1.20.2016: Some News-Based Predictions


Physical World, Digital Space

The thing about food + the digital internet is that, unlike sights and sounds, taste and smell can not be shared. (Not yet, that is, but I’ve learned to never say never.) Reserve CEO Greg Hong does a good job of explaining this sentiment in a recent Entrepreneur post titled “Why Brick and Mortar Is Here to Stay.”

“While technology can certainly help augment many industries, there are plenty of businesses that can never be fully digitized.” Case in point: food and restaurants. The piece goes on to explain how the best new companies can bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital world. (He cites Airbnb and Seamless as examples; Reserve does this well, too, among others.)

This sentiment is especially interesting as it ties into the dining world. Recently, more-than-a-handful of apps and products have emerged to bridge gaps, eliminate friction, or whatever buzzy phrase you prefer. Some have done this quite successfully. So what comes next for these “savvy entrepreneurs”? Expect existing apps and services to become more refined. Expect more new products aimed at fixing very specific pain points, and then expect these to grow, expand, get acquired, or become part of growing companies who will establish themselves in the restaurant+tech space in 2016.



Twitter’s Latest Features As Applied to Restaurants

Celebrities (movie stars and politicians, mostly) are a big part of the reason that Twitter has become, and remains, relevant. Inside looks into otherwise untouchable lives taps into our inner voyeur and also adds some surprise, delight, and excitement to otherwise everyday lives. (I worked there years ago, and the whole behind-the-curtain thing was one of my favorite points to tout. Still is.) So, if you’re curious the direction that Twitter is heading,  follow the celebs to find out.

In some news that I think is kind of underreported, Twitter has a handful of celeb-only apps they’re dolling out to those worthy (to start, presumably), helping to make their Twitter experience top-notch and (hopefully) engage their huge fan bases with fun content. Personal creativity is one thing, but there’s something to be said for a little hand-holding, yes?

A recent TechCrunch piece spotlights these apps, specifically a refined Q&A application and a special Snapchat-esque selfie app (a selfie app.) Why do we care? Consider this free advice from Twitter. They’re telling us exactly what plays well (Q&As and selfies!) and dolling out tools to take advantage of that potential engagement. And while these are only available to a select few, I would expect that they’ll roll them out to a broader audience as time progresses. This could be a good look at what to expect from the service in 2016, and a reminder to businesses and personalities of things to spend your time.



Popularity, As Defined by the Internet

2015 ended with no less than a million internet “best of” lists, some awesome, some sort of ridiculous. But like it or not, consumers eat up this sort of online content and they’ll likely continue. One in particular struck me: Refinery29’s list of most popular bakeries in the US according to Instagram.

Obvious photo-of-your-lunch joke aside (but seriously, remember when we were up in arms about that?), the popularity of Instagram + the ability to tag locations in photos + the proliferation of businesses running successful Instagram accounts = a very accurate look into the places people are going and what they’re ordering (or, I guess, at least what they’re ordering that photographs the best).

Fundamentally, this trend is about digital data, which is going to continue to rise in both popularity and accessibility this year. Already, plenty of companies exist to measure your digital footprint including engagement and online popularity — expect more of this. That said, being popular on Instagram and being popular IRL (looking at you, cronut) are two different things.



Reservations Service Acquired by Michelin

More trends for 2016! Food- and restaurant-focused content sites are not only providing good information, but also providing a way to act on that information. Current case-in-point: Booktable, a London-based reservations site, has been acquired by Michelin (of the Michelin Guides). They’re not the first example of this, but they are the latest.

This service + information model is interesting. Not only can you learn the best places to go, but you can get there, immediately, (or, make a plan to get there as soon as possible) all in one place. This makes so much sense, and given that the food tourism space is absolutely on fire at the moment (we’ll call this the “Bourdain effect,”) it’s a very, very smart move and I expect more of this to come.



Profitability: The New Startup Requirement?

Investors want companies to make money… right? Sounds like common sense, especially if you’re an investor. But that hasn’t necessarily been the trend in Silicon Valley as investment dollars supported all sorts of companies that didn’t necessarily have profit on the horizon. (That’s not to say they weren’t good ideas… just not always ideas with a clear business model.)

This seems to be shifting, at least in the opinion of this CNBC article questioning whether the recent layoffs at Instacart are “a sign of things to come.” (In reality, they laid off some recruiters, specifically.) This can be interpreted as a sign of where future VC dollars will go, though. It makes logical sense, especially given market conditions as they are today, that a real profitability strategy is  important component to a new business. I’m not a pro in this universe, but from my view, this means less “idea” companies and more “companies that do a thing or solve a real problem.” (Bridging that digital-physical gap, as mentioned above, if you will.) Very much looking forward to watching what’s to come this year.



I have a piece on OpenTable’s industry blog, Open for Business, today. It’s the start of a social media-focused series I’m writing offering best practices, explanations, and other important info on top social networks and why chefs and restaurants should spend time navigating them. I’m excited!


  • Bring on the cooking demos:broadcast live in a Tweet with Periscope. — Twitter blog
  • New in Napa: fermenting wine with submarine technology — WIRED
  • New thing: all about restaurant concierges — Crain’s Chicago Business
  • What artisanal brand can teach us about using technology to humanize business — KPCB

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