COVID World

Blink:

My favorite centenarian shared an interesting thought last night.

“Amazing how many troublesome events I have witnessed that have happened to the world. Localized to a degree. A very long list. However, the pandemic is the only event I have experienced that has happened to the whole world at once.”

Read On:    

Mom’s long list:

  1. The Great Depression.
  2. World War II topped off with The Nuclear Bomb.
  3. The Holocaust.
  4. Never-ending genocide – Cambodia, Rwanda, Serbia, etc.
  5. Countless wars – Korean, Vietnam, the numerous Middle East wars.
  6. Memorable historical tipping point events – assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK, Rabin), 9/11, the Arab Spring, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis.
  7. The Great Recession.
  8. Migrants drowning in the Mediterranean and washing up on beaches.
  9. Children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border.
  10. Mother nature – earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wild fires, etc.

As she indicated, a very long list. She also added: An unruly era of painful memories! And now we usher in a new era, the COVID World.

A Special Day

Blink:

Back in September, I interviewed my Mom who is a centenarian. The article, posted on LinkedIn, received its fair share of buzz. People wanted me to interview her again. She decided to pass until this morning to talk about Sunday, a very special/memorable day for her family. 

Read On:

Moi: Our interview in early September received some good buzz from members of my Tribe. I wanted to discuss your spin on computers and technology, a major transformation you witnessed in your lifetime, but you opted for breakfast instead. I know you did not want to continue with a series of follow-up interviews, but I cannot help but get you to open up about Sunday, a very special day in family history.

Ma mère: I’ve had my coffee and baguette. Go ahead.

Moi: Does Sunday rate as one of the great moments of your life?

Ma mère: Absolutely! Way up there. I got to witness my eldest grandchild get married. All thanks to technology, Zoom. I am extremely happy for Emily, proud, plus I really like her husband Matthew. And yes, I know, if it were not for technology, I would have missed the whole wedding since it was in Connecticut, and I am unable to travel.

Moi: We have had our fair share of technology conversations. Specifically, the power of telecommunications. Do you see the role Zoom will have in our COVID World?

Ma mère: Yes, but I will be politically correct. The big picture is I am extremely happy for Emily and Matthew. However, realistically, I am sitting here in France, the coronavirus is continuing to spike everywhere. As I indicated in my interview, people are only concerned about their own turf. Zoom will enable people to put a mote up around their protected bubble, observe “social distancing”, stay healthy. To me, conversations will become diluted and something will get lost in translation.

Moi: Good point. What do you think will get lost in translation?

Ma mère: For starters, people’s interpersonal skills. Missing body language cues. But hey, my first Zoom experience was great. Unbelievable! Watched my Emily get married. However, it made me realize that your grandma Rosie was very wise when she said: “You live long enough, you see it all.”

Food Halls

Blink:

Food-away-from-home experts publish their forecasts daily pertaining to when the channel will fully recover. Their content makes for some interesting reading. Being an optimist who worries a lot, as I shared in my post The Interconnectivity Impact, too many factors may obstruct the industry’s comeback.                     

Read On:

Based on what I read, a majority of operators surveyed in the past few months indicate the road to recovery will vary significantly by segment. However, last week, one article that piqued my interest provided details of a report by Cushman & Wakefield, a leading commercial real estate services company touting food halls. Food halls, multiple vendors operating unique/artisanal food stalls within a shared space, were clearly a rising star in foodservice pre-pandemic. Cushman & Wakefield predict this sector will bounce back quickly and exhibit robust growth in the aftermath of COVID-19. Their rationale:

1.) Lower operating costs compared to independent restaurants.

2.) Adaptable public spaces prepared to embrace safety protocol (e.g., social distancing).

3.) Consumers will continue to pursue social experiences, especially Millennials and Gen Z.

Cushman & Wakefield’s research team did acknowledge food halls were already viewed as primarily an urban destination, but they are now beginning to branch out to the suburbs, C&U campuses and roadsides. Consequently, as the economy improves and more workers return to their offices, their VP of Retail Research indicates: “Food halls are here to stay.”

Are they? I believe Cushman & Wakefield’s rationale is sound, but as I shared back in July, industry pundits banking on the future of consumer eating trends need to step outside their industry box. They need to analyze the “Big Picture.” Especially, when it comes to food halls in the COVID Era. Big city foodservice ecosystems will be adversely impacted as more people continue to work from home. In addition, if at home productivity remains sustainable, there might be a shift away from densely populated metropolitan areas (e.g., New York, San Francisco, etc.) to smaller cities. Bottomline: A dwindling number of food hall patrons.

Are food halls a future trend?

Space Available

Blink:

Earlier in the month, movie theaters reopened in an estimated 70 percent of the U.S. The first blockbuster (“Tenet”) laid a dud. Concerned that people did not show up, Hollywood studios decided to postpone the release of other blockbusters. A grim omen for the big movie business.

Read On:

The last time I addressed the impact of the pandemic on the film industry was back in April. I examined the COVID-19 domino collapse associated with the cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival. It would be interesting to analyze the potential economic domino collapse as the big movie business falters starting with concessions – candy (e.g., less physical units, packaging, logistics), popcorn, beverages, supplies (e.g., cups, lids, napkins), etc. However, for today’s post I would like to focus on theater chains.

Needless to say, all the major theater operators, AMC, Cinemark, Cineworld the parent company of Regal Cinemas, have reported double digit declines since Labor Day. During this period the S&P 500 was flat. Over time, chain theaters will adapt as it relates to audience safety protocol and reduced operating hours to minimize operating expenses. Conversely, the growing popularity of streaming will continue to be a competitive threat making their comeback arduous. Undoubtedly, major theater operators will have to shutter underperforming units.

Space available! One solution I have given thought to is transforming shuttered cineplexes into community learning centers. Starting with K-12, it would enable more students to take advantage of remote learning, especially those who are from low income families or limited by technology. Community junior colleges can offer courses. Specialized certificate programs can be offered enabling members of the community to enhance their job skills.

Space available! Malls.

Forever Relevant – Save the Planet (3/7/18)

Earlier in the week I was watching a program on NHK TV about the utilization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to plan the disaster preparedness associated with urban flooding. Reminded me of an old post I wrote back in 2018, Save the Planet. More importantly, it made me think about the potential of AI assisting global disaster preparedness in our new world of coronavirus pandemics.   

Blink:

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is rapidly becoming mainstream.  The World Economic Forum at their recent annual meeting in Davos detailed innovative technological opportunities that would solve our planet’s threating environmental challenges.  What will save the planet, AI or community?

Read On:

Answer: Both, interconnected.

Detailed below is a short list of identifiable areas AI will impact according to the World Economic Forum’s report Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth:

– Management of future utilities, water and energy (e.g., renewables).

– Monitoring systems that will identify the illegal depletion of valuable resources (e.g., oceans, forests).

– Improved modeling/forecasting of weather and climate change that will eventually lead to better decision-making pre/post natural disasters.

It is clear, AI is poised to support a more energy efficient world, improve ecological conservation and confront climate change in real time.  However, after all the data is crunched, I firmly believe the human factor, as in community will also be essential to save our planet.  Back in 2017 I stated in two posts, Community and A Community Tale – “To build a better world, start in your community.” 

Start participating in saving our vulnerable planet!

#ChildrensLivesMatter

Blink:

“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” – FDR

#ChildrensLivesMatter

Read On:

Interesting Zoom meeting last week. Reconnected with a group of guys I grew up with over 50 years ago in the Bronx. Outside of two individuals, I lost contact with all of them when I moved out of NYC in 1985. Diverse journeys: one became an Executive Producer on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” two dabbled in the film industry, several are self-employed, one went on to become a professional gambler. To my knowledge most are or were married with kids. I have no clue whether any have grandchildren.

Fun Zoom call! Guy talk out of the gate – the good old days, sports, etc. Then we discussed the COVID-19 pandemic. Most indicated they were optimistic about economic recovery in the U.S.; silent when I mentioned the dire straits of the global economy. A lot of Trump bashing. Minimal concern they might experience a banana republic election and the potential of history repeating itself (Bush vs. Gore). All of them too dependent on improved coronavirus testing and a vaccine so they can get on with the New Normal – travel, eating in restaurants, attending sporting events, etc. New Normal? I suggested we have entered a new era and it will take at least a decade to sort things out. More silence.

One thing that struck me about the virtual reunion, nobody talked about their children or grandchildren’s future. I never married, no children, yet extremely concerned about the future for children. My thoughts:

  • What impact will all the trauma associated with the pandemic have on little people? Living with stressed out parents. Surrounded by media overkill, death, “social distancing,” disrupted schooling. We could use the resurrection of Mr. Rogers right now.
  • What impact will remote learning have on the educational development for all age groups? More and more articles are surfacing addressing the pluses and minuses of the different telecommunication tools. Personally, I believe it will take several years of online teaching, before educators figure out the best way for a generation to develop.
  • I remember all the things I experienced which contributed to my overall social development. Will children now experience a different form of social connectivity due to “social distancing” as we enter an era with the potential for more coronavirus pandemics? Will there be sleepovers, playdates, celebrations (e.g., birthdays, graduation parties, etc.), organized sports, after school activities, school trips, summer camp? What impact will virtual substitutions for these activities have on children?

In closing, I will continue to be a pragmatic optimist who is uncertain about the future. I have posted my views about community being one silver lining resulting from the pandemic crisis. There will be others. However, while we are busy innovating transformation, we need to take time out to focus on preparing our children for the future.

#ChildrensLivesMatter

Video Games Promotes COVID-19 Business Bonding

Blink:

U.S. video game sales thanks to COVID-19 pandemic social distancing reached new heights in the second quarter, April through June. A record $11.6 billion, a 30% increase vs. YAG (NPD Group). No surprise! What I find interesting is housebound executives are utilizing popular games to meet and bond (a.k.a. networking).

Read On:

Tired of being cooped up in your home office? Suffering from Zoom fatigue? Go rob a bank with a potential client in Grand Theft Auto.

In person lunches, dinners and 18 holes of golf have been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an article I read in the International NY Times Tech section, numerous executives disclosed virtual gaming outings represent a chance to form memories with new connections. Imagine, instead of bragging about shooting 90 followed by cocktails in the club house, you can boast about the number of cars you carjacked and pedestrians you ran over eluding police. Virtual gaming meetings are also great for people not located within geographic proximity.

Are you ready to bond? Want to explore the galaxy with Super Mario or do you still prefer LinkedIn?

A Doom Scrolling Antidote – Seaweed

Blink:

Monday I was online reading/analyzing the latest worldwide COVID-19 pandemic news and statistics. I caught myself “doom scrolling.” I switched reels to research futuristic environmental projects I follow. Positive content! Specifically, seaweed, my favorite antidote against “doom scrolling.”   

Read On:

I first discovered seaweed as a potential food resource back at a conference I attended in 2017. I began to further research its product benefits, as well as connect with people in the category offline when I briefly resided in Maine; online via Twitter. In September 2019 I published an article on LinkedIn Sea Vegetables: The Untold Story. Needless to say, I am still bullish about sea vegetables, thus have continued my research. Detailed below are two new product applications I discovered upon scrolling Monday:

  • Sustainable Packaging – Notpla, a London-based startup has developed innovative packaging materials they believe will compete directly with plastics in the future. One notable success story is Notpla’s strategic partnership with Just Eat to launch a seaweed-lined box for takeout food in lieu of plastic boxes. Another company, Evo & Co. located in Indonesia, has introduced Evoware, a line of disposable/edible cups and sachets made from seaweed. High in fiber too!
  • Biofuel – MacroFuels is developing a third-generation biofuel made from seaweed sugars to power cars. The economies of scaling up production will be key to their success. Given 70% of our planet is covered by sea and seaweed only requires water, sunlight and a nutrient presence, their management is confident they will help meet the planet’s 2050 sustainability goals.

Do you have an antidote against “doom scrolling?”

Smart Community

Blink:

I fervently advocate: “To build a better world, start in your community.” Recently I became aware of a futurist community currently being built in the Netherlands, opening its doors to its first residents in 2021 – a smart community!

Read On:

The Brainport Smart District Foundation is leading an initiative to develop in the city of Helmond, southeast of Amsterdam, a contained, self-sufficient/self-organized district on 380 acres to support the needs of 4,500 residents. Via public-private financing, the developers envision a community which will deliver an enhanced quality of life – health, energy, safety, emission free mobility, etc. Architects plan to design different types of residences on a grid mixed with businesses, green leisure spaces and agricultural landscape. The utilization of data sharing and smart technology (e.g., sensors) will be vital to the community’s success.

This innovative Dutch experiment may well be an early model for a smart community prototype. Stay tuned and remember: To build a better world, start in your community.

 

The Interconnectivity Impact?

Blink:

Every day I read business analysts/academics forecasts for the “New Normal” in their respective industry of expertise. Insightful! However, I anticipate most experts fail to acknowledge how interconnectivity will impact the future of our planet. They need to step outside their industry box and further analyze the “Interconnectivity Impact.”

Read On:

A great quote regarding our planet’s interconnectivity:

“So, a virus-laden bat bites another mammal in China, that mammal is sold in a Wuhan wildlife market, it infects a Chinese diner with a new coronavirus and in a few weeks all my public schools are closed and I’m edging six feet away from everyone in Bethesda.”                 – Thomas Friedman (American political commentator/author)

My industry of expertise? The US food-away-from-home channel. When will business bounce back? Great question. I know some restaurant industry optimists believe 2022. When I engage with my peers to better understand the foundation of their predictions, I realize a majority are not factoring in the interconnectivity impact for other areas of economic recovery that will require more time. To name a few:

  • Business TravelCOVID-19 Domino Collapse – Miles & Points.
  • Hospitality – Delivering safety will be a priority as the hospitality industry reinvents itself. Thanks to social distancing protocol, absolute occupancy numbers will be down. Less guests/travelers equates to reduced foodservice restaurant dollars offsite. On site, the revenue foodservice generated by selling the hospitality industry food & beverage for free breakfast buffets, coffee in the lobby, happy hour, etc. will evaporate.
  • Big Cities – As more people continue to work from home and productivity remains sustainable, there might be a shift away from densely populated metropolitan areas (e.g., New York, San Francisco, etc.) to smaller cities. In concurrence, the skilled labor pool might be reconfigured. Consequently, the foodservice ecosystem will be impacted.
  • Multigenerational Households – The Pew Research Center reported that in 2018, 64 million Americans were living in multigenerational households, the highest number on record. That number most probably will increase as Millennials and Gen Zers struggling with gainful employment, day care, cost of living, etc. move back in with their parents. Add to the mix seniors not wanting to opt for senior living given a large percentage died from COVID-19 in senior residences. Numerous pandemic research studies indicate consumers plan to partake in more home cooked meals. An increase in multigenerational households will equate to more cooks living under one roof diminishing the need and expense of eating out.

Back in a May post titled The World Ahead? I projected a new world where one size does not fit all. Everything in business, education, entertainment, etc. will be taken apart and put back together in fresh variations. Adapt to the new world. Nevertheless, acknowledge how interconnectivity will continue to impact the future of our planet.