DB: Where are you?
PO: At the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., where I’m attending the 2018 Distressed Investing Summit hosted by M&A Advisor. Last night we had an opening night cocktail reception at Mar-a-Lago. Tonight, I’ll be receiving the 2018 M&A Advisor Leadership Award. Past winners have included Wilbur L. Ross and Steve Miller.
DB: How is the summit going?
PO: The presentations are geared to distressed investing in the turnaround industry. I like coming to the summit because you get the latest data of what’s going on in multiple industries; you hear about the winds of change that are coming but (you) might not normally see. There’s an international perspective, (and) you hear from professionals who are working in the trenches.
DB: What are the highlights?
PO: I’m learning about the effect that growing digital usage will have on physical stores, what that means for landlords, and how they may adapt in terms of future leases they sign for their centers. You also get information you normally might not think of, such as how important good weather is for restaurants. When there’s bad weather, people don’t go out to eat as much — so more restaurants are providing delivery service to boost sales as are gourmet markets. People are eating out more, but they want better food, smaller portions, and lower prices, so that’s slowing sales of entrees that are priced at $30 or more.
DB: How about labor trends?
PO: Everyone has issues finding and keeping workers. Some restaurants are finding that it’s better to hire younger people who have student aid to pay off, which is more important to them than health care. In general, they turn out to be better performers, too. You also see a lot of changeover at restaurants. The people in the front of the house typically stay, but behind the scenes, in the kitchen, there’s a lot of turnover.