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The Starbucks Corporation could not be a more perfect example of the proverb, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Rampant global expansion, along with diversification and risk taking in the areas of product testing, employee relations, technology, and sustainability, have all propelled the coffee mega-chain into lifestyle-brand status.

But what happens when sales are up and the heart of your business—customer traffic to your store—is down? Starbucks’ 2018 first-quarter fiscal earnings report showed net revenues of $6.1 billion but also revealed a company that struggled to attract holiday shoppers (holiday traffic was down and limited-time holiday beverages and merchandise underperformed).


President and CEO Kevin Johnson, who took over for Howard Schultz early in 2017, says the decline in transaction comps is fixable. “We have a clear understanding of the issue and are accountable to fix it just as we did with throughput at peak,” he said during the first-quarter earnings call. “The strength of our core customers, the performance of our business through the morning and lunch daypart, and upcoming food, beverage, and digital innovation, gives us confidence that we will be successful in doing so.”

But how?

Perhaps some answer can be found in Starbucks’ official mission statement, which it rolled out in 2008: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Here are five ways Starbucks plans to infuse that human connection into its future strategy.

Read more at QSR Magazine:

Search has come a long way since the earliest algorithms deployed by Google, Lycos, and Inktomi. After conquering basic and complex queries, search engines set their sites on images, video, and audio as frontiers that required new ways of looking at metadata to provide consumers with useful results.

samsung bixby calorie mama

Image recognition has been a focus of developers wanting to add value to the basic ability to capture and identify a picture of a peach or a fast food meal at Wendy’s. The key, as exemplified by companies such as Palo Alto-based Azumio, is to link image recognition to valuable datasets. For Azumio’s Calorie Mama AI-powered platform, the company offers an API available for third-party developers as well as a consumer download which allows users to track nutrition intake.

While Azumio faces competition from Google and Pinterest, a new partnership with Samsung may allow the folks behind Calorie Mama to separate itself from the pack. Samsung has announced a working relationship with Azumio to adds its Calorie Mama technology to Bixby, the South Korean giant’s AI personal assistant platform. Calorie Mama will be baked into the new Galaxy S9 and S9+ enabling users to obtain instant nutritional information about the food they eat.

Read more at The Spoon:

23andMe validated countless ancestral claims (and genetic ties to St. Patrick’s Day) with its DNA tests, and now the company is focusing on something quite different: the scale. In December, the biotech pioneer announced a weight loss intervention study to better understand the relationship between genetics and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.

23andme“We suspect that there may be underlying genetic architecture that may make it easier for some individuals to lose weight,” says Liana Del Gobbo, 23andMe’s lead scientist on the study.

The goal would be to help people better understand what methods work for their bodies. Basically, an end to the constant search for the perfect diet.

Even though the scientific community identified over 150 genetic variants associated with weight–and despite a string of expensive and unscientificDNA-based diets–there isn’t much evidence so far of a connection between genes and weight loss. With this crowdsourced study–what may be the most comprehensive effort yet to understand these links–23andme is hoping to change that.

The Mountain View, California-based company recruited 100,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 70 from its existing 3 million-customer database. For three months, participants follow one of three plans: low-carbohydrate diet (“this one is enormously popular,” notes Del Gobbo), high-fiber diet, and exercise-focused physical activity.

Read more at Fast Company:

With free birthday breakfast meals and all-you-can-eat riblets, t​​​​he IHOP and Applebee’s restaurant chains became a traditional stop for millions of American families seeking a feast.

applebees ihop screenchowBut casual dining restaurants began to lose their appeal for millennial-generation foodies, and in 2016, Applebee’s tried to update its image.

The restaurant got rid of its signature riblets and other items and introduced more upscale options, including steak cooked on wood grills that were newly installed in restaurants. The move quickly backfired. In the first three months of 2017, Applebee’s’ same-store sales — sales at restaurants open at least 18 months, a key measure of performance — dropped 7.9% from a year earlier, said Stephen Anderson, a Maxim Group analyst who focuses on casual dining restaurants.

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IHOP saw a 2.1% decrease in same-store sales that quarter, which reflected the slump overall at fast-casual restaurants. And the numbers kept slipping. “We lost a little relevance with our customers,” said Stephen P. Joyce, chief executive of DineEquity Inc., the Glendale company that owns IHOP and Applebee’s. “We forgot what the customer expects from us and got a wake-up call.” Joyce, who joined the company in September after a decade leading Choice Hotels, has a plan to turn the business around over five years.

The company is adding technology to make ordering more convenient, Joyce said, and is paying more attention to “off-premise dining,” — that is, takeout orders, often handled by food-delivery services.

DineEquity also wants to expand by acquiring other restaurants, particularly in the fast-casual segment. To reflect the effort, DineEquity Inc. changed its name Tuesday to Dine Brands Global Inc.

DineEquity and the rest of the casual-dining segment of the industry has had a difficult couple of years, partly because restaurant growth has exceeded population growth and demand for those types of restaurants, said Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for TDn2K, which tracks the restaurant industry. Overall, casual dining restaurants suffered a 1.3% decline in same-store sales in 2017 compared with the year before while the bar-and-grill segment, including Applebee’s, fared even worse with a 2.5% drop.

Several casual dining restaurants also misjudged the market and implemented changes that scared off core customers, Anderson said.

Volt Athletics is teaming up with one of the biggest names in sports business.

The Seattle startup today announced a new partnership with Gatorade and will rename its strength and conditioning consumer app to “Volt Fueled by Gatorade.”

The revamped app combines Volt’s “intelligent” workout technology with Gatorade’s sports nutrition expertise, offering a more complete digital fitness guide for athletes.

It’s a milestone deal for Volt, which has more than 100,000 users across 120 countries on its platform that launched in 2013. Volt CEO and co-founder Dan Giuliani called it “a truly unique offering in the fitness app space” and said it could lead to similar partnerships with other companies.

“Partnering with Gatorade allows Volt to take a huge step toward providing a truly comprehensive training platform for our athletes,” he told GeekWire. “When you think about all the factors that can affect an athlete’s performance — strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, sleep, hydration, nutrition, nutrient timing, rest and recovery practices, and more — you can see the potential for future partnership opportunities.”


Volt not only tracks and stores workout metrics for more than 35 sports, but its app also offers personalized, mobile-friendly training content that adjusts based on a user’s performance. The partnership with Gatorade will add nutrition tips tailored to pre- and post-workout occasions, along with other related content like video tips.

Michael Smith, head of digital strategy at PepsiCo-Gatorade, said the company saw a “natural synergy” with Volt.

“Our goal is to help the athlete improve through better understanding of sports nutrition,” he said. “This integration allows us to do that by putting sports nutrition education in the context of a workout.”

Smith added that Gatorade is looking to expand beyond its traditional sports drinks or energy bars, and into digital services. Gatorade, which launched the Gatorade Sports Science Institute more than three decades ago, is dipping its toes into everything from live-streaming to Snapchat games.

“As digital technology becomes more ubiquitous, it presents an opportunity to democratize access to the type of information and tools that historically have only been available to elite athletes,” he said.

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

Volt has a separate app for teams called “Volt for Teams” used by clients like the U.S. National football team, University of Washington, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska, Clemson University, Red Bull Crashed Ice Team USA, Kenya 7s Rugby, the Denver Stampede professional rugby team, the Northamptonshire Steelbacks professional cricket team, and more.

The company’s consumer app, now called “Volt Fueled by Gatorade,” launched last year and charges users $9.99 per month. Volt employs 20 people and has raised $3 million to date, including an investment from soccer star DeAndre Yedlin.

from GeekWire: