Climb the mountain with us to catch echoes of what the wise ones at the top had to say this week about the restaurant business and the industry gurus who might sit a mere pinnacle away.
“Howard Schultz for President!”
Associates have been popping into the office and home of the Starbucks CEO to implore him to pull a Trump and make a run for the Oval Office on the strength of his business success.
The suggestions were apparently not the caffeine-fueled fantasies of political outsiders whose runner-up draftees were Bono and Pope Francis. Uber-insider Maureen Dowd, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times, devoted serious ink to the possibility of Schultz challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
Schultz has made no secret of his interest in social and political matters. His staff meetings on racial relations were strong proof he’d like to do more than perfect milk steaming. According to Dowd, he’s even drafted position papers to focus his thinking on social issues.
Talk-show host Seth Meyers joked that Schultz might soon open a campaign headquarters—and then another one across the street.
Schultz turned heads by offering his own comments on the possibility.
“Beans to that.”
There was enough of a groundswell to draw a response from Schultz. In a New York Times op-ed piece, he acknowledged the urgings that he shoot for the most famous office in politics.
Schultz used the space to call for a servant leader to seek the office. Unsaid was the kicker, “…like me.”
But he flat-out said he will not seek the Presidency “despite the encouragement of others."
“I’m not done serving at Starbucks,” he said.
Still, there was a campaign tone to the piece, with a listing of Schultz’s achievements as a leader and a recount of his rags-to-riches life.
Was it a feint?
“And your mother, too.”
Domino’s dissed Pizza Hut with some serious trash talk this week over the latter’s hot-dog-packed new limited-time pizza. The now-leader of the pizza segment created a microsite called Domino’s Pizza School, where Pizza Hut employees are invited “to learn how to make a gimmick-free pizza without crazy concoctions and a drizzle menu.”
A walk through the virtual “campus” brings actual instructional videos on how Domino’s builds a pie. The not-so-subtle message is, “Here’s how you do it when you’re concerned about quality and authenticity.” For instance, one segment shows how a full ladle of sauce is used for every pie, instead of just a drizzle.
Pizza Hut employees are invited via a new Domino’s commercial to raise their craftsmanship by visiting the school. In one scene, a Domino’s employee volunteers some career advice to his counterpart at the rival chain. “We used to have some gimmicks too, but we got back to the basics and now we’re back to making authentic, real pizza,” he confides.
Candidate Donald Trump has snagged enough coverage in the general media to trigger pleas of, “Enough.” But it deserves to be noted that the hotelier turned plenty of heads this week in the restaurant business (not to mention the legal field) with his run for Litigious Executive of the Year.
In quick succession, he sued chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Jose Andres for refusing to open restaurants in a hotel The Donald is opening in Washington, D.C. Trump is seeking $10 million from each of the kitchen celebs for breach of contract. The pair independently decided they wanted no connection to the presidential candidate or his hotel after the business mogul painted immigrants as potential rapists and drug dealers.
“Here’s what’s gone.”
There was a time when the CEOs of public restaurant companies would use their quarterly conference calls with financial analysts to crow about menu additions. Today, with menu simplification reigning as the mantra of the times, the leaders are as likely to underscore what they’ve yanked from the bill of fare.
Here’s how simplification pioneer John Miller summed up the second-quarter changes to stock trackers interested in his charge, the Denny’s diner chain:
“In June, we rolled out an updated core menu incorporating five new menu item additions, nine menu item deletions, and seven new recipe or process improvements.”