Scratching my niches: no. 6

Jam packed pandemic edition. Clean hands. Hospitality. News. More links.

😷Hello friends 👋

This newsletter has been kicking my ass the past few months — I’m happy to finally hit the publish button.

There were a lot of things I wanted to write about, but breaking through the blockage of needing to make sense of everything has been damn near impossible.

Still not there, but here’s a collection of my latest thoughts. A glimpse inside:

  1. 🙇‍♂️ Pandemic mantra — Chop wood, carry water

  2. 🦠 Client spotlight — How do you know someone is washing their hands properly and effectively?

  3. 🤯 Hospitotally f*cking nuts — some perspective on those hardest hit, and thoughts on the rapidly evolving battles to deliver our food

  4. 📰 The “news” — signal/noise

  5. 👨‍💻 Best I’ve been reading/listening…

  6. 🏃‍♂️ Stay Sane, practice discomfort

* Thanks for reading! If you’re enjoying it, share with a friend you think might be interested:

Share Scratching my niches

** If this was forwarded to you, thanks for checking it out… join here to catch the next one:


I’ve been thinking for years our generation has had it relatively easy and we’ve needed something to challenge us, overcome, and build character.

But while it’s here I only wish it’d go away. There’s far too much unnecessary suffering and a disproportionate share of the burden on several “front lines.” As I write this from the comforts of my home, so many others simply COULDN’T #stayhome.

Trying to stay informed means sifting through an endless stream of competing narratives pushing different agendas fueled by their respective self-interests. Some rightfully so, and others not.

There’s a surplus of information and a shortage of trust. It’s enough to make you want to block it all out.

The only real certainty is constant change. It’s unavoidable, uncomfortable, increasingly complex, with far more questions than answers.

I’ve been spending a lot of my thinking time sorting through how to deal with it, and how to find balance between the chaos and a desire for order.

We've been presented with a huge opportunity to use this challenge to learn a lot about ourselves. One thing I quickly learned: uncertainty and lack of control over a future outcome is something I’m very uncomfortable with. I thought I already knew this, but not well enough. 

There’s a particular day I can look back on that I totally lost my shit… completely irrational and unreasonable (sorry quaranteam). Of course I didn’t know it at the time, I thought I was fine. But no.

In the absence of our usual distractions or coping mechanisms, we’re forced to look inward and notice, and that awareness presents a choice to recenter around what matters most.

For me that’s gratitude for my growing family. It’s staying active to keep my mind from self destructing. It’s embracing the struggle and maintaining my basic responsibilities and repeating it, over and over and over. Accept the situation as it is, and be grateful for the blessings and opportunity it presents. 

I’m reminded of a Zen proverb I originally came across reading Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key:

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”

The uncertainty is uncomfortable. The repetitiveness is annoying. But we must stick to the necessities. Do it over and over. Appreciate the process.

Finding a way out of all this is such a complex problem that it has to be broken down to the smallest actions within our control. The actions that are repeated every day.

This is an extremely difficult time. But it’s also an opportunity not to be wasted. 

Here’s a few quick highlights of the gratitude I’ve been reminded myself: 

  1. The new addition of our healthy and beautiful baby girl Siena in February. Being able to be there in the room and stay comfortably in the hospital just before this all broke out.

  2. Big sis turning two! Her singing back to me “happ-y boat-day to you dad-dy” will be forever imprinted in my memory bank 

  3. Love and support and around the clock help from our family 🙏

  4. Sitting down together for dinner, and more time and reps to get better at weekly meal planning and cooking

  5. Our health and all the natural beauty of the world and changing of the seasons surrounding us.

🦠 Client Spotlight — PathSpot

Wash your hands!

We all now know that proper hand washing is #1 on the list of preventative practices for reducing the spread of illness.

Yet 73% of restaurant employees fail to meet the quality standards according to the FDA — and when using gloves, compliance falls to just 16%. Woof. 

This was a problem well before COVID. Of the 48 million cases of foodborne illness every year (and that’s just what’s reported), almost half are attributed to poor hand hygiene. 1 in 6 Americans get sick every year.

Why is it so damn hard for people to wash their hands correctly? 

Well, for one, what do you expect when this is your modern day defense?  

Like anything, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. 

But if you can, you create a powerful feedback loop that can change behavior and form better habits.

What is PathSpot?

PathSpot is a hand hygiene monitoring solution that detects harmful pathogenic contaminants before they cause an outbreak.

The device uses a light-based detection algorithm that scans hands for invisible indicators of bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness. Employees put their hands under the scanner, and if it shows traces of contamination, the employee has to go back and wash their hands again. While others provide training or passive feedback, we provide active prevention.

Data from the scans can be used to identify gaps in sanitation processes and protect against future risk — like unusually low wash activity before a busy lunch hour, commonly missed areas, or contamination that wasn’t corrected.

If you can measure it, you can manage it.

We see 1 in 5 people fail a scan during the first month, and after that the number drops by 75%. After six months, it drops by 95%. Actual hand washing activity increases 3X!

I’m fortunate to be supporting a project that’s truly making an impact on public health and helping us collectively blaze a safer path forward. Our goal is to become the global standard for cleanliness and safety, safeguarding lives everywhere from threatening illnesses.

If you know anyone that would be interested, want to learn more, or you want to help, I’d love to chat. Send me a note (derek at pathspotech dot com).

Further reading for anyone interested…

Hospi-totally f*cking nuts

Clearly the hospitality industry has been one of the most heavily impacted, having a hard time in more ways than just the bottom line.

I’m beyond proud of my wife and her sister, who continue to stand strong and support their team and clients in every way possible to navigate their way out of this together. Amidst a devastating shock to the business, I’m witnessing firsthand what true “people first” leadership looks like.

👉Here’s an inside look featured in Polina Marinova’s The Profile

*Side note*they’re also offering delicious prepared foods for picnics, pantry items for the week, and takeaway meal kits, which doubles as an excellent weekend meal at home and an excuse to take a countryside drive out of NYC. 🚗🚗🚗

For another perspective, let’s dive into the psyche of a seasoned restaurateur to further illustrate just how intertwined (unsurprisingly) hospitality and human connection are.

🎧👉Will Guidara interviewed on the new podcast series TAKE AWAY ONLY (“an emergency podcast about the hospitality industry in crisis”).

There were so many great lessons and thoughts that resonated in here, from the conversations he’s having with peers, to the sense of camaraderie and community, to how they’re wired to react and solve problems…

The very thing that got us out of bed in the morning no longer exists.

…Every person I talk to is trying to find something they can influence.. it’s how we’re wired to want to automatically give a solution.

It was also an important reminder of a quote from his father, Frank Guidara, also a restaurant veteran. (I was actually fortunate enough to hear this from the man himself 4 years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since.) 

"Adversity is a terrible thing to waste”

Though this is no doubt probably the worst thing we could imagine, there will be tremendous opportunity and innovation that results from it. BECAUSE OF the adversity we’re facing and necessity to adjust and offer new solutions.

Hospitality pros are a creative and determined bunch, and have a truly unique way of creating experiences that people gravitate to. I share in Will’s optimism for a brighter future in this space, and hope we can all rally around our beloved restaurants to keep them afloat.

🚚Feeding the Rebels🍴

I’ve been paying closest attention to the impact on our food supply and distribution process. In his Medium post focusing on the meal delivery market, Jeremy Diamond nails it in the two opening paragraphs:

The most important shift in restaurants in the past decade has been the rise of online ordering and delivery. UberEats, Postmates, Doordash, and a handful of other apps have been knife-fighting (in extremely uneconomical ways) for the privilege of becoming food delivery aggregators. Own enough customer demand, the thinking goes, and not only will restaurants go through you to reach customers, they’ll pay you 30% of each order and thank you for sending them business that would have gone elsewhere!

But delivery apps have problems on both fronts. Because the supply of restaurants on these apps is mostly commoditized, customers will go wherever they get the best deal, which means the apps are constantly spending on marketing and discounts to reacquire churned customers. On the restaurant side, margins are already so thin that shifting the channel mix towards delivery quickly becomes unsustainable.

The entire post is fantastic and a deeper analysis on the factors crucial to a restaurant’s ongoing success.

As a competition of slim margins of even slimmer margins, I’m still pretty bearish on these delivery startups in the long run.

With everyone craving the lost personal connection and experience that restaurants bring, I think they’re going to see a huge drop when people start dining again (on tighter budgets) and restaurants continue to improve their own capabilities to be self reliant in the longer term.


I think the bigger opportunity lies in the grocery world. Especially as consumers look to cut costs, stay safe, and prepare more meals at home. Plus they typically have larger order values.

This also isn’t anything new. I have fond memories of the Schwan delivery truck coming to grandparents house which was always stocked with sundae cones and ice cream sandwiches.

But anyway, I found this to be a solid article covering several trends in online ordering and the major players involved.

🤳🏼Americans Keep Clicking to Buy, Minting New Online Shopping Winners | NY Times

source: NY Times, May 2020

They see Instacart as a winner here, but I think it’s a bit premature. They’ve certainly benefited from an uptick in demand and new users, and have been steadily expanding their coverage with additional retail partnerships:

source: CB Insights, October 2018.

Unless they can become the dominate marketplace for delivery labor, I doubt the economics are sustainable for the long term, especially as each major retailer learns from them and then deploys their own solutions to compete (Jet & Walmart, Shipt & Target, Amazon & fam…etc.).

People still aren’t going to pay beyond a certain threshold (in fees) for the convenience of delivery, unless there’s a lot more value bundled in, which I think only the big retailers really have the ability to do (cheaper private label brands for routine goods, recommendation algorithms to save you time on forgotten items, etc.).

Where I see a big unmet opportunity is to better integrate lifestyle planning (weekly meal plans and prep, integrated with recipes & shopping lists, and reducing friction) with actual fulfillment of delivery. There’s plenty of resources on either end, but nothing I’m aware of creating value in the middle.

How can you sync up your instagram feed (of chefs not the retail brand) to your shopping cart, and even better do so for multiple days in one grocery order? Loved that meal? Reup for next week with a click…

A lot to watch here. I like Target coming out of this as the most improved, but we will see. Here are a couple somewhat related reads from the past few months (more retail in general, but connected)…

📰 The “news” — signal/noise

Throughout all this madness, one of the most frustrating things has been trying to find reliable and trustworthy news. 

It’s an absolute roller coaster trying to sift through what’s useful information, interpret what it means for you, your business and your industry, your fam & friends, etc.

There’s far too much noise and most claims of demystifying a particular topic are usually rooted in pushing a political agenda. Accompanying commentary is filled with finger pointing, posturing, or virtue signaling, and there’s nothing more share worthy than a good pile on.

When I found what seemed to be the newsletter of my dreams, I thought it was too good to be true. But now a month in, this is living up to my own hype.

🇺🇸The Solution —> The Flip Side 🇺🇸

The way its formatted is brilliant, making it easy to skim through or dive deeper.

  • Here’s a topic in the “news” right now

  • Here’s a summary of the Left’s take, here’s a sum on the Right

  • If we’re lucky, here’s a Libertarians take

  • And here are supporting arguments for each side

In a world with more questions than answers, it’s more important than ever to find ways to get the facts and let people think for themselves.

Best I’ve been reading/Listening..

This newsletter felt a bit long, so I’m just linking some of my most memorable reads/listens below:


Although working out doesn’t look like what it used to be, especially with two young kids, quick workouts have been my saving grace. The point of getting something in vs. nothing has kept me sane. Even if it’s stroller runs or baby squats.

Finding a way to practice discomfort physically has been my anchor for staying focused and thinking clearly.

When possible, which is certainly more doable with a WFH setup, I try to squeeze a high intensity workout. Which is also a great incentive to finish a focused working block or project. Here are a few of the go-to’s.

  • 1) HIIT workouts —  usually around 20 min, the first two are extra miserable

    • Marsoc short card — designed for Marine special forces, all bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere

    • 600 rep circuit — Jeremy Scott has a lot of great workout “finishers” or circuits that can be their own quick workout.

    • — vast library with wide range for any level

  • 2) Yoga

    • Alo Yoga’s Youtube channel — I found this to offer the most challenging options with a wide range, and pretty quick too. The HIIT yoga and core work is brutally good.

  • 3) Workout with Kids

    • PE with Joe Youtube channel — great bodyweight circuits, created for the world in quarantine. Perfect to do with family and kids, and still a good workout - all on you for how hard you want to challenge 


Because we could all use some SAX right now…


Loading more posts…