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Oct. 21 2016 1:40 PM

Dunkin’ Donuts Says the Election Is Hurtin’ Its Sales

This post originally appeared on Business Insider. 

Throughout this earnings season, many companies will pin a number of shortcomings or forecasts about the presidential election.

Dunkin' Brands was among the companies to do so on Thursday. The retailer reported profits and US same-store sales that were higher than analysts had expected.

However, revenue missed expectations.

According to the company's management, uncertainty over the US presidential election is weighing on consumers and franchisees.

Oct. 19 2016 1:59 PM

You Can Now “Endorse” a Presidential Candidate on Facebook

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

You may already "like" a 2016 presidential candidate's page on Facebook, but the social network is now letting you go a step further by outright endorsing them to your friends.

“Similar to how politicians, newspapers, and organizations endorse candidates for elected office, this feature allows anyone on Facebook to do the same," Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement Samidh Chakrabart told Business Insider in a statement on Tuesday. "People who want to voice their support can visit a candidate’s Page, click on the endorsements tab, and explain their rationale for choosing that candidate.”

Oct. 17 2016 12:29 PM

For Once, Christmas Shopping Is Not Starting Earlier This Year

This post originally appeared on Business Insider. 

Retailers have officially lost the so-called war on Thanksgiving.

An increasing number of retailers are closing on Thanksgiving Day this year in response to backlash against the trend of starting Black Friday sales a day early.

CBL & Associates, the operator of 89 regional malls and shopping centers, announced it would close 73 of its locations on Thanksgiving Day and not open until 6 a.m. on Black Friday, CNBC reported. Last year, the mall operator opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Oct. 12 2016 11:33 AM

Ronald McDonald Cuts Back on Public Appearances Amid Wave of Creepy Clown Fears

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

McDonald's is hiding its famous mascot, Ronald McDonald, in the midst of a wave of scary clown sightings across the US.

The company said Tuesday that it's "mindful" of the clown sightings and it's paring back Ronald McDonald's public appearances as a result.

Oct. 7 2016 12:49 PM

Why a Lawsuit Says Naked Juice’s Labels Are Misleading—and How the Company Is Pushing Back

This post originally appeared in Business Insider. 

PepsiCo is hitting back on a lawsuit filed against the company's Naked Juice brand, saying claims by the consumer-advocacy group Public Interest are "baseless."

"I feel confident that consumers have the clear information on our labels and the way that we've designed them to understand and make the choices that they need to make," Naked Juice's general manager Andrea Theodore told Business Insider. "I do not feel at this time that this lawsuit is causing us to rethink we need to do something different here."

Oct. 5 2016 1:35 PM

Consumers Are Ditching Their Cable Packages. These Channels Are the Biggest Losers.

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Cable TV companies could lose nearly $1 billion to people cutting the cord over the next year, but some channels will be hit harder than others.

Earlier this year, analysts at Barclays argued that channels you watch when you're feeling lazy, "inertia channels," will have a tough time competing moving forward. Others, like BTIG's Rich Greenfield, have questioned the value of ESPN.

Sept. 30 2016 4:07 PM

The Colorado Weed Industry Has to Stop Calling Products “Candy”

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Colorado is rolling out new regulations for retail marijuana packaging sold within the state.


Starting on October 1, all marijuana edibles sold at dispensaries will be marked with a new "universal symbol" warning buyers that the edibles contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, reports The Cannabist.

Edible manufacturers will also be banned from using the word "candy" on their packaging. Kid-friendly shapes, like gummy bears and worms, will also be banned.

The new rules were created as a reaction to the increase in the number of children admitted to Colorado hospitals for consuming marijuana edibles.

Only eight children were admitted to the Children’s Hospital Colorado emergency department for marijuana consumption between 2005 and 2013, prior to recreational sales beginning in the state, Michael DiStefano, the hospital's medical director, told the Denver Post.

In the first half of 2016, 9 children between the ages of 3 and 7 were admitted to the hospital for marijuana consumption, the Denver Post reported in June.

The new regulations also set up equivalency standards for the amount of THC between raw marijuana in "flower" form and retail marijuana products, of which which dispensaries are limited by a Colorado House bill to sell customers up to an ounce.

Though the new rules were drafted after a year of discussion between industry stakeholders and state officials, some edible manufacturers have said that adapting will be costly.

Dan Anglin, the owner Americanna, an edible manufacturer in Colorado, told Forbes that his company spent $100,000 and seven months preparing new candy molds and new packaging. Anglin, however, also said that he's a "firm believer in regulations and safe products."

Jim Burack, the director of the Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division assures the regulations aren't about making selling edibles harder for retailers.

"The No. 1 goal here: It’s about public safety, it’s about public health, and, above all, it’s sensitive to the risk this poses to children," he told The Cannabist.

Sept. 28 2016 12:45 PM

BlackBerry Is Giving Up on Making Its Own Smartphones

This post originally appeared in Business Insider. 

It's the end of an era. BlackBerry is going to stop making its own smartphones.

Instead, the Canadian company will rely entirely on external companies for any future hardware projects, it announced in its quarterly earnings released Wednesday.


Sept. 28 2016 11:07 AM

Stanford Business School Will Give a Free Ride to Three Students Who Agree to Work in the Midwest

A new fellowship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, one of the top ranked business schools, covers tuition and fees for MBA students. But the program comes with a catch: Students must be willing to take a job in the Midwest.

Students often select Stanford because they know they'll get a great education and make contacts in Silicon Valley, where many of them presumably want to work after graduation. But the school has plans to funnel students to more "underserved regions," where the economy could benefit from an infusion of talent.


Sept. 23 2016 11:00 AM

Chipotle Gave Away Tons of Free Food to Fix Its Battered Image. It Didn’t Work.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

As Chipotle's summer rewards program comes to a close, the results are looking less than positive.


In July, the chain launched Chiptopia, a three-month promotion tied to the number of times customers visit Chipotle.

The program had some of the best rewards in the restaurant business, with tons of opportunities for customers to get free food.

By late July, the program had more than 3.6 million participants and accounted for 30 percent of all transactions.

Today, Chipotle says more than 3.1 million customers have registered and used their Chiptopia cards. According to the company, 1.2 million users signing up in August and 85,000 participants are on track to earn the catering reward, meaning they visited at least 11 times each month for the last three months.

More than 3 million participants means spending a lot of money on free burritos, especially after the company gave away roughly $70 million in free-food coupons from February to May. Free food has been key to Chipotle's game plan to win back customers after E. coli outbreaks helped drive away business, with the chain's same-store sales dropping 30 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

However, as September ends and the program comes to a close, it seems it has failed to address one of Chipotle's biggest problems: customer perception.

The chain has hit a wall in terms of brand perception, according to YouGov BrandIndex data. On July 1, the day Chiptopia launched, consumer perception of the brand's quality was 9.4, on a scale of -100 to 100. On September 20, that rating had dropped to 6.8, after almost three months of staying roughly the same.

Earlier this week, Chipotle marketing director Mark Crumpacker said in an interview that the chain was losing customers to fast-food giant McDonald's. On Wednesday, the chain launched a new campaign attempting to convince customers the food is safe to eat, after the E. coli outbreaks that drove away customers.

"Chiptopia was not a perception tool, though other programs have been having a positive impact on consumer perceptions," Chipotle's communications director, Chris Arnold, said in an email to Business Insider, noting the ad "A Love Story" has helped boost customer perception.

"The program we launched yesterday, to update people on some of the important food-safety changes we have made, serves yet a different purpose," Arnold continued. "We promised our customers that we would establish Chipotle as an industry leader in food safety, so we wanted to be transparent about many of the food-safety advancements we have put in place."

Still, a rewards program seems like it should earn some goodwill from customers, especially one with rewards as good as Chipotle's. Chiptopia is, by all measures, a great deal—one of the best in the restaurant industry. If you buy 12 burritos over the three months (four a month), you get four free burritos.  That means it has a return rate of roughly 33 percent for customers.

That's an incredibly high return rate. For example, look at Starbucks, which has an incredibly successful rewards program. Starbucks Rewards members earn a free food or drink item after spending $62.50. A semi-pricey Starbucks drinks is $5, meaning you're generously receiving an 8 percent return.

Chipotle's rewards program seems to be facing two big problems when it comes to driving customer perception: It is too confusing to the average customer and not sustainable for Chipotle in the long term.

From the start, Chiptopia has been aimed at Chipotle loyalists—in part because the program is too confusing for any other customers. The three-tiered system takes quite a bit of studying to sort out, with each level having slightly different rewards and a long list of qualifiers.

In August, Morgan Stanley wrote in a research note that the program had helped convince loyal Chipotle customers to resume their prior frequency, but had not impacted the more casual customers that make up 75% of the chain's customers. While the most loyal quarter of the chain's customer base make up 60 percent to 70 percent of visits, if Chipotle wants to reach its former level of customer perception and sales, it needs to recapture the average consumer as well.

Which brings us to the second problem: Chiptopia wasn't designed to perform in the long term. Just as Chipotle can't afford to keep giving out free burritos forever, a rewards program with a 33 percent return rate would end up being extraordinarily expensive for the company.

That could be a problem for Chipotle.

"The program's end in September could alienate some customers just as they are getting accustomed to the rewards," BTIG analyst Peter Saleh wrote in a July research note.

Chipotle said two months ago that it was already working on a permanent program to prevent backlash once Chiptopia ends. The new program has not yet been announced by Chipotle, though the company is insistent that it is on the right track to make a comeback.

"Recovery is happening," says Arnold. "Since the investigation ended about seven months ago, we have recovered about 40 percent of the sales we lost from the low point in January (as of our most recent reporting period at the end of the second quarter), and introduced programs to help stimulate frequency and restore trust. These things are also moving in the right direction. But none of this happens overnight."

A new rewards program is likely another program with the goal of moving things in that direction in the near future. Hopefully for Chipotle, an updated program will be less confusing—even if rewards are less bountiful.