Author : Tommy Yionoulis

HomeArticles Posted by Tommy Yionoulis (Page 10)

What is the deal with GMO’s?

I would like to thank Chef Russell Furdell from Chef Resources for sending me this article on GMO’s.  We usually like to cut and paste these types of articles so you can just read them here, but this one is so long and has so many pictures that it wasn’t going to look good.

Here is the URL to the original article:  Unhealthy Fixation: The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.

I feel like the case on GMO’s is similar to other modern issues, global warming, that have become so politicized that it’s hard to find the truth.

I thought the article was informative, it cited scientific studies and did a nice job of showing the history of GMO’s.  It is a long article, but I think it worth a read.

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The Value of Pre-Shift Meetings

I had the opportunity in 2002 to go through hospitality and customer service training similar to what the Ritz Carlton organization uses.  This program was implemented at one of the premier shopping malls in the country, The Grove in Los Angeles. I was a Concierge Services Manager at the mall. Our concierge team was so good that we won the 2002 Wall Street Journal Battle of the Concierges. We beat the W Hotel in San Francisco and the Ritz in NYC.

 The training program was simple and straight forward:

  1. Intense customer service training before new employees interact with guests.
  2. Wallet card with customer service guidelines on it.
  3. Memorization of customer service guidelines.
  4. Customer service test, must pass before assuming position.
  5. Daily Pre-shift Meeting for all employees including managers.
I want to focus on the pre-shift meeting aspect of the system because it was key to the overall implementation of the program and what maintained our customer service standards after the initial training.
Over my years of managing restaurants I have built upon that foundation and created the OpsAnalitica Pre-shift Methodology that I would like to share with you today.
Your Pre-shift is broken into the following sections:
  1. Customer Service Tenant
    • This is one of 10 to 15 customer service tenants that you train and hold your team responsible for implementing.
  2. Quick explanation of the service tenant as a story.
    • Make the story relatable and short.
  3. Team member Experience
    • A team member shares a real life experience where they discuss a time when they gave or received service highlighted in the service tenant.
    • How did that make them or the guest feel?
  4. Important shift Information
    • 86’d items
    • Specials
  5. Quote or Joke of the day
    • Share a quote or joke of the day.
    • Make sure joke is appropriate for your audience.
  6. Shift contest
    • Every shift you should run a contest to motivate the team and you reward the winners with a meal, or credit, or post shift drink, etc.
      • You can run longer contests, like bottles of wine in a month but you really have to work to keep the team motivated and the prize has to be a lot bigger. Sometimes distributors will provide the prize.
    • Serving guests can become monotonous, use contest to motivate your team and to focus them on high contribution margin or items that are nearing expiration. By using contests to move these types of products you can lower waste and increase profits.
      • When I worked at Changs over a decade ago the food cost on Chicken Lettuce Wraps was $.39 an order and they sold for $6.95. Chicken Lettuce Wraps had a 6% food cost.  Don’t you want to be incenting your servers to sell items that have high contribution margins?
    • Make sure you announce the winner of last shift’s contest at the next Pre-shift meeting.
    • Examples of server games:
      • Server Bingo
      • Ticket times contests
      • Food or drink Item contest
      • Compliment contests
      • Comment card contests
I’ve seen first hand at a Changs the power of pre-shifts. Taking that couple of minutes before every shift to focus your team on service, give them a goal, and communicate vital information works wonders. I was a part of a management team that increased weekly sales by 50k a week from 125 to over 170k a a week in an 8 month period and pre-shifts were a major part of the strategy.
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The Restaurant Industry Warned You – Look at What is Happening in Seattle

Fox news just published an article about some of the unintended consequences that are showing up in Seattle because of their new minimum wage law.  To read the full article click here.

Here are the points that I found most interesting:

  • People are asking their bosses for fewer hours so they can make less and stay on public assistance.
  • “If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM.
  • The fifteen dollar minimum wage has not really moved the needle very much on moving people off of welfare:  In March 130,851 people were enrolled in the Basic Food program. In April, the caseload dropped to 130,376.
  • Some restaurants have tacked on a 15 percent surcharge to cover the higher wages. And some managers are no longer encouraging customers to tip, leading to a redistribution of income. Workers in the back of the kitchen, such as dishwashers and cooks, are getting paid more, but servers who rely on tips are seeing a pay cut.


Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law is supposed to lift workers out of poverty and move them off public assistance. But there may be a hitch in the plan.

Evidence is surfacing that some workers are asking their bosses for fewer hours as their wages rise – in a bid to keep overall income down so they don’t lose public subsidies for things like food, child care and rent.

Full Life Care, a home nursing nonprofit, told KIRO-TV in Seattle that several workers want to work less.

“If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM.

The twist is just one apparent side effect of the controversial — yet trendsetting — minimum wage law in Seattle, which is being copied in several other cities despite concerns over prices rising and businesses struggling to keep up.

The notion that employees are intentionally working less to preserve their welfare has been a hot topic on talk radio. While the claims are difficult to track, state stats indeed suggest few are moving off welfare programs under the new wage.

Despite a booming economy throughout western Washington, the state’s welfare caseload has dropped very little since the higher wage phase began in Seattle in April. In March 130,851 people were enrolled in the Basic Food program. In April, the caseload dropped to 130,376.

At the same time, prices appear to be going up on just about everything.

Some restaurants have tacked on a 15 percent surcharge to cover the higher wages. And some managers are no longer encouraging customers to tip, leading to a redistribution of income. Workers in the back of the kitchen, such as dishwashers and cooks, are getting paid more, but servers who rely on tips are seeing a pay cut.

Some long-time Seattle restaurants have closed altogether, though none of the owners publicly blamed the minimum wage law.

“It’s what happens when the government imposes a restriction on the labor market that normally wouldn’t be there, and marginal businesses get hit the hardest, and usually those are small, neighborhood businesses,” said Paul Guppy, of the Washington Policy Center.

Seattle was followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles in passing a $15 minimum wage law. The wage is being phased in over several years to give businesses time to adjust. The current minimum wage in Seattle is $11. In San Francisco, it’s $12.25.

And it is spreading. Beyond the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week also approved a $15 minimum wage.

New York state could be next, with the state Wage Board on Wednesday backing a $15 wage for fast-food workers, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported.

Already, though, there are unintended consequences in other cities.

Comix Experience, a small book store in downtown San Francisco, has begun selling graphic novel club subscriptions in order to meet payroll. The owner, Brian Hibbs, admits members are not getting all that much for their $25 per month dues, but their “donation” is keeping him in business.

“I was looking at potentially having to close the store down and then how would I make my living?” Hibbs asked.

To date, he’s sold 228 subscriptions. He says he needs 334 to reach his goal of the $80,000 income required to cover higher labor costs. He doesn’t blame San Francisco voters for approving the $15 minimum wage, but he doesn’t think they had all the information needed to make a good decision.

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Operations Data Use Cases Finale

In yesterday’s post, Operations Data Use Cases. We discussed two Ops Data use cases and how Ops Data could be used to make better decisions, drive better operations, and run more profitable restaurants.  In Today’s blog post, we are going to discuss one more use case and draw some conclusions.

Line Pars

Do you check that your different kitchen stations are stocked and that there is enough thawed product to meet your pars every shift?  More importantly do you track that metric so you refer can back to it when looking at sales.  Have you ever considered how much longer it takes to cook a frozen burger patty than a thawed patty?  I’ve heard that it can take up 50% longer to cook a frozen patty vs. thawed patty.  That is the difference between 4 minutes and 6 minutes per patty.  If you were to cook a case of burgers one after the other, the frozen patties would take 80 minutes longer to cook than the thawed patties.



Ensuring that your line is stocked every shift with thawed product is massively important.  A 50% increase in cook times on a key item like burgers can be the difference between getting a third turn at lunch and having a second turn just sort of fade out.

When you are looking at lunch sales for weeks or months at a time, and you can’t understand why on certain days your sales dip; what else do you look at today?  If you track operations data, you can merge your sales data with other data to try and uncover what may be the cause.

We had a client that determined that on Wednesday’s they always had a dip in sales, they served a ton of burgers at this bar, and they got their food deliveries on Tuesdays.  A lot of the time they coasted into Wednesday lunch with 1/2 their burger par for the shift still frozen which killed their ticket times and their 3rd turn.  It wasn’t until they merged their checklists with their sales and looked at them by days of the week that this reality showed up.

The amazing thing was how easy it was to fix.  They worked with their suppliers to increase the number of thawed burger cases they received and instructed their cooks to ensure that they had enough frozen patties thawing to cover Wednesday dinner and Thursday.  They got their sales on Wednesdays to match or exceed their Tuesday sales, and it didn’t cost them anything but a few minutes of looking at their Ops Data.


Using digital checklists to track your operations data can provide context for your sales numbers.  Remeber, Operations Drive Sales – Sales don’t drive Operations.  Plus well-written checklists guide your managers to look at the most important items of your operations every day.  Digital checklists aren’t going to solve the world’s problems but they are going to help you run better operations.  If you would like to learn more about our SMART Inspection philosophy and what kinds of questions you should be asking you should sign up for our weekly webinar here.

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Operations Data Use Cases

In yesterday’s post, What is Operations Data. We discussed the importance of Operations Data (Ops Data) and how it could be used to make better decisions, drive better operations, and run more profitable restaurants.  In Today’s blog post, we are going to discuss more Ops Data use cases.

Is your manager any good?

The GM of a restaurant has more to do with the restaurant’s success or failure than any other person you employ; the buck stops with the boss, and it is ultimately their responsibility to run profitable operations.  How do you know if your GM is doing a good job?  Do you base that on sales or cost percentages?  Do you base that on complaints and compliments?  Do you base that on how well the staff likes them?  If you are not at the location every day; then how do you know?


I’m going to tell you a real story from my past. At one point in my career, I was a member of a team of managers that turned in our GM to corporate because he was cooking the books around labor cost.  He was going into the register and rolling back employees times to 40 hours per week on Monday mornings before he submitted the weekly numbers to corporate.  We found out about this because one of our best employees quit when he got his paycheck and all of the hours that he had worked weren’t on there. We found out the GM was doing this for all employees, a lot of employees knew this was happening to them, but they were not speaking up because they were being intimidated.  By stealing from the employees, he was able to keep his labor cost in-line and inflate profits and subsequently his bonuses.

To the outside world, he was running an incredibly profitable restaurant.  Corporate proved that he was stealing, after we tipped them off, by using POS metadata.  Metadata is the data of data.  An example of metadata in a POS might be the server’s name and the time they closed the ticket.  You have the order, but you also have the other data around the order that helps tell the story.  The POS system we used had advanced keystroke logging; it could record what buttons were pushed by what people.  So the forensic team at corporate was able to verify that what we told them was true, and they fired this person immediately.

That POS metadata is operations data; it was used to tell the story that the sales and cost data couldn’t tell.  Another example of metadata, in the OpsAnalitica system, we record metadata on every inspection, we know who logged in and when then answered each question and how long their inspection took to complete, we know if you pencil whipped or if you took time to answer the questions correctly.

Appearance of the Restaurant

Do you track how ready your restaurant is for each shift?  Do you think that a clean and tidy restaurant is better for guests than a dirty restaurant?  Of course, you do. How would you know if the cleanliness of your restaurant was affecting sales?  Think about the last five times you started your dinner shift and your restaurant wasn’t 100% ready for the shift.  Could you write down those dates on a piece of paper right now?  I would be impressed if you could.  Have you ever gone back and looked at the sales from those nights and compared them to averages sales on those days of the week and the year before?

If you tracked this question on a digital checklist daily and you merged that data with your sales data you could determine how much a dirty restaurant may be costing you per night.  It could be thousands of dollars, or it could be $15.  If you can’t look at sales with other operation factors to provide context, then you don’t know the why behind performance and profits.

One last point to make about tracking data using digital logs vs. digital checklists.  I think digital logs are great for communicating data between managers and between shifts, that is what they are designed to do.  From a query writing and reporting perspective, it is much easier to compare a question or a series of individual data points that are defined than it is to compare the free text that is written in a log.  If you want to use operations data to make better decisions, track specific data points in a checklist and don’t try to compare sales to log notes because it won’t be helpful.

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What is Operations Data?

Since we started OpsAnalitica we have been talking about Operations Data(Ops Data) and how powerful it is and it dawned on me last week that we haven’t taken the time to define Operations Data for our readers.  This is an oversight on our part but one that I hope to correct in this week’s blogs.


Here are some examples of Ops Data:

  • Ticket Times
  • Temperatures
  • Taste of Soup of the Day
  • Cleanliness of Bathroom
  • Staff Readiness
  • Pre-shift meeting completed
  • Line Pars
  • Staffing % (were you staffed to your schedule or were you short staffed)
  • Food Cost
  • Labor Cost
  • Waste
  • Appearance of Restaurant
  • Sales
  • Day Dots being followed (FIFO)

This list is far from being complete; these items are just a small sampling of the items that good restaurant managers are checking.  Each one of those Ops Data items can affect your operations and ultimately your profitability.  Some of them are easier to track, sales because your cash register does that for you.  Some are harder to track, day dots being followed, because you physically have to go into your walk-in, coolers, and pantry to inspect what you expect.  All of those operations data items help tell the story of your restaurant.

It is in the story of your restaurant where you find out who is a good employee and a bad employee, you start to understand the patterns that you have intuitively known but have never been able to quantify because you couldn’t back them up with numbers. More importantly when you have data, you can disprove assumptions as data sheds light on what is happening.  You may have thought your issue was slow sales because of a holiday weekend, and the real answer might have been that the kitchen was short staffed, you had the sales but couldn’t execute on ticket times.  The operations data when it is consistently recorded in an application like OpsAnalitica can be one of the most powerful tools in your restaurant.

For the next couple of days, I’m going to document Ops Data use cases that will show you how tracking and analyzing data points can help you run better operations.

Day Dots:

We all know that we should be using Day Dots in our operations to ensure that we are following the FIFO inventory methodology, serving safe food, and reducing waste.  If you don’t check your walk-in every day and record that the day dots were in use and that FIFO was being followed; will you remember that you may have had a bad week because of some training issues at the end of the quarter?  Maybe maybe not.  When you are looking at those cost numbers you may attribute the higher waste to some other issue and spend a lot of time trying to solve a problem that has already been solved or wasn’t the cause of your waste issue.  If you had that operations data and you were able to compare it to your cost data easily you would be able to see that you had some new cooks who weren’t following FIFO and you had increased waste until you were able to train them.  After the training, they were fine but during that week before you were able to train them a lot of extra food went bad and was thrown away.

This is a simple example, but it illustrates how important it is to have the complete picture of what is going on in your restaurant each and every shift in a digital format that you can use to compare to other data to make good data-driven decisions.

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US Pig Farmers Question Chipotle

I don’t anything about this “feud”, but found this blog from the Minnesota Pork Producer Council President on Minnesota Farm Living website very interesting.

A while back we posted about Chipotle cutting off their pork vendors for not meeting their guidelines. This cost them revenue in some of their locations as they didn’t have enough pork being produced to keep offering pork in all their locations. But they still stuck to their guns and I’m guessing it paid dividends with their fans.

This blog is interesting as it relates to antibiotics and US Farmers vs a particular UK Farmer that Chipotle has apparently entered into an agreement with going forward. Again, not being an expert in this field it’s hard to say what’s right and wrong. Of course Minnesota Pork Producer Council has an interest in promoting US (specifically Minnesota) pork sales and would naturally be upset seeing the business go overseas.

It would be interesting to hear the full story, but not sure that will happen. There might be other factors in play that drove Chipotle overseas vs here in the US. I have to imagine that the shipping costs have to add some costs, but on the flip side Chipotle is a huge account so I’m sure any producer is willing to work with them at some level.

I have posted the full blog below and it’s linked above. We would love any insight or knowledge if you have any.

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I read your recent announcement on your new supplier of pork for your carnitas and I couldn’t help but ask myself what you have against U.S. pig farmers. Your article discusses how your new pork supplier, Karro, a company from the United Kingdom, follows European standards that allow for antibiotics to be administered when necessary to keep an animal healthy. Karro does not give pigs non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for growth promotion. Your comments go on to state that as a result, some of the pork Chipotle purchases from the UK comes from animals that were treated with antibiotics under veterinary supervision.

That same practice is followed here in the United States by America’s pig farmers. In fact new rules are going into effect that will make it illegal to use antibiotics for growth promotion that are considered medically important. These antibiotics will need to have a veterinary prescription before they can be purchased.

I found the next statement on your website interesting. “But this does not mean that antibiotics are present in the meat. All animals treated with antibiotics (both in Europe and the U.S.) must undergo a withdrawal period before they are slaughtered, which means that meat from a pig treated with antibiotics will not contain antibiotic residue, just like meat from an animal that was never given antibiotics.” All these years you’ve been saying that your pork is better because it comes from farms that never fed antibiotics, but now that you have a supplier that can use antibiotics, you’re admitting there will be no residue and it’s the same as pork from animals never fed antibiotics. It would appear that you have changed your message to fit your situation.

I was also concerned when I read through the chart comparing “conventionally raised” pork to Chipotle U.S and Chipotle U.K. On the topic of using antibiotics used to treat illness it was listed as an industry standard for conventional pork, but it’s prohibited by Chipotle U.S and used only when necessary by Chipotle U.K. Please tell me what I’m supposed to do when my pig gets sick. Not give it medicine to make it better? Let it get sick and die? All your early discussion of humane treatment seems to be a bit hypocritical if I can’t treat a sick animal with medicine.

At the top of your website is the phrase “Food with Integrity”. Given the examples I listed above, it makes me wonder how Chipotle defines integrity. It makes me question who Chipotle uses as a source of industry information. I know many farmers who treat animals humanely and give them antibiotics only when they are sick and keep their pigs in the barns to protect them from freezing temperatures and scorching heat. Those farmers live right here in the U.S. Chipotle, have you taken the time to talk to them?

Integrity means your actions match your words and I’m sorry Chipotle, but that’s just not the case with you anymore. Your actions seems to change depending on the situation and then the story changes to match the situation. You say there’s not enough pork raised in the U.S. to meet your standards for “Responsibly Raised” meats. If you want your animals raised a particular way, there’s your choice to help differentiate your company. However, don’t insinuate that the farmers who use a different production practice aren’t treating their animals humanely. If you want to buy pork from another country that’s your choice. However, as a consumer I prefer to support restaurants and eating establishments that support and promote U.S. agriculture.

You see Chipotle, I like Food with Integrity too and you just don’t have it.

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Yelp responds to critics

On May 22, 2015 we wrapped up a blog series on Yelp. Click here to read the wrap up post. As a Yelp user I recently conducted a search for a restaurant in West Palm Beach and I saw this new message, starting with “Your trust….”, from Yelp right below Recommended Reviews.

Screenshot 2015-07-09 21.53.27

I clicked on the link and read the page where Yelp gives their side of the story on reviews and yelp advertisers getting preferential treatment.  Yelp went so far as to provide examples of how users can prove to themselves that Yelp doesn’t alter reviews. I ran the test search that they provided, ironically the top two businesses that were returned had closed.

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With their test search none of the top results were current advertisers. I did a secondary search of motels that were pet friendly in Odessa Texas trying to see if the Quality Inn that was returned on my google search would show up, they did but they weren’t currently advertising. The top search result was an ad for the La Quinta, see screenshot.

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When you look at the search results you will notice that the ad spot doesn’t show the star rating or the number of reviews like the other results. It is also apparent that the it is an ad with the yellow and white ad flag in the upper left corner.

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When I clicked into the ad, I got the normal Yelp page and saw that this particular property had a 1.5 Star rating with plenty of bad reviews.
In our last blog on Yelp we called on Yelp to provide more transparency about reviews. This is a good first step. Here’s a link to the Yelp FAQ,

Essentials of a SMART Pre-shift Inspection

Baselines are covered first. The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol captures data that is essential to operations and inspections (fridge temps, food temps, locations of sanitizing buckets…everything you need for CYA moments and health inspections).

But the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol also collects the seemingly extraneous data that could be far more telling than the fact that the cooler maintained a <41F temperature, as required, or that cleaning chemicals were safely separated from potential contact with food.

“Seemingly extraneous data.” What’s that?

Well, we all know that restaurants succeed and fail as much on human interactions / human discretion as on the wholesale price of a salmon steak or a plate of wings. Much depends on the intangibles, which are really not intangibles at all, if they are recorded and examined.

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Imagine if you have a protocol checklist for how well dressed the wait staff is. (Crisp shirt? Check. Spotless tie? Check. Clean apron? Check. Finger nails clean? Check. Tattoos covered? Check.)

Or if the protocol checklist checked that the side work has been done.

Or if you had a check-off system to ensure that your workers didn’t take all the parking spaces nearest the entrance, when that act alone could attract (or deter) enough customers to get a solid second turn at brunch.

Or that you were aware that the ice machine is undersized for the required volume of glasses, which delayed the refills, which caused half of your patrons to skip dessert, which triggered spoilage, which made your dumpsters full one day too soon, which turned away another 30 diners who thought the establishment just looked filthy when they circled around back to park.

Make no mistake, daily line checks and temp logs are important. But they are not the only thing that a restaurant manager should be looking at. In fact, a great deal of that data is collected on a CYA basis, and it doesn’t really affect the bottom line of the operation.

There’s a free webinar on Tuesday July 14th @ 3 PM CST where you can get some new ideas on how to write your own SMART Pre-shift. Click here to register.


“Moneyball approach ” to managing multi-location restaurants

The question is: Which data? What things should our “Moneyball scouts ” be looking at?

That’s where SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocols come into play.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

Old Pilots Don’t Crash. Old Restaurants Managers Do. Ever see an old pilot skip a pre-flight checklist? Nope. That ’s why so few planes crash. Ever see an old restaurant manager (over confident that he knows it all) crash a restaurant? Yup. Happens all the time. That’s why we have to bring the rigor of the pre-flight inspection to the management of restaurants.

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SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol™ is a checklist system, not unlike the pre-flight checklists that pilots run through to ensure safe operations. Except that the restaurant data that’s captured is not viewed in isolation, nor just logged and stored and never looked at again. 

The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is performed by your workers at any skill level, using a tablet or iPad to log in the restaurateur’s most valuable assets: “in-game data.” 

Since this approach is a protocol (a programmatic workflow, based on a pre-established critical path), the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is not dependent on the skill levels of your workers. The intelligence is embedded in the protocol itself. Literally anyone can run the protocol. 

Learn how to write your own SMART Pre-Shift Inspections at our FREE Webinar on July 14th @ 3 PM CST. Click here to register today!

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