In Defense (?) of Food Technology
This is the first of two longer pieces this week about food and restaurant tech. Unfortunate headline aside (no, you did not miss a shark swimming by, there’s no need to “defend” yet), this Recode piece — penned by a VC with excellent food+tech chops — does a great job of outlining the current state of the industry. It focuses on four specific areas of food tech: fulfillment tech, extreme fulfillment tech (sighSoylent), positive value cycle (“supporting high-order values delivered by the dining experience,”) and, what the author calls “the biggest winners… over the long run,” positive value cycle + fulfillment tech (Din, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated given as examples.)
What does this mean? It lays the foundation for predicting the future success of food technology. “Companies that build a skill set across food quality, end user products and operations/quality control — while also focusing on a positive value cycle — have a chance to become a true consumer staple.” In other words: these new ideas and products — many of which were started for and marketed as convenience products — have a real opportunity to grow into hugely successful, can’t-live-without consumer products in the marketplace. The piece ends with a strong prediction:
“Food-tech may seem like a novelty today. But make no mistake, the companies that create brand value around these new technologies today will grow up to be the Whole Foods, Chipotles, Weight Watchers and SoulCycles of tomorrow.” Bold.
Hospitality + Technology and the Future
Here’s relative #longread number two on the week: an op-ed from the CEO of Hello Alfred, a subscription-based personal assistant of sorts. The piece, appearing in PSFK, addresses the current state of hospitality-driven technology, its shortcomings (“In many ways we simply haven’t gotten around to creating hospitality tech yet. Right now, our apps are focused on services as a transaction and the ways to make them more efficient.”), and a look toward the future. Because the author is the CEO of a hospitality technology company, expect a lot of references to her company. But the points she makes are broad and applicable to innovation in the space — how to add the human touch of true hospitality to a digital product. It’s a good read for anyone working in the space, or those just interested in what’s coming next.
Foursquare Trip Tips
Foursquare, after almost seven years, continues to quietly dominate in the restaurant discovery and recommendations from friend space. (Seriously, it’s one of my favorite apps to use while traveling. Foursquare is perfect for knowing where your friends go and for helping friends who may travel to specific places in the future. Ask me about my Paris list.) Now, Foursquare has released an even more direct way to get recommendations from friends before you travel. Trip Tips prompts you, Foursquare user, to enter your intended destination and any other relevant details about the trip, then creates a custom link for sharing on Twitter and Facebook, prompting friends to add their suggestions to your list.
I guess this is just a really fancy way of asking your friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter to tell you what spots to hit up in any given city, but it packages all of the recommendations nicely within the Foursquare app, minimizing any planning you have to do on your own. Just open it when you get there and everyone’s suggestions will be laid out in front of you. I like this a lot.
Burger King vs. Wendy’s on Twitter
I love a good food-focused Twitter fight (preferably when it doesn’t end with actual violence, looking at you, Bourdain and Fieri.) This week, fast food giants @Wendys and @BurgerKing got into it on the social platform after a Wendys tweet promoting a 4 items-for-$4 deal. Burger King responded with a photo of 5 items for $4, and then after a bit of egging-on, Wendy’s fired back with a cheap shot at the quality of Burger King’s offerings.
Not epic, but at least interesting. (Your play, @TacoBell. It’s been a while.)