Beans, billions, and budding bastions


March 18, 2019

BK leans into coffee, Ant Financial marches across Europe, and March Madness, but first…
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OpenTable will share its hard-earned data for a fee, but are they the rightful owners?

In the world of consumer info, diner data is becoming hot hot hot. Restaurant groups are using the information to mix up menus, flag allergies, and track spending patterns.

OpenTable, the online-reservation giant started in 1998, has been doing most of the heavy lifting for the past decade. But now, behind kitchen doors, a new war is a cookin’.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, OpenTable is prohibiting restaurants from sharing data with hungry rival booking services without its permission — highlighting a fight for control over the information diners disclose when they make online reservations. 

Sorry, do you have a reservation for this data?

For years, San Francisco-based OpenTable had little to no competition — handling reservations for 330m diners in the year through November 2018  (up about 70% since being acquired by PricelineGroup in 2014).

Restaurants currently pay OpenTable up to $1.50 for each reservation made through its platform. But new rivals, including the Amazon-backed SevenRooms, are causing OpenTable to change its fine print.

The reason being, SevenRooms charges restaurants about $500 a month per location for its table-management and guest-profile software — software that pulls diner data collected by a restaurant’s OpenTable account.

It’s called OpenTable, not ‘OpenSource…’

OpenTable will now charge restaurant operators who used both systems a fee of $250 per restaurant per month, and new users of both systems will have to pay OpenTable $1k a month for each location. 

Restaurateurs believe that with this new fee, OpenTable wants to box out SevenRooms. But, Steve Hafner, CEO of OpenTable, says the new policy is merely designed to protect diner privacy.

Now, the debate begins…

Is it the service or the company that uses it? 

According to Hafner, “That information is absolutely not the restaurants’.” Of course, restaurants who use SevenRooms said they should be able to use the data shared with them however they want.

“This information is our information. It’s not OpenTable’s information,” said Wassef Haroun, an owner of Seattle-based restaurant MBar, which uses both services.

Food Fight
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The ‘BK Cafe’ hopes to take a sip of the piping hot subscription biz

Burger King launched a coffee subscription that gives consumers a cuppa joe every day for $5/month. The program, which is only available through the Burger King app, skims the foam right off Starbucks’ strategy (AdAge).

Rabbithole: The Starbucks app puts Apple pay to shame.

Chinese fintech giant Ant marches across Europe

Ant Financial recently partnered with Barclaycard, a division of the UK’s largest bank. Thanks to its 200 partnerships and 1B Alipay users, Ant is now more valuable than Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley combined (Quartz).

Rabbithole: How WorldFirst made Ant’s rise possible.

Aura Vision is watching your back while you shop

And your front, too… The YC startup is one of several companies leading the charge in the growing business of retail surveillance. Aura tracks shoppers and tags them based on gender, age, and “linger time” (TechCrunch).

Rabbithole: Even the freezer aisle is watching.

Rented clothing is still on the rise in the US

According to Bloomberg, US “garment utilization rates” are plummeting: Since 2003, the number of times people wear a garment has fallen from 200 times to 125, allowing companies like Rent the Runway to take off (WaPo).

Rabbithole: You can even rent your pillows and blankets.

Getting a Lyft, no matter what you ride

In its IPO document, Lyft disclosed it generates the same average revenue ($3.75) for each car ride as it does from each bike and scooter ride, raising concerns over the company’s business model (Bloomberg).

Rabbithole: Lyft beats Uber to the public market

Well, whatdayaknow…

Many software companies across the US are actually helping people, whose jobs are already, or likely to be, automated, #learn to code by adopting new software engineer “train-to-hire” programs (Axios).

Rabbithole: Do you mean bootcamps?

Gotta optimize those services, brahhh

Companies like Bridj, Ford, and Sweden’s Kutsuplus have nixed their microtransit shuttle services because, as it turns out, optimizing trips isn’t as simple as creating a startup (Axios).

Rabbithole: Regional Transportation district rebrands its microtransit service

Blackstone heads to Japan (finally)

The Blackstone Group agreed to buy Japan-based Ayumi Pharmaceutical from Unison Capital for a reported $1B — its first-ever buyout in Japan. (Wall Street Journal).

Rabbithole: They also like media companies

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One of the biggest life insurance companies in the US just lowered its rates

AIG — the 49 billion dollar behemoth — recently lowered its life insurance prices… and that could be seriously good news for you and your wallet.

How did we find out so fast? Simple: Policygenius.

After all, it’s their mission to keep tabs on the always-exciting world of insurance prices. And to be honest, they’re doing a hell of a job. 

Policygenius makes it easy to find out if you qualify for that AIG price drop — but even if you don’t, they’ll still help you find the best life insurance plan at a price that works for you.

So, why exactly do life insurance prices fluctuate?

Better tech has driven operating costs down. New state regulations require companies to have less cash on hand. And, oh yeah, people are just straight-up living longer. 

What do these changes mean for you? 

That it’s a better time than ever to start saving some of that sweet, sweet cash on your personal policy. (Plus, as you get older, your premiums go up.)

And Policygenius is the smartest way to do that, since they let you instantly compare rates from over a dozen life insurers to find the best plan for you. Give ‘em a try. 

Put your applying pants on → monday morning review

Do the (side) hustle

Last year at Hustle Con, one of the speakers said something I think about all the time:

“Don’t leave your day job for your side hustle… until you know your side hustle can bring in real money.”

My first thought: You sound like my mother.

My second thought: Are you my mother?

My third thought: How can you build a profitable side hustle if you’re working your tail off every day?

I’ve been musing on this since June. And since articles touting “10 Ways To Step Up Your Side Hustle” are shockingly unhelpful, I didn’t have a good solution — until I heard about a free online event called Women Who Create.

It’s produced by Teachable, a $135m+ online education company that covers things like: 

  • Launching a digital product
  • Generating meaningful revenue
  • Creating a visual brand

We don’t usually promote other companies’ events, but this one seems legit. So legit, in fact, I’ve weaseled my way onto a panel about building digital communities.

Oh, and also, the conference is free (did I say that already?). 

If you wanna step up your side hustle but hate putting on pants, then check out Women Who Create, happening on your laptop March 26-28.

  • Kera DeMars, Chief of Staying Cozy
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