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Brain dump on the future.

It’s been a month since the Food on Demand conference. I had hoped to be back sooner with a complete rundown of my time in Chicago, but the travel schedule was particularly brutal. I went back to NYC for a day of meetings, then zipped straight down to Atlanta for my cousin’s wedding. It was a true 3-day Indian wedding (don’t worry, mine was 5 days!!), celebrating someone with whom I literally grew up…so you know I had to go hard:

I'm the guy in the red and white holding up the purple smoke bomb.
After the smoke settled (ahem...) it was time to turn my thoughts back to the conference and what I'd learned. There were many delightful and thought-provoking conversations there (shout-out to those of you I met!), but only one question really stuck with me. 

It was posed by a panelist on the first morning, and the more I thought about it, the more it honestly haunted me. I felt this one question encapsulated pretty much every major thought I had about our industry and where it's heading. It's the umbrella covering all major strategic decisions; business model, operations, real estate, technology, marketing...
Are you a wholesaler or a brand?
There is an old mantra in tech circles that "you ship your org chart," i.e. how you internally structure your company influences precisely how you sell to customers, build your product, gauge satisfaction, define your market opportunity, and consistently innovate.

The question of whether you are a wholesaler or a brand is our industry's version of that. I tried to put together a "playbook" that breaks down the (dramatically different) impacts that this seemingly simple choice has. It's very much a work-in-progress, so I look forward to your input as to whether you agree, or how it can be improved. And if for any reason you can't quite read it (thanks Mailchimp!), let me know I'll send over a much more legible PDF version (if it's really successful we'll turn it into a poster!).

So without further ado...
🔮 The Bikky Brand vs. Wholesaler Playbook
🤔 Outstanding questions
Is corporate ownership better for brands and franchising better for wholesalers?

I tried to make this distinction, but found companies on both sides. For example, Taco Bell and Sweetgreen are very much brand plays, but one is a dominant franchiser while the other would seemingly never consider any model but corporate ownership. I'm curious to see if a distinction emerges, or if it even matters.

What's the right level of third-party delivery for brands?

Smaller brands in particular may not be able to avoid third-parties, and should join the marketplaces to meet customers where they are. What's the point though at which you cease to become a brand and turn more into a wholesaler? What's the best way to prioritize first-party channels while also maintaining a third-party presence?
Can wholesalers become brands? Can brands become wholesalers?

This one intrigues me - there are certainly brands I see turning into wholesalers, despite their investment in first-party channels (see Subway launching nationally with three major third-party providers). Can it go the other way? Is it a firm choice one way or the other, or a sliding scale?

Early signs do point to brands having more leverage over third-parties since they have established roots and pre-existing ownership of the customer relationship. Does it matter in the long-run?

I hope so! That's what we're betting on given our work on boosting retention across first-party channels. The pessimistic view (and Uber's argument in their IPO filing) is that it's a massive opportunity ripe for the taking, and as an "aggregator", they're uniquely positioned to seize that opportunity. I imagine more of a balance in the long-run, and we'll see how it shakes out as companies choose whether to go the brand or wholesaler route.
Bits and bobs 🙌
I'm excited to see how the industry evolves from here and how companies navigate this tricky dichotomy.

I look forward to your thoughts!

PS – if you enjoy getting my thoughts on the industry, I’d love if you could share our newsletter with your colleagues – we’re always looking to hear from more voices as we grow 🙏
Or, if you can’t stand these missives, feel free to send it to your competitors so I can annoy them too 🙈
Thank you again for your support!
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