Friday, January 30, 2009

Great Harvest

For one of my classes, we had to examine Great Harvest Bread Co. as a business model/managerial model. It was cool--I had no idea that it was such a great company. What's great about a nuanced managerial model like this is that it does very little to dilute the company. And, as we know, from authors/journalists such as Barbara Ehrenreich, it absolutely pays off to keep your employees happy, healthy and contributing to a grander purpose (well, in a sense, giving them purpose to their work). There is transparency and little disconnect inbetween levels of the (almost nonexistent) hierarchy. People that work for them are treated well and the company thrives. Coincidence? Here's a brief description of the company from INC Magazine online:

Best Practices: Great Harvest Bread Co.

From: | November 2000 By: Michael S. Hopkins

The company: Great Harvest Bread Co., headquartered in Dillon, Mont.
Business: Franchisor of retail bread bakeries that make soft-crust bread from Montana whole wheat that's freshly milled in each bakery.
Size: 137 franchised bakeries; franchisor has 28 employees.
Sales systemwide: $60 million
Management: Pete and Laura Wakeman, 48 and 47, respectively, cofounders and copresidents; Tom McMakin, 39, chief operating officer.
Founded: 1976
First franchise sold: 1978

Balancing Work and Life
"We believe strongly that a business is in service to our lives, not the other way around," says COO Tom McMakin. The Wakemans established that philosophy from the start and reaffirm it by their own annual travel and periods of reduced weekly hours. In Great Harvest's headquarters, all employees are salaried but are prohibited from working more than 40 hours a week. "We ask people to work hard when they're here," says Laura Wakeman, "but hard is not the same as long."

"Sweet Spots"
"We think there are sweet spots in business," says McMakin, "collectively-arrived-at practices that you can usually put a number on and that keep everything in a kind of running harmony." He names three: the thickness of the bread slices given away as samples to everyone who walks into a Great Harvest bakery (one inch, not more or less), the number of hours employees and bakery owners work (about 40), and the pretax net margins a healthy income statement should reveal (17% or 18%; anything lower or higher could signal problems).

Picking Great Harvest Franchisees
By year-end, Great Harvest will have received more than 5,000 inquiries about buying a franchise and more than 150 formal applications for ownership. The company will sell franchises to only 5 or 6.

"We're a community," McMakin says. "Of course, we want people who we think can run a business, but maybe more than that we want people who will make our learning community stronger, who'll bring new skills that the rest of us don't have, and who'll be eager to share them. But most of all we want people we really, really want to work with, who more than anything else are generous. We want people who are nice."


Thursday, January 29, 2009

from the nyt well blog

Obama’s New Chef Skewers School Lunches:

"In 2003, U.S.D.A. spent $939.5 million dollars buying surplus commodities for School Lunch. Two-thirds of that bought meat and dairy, with little more than one quarter going to vegetables that were mostly frozen; and we should not forget that potatoes are the top selling vegetable in our country. The problem that arose is that between 80 and 85 percent of schools fail the basic government standards for the percentage of fat in the lunches due to the food it supplies schools."

Epicureanism/Epicurius from Wikipedia

Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus (c. 341–c. 270 BC), founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom very little is known—Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia) through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism, insofar as it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good, its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it different from "hedonism" as it is commonly understood.

In the Epicurean view, the highest pleasure (tranquility and freedom from fear) was obtained by knowledge, friendship, and living a virtuous and temperate life. He lauded the enjoyment of simple pleasures, by which he meant abstaining from bodily desires, such as sex and appetites, verging on asceticism. He argued that when eating, one should not eat too richly, for it could lead to dissatisfaction later, such as the grim realization that one could not afford such delicacies in the future. Likewise, sex could lead to increased lust and dissatisfaction with the sexual partner. Epicurus did not articulate a broad system of social ethics that has survived.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bourdain on Waters

"I'll tell you. Alice Waters annoys the living shit out of me. We're all in the middle of a recession, like we're all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic. I mean I'm not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all that, but I'm a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits. I'm suspicious of orthodoxy, the kind of orthodoxy when it comes to what you put in your mouth. I'm a little reluctant to admit that maybe Americans are too stupid to figure out that the food we're eating is killing us. But I don't know if it's time to send out special squads to close all the McDonald's. My libertarian side is at odds with my revulsion at what we as a country have done to ourselves physically with what we've chosen to eat and our fast food culture. I'm really divided on that issue. It'd be great if he [Obama] served better food at the White House than what I suspect the Bushies were serving. It's gotta be better than Nixon. He liked starting up a roaring fire, turning up the air conditioning, and eating a bowl of cottage cheese with ketchup. Anything above that is a good thing. He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."

-From this interview on
(thanks to kristen for the heads up!)

Culinary Battle

Food Fight, by Andrew Curry, the Atlantic Monthly

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Does anyone know why there are these little circles on the bottom of a McDonald's hamburger bun every single time you order one?

the calls stop. fassbinder.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A. Waters

Somehow I missed this a month ago.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

slightly concerned

In my second class yesterday, there were approximately 40 people, mostly women. The professor asked, "How many of you have heard of Alice Waters?"

2 of us raised our hands.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

From Obama re: MLK Day 2009

Use your day off to do something good in your community:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Some thoughts from last summer.

I wrote this a while ago, but something to think about...

The thing about nutrition is that it requires diligence and interest and time, etc. And perhaps most difficult of all, it requires rejecting an entire daily onslaught of advertisements and tempting inundations. All things I've said before (see previous post even). But, yay capitalism, we can have other people do the work for us if we just pay them enough.

I always think it is cool to use something I sort of despise, i.e. the capitalistic system, to promote something good, i.e. nutrition/organics/locavorianism. If you're going to be an entrepreneur, at least do something humanitarian with it. But...

THIS ARTICLE the nyt sparked other questions for me, with specific regard to what I wrote about Obama and elitism surrounding nutritious choices.

I mean, just read it. It's sooooooooooooooo fucking snobbish:

“The highest form of luxury is now growing it yourself or paying other people to grow it for you,” said Corby Kummer, the food columnist and book author. “This has become fashion.”

My fear is that it makes being a locavore an elitist idea in and of itself. And moreover, a trend, like Ugg boots, that could be passing when it should be more like Pucci scarves--classic, timeless and lasting. Or argyle? Something less uppity, maybe. Anway, the article makes therefore choosing organics and being, generally, conscious about nutrition an "other" when statements like this are made. Naturally, the middle to upper class has the upper hand in access, but let's not make it solely a movement in that regard. It spans classes and ideologies, this revolution in diet, and Americans high and lo, far and wide, upper and lower crust are interested, curious and able to take part in it. Sure, it might require actually participating in digging in the dirt in your local community garden rather than having someone do it for you in your backyard......