Solink Blog

Helping retailers and financial institutions to be data-driven

Solink Partners With Digital Shadow to Deliver Event-Driven Video Analytics

May 4, 2015
We are proud to announce our partnership with Digital Shadow Inc. for the distribution of our Video Discovery Platform. The partnership allows Digital Shadow’s clients to access Solink’s contextual analytics and business applications for loss prevention, operations, risk management, and other data intensive fields. Digital Shadow’s specialty is providing retailers with state-of-the-art CCTV surveillance solutions, including analog cameras, IP cameras, DVR’s, NVR’s, door access control, IP video/audio intercom and networking. Their experts are always available to help you find the best suited solution for your security needs, including Axis, Flir, 3VR, Hikvision, Dahua, Nuuo, EyeOnet, Galaxy, Avtech and Videofied products to name a few. Solink’s web-based platform helps managers, owners and executive teams make better sense of in-store transactions and events. By integrating surveillance video with existing point-of-sale systems, decisions makers can easily search, filter and audit transactions and be alerted on important events. Solink enables businesses to quickly identify and react to threats and opportunities across their business. “Our customers want better ways to manage shrink but they also recognize the potential of using video for more than just evidence,” said Jim Ross, President of Digital Shadow. “Our leading hardware solutions work seamlessly with Solink’s video analytics software to maximize the value of existing security infrastructure.” “Surveillance video captures an incredible amount of detail but few retailers are taking advantage of this untapped resource simply because it’s hard to access and use in a timely manner,” says Mike Matta, CEO of Solink. “Managers can make more informed decisions when they have immediate access to video data.” About Solink Solink is a leader in making unstructured video a discoverable medium for data-driven decision-making and problem solving within the enterprise. The unique “contextual analytics” applied by our applications enable customers to make greater sense of the massive amounts of video and transactional data they collect, making it more accurate, rich and usable. About Digital Shadow Inc. Digital Shadow is a leading security products wholesaler and service provider, established in 2010, headquartered in London, Ontario. Digital Shadow offers specialized advice for the protection of your personnel and property. Our independent, unbiased position allows us to evaluate your current policies and procedures and make recommendations you can rely on. Executive Evaluations include an assessment of your security requirements, surveys, risk analysis and appraisals. Security Evaluations include risk analysis focusing on counter measures, physical security strategies and operational procedures to protect against both internal and external loss. Full information is available at www.digitalshadowinc.com.

The Convergence of Data and Video Analytics in the Security Industry

May 4, 2015
In the last few years, enterprise data has exploded, both in terms of how much of it we are creating and the many uses we are finding for it. In technology publications we mostly read about data from social media, digital technologies or wearable devices. But security is one of the most data-intensive industries and it’s ripe for advancements in analytics: you’re dealing with pressing issues in security and fraud while collecting an incredible volume and variety of data, most of which hasn’t been tapped. For the past 5 years, Solink has focused on turning unstructured surveillance video into a relevant, meaningful and accessible source of data. In November of 2014, we were invited to present our Contextual Analytics technology at the renowned World Continuous Auditing and Reporting Symposium (WCARS) at Rutgers Business School. Below is a transcript of that presentation, introduced by Michael Cangemi and delivered by Solon Angel. The original text has been edited for clarity. Michael Cangemi: Michael Cangemi is a business advisor, author, speaker and Senior Fellow of WCARS. He is the Founder & President of Cangemi Company. Between 1991 and 2004, he was President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aigner Group, Inc., a wholesaler of women’s footwear, accessories and licensed products. What you will hear about this morning is a new concept called “contextual analytics” where you combine the use of data and video analytics. I will introduce it from 2 personal stories: Mike Lewis mentioned yesterday that we are both on a tech committee. Two years ago, SOCOM, the United States Special Operations Command, came to us with a problem: how to use analytics to view their video. The problem was the sheer volume of video data they had, it blew us away. At the time we had no answer to that problem, but today Contextual Analytics has the capacity to address it. The second story is about personal use. You may know that I used to be the CEO of a retail company. Before that I was CFO and I had the record for about 10 years in a row: I refused to fund loss prevention. We had a 74-store chain and 0.5% inventory shrink. That number was smaller than the cost of running a loss prevention department so I would just say no to it every year. But I was really intrigued by the problem and since I learned so much from Rutgers and have a focus on analytics, I kept talking to our POS vendors about it. They came up with a solution where we could monitor the POS data for things like an unauthorized return. So we looked at simple analytics like no sales during four hours but in the middle of that time frame there was two returns. So perhaps our staff was taking a product and returning it to pocket the money. This type of internal fraud detection was a breakthrough and we thought we were really smart, but what you’re going to hear about today makes

Security Video Increases the Profitability of Store Displays and Fixtures

April 8, 2015
Store layout design is one part science and one part art. The idea is that if we understand our customers, we can optimize the store design to improve their experience and, ultimately, increase sales. Perhaps the best-known researcher on this topic is Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. The book was first published back in 1999, but one lesson that is even more relevant today is that to understand customers and optimize profits, we need to start with data. Layout design is a topic we will continuously revisit on our blog, but today we are focusing on how to increase the profitability of existing store displays and fixtures. This discussion applies to you whether you want to sell more products or justify charging a higher fee for shelf space. Using the right data Video is the best data to use when trying understand customers and gain real-world insight about your store’s traffic flow. By leveraging video analytics with your existing surveillance cameras, you can turn your security system into a source of contextual data. Meaning, data that helps you better understand the context of an event or customer in your retail space. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about identifying customers and looking up their Facebook profile to know what brands they like. Our approach is to think of each person in your store like a cookie on the internet: we assign a unique id to in-store events and treat all interactions as equal. In the same way that Google Analytics can tell you what pages visitors frequent (but not what their name is), video can tell you how people are moving through your store. This knowledge alone is enough to make a significant impact on the decision making process. Costco knows it’s all about location, location, location For a retailer that doesn’t have any pretty window displays or interior decorating to entice customers, Costco is sitting quite comfortably at the 19th spot on the Fortune 500 list. This multi-billion dollar company knows that optimizing store design and layout is key. Every product and stand has been strategically placed along what they call “the Race Track”. This layout is designed to expose shoppers to every product category as they make their way through the store. While looking for trigger items across the warehouse, such as toilet paper and detergent, shoppers are more likely to discover treasure items and make impulse purchases. Costco employs a team of 120 to work on the store layout, but as I will explain in the next section, you don’t need such a big investment in headcount to increase the ROI of your store displays. Measure the value of each store display and fixture The first step is to understand what areas in your store are the most valuable. Regardless of how skilled you are at visual merchandising, if your display isn’t in the right location it won’t be as effective as it could be. If you haven’t measured the value

From POS Text Overlay to Integrated Video Analytics

March 31, 2015
Throughout the 70s and 80s, finding any evidence in surveillance video was a very time-consuming process of rewinding the tapes. Since then, the security industry has seen some incredible advancements in technology and POS Text Overlay is one of those. But of course it doesn’t end there: Text Overlay is just the beginning of Transaction Integration. A Brief History In the 1980s, TVs with on-screen display (OSD) started to be more common. OSD allows an image to be superimposed on a screen to display information such as the volume or channel number. Soon after, it became apparent that there was a huge opportunity to use this technology in the security industry. The idea was to superimpose transactional data from point-of-sale (POS) or ATM systems on top of the video feed. To do this, Video Text Inserter devices emerged, also called POS Text Overlay or Video Serial Interfacing. The devices have the ability to trigger VCR recording so that video is only captured when a transaction is taking place. Later, DVRs (digital video recorders) were developed with built-in text overlay capabilities. The Value of Text Overlay Auditing transactions used to mean looking at two completely separate systems (the POS or ATM machine and the security cameras) and trying to manually match a receipt to a few minutes of footage. This is known as time and location search and it limits you to just reactive investigations since you have to have a suspicion that fraud took place at a certain time and place before you look for the evidence. Otherwise there is just too much data to review. Auditing transactions before Text Overlay Auditing transactions with Text Overlay Find out about suspicious transactions Get the time of targeted transactions Pull up transactions in the POS records On video system, search the video by the time Watch the recorded video Compare video to transactions Find out about suspicious transactions Get the time of targeted transactions Search the video by the time Review the video with transaction information When text overlay was introduced in the security industry, it was a game changer for many business owners and fraud investigators. It allowed the person reviewing the footage to have a visual comparison on the same screen of what items are being rung into the register and what items were actually handled by the employee and customer. This made the auditing process faster, smoother and more effective at catching fraud. Text overlay is still widely used and an integral part of loss prevention.   Text Overlay is great, but it has its limits While the technology helped people to detect internal and external fraud in a completely new way, it has its limits. If you don’t have a DVR with built-in text overlay, you will have to buy the additional hardware device and connect it to the DVR. While this in itself isn’t a major problem, it can become very expensive. Some of these devices cost upwards of $500 which can really add up if you

How to choose the right in-store analytics for your business

March 16, 2015
Here is a conversation about in-store analytics that we’ve had far too often with managers and franchise owners: Manager: What does Solink do? Us: We create a central video and data analytics platform for multi-unit businesses. Manager: So it’s like video analytics? I have that in my stores. Us: What do you use the analytics for? Manager: Well… nothing really. I just have a bunch of stats. Does this sound familiar to you? As believers that data can improve all areas of a business, it pains us to see someone who is paying for in-store analytics but not actually using them to get a return on their investment. We want to change this conversation. Data Analytics is not about measuring ALL the things. It’s about measuring the RIGHT things. Today there are so many different types of applications for in-store analytics that choosing the right ones for your business can be a challenge. Not to mention that some of the applications on the market are made for data scientists, not managers or fraud investigators. The right in-store analytics will help you make decisions and enact changes in your business where it matters most. This may sound obvious but it’s easy to forget. For instance, we provide risk analysis to short term money lenders. While we can offer them applications for customer service and marketing, what they really need is a better way to audit loans for potential fraud. By solving that one problem, they see a significant ROI from using our fraud applications. Having a well-thought out data analytics strategy will help you to avoid costly mistakes and focuses your efforts on the areas of the business that will benefit the most from analytics. While the strategy will be vastly different for each company, we put together these 4 questions which are critical to answer before making an investment in data analytics. 4 Questions To Help You Formulate A Data Analytics Strategy These questions cover Context, Need, Data and Risk. For simplicity, we assumed that you already have a pretty clear idea of the problem you are trying to solve, be it internal fraud, slow service times, low customer satisfaction or simply looking to increase revenues. 1. What Is Your Context? In previous blog posts, we stressed the importance of context in data analytics. You can read more about this topic here, but essentially what you need to know is that without context (or in the wrong context), your information might be inaccurate, misleading or simply useless. Start by defining the context of the problem(s) you are trying to solve. For instance, if you want to make sure that customers are not waiting at the drive-thru window for longer than 30 seconds to pick up their order, you need an analytics tool that not only tracks how long each customer is waiting but also notifies you of slow service in near real-time. This way you react to situations as they happens. In a different context, you may be looking at

4 Technology-Driven Ways to Reduce Employee Theft in Your Quick Service Restaurant

March 5, 2015
Quick service restaurants (QSRs) are particularly vulnerable to employee theft. It’s difficult to spot small amounts of money or product disappearing when on any given day there could be a thousand transactions. And as a franchise owner, you simply don’t have the time to audit every one of them. Because of this challenge, it might take months to gather enough evidence to approach the employee in question. By this point, you’re lucky if you can recover a portion of the stolen sum. Below, we’ve highlighted the most common ways employees steal from QSRs and how Solink helps you to detect these incidents faster, gather the right evidence and prevent these thefts from reoccurring. Undercharging Undercharging is the most common type of fraud that QSRs experience: the employee under-rings the correct price of an item and pockets the difference. They might punch the order in under a promotional price, using employee discounts, voiding it or using $0 options/modifiers in the POS system. Solution: You should be suspicious of very small transactions, such as under $1. At Solink, we use POS exception reporting in combination with video analytics in order to flag transactions under a certain amount. This is also used to audit transactions with multiple voids. Once the transaction has been flagged, you just have to review the footage and POS data provided to determine if any suspicious activity occurred. Over the long-term, collecting this data allows you to compare the frequency of these events across all employees and detect outliers, such as an employee whose sales are consistently lower than the average, or when they have too many voids. No sale transactions A no sale transaction occurs when the POS system allows an employee to open the cash drawer without changing the balance. There are legitimate reasons to do this, but it also creates an opportunity to undercharge an order or remove cash without a transaction record. Solution: Normally, you would have to find all the no sale transactions at the end of the day and then manually look for the footage that corresponds to each one. We automate this process by linking the POS data to the surveillance video. When Solink sends an alert that a no sale transaction occurs, you are also provided with snapshot of the event automatically, and with a click on a button, you access video at the time of the event to see if the employee pocketed any cash. Giving out product for free It’s common for an employee to give out free food to friends. The challenge here is that the POS records will not give you any indication that a transaction is missing. Solution: This is where video becomes crucial. Solink’s Customer Presence and Dwell Detection are two applications that detect when a person is in a designated location and how long they were there. If a transaction is taking place but a customer is not detected in the video frame (in front of the counter or cash register), we would flag

The Most Important Restaurant Analytics in Quick Service Industry

February 25, 2015
In the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry, time literally is money. This becomes apparent when many fast food establishments like Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts are able to directly link performance metrics, like service speed, to increases or decreases in profits, and other restaurant analytics. In businesses where margins are small but volumes are large, small improvements, like being able to complete an order 10 seconds faster, make a huge difference over the course of a year. Collecting and analyzing accurate performance data from each location has become a necessity in order to measure results and detect where improvements can be made. The Missing Ingredient When people in the industry hear about restaurant analytics, most of them think of exception reporting at point-of-sale (POS) terminals. But there is another source of data that is largely untapped: surveillance cameras. Video is the most context-rich source of data and a core part of contextual analytics. In other words, if you just look at the transactions at the end of the day, you might be missing a big part of the story. By including video in your analysis, you get a much better understanding of what happened, as if you were there watching. When all is said and done, restaurant franchise owners will only see a significant ROI from restaurant analytics if they leverage them to make better decisions in day-to-day and long term operations. So here are three features of the Solink Restaurant Loss Prevention system that help restaurants make a big impact on their bottom line. 1. POS Exception Reporting Each QSR location might have hundreds, or thousands, of daily transactions. Reviewing all of them for fraud would take hours. But by leveraging POS exception reporting, businesses are able to flag transactions that are irregular or potentially fraudulent. POS exception reporting becomes more valuable when transactions are matched to video and analyzed for additional context. One advantage is that you don’t need to look for the video evidence because it’s already matched with the corresponding transaction. Using video also makes it possible to detect additional POS exceptions, such as a customer not being present during a transaction (a scenario that often indicates internal fraud). Other suspicious events that can be flagged are no sale transactions, voids and unauthorized employee discount redemptions. 2. Queue line and drive-thru monitoring In a recent blog post, we talked about the importance of measuring queue lines and tracking how long customers wait at each step in the service process. To shed precious seconds (or minutes) off of service speeds, businesses need a reliable way to track customer wait times across all locations. This helps to identify bottlenecks and determine how each location is performing in comparison to the company/industry average. 3. Event-driven analytics and notifications Event-driven analytics is a broad term that we use for any type of application that uses predetermined rules to detect important events which, if detected, trigger some form of action. For instance, a rule can be assigned to detect in-store motion between the

Why these ecommerce leaders are building brick and mortar stores

February 20, 2015
A recent trend in omni-channel retailing (and one that we expect to grow in 2015) is ecommerce merchants opening brick and mortar locations. “E-tailers are dipping their toes into the traditional brick and mortar locations as they experience the benefits of exposing their brands to a whole new range of customers” commented Thomas Bisacquino, President and CEO of NAIOP. Smaller ecommerce merchants are taking a more conservative approach by renting space temporarily to be used as a showroom or popup shop. This allows them to test out the brick and mortar environment before committing to a lease. Clearly the brick and mortar store is not dead, it might actually be experiencing a revival. Here’s 4 ecommerce leaders that have opened retail stores in the last year or so, and the reasons why they’re doing it. Amazon What many people anticipated, while others swore would never happen, has come true. Amazon opened its first physical store this February and planning to open more of them. The store is located on the campus of Purdue University in Indiana and is described as a “customer order pickup and drop-off location.” Mitch Daniels, president of the University, said the store makes it more convenient and affordable for students to purchase books and other supplies. Warby Parker Warby Parker is a young American brand of eyeglasses and sunglasses that was started as an internet only company. Their vision never included brick and mortar. But the more they talked with their customers, the more it became clear that they wanted to be able to touch the merchandise and interact with someone face to face. So that’s what Warby Parker gave them. Nasty Gal This tongue-in-cheek retailer grew to a multi-billion dollar company from it’s humble beginnings on Ebay. The company’s personality has always been a key element in attracting the right demographic and building brand loyalty. “We’ve been having a dialogue with our gal for eight years this month and to celebrate that, we’re taking the conversation offline,” says founder Sophia Amoruso. “The brand is visceral. We have always been about bold personalities, a strong look, and a specific sound, and this is the first time we will be combining all of those elements into a real life, physical experience.” Bonobos For the first few years, clothing retailer Bonobos was adamant that ecommerce is the future of retail and that stores were a bad economic decision. But with experience, they understood that many would-be customers were holding back on making a purchase because they wanted to feel the merchandise. “E-commerce is growing fast but that doesn’t mean the offline world is going away-it just means it’s changing.” commented CEO Andy Dunn. For all four of these ecommerce merchants, the decision to open retail stores was customer driven. It is clear that brick and mortar holds an advantage over ecommerce when it comes to creating an engaging shopping experience and connecting with customers on a more personal level. What to read next By 2020, major ecommerce companies

Reduce wait times at queue lines and keep customers happy during service delays

February 18, 2015
Long queue lines are a good problem to have: when your business is growing and attracting new customers, the checkout lines are bound to get busier during peak hours. So having queue lines isn’t the problem: it’s slow service times that prevent the queue line from moving efficiently. This can diminish the customer experience and lead to abandonment. Luckily, we’ve got some actionable tips to help you. How Customers Perceive Waiting Time The Journal of Consumer Behaviour published a study on Customer’s perceived value of waiting time for service events. According to the study, the total wait time in any service situation (like a bank or restaurant) can be divided in 3 cycles. In a quick service restaurant (QSR) or coffee shop the three cycles are: Pre-process: Customer is in line waiting to make an order. In-Process: Customer is at the counter, gives his order to the employee and pays. Post-Process: Customer waits for their order to be ready Surprisingly, the pre-process cycle has the greatest influence on how customers perceive waiting times and service quality. So a customer who has to wait 10 minutes in line before ordering will feel more dissatisfied than a customer who waits 10 minutes for their order to be prepared, even if the total service time for both customers was the same. Research also shows that a customer’s perception of how long they waited has a much stronger influence on customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) than actual wait times. The bad news is that people tend to overstate how long they waited since their perception is highly subjective and influenced by factors such as personality, expectations, being in a rush, etc. The good news is that, first, you can influence the way they experience waiting, and second, you can optimize your operations to reduce the frequency of slow service times and long queues. Influence customers’ perception of waiting time during unexpected service delays There are several practical things that managers can do to keep customers happy during unexpected service delays, such as being short on staff: Give customers clear and conservative information that will help them estimate their wait time: This reduces their level of anxiety caused by the uncertainty of the situation. Under promise, over deliver: The restaurant host can give customers a longer than expected waiting time, say 20 minutes. If customers end up waiting just 10 minutes, they will feel happier since they expected to wait twice as long. Fill “empty time”: By giving customers something to do while they wait, it can seem like time goes by faster. This is what magazines in waiting rooms are for, but the best option today is to provide free Wi-Fi access to patrons. Do not give the impression of making the same mistake twice: Apologizing to a customer a second time about additional delays will only make them more upset than if you admit to service delays just once. Reduce waiting time at queue lines You can optimize your operations by using data already at your disposal: your surveillance

By 2020, major ecommerce companies will have stores. Here’s why.

February 13, 2015
Far too often the relationship between physical retail and ecommerce has been described as a zero-sum game. But the future of retail belongs to the companies who truly understand and capitalize on the fact that physical, ecommerce and mobile are enhancements to each other, not threats. In this omni-channel environment, the brick and mortar store will continue to be critical to retail success and we expect that many major players in ecommerce will begin to experiment with physical retail. Macy’s is a great example of an omni-channel company. “I’m bullish about the fact that we have as many stores as we do and we are in as many neighborhoods.” says Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren. “It’s the right formula for the customer of today.” (source) When asked about investing in brick and mortar, he had this to say: “In 2013 we were the 8th largest internet company in America, I think we are going to be the 7th this year. I mean we’re a serious player in the online world in itself but that’s not the answer. I will predict that 5 years from now, any major online company will have stores.” His prediction that even Amazon will have stores is already coming true. What differentiates brick and mortar The reason for this, according to the CEO of JDA Software Baljit Dail, comes down to two fundamental elements: the emotional connection to your brand and instant gratification. “Despite the explosion of omni-channel, the retail store is not dead. It’s still at the emotional and financial core of today’s shopping experience.” he stated at Retail’s Big Show. The tangible elements of the shopping experience, such as touching, smelling, tasting and trying the product, are just not possible to replicate online. E-tailers are also recognizing the benefit of having face to face interactions with their customers to have a better understanding of who they are and what they want. Investing in omni-channel makes sense (and dollars) “78% of consumers still want to shop in the store. And when they do, they spend 6 times more than when they shop online,” says Dail. Those numbers can’t be ignored. Retail stores that are investing in mobile and online channels are actually seeing a rise in brick and mortar sales, or ‘technology driven retail sales’. In IKEA for instance people research the products on their mobile devices or desktops before visiting the store to sit on the sofas and make the purchase. At the same time, ecommerce stores investing in physical locations or pop-up shops are seeing direct increases to online sales as well. Essentially all channels raise boats together. Between omni-channel strategies, increased capabilities to perform in-store analytics and the surge in mobile devices, it will be fascinating to see where the retail industry will be in 5 years from now.

10 Data Visualizations To Inspire The Data Nerd In You

February 9, 2015
At Solink, we believe that raw data can tell a powerful story. So not surprisingly, we are mega data nerds. I put together this collection of data visualizations and animations that are so beautiful, you could hang them on your wall. (No, really. Some of these have been made into prints for sale). It’s interesting to note that most of these visualizations use data that has been created by humans, whether it’s how we move throughout the world, what we talk about or the music we listen to. Enjoy. 1. Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Animated Graphical Score To commemorate the 2013 centennial of its premiere, Stephen Malinowski and Jay Bacal collaborated on a graphical score of Igor Stravinsky’s famous composition The Rite of Spring. Malinowski created the animation using his Music Animation Machine (MAM) software. Learn more about this project here. 2. Earth: An Animated Map Earth is a project created by Cameron Beccario. Using data from global weather conditions and ocean waves, the result is a dynamic and mesmerizing visual of our planet. Spend a few minute exploring. (A free version of the source code is available on GitHub) 3. Geotagged Tweets Mentioning #SXSW2014 S. Rogers documents trending hashtags around cultural and political events, most of which affect people all over the world. The map above represents Twitter conversations around the popular SXSW conference in 2014. While this concept is not new, the aesthetics of Rogers’ maps are particularly beautiful. View his complete gallery here. 4. All buildings in the Netherlands, by year of construction All 9,866,539 buildings in the Netherlands, shaded according to year of construction. The image above only shows a small part of the entire map. Creator Bert Spaan has made the source code available on GitHub. High-res prints can also be purchased. 5. Social Media Portraits Of 11 Cities U.K. designer Brendan Dawes has been experimenting with data visualizations for years. He describes this series as a fingerprint of each city frozen in time. “To make each city’s visualization, I took all of the Twitter data for three days between October 28th and October 30th, 2012. I then mapped that data out across 4,320 points, which is the number of minutes in three days,” Dawes explains. The Fast Company article he was featured in is worth a read, not only to see the complete image but also to learn about Brendan’s philosophy of data visualization. 6. The Biggest Galaxy Image Ever at 1.5 Billion Pixels NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have released the sharpest and biggest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy using the Hubble Space Telescope. Although it hasn’t been analyzed and graphed, this image is a visual representation of a huge amount of data. All one thousand billion stars contained in this galaxy can be viewed here, using the zoom tool. 7. What Interests Reddit? Mark Thornton, Social Neuroscientist, wanted to learn more about people’s interests and the connections between them. To do this, he turned to Reddit and created

15 Food and Restaurant Influencers You Need To Follow

February 2, 2015
We are happy to share with you this list of 15 movers and shakers that are changing the food and restaurant industries one plate at a time. All of these restaurant influencers have made a significant impact and we’re eager to see what they do next. Say hi to them on Twitter and tell them @SolinkCorp sent you!   1. Danny Meyer @dhmeyer Danny Meyer is a New York City restaurateur and the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group. After studying cooking as a culinary stagiaire in both Italy and Bordeaux, he opened his first restaurant Union Square Cafe at just 27 years old. The restaurant is still running strong after 30 years in business. 2. Kat Cole @KatColeATL A true businesswoman and humanitarian, Kat Cole is now the President and COO of Cinnabon, Inc. She got her start in the restaurant industry at Hooters where she became an Executive Vice President at just 26 years old. Cole oversaw the growth of Hooters from approximately 100 locations and $300 million in revenue to 500 locations in 33 countries and $1 billion in revenue. 3. Dana Cowin @fwscout Dana Cowin is the Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine magazine. In 2012, Cowin was an inductee into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who in Food & Beverage in America. Currently she is on the Board of Directors of Hot Bread Kitchen. 4. Jonathan Grahm @Compartes Jonathan Grahm, named one of Forbes “30 Under 30”, is known for his over 100+ varieties of gourmet chocolates found in Compartes Chocolatier. Grahm, who started making chocolate at 19, transformed Compartes Chocolatier into one of the most notable and celebrated artisanal chocolate destinations in the nation blending chocolate, art, style, design, fashion and food. 5. Paul Barron @paulbarron Where do we even begin? Paul Barron is the CEO and Executive Producer of Foodable Network, the founder of Fast Casual publication and Fast Casual Nation as well as the author of The Chipotle Effect. Simply put, if you’re in the fast casual industry you should be following him. 6. Vani Hari @thefoodbabe A passionate food activist, writer and speaker, Vani Hari is on a mission to make the food industry less processed and more transparent. Her work has lead numerous large brands including Starbucks, Subway and Panera Bread to remove chemicals from their ingredients. 7. Jon Taffer @jontaffer Jon Taffer is the unapologetic but caring host and Executive Producer of Bar Rescue and Hungry Investors on Spike TV. He is also the President of The Nightclub & Bar Media Group and Taffer Media. 8. Liza de Guia @SkeeterNYC Liza de Guia combined her two passions, food and storytelling, to create Food Curated. Through video and blogs, she tells the story behind good food. Guia is also a NYTimes partner/host and has been nominated 4 times for a James Beard award. 9. Natanya Anderson @NatanyaP When she’s not eating, drinking, or blogging about food, Natanya is the Director of Social Media at Whole Foods Market. She is also a
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