Actionable Insights From APT's Retail Practice

Author Archives: CCorman

Home Delivery: Pizza, Chinese food, and now Burger King – is it right for your restaurants?

February 28th, 2012 | Posted by CCorman in Labor & Operations - (Comments Off on Home Delivery: Pizza, Chinese food, and now Burger King – is it right for your restaurants?)

Americans love eating and really love convenience culture—this makes the ascendancy of food-delivery sites like GrubHub and Seamless unsurprising. Restaurant owners watching the app-friendly trend are smart to consider launching an delivery service themselves.

With its sleek new website, this is just what Burger King is doing. A Washington Post blogger reports that “the Web essentially exploded” with reaction to the new service, despite the fact that it caters only to a smattering of locations in a few metro areas. (more…)

Throwing Bricks at Amazon: How to Compete through Multiple Channels

February 27th, 2012 | Posted by CCorman in Retail | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Throwing Bricks at Amazon: How to Compete through Multiple Channels)

In 1995, corporate strategic planners were hardly shaking in their boots about the launch of, which at the time was primarily a bookseller. Now, with an annual revenue approaching $50 billion (it’s doubled since 2009), executives from companies such as Best Buy and The Home Depot are concerned. In fact, in June 2011, 20% of all online retail visits – 280 million — were to, with another 30% divided between the second and third largest e-tail sites, eBay and Alibaba, respectively.

Those are some daunting statistics, but if you’re a brick and mortar retailer, take comfort in knowing that traditional retailers have the ability to compete by leveraging a preexisting competitive advantage: multiple channels. (more…)

Big data, but where’s the big value?

February 15th, 2012 | Posted by CCorman in Retail - (Comments Off on Big data, but where’s the big value?)

Do you remember twenty years ago when you were deciding between 20 or 40 MB of storage for your computer? Today, 2.5 quintillion (10^18) bytes of data are created every day, enough to fill your computer’s 250 GB hard drive about 10 trillion times daily! Experts estimate that 90% of all of the world’s data was created in the last two years, and the amount of data in existence will continue to grow at a mind-boggling 40% annual rate. So it’s no wonder that the McKinsey Quarterly is convinced that Big Data will become a new type of corporate asset that, if understood correctly, could lead to a serious competitive advantage. (more…)

A touch-screen “Fries with that?”

November 29th, 2011 | Posted by CCorman in Restaurants - (Comments Off on A touch-screen “Fries with that?”)

With iPad2 sales soaring and the Kindle Fire poised to be a bestseller this holiday season, it’s clear that mainstream consumers have become comfortable with mobile touch-screen shopping. For restaurant chains toying with the idea of adopting tech-forward ordering interfaces, now might be the time to strike.

Menus on spill-proof, drop-proof tablet computers are spreading from independent restaurants to chains like Umami Burger, and major fast-food companies have begun to invest aggressively in self-ordering consoles, touch-screens, and mobile ordering. After experimenting with self-serve kiosks for years, McDonald’s has launched an arsenal of them in 7,000 of its European locations. Subway, betting on the convenience payment by mobile devices, has pledged to accept payment by the Google Wallet app.

Purveyors of new restaurant technology—like Rajat Suri of E La Carte—claim their devices can increase revenue, reduce dining time, and improve customer experience. But will rolling out new ordering devices help your company? Can the “cool factor” of new tech draw more sales than the classic benefits of personal interaction?

Since devices are developing so quickly, the wrong bet will leave restaurants with an expensive system that’s already become obsolete. Making the right decision requires confidence about the technology and willingness to test customers’ response to it. The time-tested teenager-in-a-visor model of fast-food ordering has sold a lot of French fries, and might be more lucrative than you think. The best way to figure out which ordering model will work for your business is to test it in a subset of your chain before rolling it out.

Groupon for Retail Strategy

April 27th, 2011 | Posted by CCorman in Retail | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Groupon for Retail Strategy)

One of the top 11 trends for 2011 was Group Buying, which today is synonymous with Groupon (and to a lesser extent, Living Social). Now that a skyrocketing valuation , bids for buyout from Google , and controversial Superbowl ads have propelled Groupon to the forefront of the minds of customers and business executives alike (The Atlantic claims it is one of the most well-read publications today – and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, recent addition to Groupon’s board, seems to have taken note ), it is becoming increasingly relevant as a promotion in retail.

Will Groupon work for your business? Here’s our take:

There’s a reason Groupon initially offered discounts almost exclusively on restaurants and other service-based businesses: these businesses have (1) low incremental costs for additional customers and (2) extra capacity to spare amidst the recession (who knew hard economic times were the perfect opportunity for skydiving lessons or dinner cruises?).

Gap, Nordstrom Rack, Barnes and Noble, Bath and Body Works, etc. have all signed up with the site to offer incredible discounts on products. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that a company with high levels of awareness will see a positive return on the margins lost via a Groupon.

Let’s take a look: (more…)

Wal-Mart Takes a Bite Out of the Big Apple

January 16th, 2011 | Posted by CCorman in Retail | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)


For years, Wal-Mart has been trying to enter the New York market.  It appears that the third time may be the charm: earlier this month, Wal-Mart began an aggressive media campaign (complete with microsite) to court and foster support in the New York community.  The retailer is planning to open small, medium or large stores across all five boroughs.


The End of Price Obfuscation?

December 19th, 2010 | Posted by CCorman in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

In one form or another, price obfuscation has always been part of the retail game.  This is item is $19.99 … after a $40 mail in rebate.  That item is three payments of $29.99.  This item is 25% cheaper, but contains 50% less stuff.   This item is $99.99, but for today only, there’s a 25% discount, and a “stackable” BOGO 50%, and a special 10% discount on any one item before noon.

The mechanisms abound, and most benefit from the fact that consumers are not great at math.  No large scale retailer, by the way, is quite as bad as the mattress industry, which introduces the same product under different names and UPCs, simply so that consumers cannot price compare easily.


Calories Count

July 28th, 2010 | Posted by CCorman in Restaurants - (Comments Off on Calories Count)

Between PR pressures and new legislation, restaurants are looking at a new metric: calorie counts per transaction. The rise of healthy eating means the fall of super-sizing, and fast-food chains have found themselves scrambling to introduce more items (think breakfast) and healthier options (like salads and smoothies). Of course, any change that erodes sales for some restaurants means a competitive advantage for others: a study found that when similar legislation was introduced in New York, revenue increased 3% at Starbucks stores where a Dunkin Donuts was nearby. Before these laws go into effect, restaurants have the opportunity to test out how and where calorie information will affect consumer preference. Those who do will be well-positioned to steal market share – and may stumble on the newest healthy trend in the process.