Trivia question: Who were Horn & Hardart?

  • ___ British astronomers that discovered Uranus.
  • ___ Kurt Cobain’s first booking agents.
  • ___ Restaurateurs that opened the first U.S. automat.
  • ___ American inventors of the “hookless fastener” (a.k.a. zipper).
  • ___ Guinness World Records holders – most pubs visited (46,495).

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Answer: 3.) Restaurateurs that opened the first U.S. automat.

An automat is a fast food, self-service restaurant that serves food and beverage via vending machines (prepared items displayed behind glass windows and coin operated slots).  Horn & Hardart, inspired by the German concept, opened their first automat restaurant in Philadelphia in June of 1902.  They expanded to New York City ten years later in July of 1912.  Their concept’s popularity peaked during the Depression; macaroni and cheese, baked beans, creamed spinach, coffee and pies were their top selling items.  Eventually the automats, the company and the Horn & Hardart brand went kaput a century later.

I know about Horn & Hardart thanks to my personal historian, my Mom.  When she was first married, and living in Massachusetts, every time she went to New York to visit my Dad’s parents, they would stop at Horn & Hardart, loaded with nickels, to treat themselves to pie and coffee.  Back in December I was reminded about Horn & Hardart when I read an article in the New Yorker about a new concept being launched by a former Google programmer, a vegetarian chain called Eatsa.  Guests order their food via their mobile phone ap or instore iPad kiosk (a menu consisting primarily of quinoa bowls) and then the food is delivered via vertical cubbyholes when your name pops up on a LCD screen.  Fast, convenient, healthy and cashless.  Easta, an automat resurrection, a restaurant concept for the future.

Horn & Hardart were definitely skating back at the turn of the 20th century to where the puck was going to be.





Back in December I addressed how the word “awesome” has evolved into one of the most over used words in America.  Today I have another awesome over used word entry – “disruptive!”

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Google revealed numerous definitions for disruptive: to break apart; throw into disorder; interrupt the normal course or unity of……  In business, it is used as it relates to or noting a new product, service, or idea that radically changes an industry or business strategy, especially by creating a new market and disrupting an existing one.  Great product/services examples: ATM machines, mobile phones.  Disruptive brands: Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat.  Businesses no longer innovate, they process disruptive innovation.  Government administrations no longer change, they disrupt.  Candidly, I read or hear the word used several times a day.  Some new usages for the term disruptive are detailed below:

  • Family reunions disruptions.
  • I enjoy extreme disruptive sports.
  • Secretary of State Disruption.
  • Fake disruptive news on Facebook.
  • Give me a bear disruptive hug.
  • At the end of the day disruption.

Why does everything have to be disruptive?  What ever happened to continuity?  A topic for a future disruptive blog post.


E Word: Execution


Happy New Year!  Time to move on with business.  More importantly observe the outcomes of the soothsayers’ 2017 food industry predictions – global flavors, clean labeling, hybrid products (e.g., Cronuts), etc.  Some organizational experts (a.k.a. consultants) are calling for businesses to embrace the T-word: Transformation.  Why make business sound so complex? 

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Candidly I understand and value the annual National Restaurant Association survey for the top food, beverage and culinary concepts that will shape 2017.  However, I find it difficult to digest all the prophecies written by consultants about the data-analytics revolution, digital personalization and inclusive economic growth engines.  An example of one expert’s spin: “At the end of the day, we believe companies need to fundamentally design a comprehensive dashboard of elements that will create and capture value for tomorrow – new revenue streams at re-engineered cost structures.”  What?  English!  English!

Wouldn’t the above statement be more intelligible if it read: “We believe companies just need to execute!”  Why worry about getting everyone in your organization from the C-suite to the people that manage the mailroom marching to the tune of the T-word: transformation?  Why does your organization have to obsess about making thorough or disruptive changes?  What if everyone in your organization was energized to execute the basics and march to the tune of execution – “What can I do a little better today than I did yesterday.” 

My recommendation: This new year is a good time to exercise the E-word: Execution.  Think about how great your organization will be in 1,000 plus days – 2020!

Execution!  Execution!  Execution!



Do You Believe?


Christmas is just a few days away.  Do you believe in Santa?  Macy’s does!

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I am an advocate of hybrid marketing – a blend of classic marketing combined with the collaborative, interactive tools of Web 2.0.  Accordingly, hybrid marketers understand that in order to best communicate with their target market, they need to employ combined marketing tools and pinpoint their brand’s MTP (Multiple Touch Points).  Macy’s is a noteworthy example of a great hybrid marketing organization.

For the last nine years, Macy’s has been utilizing the “Believe” campaign for their holiday season marketing push.  One key element is they have been partnering with the Make-A-Wish charity where they donate $1, up to $1 million for every letter to Santa they receive.  This year they implemented the Santa Project, a social media movement asking consumers to post Santa belief related photos, messages or videos on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube – #Santa Project.

Do you believe?

Oxford English Dictionary 2017


OED is updated four times a year (March, June, September and December) – revised versions of existing entries and new words.  In anticipation of the update, I researched some of the new possibilities like “beardtastic” (adjective): having perfect facial hair.  An existing word that I believe needs to be revised – “awesome.”

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awe•some ‘ôsəm/ (adjective) extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.  Synonyms: breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful, amazing, stunning.  “The band is truly awesome.”

To me, the use of the word awesome gained extreme prominence in 2016 and has evolved into one of the most over used words in America.  Awesome is used to describe just about everything.  Awesome now appears to be the norm!  Chef Ming Tsai (Simply Ming) uses the word all the time.  “Chef, your sesame noodle dish topped with uni is awesome.”  NBA players dunk all the time.  Dunks are no longer awesome.  Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte was introduced thirteen years ago; at first it was awesome, but now we expect Starbucks to introduce a new seasonal beverage every year.

The new definition of awesome?  Something that is good, satisfactory, acceptable approved.  “Girl, you look awesome in your new distressed jeans and black North Face jacket.”

Have an awesome holiday season!




Pearls of Wisdom


Recently I read an interview with Edward Dolman, Chairman and CEO of Phillips international auction house (contemporary art).  Below are some pearls of wisdom about leadership and management that resonated for me I would like to share these gems with my readership.  An early Christmas gift!

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Question: Who was the biggest influence in your life?  Answer: My mother, who was fiercely feminist, both tough and compassionate, taught me big lessons.  She never accepted the rigors of a rigid society and did not believe in the status quo.  She instilled in me an independent way of thinking and the desire to challenge the status quo despite criticism by those who cling to it.” 

Question: What makes a great leader?  Answer: “Great leaders inspire a different level of belief and support by their teams.”

Question: What would you tell a young person starting out?  Answer: “Always look for the path less traveled.  Have the confidence to take the path others may not view as the right one.  That is what disrupters do; deliberately look to do things differently.”

“The Obstacle is the Path.” – Zen Proverb

Interconnected Branding


Globalization fueled economic, social and cultural upheaval in 2016 – Brexit, the rise of far-right politics in Europe, Trump’s presidential election upset, an attempted coup in Turkey, etc.  Future Trend: Smart marketers will now work harder on communicating how their brands are interconnected to the world and their local communities.

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Two brands that are on trend in their communication of being interconnected to the world and their communities are Starbucks and Vermont Teddy Bear:

  • Starbucks – This past year, Starbucks launched Upstanders, a series of videos, podcasts and short stories that highlights individuals across the U.S. who make a difference in their respective communities (e.g., fighting homelessness, food waste solutions, etc.).  Starbucks has always practiced interconnected branding, dating back to their corporate commitment to 100% ethically sourced coffee.
  • Vermont Teddy Bear – #BeyondTheLastStitch is their new marketing movement that details how their superb craftspeople from all over the globe (e.g., Nepal, India, Yugoslavia, etc.) settled in Vermont to create their handcrafted line of unique Bears (Made In USA) that have bought joy and happiness to millions since 1981.

What are some of your favorite interconnected brands?