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Chuck E. Cheese’s is finally mercy killing their animatronic critters

(BUSINESS NEWS) Much to parents’ chagrin, for years, kids have loved playing at the animatronic filled Chuck E. Cheese’s. Good news for all of Chuck’s friends– they’re switching up their interior design.

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WHERE A KID CAN BE AFRAID

Occasionally I have nightmares about being trapped in a version of Chuck E. Cheese’s where the money machine transports you to a parallel universe, never to be seen again. As a kid, I don’t remember finding the entertainment chain particularly haunting, but clearly some psychological damage was done.

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Let’s go ahead and blame it on those creepy animatronic characters. Younger generations can rejoice, because some locations are phasing out the animatronic animal bands completely. They won’t know what they’re missing, and I’m totally fine with that.

KEEPING UP

Company chief executive Tom Leverton told CBS, “The kids stopped looking at the animatronics years and years ago, and they would wait for the live Chuck E. to come out.” Kids would rather interact with some dude in a mouse costume than gawk at dilapidated fur-covered robots. Or better yet, play updated games.

Astoundingly, around 500 locations still exist in the U.S.

Of those, a few restaurants in San Antonio, TX will be the first renovated in this modernizing test pilot. Three more in Kansas City, MO are next on the list, and if all goes well, other locations will get a makeover too.

The updated locations will feature TV screens, light up dance floors, large-format video games, and open kitchens so kids can marvel at the pizza making. Thirty-five locations are also testing digital ordering kiosks so you don’t even have to talk to a person to order pretzel bites or whatever.

MODERNIZED MARKETING

Like other longstanding chains, Chuck E. Cheese’s has been trying to stay alive by appealing to a new generation of guests. To appeal to kids, the chain updated its mascot to a more punk rock version of the original mouse in 2012.

Fun fact: the new mascot is voiced by Jaret Reddick, lead singer of Bowling for Soup.

Then in 2015 Chuck E. Cheese’s began offering wine and beer make birthday parties more palatable for parents. By 2018 they hope to offer local dining specialties. Adults have more discerning tastes today,” Leverton says of his customer base. Updating food offerings is one way the company hopes to draw in more parents.

So long animatronics

Nixing the potentially possessed animatronic characters should help too. Good riddance to those things, and here’s to a better future where children aren’t subjected to terrifying animatronics.

#ByeByeBots

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

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Business News

How to level the gender playing field in tech (and other industries)

(BUSINESS NEWS) One job search site has a reasonable answer to solving the gender gap problem in today’s workforce, and others should take note.

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As an employer, you should be screening employees based on qualifications and preferences, not a candidate’s gender. This seems obvious, but even the most well-meaning employers and recruiters are subject to the curse of implicit bias.

Implicit bias comes into play when unconscious attitudes or stereotypes about someone’s gender, sex, race, ethnicity, age, religion or other identifying features are used to judge that individual’s competency. This is different from known biases, where a person is aware of any stereotypes they may believe, but may choose to not disclose their views.

Major universities including Harvard and Yale teamed up to create Project Implicit, a series of implicit-association tests (IAT) to detect implicit bias through a series of quick associations. Their popular Gender-Career IAT “often reveals a relative link between family and females and between career and males.”

The test has users pair pre-established names of men and women with family and career words. Test takers are prompted in one round to quickly match pre-categorized masculine names with words typically associated with family, while the next may have users pair feminine names with career words.

Based on hesitation and accuracy, users get an interpretation of their potential implicit biases. This comes into play with employee screening, where something as simple as seeing a name on a resume can influence an employer, even in the absence of known biases.

In a Skidmore University study, social psychologist Corrine Moss-Racusin created two identical, fictitious resumes for a lab manager position. The resumes only differed in name, with one fake applicant named Jennifer, the other John.

Different versions were sent out to STEM professors across the country for evaluation. Overall, the “Jennifer” resume received less interest, and was recommended a salary that was on average $4000 less than the identical “John” resume.

Implicit gendered bias was even present in women scientists who participated in reviewing the resumes. In the STEM field, women are underrepresented. Especially in tech, men are disproportionally hired over women.

So what can be done to level the playing field for gender when even a name could make employers think women candidates are less qualified?

Stop looking at names when initially researching a candidate. Okay, I know this is easier said than done and isn’t feasible if you’re screening through normal process of resume submission and in-person hiring events.

But if you use an online source, more platforms are offering solutions for fairer hiring practices that allow you to blind screen employees during initial rounds.

For example, job search site Woo offers anonymity for prospective employees, only revealing a candidate’s name and profile with their permission. During the initial pairing process, skills and background are shared, but other details are not available.

When setting up a talent profile, potential employees fill out a wish list, telling Woo about ideal opportunities, like higher salary, company culture, or desire to work with new technology. Likewise, employers set up their profile to reflect what their different positions can offer.

Using an AI algorithm, Woo calibrates employer with employee preferences to make relevant offers. During this step, user’s identities are hidden until they find an opportunity that matches preferences and actively choose to share their expanded profile with that company.

Woo even adjusts education and work history “so that it’s completely generic and less personal” to provide further identity cloaking. (Bonus: if you’re job hunting on the DL, Woo won’t pair you with current or past employers.)

This means employers can’t apply implicit or explicit bias based on name or profile information that may reveal personal details like gender or race.

Once a user chooses to share this information, employers are free to Google and social media hunt the prospective employee to their heart’s content.

Until then, talent benefits from being seen solely for their skills and experience. This can help level the playing field, especially in the tech industry, which is notoriously skewed towards hiring men.

Major companies like Lyft, Wix, and Microsft are already using Woo, and the service is available to employees in the United States and Israel.

Other job sites should consider scrubbing personal details like gender and name for initial searches and matches when showing results to employers. This can help eliminate bias based on gender and other personal factors.

If you’re seeking a job, you can use Woo for free. Employers can submit info to get contacted by Woo about joining up and staring a better, bias free recruitment process.

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Business News

As soda sales slump, companies consider crazy coffee

(BUSINESS NEWS) Retail trends continue to shift as new generations demand innovation – soda sales are slumping and brands are looking to coffee as the answer.

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Since the 1950s, beverage companies have been concerned with the shift of market share from soda to coffee in terms of breakfast and afternoon drink staples. Well now, that fortune has been reversed. According to analysis by the Washington Post, coffee may once again trump the caffeinated drink market, leaving soda manufacturers to question what may come next, while planning a strategy to enter the playing field.

The slump in soda sales are causing some beverage manufacturers and parent companies looking to merge or acquire others in order to hook the consumer throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Considering that in late 2017, Coca-Cola acquired hipster sparkling water favorite Topo Chico, other companies are falling in line to make sure that their reach goes beyond the high fructose corn syrup.

The secretive JAB Holdings, the German parent company of Panera Bread, Keurig, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, acquired Dr Pepper and Snapple, making this 40+ drink brand company a bigger player than ever in the search for “the new soda.”

So what is going to be the “new soda”? One answer companies may have is the coffee beverages that are certainly similar to their current soda line-up. Outside of Pepsi and Coca Cola, bottling ready-made java drinks on behalf of Starbucks and Pepsi, some brands are really leaning into “soda, but not” for their coffee beverages.

The 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends Report predicted four of the big trendy brands that soda is up against: regular cold brew, sparkling cold brew, nitro joe on draft, and ready-to-drink coffee products. Stumptown Roasters, underneath the Dr Pepper and Keurig mega brand umbrella, has been producing sparkling cold brew since early 2017, which seems unlikely to change in light of these market trends.

The morning mud appears to be an American drink pastime that isn’t going away, with the millennial and Gen Z market wanting exciting coffee innovations to keep their interest and cash loyalty. Soda companies, in this day and age, are struggling to balance their brand portfolio to make sure that dollar keeps flowing, just like their beverages.

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Business News

Failed new years resolutions? Try workplace wellness programs

(WORKPLACE) There are simple ways to better your organization through workplace wellness initiatives which is way cooler than it sounds, I swear…

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It’s February and most of us have already failed to keep our “don’t eat Taco Bell” new year resolutions. We’re not fat jerks, it’s just that Taco Bell has these new french fries and we have no self control.

Even though our diet resolutions have failed, we can all improve our own wellness. And we can maximize our efforts by focusing on workplace wellness, because I just had another batch of Taco Bell fries (that resolution is dead), and because we spend more time with coworkers than anyone else.

Why not mix it with workplace wellness and get some of your coworkers on board to make some health and wellness improvements (then maybe Betty in accounting will quit showing up with her ridiculously delicious chocolate chip cookies)? Betty…

However, what most people may not be focusing on are health concerns outside of eating healthier and staying active.

I stumbled upon TotalWellness Health while browsing for inspiration on how to better myself in the new year. According to their website, “TotalWellness is a national wellness services provider that provides tools and services to deliver better wellness programs.”

They partner with organizations specifically to better their workplaces and help their employees to be healthier. TotalWellness helps organizations to lower healthcare costs, prevent diseases, and create corporate wellness solutions to foster a safer and more productive work environment.

The company also provides: health risk assessment and reporting, corporate health fairs, various health screenings, on-site flu shot clinics, health education, and a wellness portal. All of this is designed to help organizations provide their employees with a well-rounded blanket of health services.

Having something like this, even if somehow done in-house, can also help improve the overall vibe of the workplace. Creating wellness events and activities can help bring employees together, inspire creativity, and, in turn, this will translate to productivity.

Also consider creating more of a collaborative community presence as a part of your workplace wellness.

This can be done through group volunteering events or fundraisers, anything that helps employees to bond and collaborate while helping others.

You can combine all of this together by researching charity events with a health component. For example, Run Ranger Run will be taking place during the entire month of February, and challenges groups of up to ten people to walk, bike, run, etc. a total of 565 miles (per group). This can be done remotely and logged into a portal, so it’s perfect for teams that may work remote.

The bottom line: make yourself more aware of different offerings and opportunities this year, because it can have a snowball effect that betters your workplace as a whole and helps you eat less fries.

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