Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Feeding Frenzy Lesson for Community Image

Some of my former peers in visitor-centric economic and cultural development seemed relieved to learn something that became clear to me nearly a decade ago.

Less than four years before I retired after nearly four decades in that profession, a year-long firestorm of negative news coverage erupted.

Fortunately, the community marketing organization (DMO) I led at the time was already far more savvy than most about reputation management.

More on that lesson learned later but some of my colleagues seem to be drawing a mistaken conclusion from visitor surveys that negative news obsessions - even when local - are harmless to a community’s potential to draw visitors.

A few clarifications are in order:

  • There is no such thing as local news.  News outlets measure audience by huge swaths of counties including dozens and dozens of cities and towns, based on where they hope to have influence.

Durham, North Carolina, where I live is part of a so-called media market that stretches over 22 counties and parts of two states.

It is an archaic, obsolete model in a digital world where businesses and consumers now have truly hyper local alternatives.

  • Even when periodic resident surveys show a community’s self-image is high and relatively immune from negative “local” news, there is another consideration.

It can still contaminate the views of not only potential daytrip visitors from surrounding communities but if, like Durham, a community generates so many jobs that 2 in 3 are held by commuting non-residents it results in the perpetuation of negative water-cooler myths.

When these non-residents hold hospitality-related jobs and interface with visitors at airports and in hotels, restaurants, stores and features, the impact can be hugely negative.

So management of a community’s reputation and defense of its brand or personality is broader than just what populations of potential visitors think or how immune they may be to negative “local” news.

Of course, all of this requires a DMO to continually monitor the opinions of residents, commuters and nearby, statewide, regional and national populations.

There are other uses of this information.  Local stakeholders, including businesses owned or operated by non-residents and especially elected officials and local governments, often fall under the misconception that a community can build its way to prominence.

There are a lot of good reasons for a community to continually augment its visitor-related product, especially if it freshens place-based assets that truly differentiate a community without selling its soul to generica.

Regular opinion surveys such as those I mention above will not show any linkage of opinion to new developments.

I say “any” because after studying scores of these, there is little or no linkage to perception.  Buzz created around new developments, even when and if sustained, just can’t reach enough people to dent misimpression, which are fueled by much more pervasive influences.

The DMOs I led used image surveys dating back to the very early 1980s so I’m not basing these observations on just one community or a particular building splurge or series of developments over time.

I was always intrigued that new development had little or no impact on perceptions but, as I promised, I will delve into what we learned from that year-long news frenzy from March 2006 until April 2007.

Because it a DMOs role to deal with news coverage, promoting and facilitating stories and making clarifications as well as serving the needs of journalists and editors whether they be “local,” state, regional, national or global, a byproduct of this event is that a lot of local stakeholders became more cognizant and appreciative of our role.

The coverage was regarding allegations of rape by some lacrosse team members at Duke.

Both the Durham Police and truly local news media were confident the allegations, while troubling, were without merit.

But then the newspaper in nearby Raleigh began to fan the flames which in turn reignited listserv chatter, especially among well-meaning social justice activists.

I happened to be on one such listserv during that re-ignition.

Thanks to amplification by the state AP office based in Raleigh, we were soon besieged by news trucks and a feeding frenzy of inaccurate information, innuendo, pejorative and speculation.

The Durham Police were forced to reopen the investigation and a lot of individual reputations and careers were ultimately destroyed by the time the Attorney General’s office came to the same conclusion made initially by investigators.

The experience has forever made me skeptical that during news frenzies we are really getting full and balanced information.

Well-meaning chamber types here, failing to understand or respect roles and always eager for a parade to lead, called meetings and began to reinvent the wheel about Durham’s image.

This gave us the opportunity to explain what was being done by the Durham DMO and an innovative coalition it created and facilitates called the Durham Public Information & Communications Council.

Made by those unaware that advertising has long been proven ineffective when it comes to reputation management, the suggestion was made to place full-page ads in national newspapers to set the record straight.

The Durham DMO responded that first we should probably see if perceptions had changed due to the intense and frenzied coverage and ran one of its periodic surveys.

We learned that nationwide, Durham’s positive rating was up and its negative rating down but that some people who didn’t know before had moved to neutral.

By the year after the frenzy, Durham’s image was higher than ever and its negative rating at an all-time low.  Awareness was at an all time high.

The community’s image as a place to visit reached an all-time high with a 16-to-1 positive to negative ratio.  Its image as a place for new business and growth potential was also higher than ever.

Many credited the opportunity Durham’s DMO took during the crisis to better familiarize reporters and editors and lay the seeds for future stories still being reaped today.

The lesson, of course, is not to go out and manufacture negative news frenzies as a means to boost awareness. 

The take-away is that reputation is the product of a lot of very subtle but manageable influences, not just the news.  Covering news is a very difficult profession but at its best a blunt instrument when it comes to getting the “full story” about something.

This is especially true, now that so many national news outlets, rather than take time to investigate, often just quote other news including reporters and editors.

It has been made even more difficult by the fact that as a nation we seem to expect every issue to be viewed as scripted, reality television, even, it appears, our elections for higher office.

I still shake my head at how many communities when faced by a similar frenzy, push their DMOs into wasting millions in advertising not just because ads have long been shown ineffective but because they haven’t even benchmarked perceptions through scientific polling.

Ads, by the way, are scientifically proven to be ineffective because they far too blunt a marketing tactic.  Studies show that they merely harden existing perceptions both negative and positive.

Yelling about yourself as a community, which is what ads are, is not the way to build credibility with external audiences although they may give boosters and officials a false but expensive sense of solace.

Being authentic, honest and persistently earning the respect of national news channels over time is far more effective.  Standing up to inaccuracies and injustice is better done one on one and by equipping grass-roots movements to intervene.

This isn’t to take news media off the hook.  Time has proven the validity of Dr. Barry Glassner’s research in his excellent book entitled, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, something lost on a business journal tactic of stirring up what we should fear from restaurants with an A health rating.

As traditional media collapses, except for those with steadied and principled news management, we will see more and more news outlets manufacturing fear and ruining reputations, if not to stir up ratings, then to blackmail reluctant advertisers.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Imprinting Values - Hope From Another Era of Regression

Only in retrospect am I able to pinpoint when I was imprinted with the value of conservation.

It was during my early years as the scion of five generations of Idaho ranchers.  In the early 1950s, horse and cattle ranchers not only practiced - but were respected - as conservationists.

But it wasn’t until my mid-20s in my second year as the CEO of my first community destination marketing organization that I learned from a sociologist and marketing professor how values are formed.

In 1976, Dr. Morris Massey of the University of Colorado was giving presentations on his theory of values formation entitled, What You Are Is Where You Were When.

Up to the age of 7, I was imprinting values such as conservation from my parents and grandparents, especially my paternal grandfather with whom I spent a part of nearly every day doing light chores on the ranch, until I reached school age.

That’s when we “learn a sense of right and wrong, good and bad,” and in the Mormon culture of my native Rockies, reach the “age of accountability.”

Massey believed that people modeled not only family members but other people between the ages of 8 and 13, including teachers.  There is then a “socialization period” between 13 and 21 when we turn more to peers and the media.

This is why experts note that people rarely change much after age 15 or 16.

Coincidentally, people born after 1976 when Dr. Massey laid down those three periods of value formation, are likely to have imprinted controversial and partisan notions of conservation, especially the now-politicized label of environmentalist.

My first DMO was formed by grants from Spokane Unlimited and the City of Spokane in hopes of leveraging the community’s notoriety from producing Expo 74, a World’s Fair for the Environment.

It is mind-boggling to most people when I explain today that the origins of that theme came from the local business community.

Being concerned about the environment and being business friendly like being an environmentalist and a rancher weren’t considered mutually exclusive values back then.

My very conservative ancestors would seem moderate by today’s standards, not because they would have changed their views but because conservatives in general seem to have moved so far right.

It is probably why, as an Independent, I am called liberal by my friends on the right and conservative by my friends on the left.  I even get holiday cards from both former governor and Republican Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush and President Barack Obama, a somewhat liberal Democrat.

Conservation as a movement long pre-dates President Teddy Roosevelt who gave it prominence when he declared it a national duty in 1908 in a speech delivered on my grandfather’s 10th birthday and well into that second phase of values formation.

By necessity, before and after that time nearly all ranchers considered themselves conservationists, because it was just good business, something that had impressed Roosevelt during the time he spent ranching prior to his political career.

So the value my grandfather imprinted on me prior to turning 10 had been imprinted on him too by that age.

A second era of conservation began in 1948, when eight days before I was born, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act which was then broadened in ‘56, ‘65, ‘72 and ‘87 as it was this year by President Obama in implementation.

North Carolina, where I’ve lived most of my life, appears to have dodged a bullet this month when conservatives, moderates and progressives in the General Assembly rejected a proposal by construction special interests and regressives in the Senate to narrow vegetation buffers along streams and creeks.

By the way, the term regressive is not a pejorative.  Today it is most often used to describe those few who, when disguised as conservatives, seek not to merely tap the breaks on progress but roll it back.

But regressives have long existed at both ends of the political spectrum.

This includes a wing of progressives.  While giving regressives power is almost always a mistake, it is important to listen to them because so-called progress in some instances turns out to be problematic when taken to extremes.

This crossed my mind as we took our old runabout for a spin up Mayo Lake this past weekend.  Experts have remarked at how clear that lake is, the clearest in North Carolina, they claim.

Some credit is due to a unique vegetation buffer that is protected between homes and the lake shore.  But even more important is that wetlands at the mouth of the primary stream that fills the lake are fully intact and ecologically functional.

Wetlands such as this scrub the water of pollutants including sediment which is the number one source of pollution in our state, impairing the overwhelming majority of our waterways.

North Carolina passed a law to control sediment in 1973 and defined it as “solid particulate matter, both mineral and organic, that has been or is being transported by water, air, gravity, or ice from its site of origin.”

For the first time, I noticed a pasture of cattle along a stretch of shoreline on spin around the lake last weekend, north of the Triple Springs boat ramp.

It was primarily, but not totally buffered by trees, and was probably grandfathered as an exception when the lake was created in the late 1970s/early 1980s. 

Cattle can be a source of contamination to waterways too, even when pasture-raised and especially when nitrogen is over applied and then washes into waterways.

But don’t jerk that knee quite so fast.

A technique called holistic management of pastures has shown that cattle grazing actually helps the land store 25% more carbon, and that for “each 1% of carbon stored in the soil, an additional 60,000 acres of water per acre can be retained on the land.”

Click here for an excellent video on why soil is so critical to solving our climate change threat.  Click here for an excellent Washington Post essay on the issue of “grass-fed” cattle and whether they are good for you, the animal and the planet.

Grass-fed is a form of regression, a roll-back from today’s massive feedlots where cattle are “finished” using anything but grass.  When I was coming up in the 1950s it was the predominant way cattle were raised, including our 500 head.

But for anyone dismayed by the havoc regressives have created the last few years in the legislature, it may give hope to look back two hundred years to another era when they held sway in North Carolina.

Following the American Revolution and creation of a new system of government, North Carolina spent the first four or five decades of the 1800s in the control of regressives.

Throughout the nation, as other states perpetuated the progressivism upon which America was founded, North Carolina earned a reputation as the “Rip Van Winkle” state.

As a result, land values plummeted as more than a third of North Carolinians moved away.

Between 1830 and 1840 alone, nearly half of the counties lost population according to a superbly documented book entitled North Carolina Through Four Centuries.

The 1850 census revealed that 31% of all native North Carolinians then living in the United States resided in some other state.”  Backwardness had driven away more than 400,000 Tar Heels, two-thirds of whom were white.

This was equivalent to half the state’s population in that census.

For the first half of the 1800s, the legislature was controlled by less than 10% of the population, including slave-holding planters living down east who were adamantly opposed to public education, roads, government in general and taxes.

Fast forward two hundred years.  Sound familiar?

The thing to remember is that during much of that period of regression, a handful of deeply concerned and resilient North Carolinians were persistently advocating progressive ideas that would put “the state on a totally new course,” following the Civil War.

They were named Yancey, Caldwell, Fisher, Swain, Gaston, Morehead and Graham.  But their architect was Judge Archibald DeBow Murphey who was born in Red House, which is now called Semora, a crossroads just northwest of Hyco Lake, a twin lake just west of Mayo Lake.

It is now a part of Caswell County, but when Murphey was born it was a part of Orange County.  He eventually practiced law down in Hillsborough a few miles west from Durham and established a residence in Hawsfield (southwest of Mebane.)

Here Judge Murphey crafted his plan for North Carolina’s salvation including “establishment of a public education system, construction of canals and turnpike roads, as well as a general public welfare system,” and eventually railroads.

In fact, North Carolinians weren’t paying much attention to succession leading up to the Civil War.

Instead they were focused on constitutional reform and a struggle over ad valorem taxes as a means for wealthy plantation owners to pay their fair share to fund Murphey’s vision.

Many of Durham’s founding generation were heavily influenced by Murphey’s ideas including his close friends the Camerons, who encouraged others in what would become Durham to push for statewide progress such as railroads and a strong banking system.

They were living proof of Dr. Massey’s theory of value development that “what you are is where you were then.”

My value for conservation was obviously imprinted by my family but I am also a product of a twenty-eight year period when conservation, ecology and environmentalism were bipartisan values.

The partisan demonization of those values over the past 40 years has taken a toll, and yet polls today show that 77% of Americans support stricter environmental protections including 58% of Republicans, the party primarily responsible for their demonization.

People who point instead to another recent poll showing that 49% of Americans view government as an immediate threat, need to read more closely the reasons given. 

Too big 19%, gun control 12%, law enforcement 4%, surveillance of citizens 4%, overregulation 3%, taxes 3%, illegal immigration 3%, and environmental regulation just 1%.

You sure wouldn’t know it from the obsessions in news headlines or by partisan statements by lawmakers.

There are even more Americans who are concerned that government isn’t doing its job.  Inconvenient to journalists and reporters and bloggers for that matter is that people can hold contradictions.

In fact, news stories miss an important point.  When people disagree, it usually isn’t about a specific issue, such as being for or against billboards or trees.

They just hold different values.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Scraps From an Old Portfolio

Before he died, my maternal grandfather gave me a vinyl portfolio, the kind popular as promotional giveaways in the 1980s with the spring loaded closure.

It was filled with personal papers that had been retrieved from his youngest son’s apartment after he was killed in 1973 while flying near the border of Mexico as a special agent for what is now the DEA.

We called him by his middle name, Ferd, and just seven years apart, we grew up more like brothers, similar in interests and appearance as well as temperament including a way of minimalizing how we express emotions in order to mask how strongly they are felt.Ferd White at time he crasheded

My grandfather hoped I could make sure my uncle was remembered which, in part, is the purpose of this and similar posts.

If they are interested, he would want me to also pass these papers along to his two children should they ever be located one day.

His daughter would be in her mid-50s by now and his son by a different mother, in his early 40s.

I’ve continued to add items to the portfolio as I’ve come across them including his wallet retrieved from when he was killed, along with some details of an arrest, which were found among my mom’s papers when she died earlier this year.

The image above shows his appearance when he was killed.

The arrest record gives a hint of his personality and sense of humor as well as the fact that profiling by law enforcement isn’t new or exclusive to ethnicity.

Six years out of high school in Montpelier, Idaho, Ferd had already completed undergraduate pilot training for the United States Air Force by December 17, 1964, a year after completing enough credits to graduate the previous summer from Utah State University.

His papers include his seat time in T-37s and T—33 Shooting Stars, a lengthened version of the Korean War-era F-80, scale models of which we had built together a decade earlier around our kitchen table on the ranch.

After some seat time in F-105s, Ferd qualified to fly F-4 C Phantoms by October 14, 1965, a state-of-the-art, twin-engine combination jet fighter interceptor and fighter bomber.

This was during a three month period that his 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) was flying out of Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska.

Flying fighter jets along with the altruism of serving his country were his passion.  He had found his calling at age 23, coincidentally, about the same age I would be when I found mine the year he was killed.

But by the time I was recruited to Anchorage in 1978, it was F-15s I was watching take off and land from my office overlooking Ship Creek near its mouth into Cook Inlet and I had forgotten I wasn’t the first with my DNA to live there.

It was the month after the 389th TFA returned to Hollomon AFB, a few miles outside Alamogordo, New Mexico and two months before it began operations over Vietnam that Ferd was arrested.

Alamogordo was just over 20,000 people back then and hot-shot fighter pilots were conspicuous, especially one in a brand new, sky blue Mustang convertible.

Today places that size have about 40 police officers on patrol but I’ll be it was half that number in January 1966 when a Sgt. Baker observed my uncle driving along a street and then suddenly stopping to back up and accelerate down a side street 10 miles over the posted speed limit.

When the officer pulled Ferd over and asked about his actions, my uncle quipped “I was in a hurry.”  When the officer noted that he would have to cite Ferd for reckless driving, my uncle quipped “Well go ahead and write the ticket I’m still in a hurry.”

Probably enough smart ass to go around on both parts, but the officer escalated the situation by saying that he would then have to take my uncle into the station as “a good object lesson.”

After being reprimanded by his commander, Ferd appeared in court the next morning where he apologized, pled guilty and paid a $50 fine.

Less than 60 days later, Ferd was flying missions over South Vietnam out of Phan Rang Airbase in support of ground troops.

By October, after flying home to attend my grandmother’s funeral, Ferd was flying out of Da Nang Airbase on what would be more than 300 missions (sorties) over heavily defended North Vietnam.

Combat fighter pilots were limited to 100 “out-of-country” missions over North Vietnam per tour.  His personal life troubled, Ferd kept “re-upping” for additional tours, where he excelled in combat flying.

Flying a fighter plane, no matter how hazardous the conditions or how many friends were shot down, was what he was meant to do.

Highly decorated with a Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with 26 oak leaf clusters, and even a Bronze Star, Ferd was discharged from active duty on December 18, 1968.

It was brought about the month prior when President Lyndon B. Johnson placed North Vietnam off limits to U.S. fighter aircraft.

While he could never understand why I repeatedly tried every avenue I could to follow in his footsteps between 1967 and 1971, but was turned down, he admitted that he had never felt as alive as he did in combat over North Vietnam.

For 10 months he flew for Thompson Air Service in Utah which did business as Interwest Inc. but it didn’t feel like flying.  His kindred spirit would have been its founder Tailspin Tommy, a stunt pilot who was killed piloting a United Airlines DC-3 when it crashed into San Francisco Bay in 1937.

During his time at Interstate/Thompson, Ferd was repeatedly turned down by commercial airlines due to a combat injury he received while crash landing in Vietnam.

Dejected, he even worked a year in marketing for Mountain Bell Telephone Co. in Salt Lake, but he felt numb.

Then in January 1972 Ferd got on with the DEA as a special agent.  He could fly again with a purpose.

It was dangerous undercover work along both sides of the Arizona border with Mexico, infiltrating and disrupting the notorious Dominguez Family.

Fifteen month later when he was killed, he had just turned 31.

This was a few months before my daughter and only child was born.  It has been more than 40 years now but I still think of him often, as does my younger sister, especially.

The portfolio spans much more of his life than the 9 years from when he discovered his passion in life and his death.  Every time I go through it I learn something new about Ferd as well as myself.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Corruption Rarely Begins As Corruption And Other Lessons

I have a friend who just completed his 24 months as a resident of TROSA in Durham, a best practice treatment center for substance abuse.

Now he is a post grad for a month or two before he walks the stage in their next quarterly graduation ceremony.  As is true for many graduates, the program has had a profound impact on the life of this individual.

I’ve known about TROSA and been friends with its founder from its inception, but I’ve observed even more about why the program has been so successful as I have participated in some events over the past two years.

It takes two years, not just to kick bad habits, but to drill down to the triggers behind them, and most of all, to inculcate values and coping mechanisms including not just work ethic but how to work with others.

These include techniques for conflict resolution and emotional control.  One that is particularly important in the program is zero tolerance for failing to disclose something that is awry, even if you weren’t involved, even if was for a good reason.

TROSA understands that corruption rarely begins as corruption.

It may even be a means to a good end as United Airlines executives recently learned the hard way.

As Dr. Dan Ariely who also calls Durham home, along with his colleagues including Harvard’s Dr. Francesca Gino have shown, “simply seeing another person cheat can lead us to cheat, even if we care about being honest.”

TROSA understands that even omission of acknowledgment is contagious and leads to a slippery slope.

The organization is famous for its entrepreneurial approach.  It’s is too bad one of them isn’t offering workforce and leadership training to businesses and agencies on accountability and the importance of speaking up.

But as Dr. Gino notes in a Harvard Business Review post this week, “Behavior can be contagious even when it’s simply described in a story.”

Stories of people, especially low-level employees, who uphold organizational values is a particularly effective means of “onboarding” new hires especially when it comes to orientations regarding ethics.

In my former life, I saw otherwise good people in each of the communities I represented who always seemed to be dogged by stories of corruption.

What they had in common was the way they made decisions, usually based on “who was asking” for something rather than a strategy of fairness and consistency.

I never felt this shadow on their reputation was deserved but the behaviors that brought it about often made it difficult to work with them as strategic partners because they were always asking me to subtly cross the line.

They never saw themselves that way.

But really, none of us do.

As Dr. Gino wrote in here excellent book entitled, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, we all have “a rose-colored view of who we are and what we do, and we aim to behave in ways that are consistent with our self-image as capable, competent, helpful, and honest individuals.”

The book deals with forces from within, forces from our relationships and forces from the outside, “factors that characterize the context in which we operate and make decisions.

It’s a good book, as is Ariely’s entitled, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.

I always found myself considered a pariah by the “who’s asking” types who would in each of the communities I represented, ultimately make it their objective to recruit as many others around me to their way of thinking, hoping that the isolation would make me give in, or at the very least get me fired.

While holding firm to strategic decision-making about what was best for these communities, I always made doubly certain that our organization gave them every service we were capable of giving while remaining authentic.

But I also owe becoming a better and better leader over the years to these people.  Just because they were wrong doesn’t make them stupid or wrong about everything.

I became the CEO of a destination marketing organization at a very young age, twenty-six, so until the day I retired I viewed myself as a work in progress.

Trying to be rigidly authentic or true to yourself can, if you are not careful, also keep you from evolving.

This all made more sense to me looking back as I read an article a few months ago by Dr. Herminia Ibarra, formerly of Harvard, now professor of organizational behavior at Instead, The Business School for the World, entitled The Authenticity Paradox.

The reputation I earned over four decades was all about change.  I may have led three DMOs but they literally evolved weekly - if not daily - so in essence I led about 1,700 different organizations.

My personal “authenticity paradox” was learning that building consensus for ideas and values among stakeholders in a community can feel, well, more than a bit slimy and political but it can still be data-driven and strategic.

During my career I was intrigued when I was frequently credited with grit, resilience and perseverance so when I come across research into those traits, I try to read carefully.

Based on recent research at The Ohio State University, grit and perseverance in the face of repeated obstacles and even failure arise when an individual is able to generalize from successful past success while still learning from failures.

People who can learn to do this stand out from those who have the appearance of grit but are betrayed by perpetually needing to self aggrandize, making them particularly vulnerable to “who’s asking” decision makers.

The latter may have learned grit but their perseverance masks an otherwise negative self-image, thus the self aggrandizement.

Researchers have found that losing is actually good for us.  People who self aggrandize are put off or threatened by participating in “post mortems” after a projects, something which I adapted from EST training or a Ken Blanchard seminar in the early 1980s.

During post mortems, some people literally can’t or won’t shift gears from “what worked” to “what didn’t work,” no matter how safe and blameless you make them.

Often this is because they have issues with accountability or accepting responsibility but it can also be because they have never learned the values of introspection and curiosity which research by the authors of The Innovator’s DNA found are indicative of a rare blend of humility and confidence.

Possibly this is due to the stories they were told as children, which in the words of Seth Godin, “matter far more than we imagine.”

Values imprint by observation or patterning from birth to age 7, then from modeling or identification until age 13, including making our own value decisions, then from socialization with peers until we’re age 20.

People who can’t admit, let alone learn from failure or even admit “what didn’t work” in an otherwise successful transaction were probably told stories along the way that led them to believe that success came from fixed states, making them vulnerable to “who’s asking.”

Learning from failure and even success, on the other hand, are investments in continuing and never ending improvement rather than chalking it up to fixed states.

The difference is between looking good and actually being good, the essence of authenticity.

These are things TROSA understands – teaches and applies – so beautifully.

New values can be learned after the age of 20 but it is very hard and usually occurs with a significant emotional crisis such as facing up to addiction.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

All Trends Worthy of Strategy Have Historic Roots

I smiled as I read a report of a new study showing that “advanced” DMOs are leveraging their community’s intellectual capital to draw meetings and conventions.

In my personal experience that strategy has been used for at least 45 years.  Only the terminology is new.

That’s when I signed on with my first destination marketing startup, an office at Brigham Young University, in part for the purpose of marketing the campus for summer youth conferences.

In part, the objective was to keep housing and foodservice staff employed through the summer months as well as to tap into faculty expertise as a means to draw the attention of future students.

It was a part-time job for me,  When I moved on to law school at Gonzaga, which I attended full-time at night while working full time during the day to help start the new Spokane Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

We borrowed an idea from Hartley Krueger and Dave Heinl in Seattle.  They were producing monthly breakfasts called GABFAST which stood for “Get A Boost Fast” in an effort to help Seattle recover from a horrible recession brought on by Boeing layoffs.

Remember the famous billboard near SEATAC with the now iconic message put up by two real estate agents for 15 days in April 1971 that read, “Will the last person leaving SEATTLE – turn out the lights?” 

We called our adaptation “AM Spokane,” but it had the same function.  We would invited business and university talent from a particular sector each month, say medical, and rally their support to help SACVB bring meetings to which they belonged back to meet in Spokane.

Soon we learned that site decision makers were as drawn to the local expertise this approach revealed as they were due to local connections with the association or corporation sponsoring the meeting.

We just didn’t use the terms talent or intellectual capital back then.

Even as more cost effective means of communication evolved, this continued to be a one-on-one group sales strategy I would go on to use in two subsequent startups, a completion in Anchorage and one from scratch in Durham, NC before finishing my career.

The new study by DMAI’s empowerMint initiative finds that it is very important for a DMO’s sales staff to alert a planner of relevant “local knowledge clusters” during the selection process.

Over half considered the existence of this local expertise a “competitive advantage.”

We know now that meetings and conventions as a segment of visitation tipped into a long slow decline back in the early 1980s but it still represents 10% of all person visits nationwide.

Recruiting meetings where attendees will have exposure to local talent is also a good means of drawing the interest of relocation scouts who are seeking areas for businesses, often to expand.

Of course, today, an even more strategic approach is to weave that information into communication to leisure visitors.

More than 8-in-10 executives looking to relocate  or expand a business visit a potential destination as a leisure visitor before making official contact.

I am using this trip down memory lane to show that trends we view as relevant today can almost always be found much earlier by “looking back to see forward” as a means of gleaning strategic intuition.

Hidden in the semantics of today’s trends is “strategic rootedness.”  But a DMO doesn’t need to wait.  Strategic intuition gleaned from looking back to see forward is most fruitful if done before trends become trendy.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Right Turn Microaggressions

A week or so ago I read an article in The Atlantic entitled The Coddling of the American Mind and ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for instances where I might be guilty myself of reacting to “microaggressions.”

I love that word.  Funny, although friends describe me as having an insatiable intellectual curiosity, I had not heard that word before even though it was coined back in 1970 when I was a college student.

Now, suddenly, I read it everywhere.

I highly recommend the article.  It deals with a new era of “political correctness” which is enforced today as much by conservatives and helicopter parents (click for humorous video) as it is as a pejorative toward liberals.

Actually, back in the 1970s, liberals used it as a form of self-ridicule until conservatives seized upon it as a pejorative by conservatives in 1990.  Now, if conservatives can see the humor, it appears it will be going full circle.

The authors of the article in this month’s Atlantic note that “There have always been some people who believe they have the right to not be offended.”

Today this translates into “demanding protection from words and ideas” we don’t like.

One of the first papers I read about political correctness was by Bill Lind, a cultural conservative and Tea Partier, who referred to political correctness as “cultural Marxism.”

He might not see the irony of conservatives now embracing “political correctness” e.g. outlawing use of the term climate change, for instance, or cherry-picking official duties like we saw in Kentucky, and refusing to read viewpoints with which they disagree.

In that 2000 paper, Lind observed, “Indeed, all ideologies are totalitarian because the essence of an ideology is to take some philosophy and say on the basis of this philosophy certain things must be true….”

Parenthetically Lind clarified that in his view “conservatism correctly understood is not an ideology…”

As many Southerners have for the past 150 years, I assume this is how he once rationalized that race relations today aren’t the result of slavery but the reconstruction following the Civil War.

Hmmm.  While I thought he was guilty of what he preached, I found his paper thought provoking which is why I always try to read from all sides of an issue.

Often this provides clarity for one’s own thinking even if the viewpoints expressed seem objectionable.

The way I found that “microaggressions” may apply to me is about something not nearly so heavy.

Durham, NC is in the process of taking a roadway down to two lanes as it passes through the Rockwood District,  just south of where I live.

A business or two objected even though the realignment would create more desperately needed street parking as well as additional traffic from customers who would then walk or bike.

If the alterations backfire though, it will be because of a quirk in the way most North Carolinas drive compared to other states.  Most, it seems, do not know how to make a smooth turn right off a roadway and into a parking lot without slowing traffic behind them.

Here, instead, the maneuver involves coming to a near standstill and then gingerly turning every so slowly, forcing the cars behind them to brake and otherwise impeding the flow of traffic and, well, committing a “microaggression” of sorts.

We North Carolinians have adapted though.  We’ve surrendered the entire right lane on many four lane roads to essentially serve as one infinitely long right turn lane pushing all of the through traffic into the left lane, essentially making every roadway one lane in either direction.

This, in effect, defeats the purpose of four lane roads in many places and results in adding more lanes when remedial training on how to make right turns off the roadway would seem far more effective.

But changing cultural idiosyncrasies is more difficult than that.

I haven’t spoken directly to the businesses that complained about necking the four land road through Rockwood into a two lane road with a left turn lane down the center.

But I can bet they fear that driver behavior here when it comes to right turns will create traffic jams, forcing potential customers to take other routes, which would disrupt long established patterns for where they stop to eat or get coffee.

If the project backfires, it won’t be because it didn’t make sense in theory, or that it doesn’t work elsewhere but because it doesn’t make sense for the way most people here choose to drive.

A study should be done one day to find out why a majority of drivers in various states adopt quirky driving habits.

Did Alaska learn to hug the center line in drivers ed?  Did Floridians learn to make right turns from the left lane on the local news?  Did Idahoans master the refusal to come up to speed after turning into traffic purely by observation?”

Are half of all turns in California made without signals because drivers there are clairvoyant?

So there it is.  I am guilty of telling myself a story that different than the other five states in which I have lived, North Carolinians don’t know how to make right turns without impeding traffic behind them and they must be offending me on purpose.

Or maybe I am the one who just committed a “microaggression.”

Seriously, people say and do insensitive or stupid things all the time without being guilty of racism, sexism, ageism or even “right turnism.”  Stereotyping is not always bigotry, but that is where it most often takes root.

But it seems as if being hypersensitive is becoming a distraction from more strategic social evolution.

We seem to spend a lot of time in society now trying to limit or stand up against offense, often at the cost of too much form and not enough substantive change.

Maybe we should worry less about micro or even nano aggressions and insults or how uncomfortable something makes us feel and work more on macro change.

Easy to say when it isn’t your identity that is impacted.

I'll try to remember all of this the next time I find myself muttering along in the right lane while someone, you know, annoys me.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The True Bellwethers of Revitalization

At the conclusion of my last post, I promised to delve further into the DNA of my adopted home town Durham, NC’s emergence as a foodie powerhouse and the bellwether revitalization role of locally-owned chef driven restaurants.

It is a movement rooted here in the 1970s and 1980s, that along with a sense of place revolt, deserves primary credit for Durham’s resurgence, including downtown’s, and helping make it one of the most acclaimed communities anywhere.

But the fingerprints of this movement stretch back nearly 70 years or more.

First, as an aside, it is too bad that communities don’t follow the lead of tiny rural towns such as Ashton, Idaho (pop. 1,000) - the closest place to the ancestral ranch of my birth and early years.

There, the local chamber of commerce is different from others across the nation which have long since deserted sense of place or wisely surrendered it when destination marketing organizations are established for that purpose.

Small rural towns without the resources for specialization are often sources of best practice nuggets.

An example is that Ashton’s volunteer business organization makes an effort to include in the profiles of each member, where possible, the DNA of each location often going back to when the community was established.

One example from my youth traces the heritage of a row of 1920s log cabins as part of a motel that I fondly recall behind the grade school I attended.

I wish I had thought to build this capacity into the DMO inventories and databases for the three communities I represented over the years.

Durham is so extremely fortunate to have Open Durham, a local website created and populated by a friend and physician-turned-developer.

It drills down location by location into the heritage of Durham’s built environment including occupants.

It was interesting to note recently in a Durham News Service post that a local native-returned-home chef plans to open a diner in the storefronts below a mid-century motel under renovation in Downtown Durham.

It happens that when when I was being recruited to come here in the spring of 1989, I ate at another diner in that very location, kitty-corner from the newly opened hotel where I was put up, called the Plaza.

But Open Durham reminds us that it was also the 1910 location of the Plaza Café at the base of the Hackney Building that preceded the classic 1960s motel now under restoration.

I’ve written previously that today’s colony of Durham chef-owner-driven restaurants dates to at least the first half of the 1980’s well before I was I was recruited here to start up and lead the community's official destination marketing organization.

That’s when these locally owned restaurants also became a force for revitalization of districts such as Ninth Street and Downtown.

But their finger prints extend even further back.

Nearly a decade before he opened Café Parizade in the Ninth Street District and Taverna Nikos Downtown, in 1981 Georgios Bakatsias (Bok-i-shaw) who has now concepted and opened restaurants in many cities, opened his first restaurant in Durham.

He was 19 years old when his persistence persuaded a local banker to place trust in him.  One day Durham will recognize that no one has done more than the unpretentious Georgios over so many decades to inspire its culinary prowess.

The former Bakatsias Cuisine was where the restaurant Blue Olive thrives today but while it wasn’t the first of its caliber in Durham including Downtown or the Ninth Street districts, Bakatsias quickly drew attention to Durham’s culinary potential.

Nineteen eighty one (1981) is also the year that Mary Bacon opened the former and soon-to-be-acclaimed Anotherthyme in downtown just as two dilapidated tobacco warehouses nearby were adaptively renovated as Brightleaf Square.

Both were a nod to the awakening brought about by the mid-1970s sense of place revolt that first ignited Downtown Durham’s turnaround.

As I noted in my last essay, it is chef-driven and -owned restaurants that first inhabit areas where the bones of sense of place remain well after their decline, inspiring adaptive reuse developers behind them.

All of what I have outlined so far predated the opening of arguably Durham’s most nationally famous restaurant, the former Magnolia Grill in the Ninth Street District, which chefs Ben and Karen Barker opened in November 1986.

In the early 1980s, it was the Barkers who were one of the very earliest pioneers of what is now known as farm-to-table by sourcing ingredients from local farms.

But the contributions of locally-owned, chef-driven restaurants to Downtown Durham’s revitalization was also nearly a decade before Nana’s and Foster’s Market, both in the Rockwood District, would add to Durham’s acclaim in 1990, while reinvigorating that area.

This was also the year Durham native and Magnolia Grill-alumnus chef Walter Royal, along with partner Don Wexell, opened the former Delta cuisine-themed Crescent Café in the fall of 1990 deep into in the very heart of Downtown.

Royal wasn’t alone.  Chef Mark Day had left Fowler’s Gourmet in 1987 to open a highly acclaimed Bistro a few doors away called Mark’s at Five Points, next to the former Ghirardelli Ravioli Factory (wholesale/retail) which had opened two years earlier.

Both were located where Bull McCabe’s is today and where the former Joe & Jo’s and the indomitable but unpretentious JoAnne Worthington made such an impact on the continued resurgence of downtown between 2002 and 2006 by being, well, Durham.

The Crescent Café opened just as lofts were being created above it in historic buildings along Main Street and just over a year after DCVB had been founded, in part to capitalize on national acclaim such as the Crescent would bring to Durham and downtown by mid-1991.

This was years before Downtown Durham Inc. came to life as an advocate for that area of Durham, fostering economic development from the supply-side as a complement to DCVB’s demand-side approach community wide.

This was also decades before building owners and developers would come to understand how important having truly locally-owned chef-driven restaurants is to not only property values but authenticity and identity.

But the DNA of Durham’s emergence as a foodie town also stretches back long before 1973 when Mary had opened an earlier restaurant in the Ninth Street District called Somethyme.

In many ways, it traces back at least to 1949 which is the first year that Mayola’s Grill opened in what is now the Brightleaf District of Downtown Durham.

It was through the block from what would open as the former Ivy Room later known for “chicken in the rough,” similar to a favorite place on Spokane’s South Hill while I was in law school.

Beverly Osborne who devised “chicken in the rough” in the late 1930s is famous for stating that;

in business, the product is the vehicle that is used to implement a strategy for creating a good idea.”

No one grasps that genius more than locally-owned, chef-driven restaurants.

I miss Mary Bacon’s “AT chicken” at Anotherthyme and the stories she would regale me with about Mayola’s.  In part, it was the sparkle with which she articulated that heritage before her restaurant came about that helped make the DNA connection.

Mayola Nance’s restaurant morphed over the years from grill to grill and fountain to grill, fountain and pool parlor, to chili house, but Mayola’s was always a mainstay of Durham hospitality for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6 a.m. to midnight.

The clientele, too, was like Durham, a blend of blue collar factory workers and university students, researchers and professors as well as bankers and lawyers.

The fun thing about scouring old phone directories such as the one linked from 1949 is that you not only get a sense of businesses at the time such as Mayola’s but you can actually see noted next to various names in the listings exactly who worked there back then.

Playing under Mayola’s feet in the 1940s was a young boy better known today for his weightlifting prowess even at age 76, something he has studied and perfected over more than 60 years now into what is known as Maitland’s Method.

Maitland Nance and personal trainers groomed in his controlled-movement method use it to strengthen clients of all ages in his small boutique studio where we go in the Ninth Street District twice each week across from Duke East Campus.

But in his twenties, Maitland took was he had learned from his Mom growing up in Mayola’s and soon developed or acquired dozens of restaurants in Durham and beyond including some still famous with Duke alumni who often regale them on basketball listservs.

It is a tough business.  Thirty percent of all restaurants fail in their first year and another 30% fail within two years of opening.  The local chefs and restaurants I acknowledge in this post are not only pioneers in sense of place, they were courageous.

Maitland’s included perpetuating the former Turnage’s out on Morreene Road as well as the former A.B. Morris Café across from American Tobacco.  Renamed Nance’s, it was still there when I arrived, although the Lucky Strike factory had abandoned it two years before.

It was virtually all that remained of what has now been resurrected as the American Tobacco District.

It was located near where friends whose DNA traces back decades in Durham’s foodie heritage will open NanaSteak next year at a corner of the just-opened ALoft Durham Downtown hotel, one of four to recently open in downtown alone.

Restaurants lead the way to revitalization while hotels mostly follow it.

Locally-owned, chef-driven restaurants were among the first to grasp that economic development, in the words of Ed McMahon, is “about what you have, not what you don’t have.”

Maitland’s first restaurant was the former Top Hat Bar Grill in the Ninth Street District across from where the acclaimed Watts Grocery is today, near where the famous Green Room is, having been renamed to reflect its role in the movie Bull Durham.

Still in his twenties, that was eight years before Mary Bacon opened Somethyme there.

Sometime in the mid to late 1970s, Maitland opened Maitland’s, a fine dining restaurant in Downtown Durham in Mayola’s location.

It was just after a sense of place revolt had halted the wanton destruction of Urban Renewal eventually drawing the attention of adaptive reuse developers instead.

It is from trolling Maitland’s that Georgios found some of his kitchen staff for Bakatsias Cuisine, some of whom joined him a decade later at Parizade and Taverna Nikos in downtown.

Robert Adams, another Durham native and the longtime executive chef of Parizade, had joined Maitland out of chef school.

It is from kitchens such as Parizade, Anotherthyme, Magnolia Grill, Fosters and Nana’s that a host of new Durham restaurants found their beginnings, including many being spawned today.

In 1981, Maitland, who was more comfortable with basic southern food, sold the site of Maitland’s to Mary Bacon for Anotherthyme, the year Brightleaf Square opened in two wonderfully restored historic tobacco warehouses nearby forging the template other developers have followed for decades now.

Little did he know that a few years later, Magnolia Grill and the Barkers would take basic southern flavors and recipes to the height of acclaim in the food world.

Restaurants are the bellwethers for resurrecting downtowns and forging other even more organic districts in a community, such as Durham’s Ninth Street.

Chef-driven and owned restaurants are at the epicenter for bringing settings back to life while preserving sense of place.

This is not meant to take anything away from economic developers, such as I was, or development advocacy associations or financial backers, including governments granting incentives, or the development community.

But all of these and more are merely cogs when viewed strategically.

Today as noted in the SlideShare document linked to the image above, huge national developers, such as North American Properties, have identified locally-owned chef driven and owned restaurants as “the secret sauce,” to “establishing an identity.”

Nearly 40 years ago, Durham became a pioneer not only in North Carolina but nationwide in the realization that locally-owned chef-driven restaurants are one of the first and most important ingredients to revitalization. 

Any recognition of the revitalization we see here today is grossly remiss if that heritage is not prominently recognized.

Friday, September 04, 2015

New Discoveries Related to An Excursion 26 Years Ago

It crossed my mind recently as I commuted the short distance from a lakeside retreat in northeastern Person County back down to Durham, NC which has been my home since 1989, that it was horses and a good steak that caused me to first make the journey up there 26 years ago.

I wanted to see a pasture full of Percheron, a breed of draft horses.  Back then these teams spent a good deal of time on the road, pulling an old 1900s farm wagon through small town parades on behalf of Southern States, a farmer’s coop.

By the time I was born, a fifth generation Idaho horse and beef cattle rancher, the bottom was falling out of the market for horses.

When my great grandparents had homesteaded and assembled that spread along the Henry’s Fork in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho, there were more than 22 million horses in the United States.

By the time I came along four decades later the number had dropped from nearly 12 million at the end of World War II to just 7.6 million in the late 1940’s.  By the time I turned 12 years old there were barely 3 million nationwide including our three working saddle horses.

My paternal grandfather who had bred and trained draft horses back when there was a market for them also had a reputation earned as a trainer for saddle horses.

He kept three teams of draft animals for nostalgia while I was coming up playing among them and my favorite had been a beautiful, black and gray speckled, purebred Percheron named Dolly.

By the time I arrived in Durham in mid-1989, recruited to establish my fifth community destination marketing startup (two from scratch) in my now long concluded career, the community was already well on its way to earning a national reputation for great restaurants.

In fact, most people where were here by then agree with Dr. Nathan Vandergrift, the head of Duke University’s Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Center, who once noted regarding that era”:

"…what's put Durham back on track is food…"

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but Durham’s re-emergence including the resurrection of Downtown began in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

My subsequent arrival and the founding of DCVB to distill Durham’s personality and manage the community’s reputation as well as foster and leverage Durham’s sense of place, including its food scene, into demand-side economic development certainly played a role.

But revitalization was firmly underway more than two decades before the founding of Downtown Durham Inc. to champion the supply-side and three decades before tax incentives spawned newer developments often credited today.

I definitely wasn’t the second coming for Durham, nor was anyone who followed.  That designation belongs to sense of place preservationists including the late 1970s DNA that spawned its reputation for great chefs.

So what was I doing at a steak place clear up in Person County so soon after my arrival?  Northern Durham County and much of adjacent Person County remind me of my rural roots.

Anywhere I’ve lived, it is settings such as this that still ground me when I gravitate to them.  It may be why I am also so intrigued by Person County’s Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm and the fact that as late as 1728, Buffalo still inhabited the bottoms of what is today’s Hyco Lake. across the from our retreat on Lake Mayo.

On the way back from seeing those Percheron back in 1990, we stopped at a restaurant in outer Timberlake that had been opened by the Cash’s three years earlier now called the Homestead Steakhouse and Country Store, one of two notable steakhouses in Person County.

By the time I arrived or soon after, the Cash’s had also opened a great breakfast diner I frequented in uptown Roxboro called Farmers Supply which, unfortunately, a subsequent owner took under by not remitting sales taxes.

Our lakeside retreat is in Holloway Township but it is within a nice drive through countryside to Roxboro, a town of between 8,000 and 9,000 or a fifth of  Person County’s population.

Yanni, a chef-friend of ours in Durham recently put us onto a great new restaurant up in little ‘ole Roxboro named Brookland Eats.

It was recently founded by two Northern Durham High School classmates after returning to North Carolina, one with roots up there, who opened in a restaurant space in a restored 113-year-old building at the intersection of Old Durham and Allensville roads.

They lured a well-known chef with them back to his native Person County.

Technically, Brookland Eats is in Brooksdale, a township of Person County that is incorporated into the Roxboro town limits.  The old building used to be a Fox & Co. general merchandise store back in the day.

The proprietor, G.M. Fox, married a Brooks, the family for whom the now neighborhood is named.  The name Brookland Eats is a nod to Brooksdale I suspect and sense of place.

Good restaurants understand the monetary value of accenting authentic sense of place.

Designations, including postal and statutory, but not authentic sense of place.

More in the next post on the earlier DNA of Durham’s 1980s era culinary reputation that is so evident in its chef driven restaurants of today.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Influence of Labeling on Food Choices

We dine out six times a week and I am one of those guys who nearly always makes substitutions.  In my case it is to substitute more vegetables in place of starches and sugary stuff.

But according to the National Restaurant Association, 70% of diners customize their meals.  In part, this is the reason the NRA has long opposed nutritional labeling requirements on menus.

In July, the FDA issued nationwide requirements for labeling by December 1, 2016.  Unfortunately, the requirement only applies to food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations.

Of course the most common objection is that this will cost jobs.

This is also a claim that was made by many opposed to the Affordable Care Act, which required the labeling.  It is a reasonable caution that has now proven unfounded according to this chart in the Washington Post.

But with such limited application nutritional menu labeling won’t replace at least anytime soon the very popular food diary app MyFitnessPal (MFP) which cites medical studies finding that keeping a food journal doubles weight loss.

MFP has 85 million users now and has been acquired by Under Armour.

Many users synch it with activity trackers such as Fitbit, so last fall year when it was closing in on the 65 million mark, it conducted a study among 2,200 users in the United States and discovered the link between weight loss and friends.

It turns out that 44% prefer to keep their workouts private.  Of the 56% who prefer company 33% do it with a friend, 11% with a relative and 12% do it in a group exercise class (extroverts, I presume.)

Half noted that they would be inspired if their closest friend or relative lost 20 lbs.  Telling though is that one-in-six responded that they would react negatively with envy instead.

When it comes to fitness goals, negativity can be as viral as reinforcement can.  Many of those who are negative, the researcher noted, have given up that anything will ever work.  I would add that they don’t seem to want to make it work either.

These “haters” will be even more resentful as they order from a menu soon because nutritional information will lay bare to their friends and family the fact that their real problem is the food choices they make.

I felt this as a tall but heavy-set woman with ailing hips and/or knees who was taking her sweet time ordering in front of me at a Subway last week.

She interrupted her phone conversation to be sure the server put double meat on her foot-long as well as four full-length squirts of different sauces.

Had she consulted MFP, she would have probably seen that the sauces had as many calories as the entire sub.

She wasn’t going to be denied nor was she going to be rushed along which I suspect may be contributing to her weight and her disintegrating joints, a sense of entitlement she will take with her to the hospital as she drives healthcare costs up for others too.

MFP’s genius is that it makes you aware of tradeoffs but it can’t overcome denial and stubbornness yet.

Studies of restaurants posting nutritional information on menus show only a modest changes in the choices people make about the foods they eat although there is the argument that we all have a right to know what’s in our food.

But studies of another system, called Nutricate, which for several years has given restaurants the ability to print nutritional information as well as suggestions on receipts are much more promising.

Invented in 2006 by the founder of Silvergreens, Nutricate is much more than the smart receipts that push you to buy more and eat more by offering coupons which have a redemption rate of 3.5%.

Nutricate gives you a nutritional tally of what you order including subtracting or adding for substitutions as well as “did you knows” with information about more nutritional alternatives.

The result is not only cost-effective marketing for repeat customers but economists at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that by simplifying complex choices, Nutricate significantly changed people’s choices of what to order for the better.

All of this without reducing total sales I might add.

The researchers conclude that the reason the receipt approach works better than more complex menu approach is salience, much the way Netflix works by tracking preferences and making suggestions.

By this they mean that processing all of the information on a menu may cause some people cognitive overload while putting it on the receipt makes it more prominent.

At any rate, for those who are struggling with weight issues and food choices, note that solutions could be a close as your mobile device.