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Trends

One Laptop per Child Project

An ambitious project is led by computing visionary Nichols Negroponte to develop a $100 laptop for every child in the world. With innovation and out of the box thinking, Negroponte and his team are on their way to achieve what many said was 'mission impossible'. The laptop will have 128 MB of memory and 500MB of flash storage. A wireless connnection is built-in. It has a screen that can display color but it is also switchable to black and white at three times the resolution.

Car Runs On Vegetable Oil

With a sky-rocketing price of oil, small businesses and franchisees are looking for cheaper alternatives in fueling their car fleets. The Los Angeles Times wrote a story about a shop called Lovecraft. The operation outfits diesel automobiles to run on vegetable oil. Not only does it save fuel costs but it could help each of us to do our bit to save the environment.

According to Lovecraft's owner Brian Friedman, cars running with vegetable oil produce cleaner emission.  Friedman also is patenting a conversion kit for do-it-yourselfers and sells an at-home filtering system for waste oil.

New Franchise Data Release

Frandata, a franchise research firm, has just released their newest update on franchise growth and trends. Here is the new data (pdf file)!

McDonald's Opens Gym Extension

 Whittier, California - McDonald’s is expanding its restaurants to include gyms. Yes. That’s right.

A Whittier McDonald’s has become the first in California to open an R Gym extension, a play area that has stationary bicycles, obstacle course, basketball hoops and other exercise areas aimed at having children exercise to burn off calories. It includes such things as an interactive video game that lets children peddle along with characters on a videoscreen while exercising on a stationary bicycle. McDonald's told Blue MauMau that the R Gym is now a selection that its restaurants will be able to choose throughout the country.

Self-Service Sleeping & Eating

 Airline customers love to check themselves in at the airport. According to FastCompany, more than 75% of them do, which is probably more a function of the quality of the airline check-in being far from warm and cuddly. In contrast, only 10 - 25% of guests in hotels that have kiosks use it to check in or out. Is that because hotel guests expect more of a personal touch from their lodging experience?

The Best & Worst States to Own A Franchise

Want to know what state is the most small business friendly? According to The Tax Foundation's recent report, states that are most friendly to business "levy low, flat rates on the broadest bases possible". So, if you take the major taxes -- such as individual income, business, sales, unemployment insurance, and estate taxes -- and mix them into the cauldron, here's what The Tax Foundation reported to U.S. News & World Report come out on top and bottom for being most friendly. Here's the tax friendliest five:

Where Trade Journal Readers Are Going - Trade Blogs

Although I have already commented on Hugh Hewitt's book Blog to our community, I also decided to send an email directly to Mr. Hewitt on my views on how trade journals, although slow to join the bigger trend, are now shifting full force to the world of blogging -- called trade blogs. Trade journals, and no I don't mean journals only about importing and exporting but rather periodicals that are used by a profession or a particular industry, are not exactly Mr. Hewitt's cup of tea. He is famous for his political punditry. Still, he seems to have his fingers on the future of blogging and so I decided to write. Here's the letter below on the future of traditional trade journals -- of franchise and entrepreneurial magazines -- and why their readership is shifting to blogs. If I hear from Mr. Hewitt, I'll report it. -don-

Get Ready for a Quantum Leap in Drive-through

Drive-through service can represent a huge part of sales for a fast-food franchise -- 70 percent at a typical Burger King franchise. The largest franchise chains this year may finally be in a position to make major breakthroughs from the standard 3 minutes in drive-through time. The Associated Press reports that fast-food chains are positioned to make major improvements in pushing drive-through throughput by doing the following.

Companies are trimming bulky text from menus, using computer programs that guess upcoming orders, and routing order-taking duties to call centers. While speed remains a benchmark of success, the average service time hasn't been cut much below about three minutes for the last five years. That's why many chains are focusing instead on cutting down on the number of mistakes in orders and making ordering easier.

Why Do So Many Busy Business People Blog?

Having just read Hugh Hewitt’s book Blog, Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World, I am even more excited about what blogging means to franchise buyers and owners. Hewitt, who is best known for his conservative political commentary on radio and in the blogosphere, describes blogging as a revolution that the world has not seen the equal to -- a power shift from the old media (mainstream media) to the new– the blogosphere. Since I have personally taken a leap in my career from old media to this new one, Hewitt caught me hook, line and sinker from page one.

Aging Population Eating Out More at Casual Restaurants

The long-term trend for casual and fast food restaurants looks inviting for franchise buyers and owners. According to one analyst interviewed by BusinessWeek, the restaurant business is in for growth.

"The restaurant industry's long-term fundamentals look pretty attractive. People sense that there are growth prospects in it and are willing to pay for them [their public stocks]. In the U.S., you have an aging population that is wealthier, that is looking to eat out. You have a lot of dual-income households where there's not enough time to cook, so people are dining out more and more. As a percentage of overall meals, dining out has been increasing for several decades, and it looks to continue that way."