hospitality technology made simple by kevin sturm Consulting

has your POS become a commodity?

Over the past few years I've heard lots of talk that individual technology systems like point-of-sale (POS) have become a commodity purchase. All the solutions do basically the same thing so it doesn't so much matter which system you go with. Now, I can't argue with the point that most POS systems have the same basic functions. After all, a cash register and an enterprise POS terminal do the same thing from the guest's perspective. But, I highly disagree that POS systems have become a commodity. That does not mean however that your POS has not become a commodity.

[For clarification I use the term "enterprise POS" versus "cash register" for
lack of better way to differentiate the two very different solutions.]

The differentiating factor is in the setup and use of your POS. Time after time I work with clients that purchased an enterprise POS solution that was $1500 or more per unit, but then configure the system to work like a basic cash register that costs $200 per unit. Here is my top 10 do not list in preventing your POS from becoming a commodity.

top 10 "do not" for your POS
  1. Do not use generic items for ordering daily specials (i.e. fish special, meat special, pasta special). Setup the actual item in your system.
  2. Do not believe seeing 115 "Soda" in your product mix report is tracking beverage sales. I'll point out why this is important below (moot point if you have a self-serve fountain).
  3. Do not have "Open Item" available to all staff because you are too lazy to ensure all items are in the system. Have "Open Item" only for true emergency scenarios and controlled by management.
  4. Do not let employees share ID's. This creates a theft risk, audit problems, and data integrity issues.
  5. Do not let servers get away with voiding checks without entering an accurate void reason. This can have drastic affects on your product mix if you are a high volume venue.
  6. Do not treat refunds, voids, and comps the same. They are different both operationally and financially.
  7. Do not assume your POS cannot do something just because the tech support rep you spoke to at your vendor says so. Escalate up the chain until you get the same answer from two people that have worked there for a least 3 years.
  8. Do not assume someone is auditing the accuracy of your item database. Make a point to schedule a review and update it at least twice per year. Duplicate items, bad naming, and inaccurate assignment happen even under the most scrutinizing eyes.
  9. Do not leave the "cost" field blank if you know the cost. Having this information is extremely valuable for understanding food costs and profit margin.
  10. Do not rename an existing item you no longer sell to create a new item unless you are 100% confident your POS tracks the name of the item at transaction time (most only track the ID). If it does not record it your historical reports will show whatever the name of the new item is, never showing the old name.
So now your thinking, "Hmm....I do half of these and paid way more than $200 per unit." The good news is none of these things are hard to fix. A little time and knowledge can tune your POS right up.

There is a long answer to the "why is it important" of these points, but I'm going to focus on the short. In short - Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence (BI) or analytics is becoming more vital for venues in order to compete. And if you do any of the above 10 things you will find your BI purchase makes these problems glaringly obvious, and you will need to fix them anyway. There are three main reasons the above 10 rules apply to getting good information from your BI solution.

top 3 BI reasons to follow the top 10 "do not" for your POS
  1. POS solutions are hugely valuable because your customers are paying you to give you their preferences. (Read that sentence again.) If you are not tracking what they are actually buying then tracking customer preferences becomes much harder. With customers expecting a more personalized experience at every turn, knowing what they like when and where is important. If I order the fish special only when it is not salmon, your data on my preferences is available but inaccurate.
  2. Tracking historical inventory control and food costs is vital to measuring profit. If you are not tracking historical costs to historical revenues then your profit analysis is really just theoretical, and your analytics data in this area will be useless.
  3. A huge benefit of POS data in BI (though less pointed out) is tracking and controlling employee performance. Versus just looking at a daily, weekly, or monthly views of employee performance you can see comparative detail and create benchmarks for performance.
If you need help in moving your POS purchase from a commodity to offering a value added benefit to your business post a comment or email me.

For more information about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website or email me.

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find out about "WIWIH" = social networking for hospitality

There is a correction to this post thanks to Davy from WIWIH! Correction in red below.
While perusing around on the Internet for other blogs on hospitality technology I stumbled across a great find. Who is Who is Hospitality or WIWIH for short. Now, though I'm not sure about the acronym (wee-wee?) I have been using the site pretty consistently for about a month. If you work in hospitality here are all the reasons I think it is a good idea to join up.

help the growth curve

It's about time a site covering hospitality globally was created, but that also has specific interest groups for discussion forums. H
ospitality is generally so far behind what is happening this is a good thing. Sign up so you help move the growth curve along.

social networking is not going away
Though there was a post today on wiwihblogs by Travolution Blog that the social networking trend may be slowing down, I don't believe it is or is going to. Many professional communities will continue to have a slow adoption rate until it becomes a standard, until enough of the generation between 25 and 35 reach the senior director to C-Level positions (they have always used it so will continue to expect to), or until there is enough business benefit (read revenue opportunity) that you must. Social networking will mature and evolve over time, but it will also continue to grow. It may not be the FaceBook or LinkedIn of today, but it will be around. If you join your first social networking site in 2 years you will be disappointed.

free education
You read that right, free education. Like many other social network sites WIWIH includes a forum offering discussions and questions. When I signed up I joined Guestroom Technology, WIWIH Lounge, HITEC 2008, and Spa & Wellness. The members of the group create a forum where information is shared openly and freely for the benefit of everyone in the group. And seriously, who turns away free advice on a topic you are interested in.

share your expertise
In the same way you get an education, you get to give one. If you have hospitality knowledge and want to share it with the world then right now WIWIH is the place to do it. Why wait to share your expertise four to five times a year at trade shows when you can share it all the time now? If you really do know what you are talking about, the upside to this is you get recognized for your expertise and will probably get invit
ed to speak at more trade shows.

track industry trends
The part of WIWIH I've used the most is WIWIH BLOGS. For those who have signed up with WIWIH and have a blog you can RSS feed your blog so it appears in WIWIH blogs (this blog is), but also monitor the "Recent Blog Entries" section for interesting content. If you've read about this blog you know I started this blog because I could not find anything else like it. But, through WIWIH I found The Hotel Technology Blog by Terence Ronson. Terence posts great stuff there that I've really enjoyed reading. (The one downside to The Hotel Technology Blog is Terence publishes his blog via the WIWIH blog platform, meaning you can't RSS feed it outside of WIWH.) The biggest downside to this is if you are not a member of WIWIH you cannot read any blog hosted on the WIWIH BLOG platform. Davy from WIWIH corrected me on this. Anyone can view WIWIH blogs and they also support an RSS feed. One more reason that WIWIH is a good thing. Thanks Davy for the correction!

#1 reason - networking
Above all else the best reason to join WIWIH is networking. Tim Sanders (a marketing guru and pretty successful author) says in Love is the Killer App "the size of your network equals the size of your net worth". WIWIH is attempting to bring together some of the greatest minds in hospitality to network with each other and share. In addition to the forums and blogs there are job postings, event calendars (with attendees), video feeds, and profile listings similar to LinkedIn. For me it was an easy decision to join up. It costs me nothing and the benefit is all mine...what more could you ask for?

Thanks WIWIH for starting this site and bringing us all together.

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creating meaningful parnterships

I was meeting with a friend the other morning about a new business idea. His idea was awesome and could really change some of the cooperation and communication in his industry. He was having doubts about his idea though because many of his peers kept saying, "Oh that will never work because people won't risk losing profits by working with you."

We had a great conversation on how to overcome this problem which made me think about the concepts of launching a new company where partnerships are a must (which is just about any company). Currently my biggest client is because of a reference from a company that offers the same consulting services, but without a portion of very specific expertise that I have. The company is probably losing $30,000 to $50,000 in revenue by referencing me. However, if I can help turn things around then their upside revenue will exceed $2,000,000 with the client. If I can't turn things around the risk is $50,000, but their annual revenues are beyond $800 million so no big risk for them.

The point here is that if you can create an upside with little or no risk for your partner then you really create a win-win scenario. My example is maybe not great because their is no risk for me, but that is beside the point. Here are a few things to think about when creating a partnership that you need.1. What is your motivation in creating the partnership? This is an important question because your motivation MUST be something other than you make money. Is there a bigger benefit that helps you, your partner, and your joint customer. A partner will see right through you if a big motivation is not to help them make money. Guy Kawasaki says a key element of any new business must be "to make meaning", and that is this point. The partnership must help make meaning for all involved.

2. Evaluate the value of each partnership and ensure the returns are balanced for you and the partner. If the upside value is almost all yours, then almost all returns may need to be your partners. If the upside is all your partners, then almost all the returns may need to be yours. Don't not do a partnership because there is little direct profits. There may be indirect profits (see #5)

3. My dad always taught me "Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered". It is easy to get caught up in squeezing the partnership for all it's worth. Fight that urge and take what you should versus what you can.

4. Figure out a way to make the partnership low risk. For example, if you want to sell another persons product they will probably not risk losing revenue to your gain. In this situation figure out a minimum sales number before you take profits. This way your potential partner only gives away a portion of the profit when they sell enough to accept it. You can also build in levels of profit sharing here where the more you sell the more profit you get.

5. Recognize that recognized names can bring customers. If you are the little dog in a partnership the big dog may get you leads because they are the big dog. In follow up to point #2 it may be beneficial to just have the partnership and take little (or even no) profit. Rather negotiate an endorsement of some kind. Free press from an influential person and/or company can bring bigger revenues and encourage other partners to join. Creditability for any new business is huge. Acceptance and endorsement from credible sources is priceless.

My final note is don't quit because people don't like your idea. Talk about it with people. You'll be amazed how the idea changes through each conversation. You will turn it into a great idea or realize it probably won't work and scrap it for a better idea.

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innovative hospitality solutions partnership announcement

kevin sturm Consulting has been listed as an alliance partner with Innovative Hospitality Solutions (IHS)!

"Innovative Hospitality Solutions is a leading project management and food service design consulting firm that utilizes a systematic approach to help its Business Partners take their vision from insight to impact."

Led by Matt Mundoc and Gary Gunderson, IHS not only brings great experience to the table but also great people. Matt I and worked together in our former careers implementing an enterprise POS technology solution for an international financial corporation. Matt's direction led to one of the first global cashless programs in food service that returned some real and very meaningful data on the benefits both to the company and customer.

Matt is a visionary when it comes to technology initiatives, space planning, and strategic food service programs for business dining and other food service venues. He is also one of the most honest, genuine, and nice people to do business with. His dedication to the client and their success is paramount, and he is also a great example of a true family man.

I consider myself both blessed and lucky to be chosen as technology parter with IHS. If you are looking for assistance with your food service project in any capacity, IHS is the group to call.

For more information on Innovative Hospitality solutions visit their website or contact them via email.

For more information about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website or email me.

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find out about "Nutricate"

One of the hot new emerging technology companies in hospitality is Nutricate. I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Nutricate office and find out about the solution and story behind their initiative to "Nutritionally Educate" hospitality venues and guests. It was also a fun reunion as my former boss and mentor, Brad Bennett, is their VP of Products. Before sitting down with Jay Ferro, Nutricate CEO, I was treated to lunch at Silvergreens to experience the Nutricate brilliance.

One of the most interesting things about this interview was hearing about Nutricate's birth from social concern versus financial purpose.

Me and Brad

1. What exactly does Nutricate do?
I guess the problem we're ultimately trying to solve from more of a global perspective is there is an obesity problem on our hands, and the food service industry has responsibility in that. What you hear a lot about is legislation for trans fat and other things. The one you probably don't hear as much about is the need to tell us what's in their foods with nutritional labeling. What Nutricate does is we attempt to solve a problem from both the operator perspective as well as the consumer perspective. We try to create that "win-win" opportunity. What we have is a patented software tool that enables personalized nutrition information to print right on the receipt at restaurants, hospitals, work site cafeterias, or any food service environment. What we end up trying to do is take that opportunity to not only engage the consumer and let them know what they are eating, but also to educate them on how to eat healthier and make recommendations. We call it our "Did you know?" section. For example if you order a chicken sandwich we can put something like, "Did you know if you substituted grilled chicken for crispy chicken you would save this many calories and this much fat." From the operator perspective this is huge because you want to move the accountability off of you the operator and put it on the consumer. It's not that my food is bad for you, you just chose the french fries. You could have chosen the side salad as your side. I'm going to educate you on my options, tell you how to eat healthier, and then of course it's on your shoulders. Don't blame me for how many calories or fat is in this meal because you have plenty of options. Getting the consumer more educated on this is primarily where we are going, and then we will have peripheral products along the way that can add value for both the consumer and the operator.
My actual meal and Nutricate Receipt

2. What triggered the idea to put the nutritional data on the customer receipt?

Well, it was 1994 and I had just graduated from UC Santa Barbara and was writing a business plan for a restaurant. I wanted to go do my own thing and didn't want to work for anyone. I knew Isla Vista and the community here. I said, "I think this place needs a healthy restaurant about salads." Kinda take the salad bar concept and modernize it from the 80's. While I was writing the business plan for that restaurant I started to research nutrition. I didn't know a lot about nutrition, I just knew I thought the market was looking for a healthier alternative at that time. I started thinking I gotta get nutritional information for my restaurant, and then asked, "Wait, why don't restaurants have to do this?" Turns out in 1990 nutrition fact labels were mandated and restaurants were made exempt at that time. It was 1994/1995 at this point and timing was basically bad for the idea. The idea was why not put it right on the receipt, it doesn't change anything from the operator perspective. The customer gets exactly what they're eating. One of the biggest reasons restaurants were exempt was I think 70% plus of your orders at restaurants are customized. Preprinted nutritional information whether on a brochure, poster, or menu board is inaccurate the vast majority of the time to begin with.

3. What is the value proposition that Nutricate offers the venue?

Well, I think it depends on what operator you're going to. We segment the food service industry in two areas. One is restaurants and the other is the institutional market. For restaurants there has to be a tangible ROI. There does on both sides, but the ROI is how can I increase sales, how can I decrease costs, how can I improve customer loyalty, how can I improve brand. We're targeting in the restaurant side those that are maybe socially responsible and trying to position their brands with more of a health conscience perspective. Obviously that's not everyone out there, but they see the trends like everyone else and they know they have to change in some way. So, for those people were saying you have a competitive advantage potentially on what your nutritional information looks like compared to some of your competitors. There are so many dynamics in this because there is a perception versus reality. Subway may be perceived as healthy, but when it comes right down to it maybe they're not. Disclosing nutritional information may be bad for business in that way. But if you're getting just killed from the media like a McDonald's, and your not that bad there may be a good business decision to do it. There are several dynamics within it, and we are way to communicate that. And then of course from real tangible ROI what you find is your drawing attention to a piece of paper that has been thrown away forever. And now you can leverage those new eyeballs for new marketing opportunities or new third party advertising opportunities. What do you want to know that you have some attention on there? It's a new medium of marketing of sorts. That's the restaurant side.

The institutional side we're selling to for a totally different reason. Some of the barriers that may exist from an embarrassment factor ("I don't want anyone to know") that is on the restaurant side are not there. If you are talking to a cafeteria, education, or hospitality that's not their concern. Their concern, certainly from work site perspective, is primarily my health care costs are out of control and I need my employees to be healthier because I need to drive these costs down, and what kind of health and wellness programs can I put into place that can engage these employees of mine and give me measurable data I can give to my insurance company so they can justify lowering my rates. There is this a huge pain out there and that's "dollars". So they're trying to reduce costs by implementing
programs like this. Or obviously in K-12 there is a lot of public pressure. It's kinda of like "walk-the-walk" is what's going on in that side. So they're not necessarily saying, "I want this to drive my sales." They're trying to do it for totally different reasons than why a restaurant would do it.

4. How is it that you can integrate with almost any Point of Sale System?

What our technology solution is....well you're the one who is going to tell me if I'm right or not in this because this is your area of expertise.

Here's how we look at it. We have the POS side of things and it's an extremely fragmented industry. I think MICROS is the leader and they have maybe a sixth share of the entire market. That's how many different players there are out there. So yeah, we can build software and it can certainly sit on the POS and we can integrate with it. But do we want to do that with 200 plus POS? When you look at what we are trying to do, we just have to affect the printer. And the printer market as you know is 80% owned by Epson, and the rest are Epson compatible. So that print stream is really easy for us identify and map to. So what we have is a proprietary device that essentially intercepts the print stream and adds all the necessary nutritional information and marketing message based on triggers, makes the receipt look pretty, and then passes it right on to the printer with no speed latency. Everything is managed via of the web so you don't have to worry about where you're at. It can be hard wired via Ethernet or a wi-fi dongle so it can be accessed. Essentially all we are doing is just matching what's coming out of your POS at the item level, and if there are certain things we don't want like a credit card receipt we just pass through. If we want it we make it a Nutricate receipt.

5. Quick service and chain restaurants are obviously a key market segment. Do you see hotel, resort and other high end venues adopting providing nutritional information to their guests?
I think you earlier were talking about the spa market. If you look at where maybe opportunities exist and where it would be more in demand by customers spas are one. Another interesting one in the hotel market is room service eventually. I think that could be a good application. Initially we're not targeting the casual or fine dining for a variety of reasons. Typically you're finding those in hotel atmospheres. I think there are certain places it makes sense in hotels and there are certain places it may not be the right fit today. And as you know many hotels are one-offs. If there is a one-off opportunity I need to feel like it is worth while to go in there and make enough money. The nice thing about chains is I do it once and I can duplicate it by the number of chains. For the institutional market it is our second product offering that excites them more than our first product offering, and that is a totally different revenue model for us that is very very attractive.

So I guess we are not initially targeting the hotels of the world, but I think spas is a good one. LifeTime Fitness sort of fits in the same model. As we look at what we are targeting today it is a big market, and we're choosing quick service and fast casual in the restaurant side. The whole institutional market is pretty good for us, but work sites ultimately are in the biggest pain. They are the one paying all the health care costs and that is where we are targeting.

6. Why do think there has been a lag in the adoption of providing nutritional information to guests?
I think it is a couple reasons. One is the potential embarrassment factor, there is no doubt about it. You have the media making it sound really bad and beating restaurants up. I think the media has just done a terrible job of everything. We are kind of finishing out the "Supersize Me" era. From mid 1990 to mid 2000, in that ten year stretch bigger was better. If you could give me more french fries I would go to you because that is more value in my eyes. As portions sizes continued to grow over time it turns into a really really bad time to expose nutritional information. It's all about quantity, which is why the casual dining market is so bad for us and them. If you get a BigMac and fries at McDonald's and you get a burger and fries at Chili's you feel better about yourself for eating the one Chili's; maybe because it is being served or because you think it is a higher quality of food. But you are eating two to three times the amount of
calories and fat, and that is not because it is worse for you but because that is how big everything is. But we don't think like that from a consumer perspective. The last thing Chili's needs to do is tell people now, "You just had 2000 calories." And McDonald's can say, "You had the BigMac and fries and your the one beating me up when it is only had 800 calories here." I think it is different reasons for different venues, but ultimately the market is so nervous about how consumers are going to respond and react. "Are we going to get killed on this or appreciated. How mature is the audience out there?"

Two, if you look at what alternative methods there are to disclose this nutritional information, outside of Nutricate's solution, there are no good methods. They're going to put it on the web, but who goes and accesses the web before they eat. It just really doesn't happen very often. They are going to put it on posters on the the wall. But the problem with posters or brochures is customized orders. You cannot put that in a preprinted format of any use to a consumer. No one is going to go find their specific desire and then order it. It is just impr
actical. If you put it on a menu board there are tremendous problems. Logistically finding the space for anything on a menu board is hard. What it could potentially do to line speed is also a problem; operationally another variable that confuses my customer and makes them ask questions potentially negatively affects line speed. But I think still at the end of the day venues would figure out a way to do it if they felt comfortable there would not be a backlash. They are not looking for everyone to say, "Wow, I'm going to eat out more often now."; really they just don't want people to eat out less. So we are obviously being very selective with who we target because our solution may not be the right solution for half of the restaurants out there.

7. Who are some customers that "Got Nutricated"? What has their customer feedback been?

Right now there are four. Silvergreens was the initial restaurant, which was the restaurant I founded, so it was the perfect place to put in a product that hopefully would work. There were a lot of questions like, "How is the technology going to work." When we put it in in April '06 at Silvergreens we had Maitre'D and we integrated it. There was not an agnostic piece to it. We did it and it was painful. 99% of the things the POS did we didn't care about but we still had to make it work with. So it was a long frustrating process. What we were trying to do was figure out 1)does the technology work, 2)what happens to the restaurant's sales, and 3)what was the customer's response. We needed to test this and do a market test on it. All of those, with the possible exception of the technology, went great. Sales went up 20% unbelievably! It's crazy! It is hard to say it because I know people don't believe it. Here's the reason it did - you get PR out of this thing. It's different. It's unique. We had news people come; we got some articles printed on us. Already when that happens you're gonna get new people trying your restaurant. But we're in Isla Vista, and for anyone coming into IV it is tough enough with the competition. Also people don't want to challenge the bikes and are intimidated of IV outside of the students and those that are accustomed to it. So we got a new batch of people that were saying, "Wow, this new kind of restaurant." Whether that was because of the Nutricate receipt, the food, or a combination of both is hard to determine. But we got the PR to get them in and prove ourselves.

Also, I think the coupon aspect on the receipt works pretty well. It is a very inexpensive way to target your current customer. Hopefully it doesn't cannibalize sales, but overall if you grow your volume you're going to be fine. Usually you target. If it's lunchtime and you're trying to drive breakfast business, you know that person can come in so your going to try and target breakfast or a new menu item. Whatever it is, there is a lot to the tool of couponing. It's neat and it's based on lot of triggers.

The consumer response was fantastic. We did a bunch of market research independently. CSP did it and surveyed tons of people. There was really positive response to the receipt. It's an interesting market, not to get on a side not here. College students for the most part don't care as much. As you get older your body responds differently to what you eat. If you can be successful in a market where people don't care as much as when you become more educated on nutrition I think it's pretty impressive.

Then there are three locations in San Diego. Two Extreme Pita's, a pita concept out of Canada trying to penetrate the US market. They have probably 30 restaurants in the US and a couple hundred in Canada. They are competing with the "bigger is better" mindset in the US. It's hard, but they are inherently healthier and they have a good nutrition story. We have tested in those two locations and are now putting it in Phoenix, their biggest US market. Then they will test it out in Canada.

8. Recently the the New York City Board of Health voted to require all chain restaurants to post caloric data on their menus. How long do you think it will take for this trend to reach other cities?
It's a good question. I mean that's legislation. Obviously that is a great driver for us. Nutrition disclosure strategy is on the board agenda this year, so it is something restaurants have to think about and try to figure out. It is going to make some of the bigger players out there think, "How do I want to do this? Do I want to be proactive? Do I want to be reactive? Where are we with this?" What New York City has done now is chosen the method of putting it on the menu board, and that is a very easy one to fight because it is such a bad choice of solution. One, it is very dangerous. You could give someone extremely inaccurate nutritional information just with the customization of it. If a venue puts one on their menu how in the world are they going to know what a guest actually orders? If the item defaults with wheat bread and no mayonnaise or cheese someone is thinking they are eating 400 calories when it is actually 700 calories. You can put up whatever you want to put up, so it is very dangerous I think in that regard. As well with meal totals and other things that are going on. The restaurant industry has got lots of legs on this one.

And, why would you think this would possibly work? Since nutrition fact labels have been put into work our obesity rate has doubled. So this really is the same thing but even worse than what we have been doing. Essentially the restaurant association sued again, because this happened twice. Essentially we are focusing in California. Something similar happened in California and went all the way up to Arnold, and Arnold vetod. It was a good thought and I agree the restaurant industry has to do something, but it was the wrong solution for a variety of reasons. Obviously we're now getting active and saying look at the Nutricate solution and why we think it makes sense for everybody. But I think cities and states is where it is going to be driven. It is going to pop up all over, and then at some point go federal. The chains want it to go federal because they can't have different legislation in different cities all over, it is just too much for them. So there is a point where they will say, "Let's just find out what it is and just do it, and and move past this so we can go back to making our burger and fries."

And this is the perfect place for technology to come in! They are so far behind in technology anyways at least use this as an advantage for you.

9. Starbucks is now offering a pamplet with nutritional information. They have upward to 87,000 drink combinations. Would Nutricate be a good fit for an operation of this size?
That is where we excel! That is the reason we're relevant is because you order your latte your way. We can key off any of that stuff, that's what we do. That is what Brad is doing. We are basically building that flexibility. If you want a "grande mocha" with six pumps of chocolate I'm going to come up with the number whether you want it rolled up, by item, or by individual pump. The venue gets to choose because there is marketing there. Do I want my customer to see it all rolled up? Or is the whole milk such a bad part of it that I want to show them it's not me, and then recommend skim milk via "Did You Know". And skim milk costs me less per gallon, but the drink costs the same so I save money! The point of "Did You Know" is to educate the customer and hopefully do it in a way that makes the customer healthier and the venue more money.

That is where Nutricate is of huge value to the coffee segment.

10. As someone arguably successful in both the restaurant and technology market, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs wanting to provide a technology solution to the hospitality space?
You should ask me when I become successful as I'm still trying to figure this out a little bit. I founded a technology company with no technology background. I have all food service. Being somebody who is pretty hands on and wants to know about everything, that is the space I couldn't dive deep in. If something was wrong it was just wrong. For me, it is just get the right people. As you know in Santa Barbara that is such a challenge. But it is no different than any other business. Get well funded so you can afford the right people and the right technology.

11. You have an "Ask the Dietician" section on your website. What is the weirdest question that has come in?
(laugh) Unfortunately I'm not even a participant in that. We have our dietician who does that and I don't know how much it is used or not. I could make one up for you, but I honestly don't really know even one question that has been asked.

I was immensely grateful for the opportunity to sit down with the team at Nutricate. They are truly onto something great and everyone there is deeply passionate about the solution and the benefits of it for society in general.
The Nutricate team hard at work

If you are interested in finding out more about Nutricate you can visit their website or contact them here.

For more information about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website.

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ideas excite me!

I just had coffee with my friend Carter Crockett, a business professor at Westmont College. If you have read my LinkedIn profile you know talking about new ideas is one of my favorite things to do. Carter and I had this great conversation about a new business idea and I can hardly get my brain to stop working out the details so I can focus and do work for kevin sturm Consulting clients.

One of the biggest changes in my life since quitting my job has been how I think differently. Versus being mired in all the "things" and "problems" that dominated my day and my brain, I am free to dream about new and fun ideas. Your brain really can do amazing things when you stop trying to force it to do something it doesn't want to.

If you have a new business idea you want to talk about, invite me to coffee. I love hashing it out even if it never happens! I'll even buy!

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don't steal software

I was on Craigslist today and came across this post.
In response I flagged the post as in violation of Craigslist rules and sent "sale-569449932" the below email. And yes I did give him/her a link to this blog, which I hope they find with this post.There are a few things here that amaze me. First, it is really bold to openly post for the world to see that you do not care about software licensing. Stealing software is a crime, and just really shady.

Second, it takes a narrow minded person to not realize that it is stealing and you are stealing from lots of people. It is not just Bill Gates; it's the Gates Foundation (you cannot argue it's not a good cause), the developers that wrote the software, and some seriously hard working people at Microsoft (that are not rich) which I have had the pleasure of working with during my career.

Thirdly, as much as I like working with Microsoft they are not the only software option. Lots of companies that are not Microsoft exist. If you don't want to buy Microsoft software do a Google search on "mac office software" and NeoOffice comes up on page two. It would take less time than doing a Craigslist post.

If you want something with a little more functionality for a really low price try OpenOSX
for $30.

With so many options out there why resort to something that shows such poor character?

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more on RFID in hospitality

A good question came in as a comment from David Wold and I thought I'd take a stab at it in a post versus just as a comment.

Comment: How accurate do those things get with location? Meaning, to find someone in the building, they would probably need bulkier active RFID chips and not the smallest cheapest passive ones. That might bulk things up but still be OK. But can they pinpoint location? From what I know, they can tell you that something is present or in the area but not exactly where it is. For example, with inventory, you can get the full contents of a pallet at your receiving dock in an instant but you may not know which boxes have which parts without opening them up to look. For the spa, you might know Chrystal is in the sauna, but if there are 5 other women in there, it might be hard to know which one is her. Plus the employees would have to walk around with geeky looking receivers to find the women (getting hotter, no now its getting colder). Maybe a combination of a longer range active RFID with a shorter range passive RFID to roughly find and then zero in on the client...

First, the RFID chip size is actually very small and the active RFID chip fits in a wristband quite nicely. Here is an example of a reusable wristband from Precision Dynamics Corp, a leading provider of RFID technology to hospitality venues. These are durable, waterproof, and can be personalized in color and logo. Very easy for the spa guest to keep track of and return. The total cost of the band is fairly low being reusable.

In the specific example of implementing location services for a spa knowing the "exact" location of the guest is not really necessary. The guest is generally confined to a fixed space and will be in either a public room (sauna, locker room, etc.), private area (massage room), or unmonitored area (hallway). Access to these areas would be tracked by an RFID scanner that captures the time a guest enters and leaves each room. As spa guests do not generally linger in hallways a venue would not need to implement an RFID system that was constantly scanning for guest location in all areas. The staff could simply validate the last room a guest entered to find their current location. If a guest's last tracked location was exiting a room then it is likely they are already on their way to the next appointment.

Also, if the spa captures the guest's picture it is not a requirement for staff to carry a hand held device to access the guest picture/profile or location. Since the spa is generally a confined area and staff is usually coming from a location with a computer, they could review the guest picture and schedule before leaving to remind them of their next appointment. Another operational scenario is to have staff print the guest's itinerary with picture so they could identify them by name when requested to provide a reminder of their appointment.

however, this comment brings up a viable option of having real time location services with RFID and how that may change the guest experience, as well as project cost. I'll tackle this question in the next post so stay tuned.

For more information about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website.

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excercise your privilige - VOTE!

Chrystal, Brody and I went and voted today as a family. Give a prayer of thanks that today you get to exercise that privilege, and then go vote. Whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent voting is important.

Check out Seth's Lessons from voting for some interesting insights into voting.

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make sure what you do = what your customer wants

Sometimes on the weekends I do very dad-like things.

Brody turns 3 in April, and since we are expecting baby-sister (no name picked yet) in April it was time to move into a "big-boy" bed. So this weekend I built a bunk bed. Okay I assembled a bunk bed, but I did everything but sand and stain the wood. I could not believe the amount of assembly required for this bed. It made me feel very "daddish" though and I was super excited about it. Putting together my sons bunk bad...seriously how dad is that!? Brody loves it and climbs all over it.

And today we were playing with his cars from the movie Cars (he has all of them) and I got this great idea to build a ramp to drive the cars down from his top bunk. I thought we would have a great time building it together. We went to the hardware store and got some material, got the project all setup, and after attempting to hammer one nail Brody got bored with the board. I spent the next 45 minutes building a ramp with barriers, lanes, and finish molding. I thought it was really cool (still do). I took it up to him all excited and set it up. Brody thought it was cool for about 4 minutes until a different toy grabbed his fancy.The reality was Brody did not ask for a ramp. He was completely content just playing cars with me and didn't need anything else.

I sometimes find myself wanting to do something for my customers that I think is cool, even if they don't need or want it. This is especially prevelant in software development where unnecessary features get added because they are cool but not very functional (think annoying paperclip man in Windows). Avoid doing something because you think it's cool. Instead do something that is useful, which should start with spending some time with your customer and listening.

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