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On December 13, 2015, Mark Saadine commented on Taco Bell: When You Don’t Have Time for Freshness :

This is great, I wasn’t aware of the extent that Taco Bell had taken prep and cooking time down. A couple of questions that I have after reading this center around the definition of its business model and potential threats moving forward to its business / operating model. First, is the value proposition really limited to feeding people quickly? The marketing that Taco Bell uses generally emphasizes food on the go, but I think there’s another sub-culture for younger consumers around the brand that goes beyond just food quickly. I wonder how employees are aligned to that sub-culture and marketing in the operating model. Second, fast casual has been taking share from fast food (e.g., Chipotle instead of Taco Bell). Even McDonalds is testing ‘Shake Shack-like’ burgers in California given consumer trends. Can Taco Bell really maintain its position and operating model in the face of a changing consumer?

On December 10, 2015, Mark Saadine commented on The Ritz-Carlton: Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen :

Anna – this is awesome; Ritz is definitely a distinctive brand that has maintained its effective business model over the years. Two questions that come to mind for me are (i) how Ritz can really align its value proposition of service and luxury to its employees and (ii) how Ritz can maintain a distinctive operating model under the umbrella of Marriott and now the merger/acquisition with Starwood. On the first question, I struggle a bit with how Ritz can get its lower wage service staff to understand the customer experience and empathize with the customer given the gap in income / lifestyle. Second, how has Ritz maintained its own approach while existing alongside other Marriott brands (e.g., JW Marriott) and future brands (e.g., St. Regis). Thanks for sharing!

Ali – I agree this is a great business. I wrote about Patagonia, which I think has done an equally good job but by focusing on their value proposition around sustainability and quality vs. R&D and technology in active wear. I think the question for both of these businesses, along with Canada Goose (which is one of BainCap’s portfolio companies) is – what happens when shareholders, parent companies, etc. ask for continued growth beyond the core business model and brand? Will Patagonia’s casual clothing provide growth? Will Arcteryx need to move beyond tech-based products? Is there a ceiling to what these business can do in terms of growth before betraying their original mission and value proposition? When I was in high school North Face represented the ideal technology and value proposition for cold weather gear, but today I feel the brand is diluted – how will these other players continue to differentiate and maintain their core customers is the key question for me.