This time it really is all about Nancy
In all the years I’ve worked for Franchise Times, I’ve never been asked to write commentary for the Top 200+ research—until now. I am not known for my keen mathematical mind. In college I avoided upper-level math and science classes, preferring instead to take literature and sociology and cultural anthropology. At the time, I could see the value of reading good literature—and the occasional murder mystery. I didn’t have the foresight to see that one day I would be working in the Bobby Sox snack shack and need to make change. Nor that a balanced life starts with a balanced checkbook.
However, I must say literature prepared me for all sorts of real-life situations, such as going to a restaurant and asking what fruit pies they’re serving. When the answer was peach and apple, I could dig up the delightful memory of T.S. Elliot’s masterpiece, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and mutter, “Do I dare to eat a peach?...I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.”
Of course, the busy server would respond a little tersely, “So, you’re going with the apple?” and ruin the moment. If it was up to the server, I’m sure he or she would have preferred that I had better math skills and hadn’t added wrong, thereby reducing the tip from 20 percent to 16.9. But then sometimes I error significantly on the plus side.
The Top 200+ isn’t the first time I’ve been called up from the bullpen to pitch in. Once when I worked for a daily in the San Diego area, the editorial editor went on vacation and I was drafted to write the editorials. My first attempt began, “Before Del Hood went on vacation, I never had an opinion.”
I don’t think I wowed readers with my pithy prose or insightful musings, but I loved being able to interpret the news rather than just report. From that modest beginning—Del came back to work and the readership sighed with relief when he vowed never to go on vacation again—I went on to do my favorite thing: putting myself in the story.
This is not taught in journalism school, but there are certain qualities a journalist needs to have to be comfortable with this style of reporting:
- A self-deprecating sense of humor;
- An eye for the obvious, and a penchant for exaggeration;
- A strong, unwavering love of dogs, small and large;
- A morbid curiosity about things better not explored;
- An avid dislike of the Prodigal Son story, until you discover your sister thought you were the prodigal son and then it’s kinda cool;
- A fondness for non sequiturs;
- The ability to procrastinate until the cows come home;
- The ability to use clichés before and long after the cows come home.
None of these skills were employed in my Top 200+ comments, unfortunately, because Franchise Times’ CFO and head researcher, Matt Haskin, provided his real data to draw upon. Had he left it up to me, I would have talked about the last time I dined at an Applebee’s because a friend wanted to eat someplace more upscale than Panera. Or about my experience in the cleaning sector when I was a reporter for the Ramona Sentinel and I was being paid $5 an hour, but paying my cleaning person $10 an hour. That was especially painful, because my family made fun of me for cleaning before the cleaner came.
Rest assured that I had a very minor role in the Top 200+ reporting. It’s solid research that we’ll draw from all year round. Alas, I was just a bit player who fretted and strutted for an hour or so, only to be upstaged by the real business writers. You know, the people who can add in their heads and quickly make change for Bobby Soxers’ snowcones.
• • • • • • • • •
Sometimes when a window closes, a door opens. That’s exactly what happened recently when I attended Madden’s Food & Wine Weekend. The resort on northern Minnesota’s Gull Lake hosted a three-day culinary Lollapalooza-style event, which was heavy on the whole animal roasts, light on the musical acts. Because the guest chefs were from top non-franchised restaurants in the Twin Cities, I thought I wouldn’t be able to comment on it for Franchise Times. I have this silly edict that my subject matter has to have a link to franchising, no matter how tenuous.
So imagine my delight when after the wine tasting event in the outdoor pavilion, I spotted Ruth Harvey, Hot Dish Agency’s creative director, walking back to the lodge. I slammed on the brakes—thankful I had not backed over someone I knew—threw open the door and jumped out to greet a franchise maven. (Editor’s note: Stellar franchise connection made here.)
The beauty of the weekend is that you get to over-indulge on cutting-edge food served in a beautiful lake setting overlooking a golf course you don’t have to play. The first night introduced us to whole animals carved into small plates (the pig in the picture below is the actual pig and not a representation of me at the event). There was an oyster and wine pairing “class,” where we learned how to suck oysters from a shell while sipping several great white wines (a skill I had already mastered). For lunch we used our teeth to scrape meat off chicken wings covered in exotic sauces like bloody Mary, and voted for our favorite. Dinner was an all-culinary-hands-on-buffet, which alternated entrée and dessert samplings with wine and beer tables.
When I was young, my friends and I used to wish we had certain talents. I always wanted to be a ballet dancer—love those toe shoes—or a painter. After this weekend, I changed my mind. I’d like the talent of cooking great food...to be a skill my significant other has. And if he could be a franchise lawyer, too, that would meet my publisher’s edict.