Porter Novelli

The Porter Novelli team was busy in its first day in Austin. Below are a couple of recaps of activities from Meghan Lewis and Harold Reid.

Meghan Lewis – Southbites

“Tipping is the norm in industries where self-respect is the lowest.”—It was a bold realization shared by master restauranteur Danny Meyer (thank you for bringing Shake Shack to Atlanta!) as he talked with Bon Appetit editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport during the SXSW Southbites panel Will ‘No-Tipping’ Save the Restaurant Industry?. Danny’s point—we don’t tip lawyers, pilots or doctors for doing a great job, so why are we tipping servers, hair dressers, doormen, etc.. He referenced how how tipping has become a practice for punishing people—if you get poor service, you punish your waiter by lowering their tip, but now they can’t make their rent. Should the restaurant goer have that much power in a server’s ability to pay their rent? Mr. Meyer believes it is demeaning to assume servers are only being nice to customers because they want a tip; servers don’t want to sell more so they can get a tip—they want to please more, so a verbal thank you also can go a long way.

Historically, tipping began in Europe when the extremely wealthy wanted to acknowledge above and beyond behavior in their staff, but in America, post slavery abolition, it became a workaround for people who didn’t want to pay their staff. Now, Mr. Meyer says “A tip is a commission, a multiplier. It’s not based on service and while server wages are increasing, line cooks’ wages are not,” and this affects his bottom line as he works to prevent turnover in a historically volatile industry.

Anytime you see a problem and try to develop a solution, you’re going to make a lot of people angry. And there has certainly been a resistance to Mr. Meyer’s no tipping policy at his restaurant, The Modern, but he’s working toward a solution. It may not be perfect yet, but he’s willing to stand up and say restaurant employees deserve the right to make a living wage without a customer’s tip, especially for line cooks, who aren’t seeing the tips that servers see, even though they are putting the food on your plate. Is Mr. Meyer’s solution the best answer? I don’t know yet, but it’s an experiment I’m really interested to see unfold and I applaud him for having the courage to start the conversation.

Other tidbits:

  • Adam Rapoport, EIC at Bon Appetit, says the best deal in NYC is the soup and sandwich lunch at Gramercy Tavern—I’d believe him!
  • If forced to choose between the Shake Shack burger or fried chicken sandwich, Danny Meyer votes chicken—me too!
  • Danny Meyer’s favorite thing at Shake Shack is dipping the french fries in the coffee shake.

Harold Reid – SXSports

Panel: Keeping the Buzz Going After the Crowd Goes Home with Sanya Richards-Ross

  • I’m a former collegiate track athlete so there was no way that I would miss this panel. Sanya Richards-Ross is one of the top track athletes of all-time and from the outside looking in she is very down to earth. The first thing Sanya did after she got settled into her seat was take a quick video for SnapChat. She knows her brand and is authentic. Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal served as the facilitator. He asked some great questions ranging from Rio 2016 Olympics and the Zikas virus to the moment that she won a gold medal in the 400m final to her business endeavors. Sanya addressed the imbalance of support for female athletes versus male athletes. She also mentioned that many of the athletes she knows still have 9 to 5s. One of the highlights of the day for me was when she mentioned Francena McCorory, a Hampton U. alum, and a decisive moment at the 2012 Olympics.

image002Panel: ELEAGUE: eSports Goes Mainstream with Rick Fox

  • I have been hearing so much about eSports since the beginning of the year that I had to attend the panel to learn more. I thought it was simply gaming. I had no idea it was a global sport with the best gamers in the world coming together to compete for elite status. I had no idea that eAthletes existed, have training facilities and get paid to do something they love. What was even more compelling, was the fact that former NBA star, Rick Fox, has become a major player. Even more impressive was the fact that it all started with him connecting with his son through gaming and fast forward to now him owning his own team/ company – Echo Foxtrot. 

Panel: How Sports Can Slow Innovation with Kenny Lauer

  • The panel included a mashup of digital, research and data experts. Very similar to the mad scientist approach that I encounter each day as I juggle a uniquely diverse set of responsibilities. The panelist included Kenny Lauer, VP of Marketing & Digital for the Golden State Warriors and Shona Halson, Senior Physiologist, Australian Institute of Sports. And Mark McLusky of Wired served as the facilitator. Kenny mentioned that there is always a desire to be first in the NBA. The Warriors were one of the first to wear the sleeved jerseys and to install cameras that track the movement of every player on the court from the home team and the opposing team. He also mentioned that the NBA is very collaborative, and other teams will share best practices. Shona addressed how difficult it can be to get athletes to buy-in to measurement and data until they see the results. Once the athletes understand that the measurement tools in place can help them achieve success they fully embrace all the bells and whistles.

Panel: Understanding Supporter Culture in MLS with Corey Furlan + Sean Dane

  • I am a lover of all sports, but I admit soccer is one of the sports where I need more exposure and to discover the growing impact of the sport stateside. The session proved to be one of my favorite panels of the day. The passion of Corey and Sean was off the charts. Brian Dunseth shared his experience as an MLS athlete during the early stages and Jennifer Muller, reminded me of the guy from the Visine commercials. They shared war stories of how they helped to lay the foundation to create an unmatched fan experience that was mutually beneficial to the athletes. They weren’t getting paid to build this environment and their army of supporters. It was truly about their love for the team and the game. They had me ready to fly to Philly and Kansas to buy a jersey and come to a game.