Well-Dine debacle

Charismatic and outspoken founder of Well-Dine, Randy Villemont, has been ousted from his chair of his restaurant chain.

Mr. Villemont founded Well-Dine off the back of his Gym Block service. Finding that most cities were littered with empty office space, and aware that many disliked the public display of being at a gym, he established private cubicles with basic cardio machines and a shower.  Using their smart phone people could use the service like an uber, and find the closest Gym Block cubicle available, reserve at the push of a button and head off to sweat in isolation somewhere. Gym Block was moderately successful in terms of usage, but not on capital return – billions downloaded the app, but since Gym Block was only paid upon the reservation of a cubicle, there was not a constantly flow of income, particularly around the holidays.

However, there was one important piece of data that Villemont mined from the service. The permissions given by the Gym Block app allowed Villemont and his team to extract the details of the location and financial transactions of the user. They identified that many clients were eating food at a disproportionate calories intake to the exercise they had partaken.  In 2016 he commented at a shareholders meeting:

Let’s be realistic here.  McDonald’s has made so many moves to show they are offering healthy options, but we all know that their biggest seller is still the Big Mac and fries. They spent $13 million dollars on marketing healthy food that no one fucking buys.

Villemont’s idea was to offer gymnasium with fast food, allowing clients to use the gymnasium and synchronize their calorie burn with their calorie intake.

Well-Dine spread to over 40 countries, but its success was also down to an exploitation of a loop-hole in government tax-hikes around fast food.  Villemont formed a lobby to show that since the business was built around balancing the sugar and fat intake of its customers it was due an exemption from the sugar tax that had hit the soft drink industry.  Despite resistance from health advocates, governments sided with the lobby and permitted the exemption, allowing Well-Dine to offer the cheapest fast food anywhere in the market. Villemont’s true master-stroke was that the case never caught traction in the news cycles, allowing Well-Dine to be a subscription and cash payment business – meaning, his customers accepted that the gym was a subscription service and the food was an optional service that they would need to pay for separately; and since the food was so much cheaper, it felt like less of a hustle.

Well-Dine exploded across the world, particularly in Mexico where the sugar-taxes were the most extreme. It seemed that people wanted to eat the food they were not supposed to, as long as they had the opportunity to subsidise the calories before or after the intake.

Of course, the good times would have to hold. A spate of heart attacks in the restaurants eventually drew attention to the contradictions of the chains claim to being a healthy choice. Mr. Villemont’s interview at the Austen BMA went viral, his quote:

You can make a lot of money from fat people, that’s what America built itself on.  What they missed was not fat people.  Complacent people.  That’s the fucking market.  Facebook and Google was all about how complacent people are if they think all of the complications are being taken from them.

It was all a little too on the nose for his board. After further allegations of sexual misdemeanors, incidents that were already in the public domain, but now were true enough to de-seat him.

His lawyers have stated that he remains a key partner for the group and the decision was mutual, as he intends to pursue new business interests and personally required that the day-to-day management of Well-Dine be managed by a new board.

 

 

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