🍗 The chicken sandwich conundrum - The Hustle
The Hustle

🍗 The chicken sandwich conundrum

Plus: Inside VR Kmart, Sleepagotchi, zebra zoomies, and more.

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An oceanfront Hamptons estate with a private boardwalk to the beach just hit the market. But get ready to break out the Monopoly money — it’s listed for $44.9m.

In today’s email:

  • Jazzercise: A booming business.
  • Chickenflation: Prices are up.
  • We visited Kmart… in the metaverse.
  • Around the web: Gamifying sleep, honing management skills, speedy zebras, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Jacob and Rob discuss the chicken sandwich boom, how Jazzercise evolved beyond its ‘80s roots, Usain Bolt’s startup snafu, and more.

The big idea

Jazzercise is dancing in dollars

What if I told you that you could dance your ass off and get into the best shape of your life at the same time?

That’s been the Jazzercise pitch for 50+ years, and guess what? It’s still working.

Though best known for its ‘80s era dominated by neon spandex, Jazzercise had a monster 2021, pulling in $73m in revenue, per Bloomberg.

Jazzercise was founded in 1969…

… by Judi Sheppard Missett in a small classroom near Chicago. Missett, now 78, still runs the company, which has expanded to 8k+ franchisees teaching 32k classes a week.

She attributes this growth in schvitzing to several factors, including:

  • Evolving the product: While nostalgia is having a moment, Jazzercise has moved beyond its ‘80s luster. Current classes combine HIIT (high-intensity interval training) with contemporary music.
  • Listening to customers: In 2019, the company launched Jazzercise On Demand for at-home streaming. The service blew up during the pandemic and currently has 22k subscribers.
  • Offering the right incentives: Unlike many fitness companies, Jazzercise offers teachers franchise equity, motivating them to grow their customer base.

Dance fitness…

… has blown up since the company’s early days, spawning new competitors like Zumba and dance variations of yoga and pilates.

Now in her seventh decade in the fitness game, Missett isn’t worried. “We’re survivalists,” she says.

If you’re looking for an excuse to break out your old neon leotard, look no further — just because Jazzercise has moved on from the ‘80s doesn’t mean you have to.


Energized: Celsius, the sugar-free energy drink marketed as a healthy alternative, raised $550m from PepsiCo in exchange for 8.5% of the company. Pepsi bought Rockstar Energy for ~$4B in 2020.

Interesting: A study looking at 21B Facebook friendships found that a region’s “economic connectedness,” or the number of friendships between rich and poor people, greatly influences economic outcomes for lower income kids.

Bolt bolted: Bolt Mobility, an e-bike startup co-founded by Usain Bolt, has seemingly ceased operations in six US cities, leaving e-bikes abandoned without explanation.

Discount hunting: Grocery sales at dollar and discount stores increased 71% from October 2021 to June 2022 as Americans looked for ways to cut costs on essentials.

Busted: The SEC charged 11 people for their involvement in a crypto Ponzi scheme, called “Forsage,” that raised $300m+. The four founders of the scheme cannot be found.

Is Amazon good for the Amazon? The company’s carbon emissions rose 18% YoY in 2021, according to its annual sustainability report. Despite the jump, Amazon’s “carbon intensity” — or emissions per dollar of sales — decreased 1.9%.

Home sweet home: Where you start your business can affect licensing, taxes, labor, and more. As you plot out your next venture, check out the best states to house your new startup on The Hustle blog.


Singdhi Sokpo

Chicken sandwich prices are up. So is demand.

Crack open the Pepto.

In Q2 2022, Americans spent $2.4B buying 678m breaded chicken sandwiches, up 3% from Q1, per a report from The Wall Street Journal.

  • KFC, Wendy’s, and Burger King have already dropped tens of millions on national TV ads for their chicken sandwiches in 2022.

As input prices rise with labor and supply chain shortages, chickens continue to print that cock-a-doodle-dough across the industry.

  • Shares of Pilgrim’s Pride, the second-largest US poultry producer, are up ~40% in the last year.
  • Fast-food spots upped their breaded chicken sandwich prices 5% YoY in June.

One of the more pertinent chicken sandwich promos of late came from Bojangles, which offered a $10 gas card with a chicken family meal in April.

$1m worth of cards were handed out, almost enough to fill a tank with today’s prices.

Megabyte Special

We visited a surprisingly detailed virtual Kmart

VRChat is a social gaming platform where users can create and explore digital worlds. You might find live theater, a cyberpunk nightclub, or a spooky escape room.

Despite endless possibilities, one hot trend is…

… roleplaying at a virtual Kmart

VRChat Kmart” was created in 2019 by a guy known only as Eric, a former electronics manager at an IRL Kmart, of which just three remain.

Last week, the digital department store went viral on Twitter. Its Discord has 3.4k+ members, and some players even hold unpaid “jobs.”

Two told Vice the best part is all the people they’ve met while pretending to be Kmart associates.

I hadn’t been to Kmart…

… since mine closed to become a Britney Spears experience, so this weekend I went to Super VRChat Kmart Center.

I found a meticulous replica — a Kmart time capsule stocked with products like “The Sims 2” and Pepto Bismol. It also had:

  • A parking lot full of midsize sedans
  • PA system announcements
  • Bathrooms and a food court
  • A Bluelight Special — portable heaters, 90% off

Despite the quirky experience, VRChat has issues

It recently cracked down on “mods” — modifications players make to games, like this one that lets you play cat game “Stray” as Garfield.

It was supposed to stop bad actors mucking up the platform, but wiped out accessibility mods like closed captioning, pissing off players.

While VRChat has promised to fast-track similar features, it’s unclear if once-loyal players who’ve since rage-quit will return for Kmart nostalgia.

BTW: If you’re curious about VRChat’s other worlds, check out these unique experiences.


🚎 On this day: In 1873, the Clay Street Hill Railroad, San Francisco’s first cable car company, successfully ran a car up Nob Hill. Regular service would begin a month later.

🇺🇸 That’s interesting: A guide to US state flags and what their designs mean.

😴 Hmm: Sleepagotchi attempts to gamify sleep by awarding NFTs and crypto for users who maintain a consistent sleeping schedule.

🧠 How to: A guide to developing some top management skills, including delegating, getting great feedback, communicating your strategy, and taking care of your own emotional health.

🦓 Aww: And now, zebra zoomies.


Especially chicken. (Source: imgflip.com)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Jennifer “Lost in virtual Kmart” Wang.

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