Lessons from a restaurant flame-out

Universal business lessons from a restauranteur’s misadventure — PLUS: the gender dynamics of food fads and the golden age of VHS cover art

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Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:

Lessons from a restaurant flame-out

Robert Maxwell was like many home chefs: Stuck in a dull job and convinced he could be the next Marco Pierre White. His tale of failure is a cautionary tale of what happens when you dream too big without enough capital, cash flow or planning. His charming local restaurant is a parable for much larger enterprises. And he writes about his mistakes with searing honesty:

I decided to close the Beech Tree for the last week of August to give everyone a vacation, and to spend time with my neglected wife and kids. In those seven days that we were closed, supplier cheques continued to clear and salaried staff continued to get paid, but nothing came in to replace that money. It was a novice mistake. I didn’t have the savings to warrant closing. Cutting off cash flow devastated our account within a week. To make matters worse, a $4,000 utility bill was waiting for me when I got back, our air conditioner the culprit. How was I to know that the dining room AC unit that came with the building pumped thousands of litres of municipal water through its pipes?

Link: Toronto Life

Food fads and sexism

Food trends ebb and flow all the time. But the way we talk about these fads isn’t consistent—as in so many other fields, there’s a troubling sexist undercurrent to the way these trends get packaged, marketed and sold:

When men buy into food trends, they bring much-needed attention and success to what they’re consuming. Some sommeliers rolled their eyes after Sideways made male wine drinkers everywhere drop their Merlots for Pinot Noirs, but nobody was accusing Pinot Noir of overstaying its welcome. And when men get into women’s trends, they elevate and legitimize them—or even create an entirely new market. Male rosé drinkers have transformed it from a wine “seen by serious wine drinkers as cloying, mass-produced swill, an object of revulsion and gendered disdain,” as GQ wrote, into something men are happy to be seen drinking. Yogurt, a neutral food if ever there were one, went from being feminized to being marketed as protein-rich workout fuel for men. And of course men don’t diet—they biohack.

Link: Taste

How Facebook is like the fashion business

Social media networks are under intense scrutiny at the moment, as corporate leaders have been testifying this week in the U.S. congress as to how Russian organizations attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election online. There’s a sense that these networks—particularly Facebook—are shaping and manipulating ever-increasing segments of our society. Tech analyst Benedict Evans cautions that it’s not quite that simple:

I think it’s wrong to say, deterministically, that Facebook gets to decide what we do on its platform or what we see in the newsfeed. This, to me, is very like saying that a fashion designer gets to decide what we’ll wear. They do… a bit. They can decide what colours to put in the shop. They can change the cut. They have marketing and models and glamour and all the tools of influence of the industry. They can optimise an idea to improve use or sales. But fashion collections fail, and fashion retailers fail, and the looks that work reflect what people actually want, not because they knew they wanted that or because you could ask them in any mechanistic way or because you’re tracking metrics, but because they’re a proposal that turns out to capture how people feel. You can optimise a product, and measure it, but people still have to want it. Facebook can fill the home page with a feature, and a retailer can fill a shop with a look, but that doesn’t mean you can make people take it. You can only propose.

Link: Benedict Evans

WATCH: The golden age of VHS horror design

You’ve likely experienced the modern malaise of scrolling aimlessly through Netflix, looking for something to watch. Once upon a time, however, such an activity required driving to your local video store and physically wandering the aisles, waiting for inspiration to strike. The horror section was often the most visually striking, with its peculiarly lurid style of cover art. That distinctive style was a shrewd commercial calculation, and as this short video shows, it demonstrates a few keystone marketing principles in action. Namely: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action—or the AIDA Method.

Link: YouTube

Earnings reports today

Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:

Alio Gold (ALO), AuRico Metals (AMI), Brookfield Renewable Partners (BEP.UN), Ballard Power Systems (BLDP), Cogeco Communications (CCA), CRH Medical (CRH), Data Communications Management (DCM), DIRTT Environmental Solutions (DRT), Echelon Financial Holdings (EFH), Entree Resources (ETG), Excellon Resources (EXN), GMP Capital (GMP), Golden Star Resources (GSC), Hudbay Minerals (HBM), Heron Resources (HER), Horizon North Logistics (HNL), Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services (IAG), Intact Financial (IFC), Kinaxis (KXS), Linamar (LNR), Mandalay Resources (MND), Morguard REIT (MRT.UN), Neptune Technologies & Bioresources (NEPT), NeuLion (NLN), CounterPath (PATH), Premium Brands Holdings (PBH), Pengrowth Energy (PGF), ProMIS (Neurosceinces (PMN), Pulse Seismic (PSD), Redline Communications Group (RDL), Source Energy Services (SHL.E), Slate Retail REIT (SRT.U), Sandstorm Gold (SSL), Trican Well Service (TCW), Treasury Metals (TML), Thomson Reuters (TRI), Torstar (TS.B), Seven Generations Energy (VII), Whitecap Resources (WCP), Western Copper and Gold (WRN), Westshore Terminals Investment Corp. (WTE), ZCL Composites (ZCL)

Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.