The coronavirus forces a blue-plate pivot


March 16, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, we’re settling into a new reality. One that involves plugging in when we’re working (yes, the dishes can wait), and distancing ourselves from our fellow humans when we’re not (what better excuse to binge watch your favorite shows?). This week, we’re focusing on how the outbreak is reshaping our economy:

  • We’re chronicling how companies are adapting in a time of increasing social isolation.
  • We’re monitoring the downstream consequences of business closings and other effects of the pandemic.

If wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage makes you numb, don’t despair. We’ll sprinkle in other stories, too — including some that might inspire, or give you reason to smile.

Our Contactless Life

The coronavirus clampdown means the delivery biz could go bananas

If they haven’t already, your delivery orders are about to account for a lot more than just hangover food. 

Businesses and workers across the country are on Team #StayTheF*ckHome because of the coronavirus. Deliveries have graduated from the realm of the munchies — and, let’s be real, a luxury of our connected era — to a critical lifeline.

They’re evolving in other ways, too: No more face time with your driver.

The meatball has tolled for many restaurants

Late Sunday, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, said he would sign an executive order limiting restaurants and bars to take-out and delivery service only.

The Empire State’s not the only place forcing the issue. The governors of Illinois, Ohio, and Washington ordered all bars and restaurants in their states to close, too.

Dining demand was already dropping: Data from the reservations site OpenTable showed the number of US diners was down by as much as 36% last week compared to 2019.

But if you thought restaurateurs would rest on their laurels, your guess is undercooked.

Call it the blue-plate pivot

Brick-and-mortar establishments are pivoting to delivery

🥩 One Colorado steakhouse is delivering prime cuts — cooked to order. The delivery person even waits while you check to make sure your medium rare is really medium rare.

🍣 An NYC chef once put a sushi counter in a hotel room (!). Now he’s doing chef-driven omakase, delivered.

🍖 Canlis, one of Seattle’s highest-end restaurants, is launching a drive-thru lunch service and family-style dinner delivery (with wine).

Several chefs and owners say they’ll haul the grub themselves, and leave the likes of the ’hub on the curb. Why? Razor-thin margins (and $$$$$ fees for consumers).

Their establishments might not normally embrace delivery, but as one dining entrepreneur told Bloomberg, “right now, beggars can’t be choosers as far as where the revenue comes from, so here we are.”

Grubhub must know about its money-grubbing rep…

…because on Friday, it said it would suspend collection of up to $100m in fees from independent restaurants rocked by falling demand.

The ’hub and its competitors rolled out options to make sure delivery goes smoothly — and cleanly. Contactless drops let drivers leave the good at diners’ doorsteps.

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The Hustle Slack

If you need a little levity, sometimes it’s right there on your company Slack. On Friday, Meg pointed us to On-nomi — a Japanese phrase for 🍻🍷🍹 with your friends — but virtually (genius, right?).

Two hot minutes later:

Any great moments from your own company Slack? Take a screenshot and tweet ‘’em to us @TheHustle.

The Coronavirus Economy

Sports are canceled. What the heck will networks like ESPN do now?

Hope you like basketball reruns.

March Madness has turned into March Sadness following the NCAA’s cancelation of its marquee hoops tournaments. Nearly every major sports league has also called off competitions. 

So for a little while at least, reruns are probably all we’re going to get.

It’s a lot of irregularly scheduled programming

Sports networks are filling time by airing documentaries, replays of old basketball games, and UFC bouts (it’s the only major sports organization that hasn’t yet canceled events en masse).

Some networks are even suspending studio shows, which seemed like all they were airing for days.

Networks make most of their money from commercials — and live broadcasts help them keep the lights on. Last season, regular-season games accounted for 38% of the NBA’s TV-ad revenue.

Will advertisers pay the same premium for taped content?

Some are speculating that networks could fill the gap by airing esports, but in-person versions of those contests (including ones with live audiences) have been suspended, too.

Are you ready for some football?

The NFL season is still months away, but over the weekend players approved a new collective bargaining agreement that will add 1 game to the regular-season schedule and expand the playoff field.

Free agency is also set to open this week, which will give fans (and networks) lots to talk about. 

Maybe you should re-up that YouTube TV subscription after all.

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Sponsored

You step into an elevator with Mark Cuban

Yes, that Shark-Tank-starring, $4.3b net-worth-having Mark Cuban. 

He strikes up a conversation and without hesitation, you pounce on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit him with the perfect elevator pitch. 30 seconds about your new alcoholic kombucha startup and his eyes light up.

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Talk about a bad first impression. 

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Practical Tips

Resources to help you cope

The pandemic has turned many aspects of our lives inside out. If you’re feeling stressed, confused, or you’re looking for a little guidance, we got you.

For your work life:

For people who are anxious:

For parents:

Great links to share with others:

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The Hustle Says

Need a soul soothing new playlist? Take comfort in Haruki Murakami’s impeccably curated vinyl collection on Spotify. 

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Small Business of the Week

Building an 8-figure swag brand in less than 3 years

In 2017, Michael Martocci saw a gap in the market: creating high-quality swag for fast-growing companies.

Businesses buy swag for all sorts of reasons: to win prospects, serve clients, and engage their employees. But they have to work directly with vendors, which can be a pain. 

Martocci created SwagUp as a simpler alternative — helping teams get their swag where and when they want it, without the headache.

Looking to run lean, they got off the ground using no-code software for $100/month, through a Wix page, Typeform, Zapier, and Trello. Trello featured SwagUp’s processes in a case study, and even now, SwagUp says its in-house operations are its biggest competitive advantage.

SwagUp stands out from its competition — which mainly manufactures in China — by offering up top brands, including Patagonia, Everlane, and Allbirds. The company ships to 97 countries, and packs on average go for $50 apiece.

Martocci says SwagUp’s early success allowed them to lean heavily on inbound demand and word of mouth. To this day, marketing spend remains at 1-2% of revenue.

Half of that is allocated to sending tester packs to prospective customers. And it’s working… they hit $168k in 2017, $3.4m in 2018, and $7.1m in 2019, with plans to hit $15m this year.

Now they’re ramping up their tech even more, having recently processed their first fully automated order.

  • Founder: Michael Martocci
  • Employees: 62
  • Years in business: 3
  • Cost to launch: $5k
  • Funding methods: Personal savings
  • 1st-year revenue: $168k
  • Current annual revenue: $10m

Want your story featured? Fill out our Small Business survey. See financials of 700+ companies by subscribing to Trends.

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Snippets

🚿 Meet the man who got caught trying to sell 17k bottles of hand sanitizer for outrageous prices.

👕 “I wear my grandad’s old Slazenger boxers.” Why do some people go a decade or more without buying clothes?

👓 Experimental physicists are searching for the ideal glass.

🐱Pet portraits, but perfectly symmetrical.

🐪 Inside the wacky world of camel wrestling.

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