Groupon Minneapolis Deals are Pretty Solid

I’m sure a lot of you have already tried Groupon, based on the emails I receive from friends passing along offers that they find particularly interesting.

For those of you not already familiar with the service, it’s a new spin on couponing where the service posts one offer a day (on their website and via email) for a local business. But rather than being a coupon offer, it’s a heavily discounted gift card, so you need to pay up to earn the offer.

Examples of this have been things like $50 restaurant gift cards on sale for $20-$25. Spas, skydiving, and cosmetic dental services.

On the plus side, the offers have been surprisingly local. I was hesitant to sign up for this because I figured it would be overrun with national chains that I tend not to go to, deal or not. However, that has proven to be not the case.

The metrics of Groupon are intriguing. For example, Tiger Sushi on Lyndale at the Midtown Greenway ran an offer to purchase $45 gift cards for $20. This was one of the most popular recent deals.

Tiger Sushi Groupon Offer

I assume this is because it was for more than 50% off and in a popular part of town where Groupon likely has solid traction.

As the above image shows, they sold 4,993 of these, so, at $20 each, nearly $100,000 was spent on that day’s offer at Groupon. As I understand the metrics, about half of that goes to the vendor, so Tiger Sushi received around $50,000 and Groupon brought in nearly $50,000.

Money in the bank is certainly a good thing. But what happens if all 4,993 of those Groupon purchasers shows up to redeem their gift cards? The ~$50,000 Tiger Sushi earned comes with the promise of being willing to fulfill $224,685 worth of tabs. I’m not intimately familiar with restaurant margins, but that seems like a pretty large exposure to me.

However, the numbers must make sense, since Groupon is kicking butt all over the country with this model. If the offers weren’t working for businesses, word would get around fast and the wind would be gone from Groupon’s sails.

To make this work, the following likely happens:

1. Acquiring new customers: Take a loss on the first visit, but earn a new customer in the process. This virtually guarantees that you’ll get new customers in the door.

2. Over-spenders. A tab at a sushi place will likely run well beyond $45. If it doesn’t, you probably will know why by the next morning.

3. Spoilage. A substantial number of Groupon purchasers probably never get around to using the gift cards they’re purchased. This is obviously the highest margin side of this equation for the vendor.

What else do you think is in play here?

Could a Truly Local Version Work?

Assuming the numbers make sense, it would be interesting to see if this would work locally with local control. For example, what if the Lake Street Council pushed out daily or weekly offers on behalf of local businesses? Primary subscribers to offers like that would likely be people nearby, but it may be the thing that puts them over the top to invite friends from faraway places like St Paul or Linden Hills to see what Lake Street is all about these days.

Hmm, along the Lake Street brainstorming flow, how about local businesses offering deals to groups that can prove they brought people into the neighborhood? If you’re from zip codes 55406, 55407, or 55408 and can prove that you brought at least two people from elsewhere to the venue, you’ll eligible for something rad. Try it and see.

Urbanspoon News Feed Filter

I really like Urbanspoon as a service for keeping track of restaurants I’ve been to and ones I want to track. Variety is one of the things I like when it comes to dining.

One of the cool features the site offers is a news feed, where you can see what restaurants your friends have voted up or town, new photos of places you’ve shown an interest in, and new reviews of places you’ve shown an interest in. You can even grab an RSS feed of the alerts by clicking this link near the bottom right of your profile page:

Urbanspoon Newsfeed Filter

Then clicking the Spoonfeed icon:

Urbanspoon Newsfeed Filter

Unfortunately, this can get pretty noisy once you’ve voted on a bunch of restaurants. For example, here’s a small sampling of the notices I’ve recently received about new photos being uploaded to the service to restaurants I’ve shown an interest in.

Urbanspoon Newsfeed Filter

It’s turned into a fire hose for me.

So, Yahoo Pipes to the rescue.

Urbanspoon Newsfeed Filter

I took the RSS feed mentioned above and filtered out the types of alerts that don’t interest me. These are photos, when friends add new friends, and reviews from magazines. So now it’s distilled down to the up and down votes my Urbanspoon connections give to the restaurants they’ve visited. This gives me ideas on places that may be worth checking out (or avoiding) and it shows me what they thought of places I’ve already been to. Small nuggets of information I find valuable.

If this interests you as well, you can take your own Spoonfeed RSS URL over here to filter it down to the same specs, or clone it and tweak it to your own preferences.

Smore Cupcake with a Side of Minneapolis Skyline

The Bedlam Theater’s rooftop patio is among the best in the city.

What’s so good about it:

– Beer
– Cupcakes
– Free WiFi
– On the LRT
– and LRT bike path
– $3 good beer during HH
– $2 Hamm’s on Tuesdays

Positive features.

John Moe’s Candy Club on Twitter

John Moe’s Candy Club on Twitter cracks me up. In a nutshell, once a week, John and his fellow candy enthusiasts pick a candy to all try at the same time on Twitter, then tweet about their experiences with it. You can follow along on Twitter’s search engine by searching for the #candyclub hashtag.

The candies chosen to date have been fairly dentally challenging with Skittles, Bit-O-Honey, and Milk Duds being reviewed over the past three weeks. Next week is a coconut showdown between Almond Joy and Mounds at noon CST on Marth 9th. Visualize the match-up here or here or here.

I picked up some Milk Duds in preparation for this past week’s candy club, but ended up being somewhere between Minneapolis and Phoenix during the allotted Candy Club time. Here’s a shot as we started to taxi back:

Milk Duds for #candyclub

I had a few on the plane – stalled out – and think the rest of the box should last me a lifetime.

Minnehaha Dairy Queen’s New Bike Drive Thru

Dairy Queen's Bike Drive Thru

What what I’ve heard, the window on the side of the new Dairy Queen near Minnehaha Park is going to be used as a bike drive thru. As far as I know, this is the first of its kind in Minneapolis. I can imagine this filling up with families in their 6-person bike rentals from the park.

While in the ‘hood, I found an interesting display of handicap parking failure where this SUV managed to screw things up for not one by two handicap spots by parking in the buffer zone between the spots.

Parking Between Handicap Spots at DQ

It turns out that there is a reason for those stripes of paint on the pavement.

I Can See Tim Horton’s From Tim Horton’s

Tim Horton's from a Tim Horton's

I’m not sayin’ that Canadians like Tim Horton’s. I’m just sayin’ that I can see a Tim Horton’s from a Tim Horton’s. Check the background on the right.

Tim’s has a couple quirks. They only credit card they take is MasterCard, so it’s like the opposite of the Olympics, which kind of makes sense for a donut shop.

They also have a no loitering policy with Max. 20 Minutes signs displayed in their stores. Shove down the calories and be on your way. Don’t expect to find WiFi anytime soon in a place like this.

El Norteno Update: Closed for Funeral

I’ve had a few conversations with people recently who’ve mentioned that El Norteno has been rather dark during normal restaurant business hours lately. This caused some concern that they may have shut their doors. However, upon closer inspection, here is the explanation:

El Norteno Temporary Closing

To the ladies at El Norteno: sorry to hear about your father passing away. I look forward to stopping by for lunch this coming week.

BK Kids Meals – Minneapolis’ Campbell Mithun’s Junk Food Client

BK Kids Meal

I don’t have kids or eat many kids meals at junk food restaurants, so I’m not particularly familiar with what places like Burger King have been peddling as food to children lately. But I recently became aware of what “kids meals” looks like these days after finding out that our fellow Minnesotans are responsible for marketing Burger King’s BK Kids Menu crap to children.

Some local folks at the downtown Minneapolis ad agency, Campbell Mithun, helped put together a recent Burger King campaign with cartoon TV ads for placement between kids shows on Nickelodeon, Disney XD, and Cartoon Network:

“We were challenged to create an effective way to reach kids that would stand out in the crowded world of kids advertising. We knew that we wanted to take a fun, relatable approach because of our key insight that associates mealtime with playtime. Advertising through animation became an obvious choice because, these days, with advanced levels of style and the quick response time animation provides, it seemed like a no-brainer,” says Ben Fruehauf, VP, creative director with Campbell Mithun.

I suppose it makes sense to stick with cartoons as ads. That may help confuse kids, who already have a hard time telling the difference between ads and television shows.

The press release about this campaign on the MN PR Blog points out that this campaign meets the advertising industry’s self-set standards for marketing food to kids:

All of the spots in the campaign highlight BK® Kids Meals, which meet the nutritional guidelines of the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Food & Advertising Initiative (CBBB).

That comment fails to mention that the “nutritional guidelines” are self-imposed guidelines regarding what businesses will advertise to children, but not necessarily what they’ll sell to children. Here are the Core Principals of this advertising initiative:

Companies participating in this initiative will publicly commit to advertising that will further the goal of promoting healthy dietary choices and healthy lifestyles to children under 12. These commitments will be set forth in an individual “Pledge” for each participant. Because companies and their product lines vary, company commitments also will vary.

There is not a lot of teeth in that statement. Perhaps they lost them to junk food?

Here is a nugget from Burger King’s latest pledge:

Nutrition Criteria
Burger King Corp.’s stringent nutrition criteria for Kids Meals (consisting of an entree, side dish and beverage) is defined as:
– No more than 560 calories per meal;
– Less than 30 percent of calories from fat;
– Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat;
– No added trans fats;
– No more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars;
– No more than 600 milligrams of sodium; and
– A “good source” or “excellent source” of at least two of the following nutrients: calcium, fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E.

Looking back at the food included in the ad at the top of this post, you can see an example of this. Burger King includes a less than 560 calorie meal of two mini-burgers, apple juice, and apple fries in the ad placed at kid’s height in the entrance to their Hiawatha Ave & 46th St E location in Minneapolis.

This does sound like a decent pledge. However, keep in mind that this is what Burger King is pledging to advertise to kids under the age of 12, which appears to have little to do with what Burger King is willing to offer to kids under the age of 12 on their BK Kids Menu.

Here is what Burger King lists as their BK Kids Menu on their website.

BK Kids Menu

BK Kids Menu

Yes, one of the items is a double cheeseburger. Here is what mine looked like:

BK Kids Meal

Has any parent at home ever served their “kids menu” aged child a double cheeseburger at home? Why is that on the BK Kids Menu?

Now, Campbell Mithun isn’t pimping double cheeseburgers to kids . . . directly. That would not be Minnesota nice or live up to BK’s pledge. Instead, they choose to promote a “better-for-you” item from the menu in the campaign: Apple Fries. This allows Campbell Mithun and Burger King to abide by self-imposed healthy food advertising guidelines.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Apple Fries, Burger King takes real apples, removes the skin, slices them into french fry shapes, soaks them in preservatives, puts them in plastic bags, then ships them to their restaurants around the world along with an accompanying package of caramel flavored high fructose corn syrup. They then advertise this as a “better for you” options on their kids menu.

BK Kids Meal

Rather than push double cheeseburgers, Campbell Mithun has created ads for these “better for you” apple fries with corn syrup to get kids in the door. Here are the apple fries, after dumping them into the fry sleeve they’re served with:

BK Kids Meal

The Stop Being So Fat blog compared the apple fries Campbell Mithun is promoting to a real apple and found that Burger King is selling around one half of an apple for $1.50. The highly preserved slices take around 2 days to start turning brown. That’s a lot of preservatives. Yes, they are kind of florescent in person.

The Apple Fries are 70 calories per serving. 25 of those calories come from the apples. The other 45 from the corn syrup caramel.

As I see it, Burger King and Campbell Mithun have found a way to market to kids by using highly processed apple slices as a gateway food. It allows them to market to kids with a somewhat clean conscience. Once in the door, kids or their parents may choose to get the apple fries, or go with regular french fries. Take another look at the BK Kids Menu above. Notice any deep fried potatoes on there? Nope. But they are indeed an option on the BK Kids Menus at their restaurants.

Burger King also offers “better for you” fat free milk on their kids menu . . .

BK Kids Meal

. . . with a Hershey’s chocolate logo on the front. They offer chocolate milk from Hersey’s as well. Both are better options than soda, but it’s a shame that they put a candy bar logo on the bottle.

While a parent could be pestered into a trip to Burger King by their child based on the lure of cartoons about highly preserved apple fries, it’s quite possible that the meal that ends up in front of that child could look like this:

BK Kids Meal Option

With the following calorie breakdown:

BK Kids Meal Option

Which is nearly double the calories of the BK Kids Menu meals Burger King and Campbell Mithun choose to advertise.

To me, this is a case of talking the talk without walking the walk. If Burger King was serious about offering healthy food choices to children, they wouldn’t offer meal combinations that account for 2/3rd of a child’s daily needs.

Here are a few scenarios from the BK Kids menu:

1. It’s impossible to build a less than 560 calorie kids meal (Burger King’s kid-friendly pledge) if it has the double cheeseburger in it. Even with skim milk and the apple fries, it hits 630.

2. It’s impossible to build a less than 560 calorie kids meal if it includes small french fries. Small fries have 440 calories.

3. Starting with a small soda (non-diet) and the apple fries, only the Mac & Cheese, Hamburger, Cheeseburger, and 4-Piece Chicken Crowns make the 560 calorie cutoff.

Put another way, the majority of the meal combinations one could construct on the BK Kids menu don’t live up to Burger King’s own pledge. Of course, the pledge reflects what food combinations they’ll advertise but not what they’re willing to serve.

Burger King breaks down the meal combinations they say are kid friendly here. Reading the materials there (pdf), it looks like Burger King is stating that there are only 4 meal combinations on their menu that they’ll advertise to children.

Mac & Cheese Kids Meal
– KRAFT® Macaroni & Cheese
– BKTM Fresh Apple Fries, Low-Fat Caramel Dipping Sauce
– HERSHEY’S® Fat-Free White Milk

Hamburger Kids Meal
– Hamburger
– BKTM Fresh Apple Fries, Low-Fat Caramel Dipping Sauce
– Calcium-fortified MINUTE MAID® Apple Juice

BK BURGER SHOTS® Kids Meal
– BK BURGER SHOTS®
– BKTM Fresh Apple Fries, Low-Fat Caramel Dipping Sauce
– Calcium-fortified MINUTE MAID® Apple Juice

4-pc CHICKEN TENDERS® Kids Meal
– 4-pc CHICKEN TENDERS®
– BKTM Fresh Apple Fries, Low-Fat Caramel Dipping Sauce
– HERSHEY’S® Fat-Free White Milk

Is this a real effort to use their substantial power to improve the eating habits of children, or is this a bait and switch based on advertising one thing while serving something entirely different to children?

As far as I can tell, Burger King isn’t reporting what impact advertising apple fries has had on what people actually buy. Because of this, I get the impression that BK is playing advertising games with the help of Campbell Mithun rather than attempting to do something meaningful about child obesity.

I’m Pro-Adult Carrots and I Vote

Kate reminded me of an issue that’s interested me for a while now and deserves more attention. Baby carrots vs adult carrots.

Adult Carrots at Seward Coop
Adult Carrots at Seward Coop

I also didn’t peel my carrots, and I’ve demanded baby carrots never enter my house again. You know they aren’t actually mini carrots right? They are just carrots widdled down into nubs. And guess where those yummy nutrients are? Right underneath the skin. If you’re concerned about it being dirty, I think that thing by the window is called a sink. Carrots unpeeled are no dirtier than a potato with it’s skin on. Please tell me you eat the skin of your potatoes.

So true, Kate.

Few have gone further down the road of adult vs baby carrots (that should really be “carrots vs. shaved down carrots) than Rocco at Jackalope Ranch, who addressed this in multiple posts in 2003, starting with a story at Powderhorn Park:

A couple weeks ago I went to the Powderhorn Park May Day Parade. And what I remember from that day wasn’t the crazy bikes, but that my new friend Gabe was eating a carrot old-school style. And I mean Oooooold school. Forget that Baby Carrot Fad that defined the 90s or the 80s peel-your-carrots-first rage that swept the country. Gabe was eating an old-fashioned whole, unpeeled, but washed carrot. Retro cool.

Rocco, being an adventurous eater, tried eating a carrot “old-school style”:

So today, for the first time in years, I ate a whole, unpeeled carrot at lunch, rather than my usual 12 baby carrots. It ruled! Whole carrots dominate big time over baby carrots. What the hell have I been thinking all these years??? Everyone needs to jump Gabe’s Whole Carrot Bandwagon!!!!

This led to posts about the big carrot revolution.

If you’ve been living in a sheltered baby carrot world, I recommend stopping by your local coop to buy some fresh carrots to try. You may find one subtle difference between them and baby carrots: They have flavor (like carrots).