The cornbread kingpin strikes again

October 16, 2019

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Today, the cornbread king strikes again and interior-design startups are in like Flynn, but first…

The Hustle Daily Email

The cornbread kingpin strikes again, as Cracker Barrel acquires Maple Street Biscuit

As part of the acquisition, Maple Street — a quirky Jacksonville, Florida-based fast-casual chain with 33 locations — will absorb Cracker Barrel’s previously acquired Holler & Dash Biscuit House locations.

Biscuits + maple… Mmmmm. 

The country-style breakfast boss has been making serious moves 

The Maple Street buyout comes just months after Cracker Barrel invested up to $140m for a noncontrolling stake in Punch Bowl Social, an “eatertainment(oh yes) chain with strong recent growth. 

It could be a smart diversification play, given the rise of the experience economy — and gaining a competitive edge is key in the increasingly saturated fast-casual restaurant market. 

Recently, Cracker Barrel has seen a 0.7% dip in traffic, but it expects to flip the pancake — I mean, decline — through these recent investments. 

From gasoline salesman to cornbread kingpin… a tale as old as time 

The company’s journey has been pretty crazy since Day One: In 1969, Shell Oil rep Dan Evins opened a general store to sell gas and homestyle cookin’ along the burgeoning US interstate. 

Fast-forward to the 1990s; that little roadside stop exploded into a billion-dollar behemoth, and it has continued growing — despite accusations of homophobia and racism that lasted well into the 2000s. Well isn’t that just gravy. 

Just how has Cracker Barrel continued rollin’ in the dough for so long? 

… Turns out, people REALLY love gift shops. The Southern comfort chain’s 19-year winning streak for “Best Family Dining Award” is thanks largely to its old-timey merch… or as they describe it, “unique gifts and self-indulgences, many reminiscent of America’s country heritage.” Tomato tomato.

» Quietly reaches for the last biscuit
My First Million Podcast by

Today’s episode of My First Million is brought to you by Hustle Con, our annual conference that’s happening December 2-3, 2019 in Oakland, CA. Grab your tickets here.

Million Dollar Brainstorm 

We’re back again this week with My First Million host Shaan Puri and our founder Sam Parr to talk about the side hustles, market trends, and big business ideas keeping them up at night. 

This week, they explore… 

👷Hyper-focused job boards

📱Digital AA meetings

🏹D2C hunting & fishing brands

👻GaaS (Ghostbusters-as-a-Service)

🥗Keto cereal

… plus, miniature cooking sets, payroll software, and more. 

Like what you hear? Get a weekly briefing and in-depth research for trends like these when you subscribe to The Hustle’s Trends newsletter. 

Listening is free, but not doing so could cost you millions. Click below to listen to our podcast, My First Million.

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Amazon quietly fires 3 of its major delivery firms following a spotlight on fatalities

Amazon has terminated its contracts with third-party delivery firms Inpax, Sheard-Loman, and Letter Ride following damning reports by BuzzFeed News and ProPublica that documented deaths connected to the 3 contractors.

Amazon’s move to wash its hands of the firms will reportedly put more than 2k people out of work in 8 states — all while dodging any liability. But the reports raise the question of whether the pressure Amazon puts on its drivers to meet their speedy delivery goals — offering next-day and even same-day service — could be partly to blame.

Amazon: High goals, low barriers

The e-commerce behemoth started rolling out its network of US delivery fleets in 2014. Since then, Amazon drivers have been involved in over 60 serious crashes — at least 10 of those resulting in fatalities.

Amazon’s delivery promise has drivers reportedly delivering north of 250 packages a day. During peak holiday periods, drivers say the number could rev as high as 400, according to Business Insider. 

To meet Amazon’s goals, drivers say they were forced to skip meals, ordered to pee in bottles, and coached to speed without wearing a seatbelt to deliver more packages in less time.

Amazon’s lofty expectations would have even a trained getaway driver spinning their wheels, yet drivers for these firms are given only a few days of training before hitting the road, with generally little to no delivery experience required.

Why isn’t Amazon held accountable? It’s all in the contract

Other than dictating routes for third-party drivers, Amazon prides itself on keeping its hands off the wheel when it comes to labor and operation logistics — claiming the company is just in it to lift up entrepreneurs who want to make a dent in the delivery game.

But, when workers are exploited or people are hurt in crashes, the third-party companies take the heat, while Amazon walks away from the wreckage virtually unscathed.

» How about next-week delivery?
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Havenly raises a fresh round of cash in the competition to redesign your home

Let’s karate chop those pillows, people! 

The interior-design platform Havenly just hauled in $32m in new funding, putting it on par with similar startups like Modsy in the race to dominate virtual interior-design services. 

It’s personalized design… with some sweet, sweet kickbacks

Havenly plans to use its shiny new pile o’ cash to establish Cove Goods, a private-label home accessories and furniture line that it will integrate into its design recommendations engine. 

Havenly started as an online interior design consultancy that paired designers with clients who needed a little — or a lot of — know-how as they decorated their homes. Service fees range from $69 (to just update a room) to $99 (to give it a complete makeover).

In addition to collecting money for design services rendered, Havenly receives commissions on pieces sold from vendor partners like West Elm, CB2, and Anthropologie. 

But they’re not the only flipper in the extreme makeover space

Modsy, another computer-vision-startup-turned-furniture-designer, recently closed on $37m in Series C funding, raising $70m to date.

Like Havenly, Modsy matches interior designers with users who snap photos of the rooms they wish to redo. Modsy stitches these snaps together into complete 3D models. Its fees range from $69 to $349.

Modsy also earns additional cash when users buy pieces from the likes of Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, and West Elm, and it has a furniture line whose offerings it positions alongside those of its corporate partners. 

So basically, your favorite catalogs have become personalized.

» Flip it and reverse it

Visit The Hustle’s Austin office, and here’s what you’ll see:

  • Half a dozen dogs waiting for belly pats and treats 
  • The entire sales team arguing over which barbecue joint makes the best mac ‘n cheese (and whether it’s okay to dip your beef rib in it)
  • A constant stream of karate kicks, spontaneous splits, and casual burpees from anyone wearing pants

If that last part sounds weird, you clearly don’t own a pair of Revtown jeans.

See, most of our office swears by these performance-material pants. They’re so comfy, so durable, and — most importantly — so flexible that we just have to bust a move while wearing them. 

Whether it’s our President Adam doing ballerina pirouettes or our whole Account Management team sinking into deep squats before their team meeting, the four-way stretch of Revtown’s patented Decade Denim has us all moving like agile little jungle cats. 

Maybe someday the novelty will wear off and we’ll all sit quietly at our desks… 

But don’t get your hopes up — we just ordered more pairs. 

Get your own
What Else…

🏦 High-yield perks. WSJ reports that while interest is down, banks are hiking credit card rates to help cover rewards programs often utilized by affluent cardholders.

Welcome to the wireless earbud wars. Since Apple released its signature AirPods in 2016, the market has gone cuckoo-cuh-razy! And yesterday Google announced it’s getting in the mix in 2020 with the Pixel Buds 2.

🏢 Go home. As if WeWork hadn’t fallen far enough from grace, the beleaguered co-working space giant was forced to notify its members that at least 1.6k of its office phone booths had been contaminated with “potentially elevated” amounts of formaldehyde. The cause? A manufacturing error — ok, seriously, where’s Ashton?!

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