including land use restrictions, building codes and infrastructure. That’s why it pays for businesses to get involved in community decision making, not only at the local level but on up to federal policy. This is particularly true of federal energy policy, as dramatically illustrated by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe as well as the BP oil spill and other energy-related disasters. Waffle House recently took a step toward adopting a lower-risk form of energy by installing solar hot water heaters at one of its locations, and perhaps that’s the beginning of another stage in the company’s long term disaster planning and risk management strategy.
Every single business I’ve ever worked for would fail the ‘Waffle-House Index” (an indicator of the readiness of the business to continue operations as normal after disaster strikes). Does your company have a plan? Do you know what it is?
When it comes to local commerce, the ultimate prize everyone is going after right now is how to close the redemption loop. The redemption loop starts when a consumer sees an ad or an offer for a local merchant, and is completed when the consumer makes a purchase and that purchase can be tracked back to the offer. If you know who is actually redeeming offers and how much they are spending, you can be much smarter about tweaking and targeting those offers.
Groupon, LivingSocial, and other daily deal sites have created enormous value by pushing the redemption loop the furthest. When someone buys a daily deal, for instance, that translates into cash for the merchant. But for the vast majority of their deals Groupon and LivingSocial do not track whether or not they are ever redeemed, much less the amount each consumer actually spends at the store or restaurant once they show up.
In order to complete the circle and track offers all the way through redemptions, it is necessary to either tap into the payment system or create an alternative way to track redemptions. Different companies are tackling this problem in different ways, but they almost all rely on a shift from emailed coupons to offers delivered through mobile apps.
Next Jump CEO Charlie Kim, who recently partnered with LivingSocial to power daily deals across his commerce network, sees a shift in targeting from broadcasting deals to narrowcasting them. “Blasting out a deal to everyone in New York is not targeting,” he says. “When you broadcast too much in any category, it is just a lot of noise. Email response rates have plummeted for everyone across the industry. What used to be 10% response rates even a year ago, now you are talking the 1% to 2% level.” The constant barrage of emails from Groupon, LivingSocial, and every daily deal copycat is creating user fatigue that is visible in declining response rates.
And that is why mobile is so appealing. If you can send deal notifications to people’s phones based on their exact location and nearby deals, you have the beginnings of narrowcasting. Later on, companies will figure out how to layer on ways to target by income, gender, and other factors as well.
Mobile and local commerce go hand in hand. In a few cities, Groupon is testing out Groupon Now and LivingSocial is offering Instant Deals. In both cases, the deals appear on mobile apps and can be redeemed instantly, rather than having to wait a day for the deal to go live, as is the case with their regular daily deals. The downside of these deals is that Groupon and LivingSocial cannot take advantage of their existing deal inventory and they have to actually provision participating merchants with iPhones and iPads so that they can accept the deals and Groupon/LivingSocial can track them. Yelp is doing something similar where you have to show a redemption code to the merchant from your phone.
Foursquare and Facebook are taking a different approach through their separate partnerships with American Express. Since AmEx is the payment system, it records deal redemptions along with the actual payments. Merchants and consumers don’t have to do anything different from what they normally do. Pay with a credit card and your deal is redeemed. Except it only works if you have an AmEx card and the discount is credited to your account later.
Google is trying to link Google Offers to its Google Wallet, which requires an NFC chip in your phone and an NFC reader at the merchant’s checkout. It has the advantage of working with MasterCard, Citi, and other large payment processors. But it also depends on a brand new technology that will take a long time to become widely available.
The key to closing the redemption loop is definitely payments. Investor Chris Sacca recently told Kevin Rose in a video interview the best reason why Twitter should buy Square is because Twitter has the broadest reach to distribute offers and deals, and Square has a built-in way to track redemption. This was just an off the cuff remark in a friendly chat (Twitter isn’t even in this business yet), but it makes sense.
We are moving from a world of online ads that produce impressions and clicks to online and mobile offers that produce real sales. If the deal companies can figure out a way to actually measure those sales, it could open up local commerce in a massive way that makes what they’ve done so far look like child’s play.
There is real user fatigue happening right now. Email response rates are pathetically low. Even Facebook and Twitter are being impacted with lower click-thrus. People are tired of all the ‘blah blah’ instead of the digital, personalized local commerce future that was promised to them (and some companies are consistently delivering) more than a decade ago…
Mom? You know how you peel a carrot or an apple with a knife? How do you keep your eyes peeled?
The 5 y.o.
My heirloom veggie garden goodness is kicking into high gear w zucchini, peppers, carrots, golden beets, English peas and beans. I’m also supplementing from local farmers with family favorites like corn, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers until our veggies are ready. Planning to visit a Upick with the family in a couple of weeks. Drooling at the thought of all the lovely jams and sauces I’ll be canning over the next few months!
b/ Oat Bran Gallettes (Pancakes). Sliced Strawberries
l/ PBJ or Ham & Cheese Sandwiches.
d/ Fried Chicken Drumsticks, Corn on the Cob, Green Beans
b/ Poached Eggs & Bacon. Whole Wheat Toast. OJ
d/ Indian Takeout 🙂
b/ Banana Pancakes. Pineapple/Coconut/Mango Smoothies
l/ Leftover Salads as Sandwiches w Amish Bread, Fresh Veggies
Baking: Amish Bread
b/ Extreme Granola, Greek Yogurt, and Fruit Parfaits
l/ Spaghetti & Slow-Cooker Meatballs
b/ Steel-Cut Oatmeal or Wheatabix or Leftover Cobbler
l/ Leftovers/Pantry (Annies Mac & Cheese, Veggies from the Garden)
d/ Slow-Cooked Corned Beef w Root Veggies
Baking: Amish Bread
b/ Dutch Apple Pancake, Bacon
l/ Wendy’s Berry & Chicken Salad
d/ Chili Bar w Fixin’s (Sour Cream, Grated Cheddar, Crackers, Chopped Onion)
Baking: Waikiki Cornbread
b/ Chocolate Croissants, Poached Eggs, Fruit Salad
l/ Corned Beef Sandwiches, Cabbage, and Boiled Potatoes
d/ Leftovers / Fridge Cleanout
The 9 y.o.: Mom? What ARE you looking for? This is the third time we’ve passed the Faygo display. We’re going in circles.
The Mom: I’m looking for cream of coconut. Mormons generally don’t have a ton of experience navigating the booze, I mean, the “beverage” section of Mejiers on a Saturday night…
The 9 y.o.: Oh. I thought it was just because you were being blonde.
Everyone who eats this bread LOVES it. Kids cannot taste the ‘magic’ ingredient. This summer, our garden is producing zucchini like it’s going out of style, so I’m saving the recipes on this blog that are truly exceptional. This double-chocolate bread is amazing AND easy. The recipe yields one loaf, but trust me when I say you’ll want to double it and give one to a friend (or use it to bribe little ones to finish their chores).
- 1/2 c. cake flour
- 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 c. canola oil
- 1 cup organic turbinado sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 c. shredded, raw zucchini
- 3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven. Grease, or spray with nonstick vegetable spray, a 9x5x3″ loaf pan. Set aside.Grate the zucchini using a medium sized grater. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended – about 2 minutes. Fold in the grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55-65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely. Yields one large loaf.