We had our board meeting in Ft. Lauderdale this week, our most important one ever I think.
We’ve decided to shoot for the stars this year. Full-court press. Pouring gasoline on the fire. Pick your metaphor.
It’s not that we weren’t going all out before. On the contrary. I’ve never worked harder. We’ve just been hyper-thrifty. Scrappy. I learned the hard way in my first company that it’s too easy to blow money on things you don’t need before you know how to tell the difference.
We spent the first few years of this business learning 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. The last two years, we graduated to full-blown LED.
Here’s a chart of our monthly database/user/poll response growth over the past six months – with the absolute numbers hidden because that’s our little secret:
Sidney Crosby could go top shelf with that thing. It’s tiger-by-the-tail kind of stuff. I promise I’ll stop with the metaphors. I’m feeling lazy this morning.
Don’t get me wrong. We won’t be spending like drunken sailors (oops, promise broken) all of a sudden. Our COO and I still shared a hotel room this week and I parked in the extended lot at the airport to save $50. I save my extravagance for personal stuff.
But we are going to invest, smartly but vigorously. We have a big new office to fill and the standard of talent we set here doesn’t come cheap. Yeah, we’ll put a sign on the top of the building. Call that frivolous if you want. I’ll call it recruitment.
I can’t tell you exactly how we’re going to invest – some things have to remain confidential. My guess is that certain things will become pretty evident to you soon enough.
In the meantime, here’s what we’re seeing this week:
Consumer confidence is bouncing like a ball right now. We’ve seen some unusual alternating swings in our Economic Sentiment Index since the first of the year. Our most recent reading climbed 1.9 points over the past two weeks, essentially the same exact value it lost the reading prior. The end of the government shutdown and a strong January jobs report seem to have boosted the public mood, even if we’re still a far cry from the pre-Thanksgiving highs.
Nobody should be fighting rising drug prices more than the restaurant industry. Huh? Yeah, you heard me. I’ve been telling you since we met that rising healthcare costs are one of the biggest threats to the restaurant industry, especially since the advent of the ACA. Think about it – people who never needed to pay for health insurance now do. And that group also tended to be the same cohort who eat the most at QSR joints and the like. When consumers are asked where they’re most likely to cut spending if healthcare costs rise, dining out is 3X more common than other categories. But after dropping slightly in 2018, it came back with a vengeance in the last couple of months, reaching its highest point ever in our research.
I’m guessing most of you didn’t get my Sidney Crosby reference because hockey still can’t seem to pierce the mainstream. Only about 13% of U.S. consumers say they follow the NHL “very” or “somewhat closely” – compared to, say, 42% for the NFL – and that number hasn’t improved for as long as we’ve tracked it. The biggest problem for the league is how little it appeals to the largest growth segments – urban, Black and Hispanic, and GenZ – which doesn’t bode well for the future if something doesn’t change. That sucks. I love hockey.
Younger generations are less likely to believe in vaccinating children and I want to pull my hair out. I’m sorry if you’re among the 8% of Americans in the anti-vaxxer camp. Don’t email me about it because you won’t change my mind. We published a great study about public attitudes toward vaccinations and I learned a lot. For example, there’s a huge correlation between being an organic food-buyer and anti-vaccine. Most notable (and concerning), in my opinion, is that 18-29 year-olds are nearly twice as likely to oppose vaccines for children. Ugh.
The popularity of Uber in New York City is skyrocketing and Lyft isn’t even close. As a loyal Uber user – particularly during all of my New York travel – this data intrigued me. In 2018, 41% of people who live or work in the NYC metro area reported using Uber, up from 24% in 2017. For comparison, 22% of NY adults say they used Lyft in 2018, up from 18% the year prior.
Somehow non-alcoholic beer is becoming a thing again. Apparently, a number of fancy beer-makers are releasing new unleaded versions and experts think the market is prime to grow. Our data suggest that they have a big hill to climb, primarily because so many people who have tried NA beers don’t like them (by a factor of over 3:1) and only 2% seem interested in giving them a shot. Maybe these new products will be better. I’ll never, ever know.
Some Random (Singing) Stats of the Week
- 30% of Americans think they can sing;
- But 63% sing while driving (and 71% of women);
- 32% sing in the shower;
- And only 17% sing karaoke;
- 35% of people would rather get a root canal than sing in front of an audience.
Hoping you’re well.