So What Is Cooking, Then? What Is a Restaurant?
Meal delivery services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron get the NYTimes treatment this week, in a food piece titled, “It’s Dinner in a Box. But Are Meal Delivery Kits Cooking?”
The piece describes the current meal kit landscape (bigger than I realized!) and the future of meal kits (brighter than I realized, with one prediction saying the market could grow $5 billion in the next ten years.) It also touches on a few interesting topics, but noting that these services could fundamentally change how we cook at home. “Bagged lettuce seemed like a fad, too,” said one food and drinks analyst. Critics say that it’s not really “cooking” in the way that shopping for food and managing one’s kitchen is cooking. Should we care? Is the “art” going away?
Also interesting: what does it mean when a chef or restaurant aligns themselves with one of these services? Is it giving away the restaurant dish for free? Is it publicity? Is it no different than publishing the recipe in a magazine article or cookbook?
Lots of questions and lots of room for growth in the industry, I think. But if the Times has to ask if these sorts of meal kits are changing the way we cook and eat, the answer is that, yes, that’s probably already happened.
Webby Awards Nominees Announced
This year marks the 20th annual Webby Awards (20!), and nominations are out. There’s a great showing for food and beverage in categories like Best Food & Drink Mobile Site or App, Best Food & Drink Website , and Best Food & Beverage Advertising.
The public votes on these nominations for the next two weeks, so worth a visit to support your favorites.
Medium: Not Just for Startups. For Restaurants
Speaking of restaurants making awesome use of the internet, here’s what happens when you mix two of my most favorite things: awesome new places to eat and Medium, the service: Ready to Roister by Nick Kokonas.
The post describes and defines a new restaurant from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas called Roister, a casual concept from a duo better known for fancy. Not unlike a product manager describing new product features, Kokonas outlines the restaurant’s concepts and core tenets, things like, “Lively, loud, good music,” and, “no distinction between kitchen / dining room.” Then, he tells how those ideas evolved over time, creating the new restaurant. “Casual is an attitude of conviviality, neighborhood friendliness, and spontaneity. But it should not mean lower standards in any aspect of the restaurant.”
Together, with beautiful images, the story of the new restaurant unfolds, straight from the typing hands of the man who helped build it. This is exciting because often these stories go untold. This important work takes a long time, is carefully thought through, and concepts are expressed through design and the dining experience. But by laying them out, in advance, interested diners can understand a restaurant through the eyes of those who created it. So simple, so special. Love this, and hope to see more.
Order Taco Bell with Slack
Of course you can. Taco Bell, pioneers of the new and digitally exciting, offers a new way to order: a slackbot.
For those not familiar, Slack is a workplace messaging tool that effectively eliminates the need for email and helps teams work productively together. Anyone can create a bot that will respond to you or do certain things or post certain things or any number of fun ideas. So Taco Bell created the tacobot, which helps you quickly place a Taco Bell order for pickup. Eater has a good video of how, exactly, this works.
The Banana Boat, from The Infatuation
I love a good food parody, and I perhaps love this one most of all. Thanks to food’s popularity and universal appeal, the internet has ushered in a ridiculous number of food fan and “news” sites. Some are awesome. Some are ridiculous. Most of them fall somewhere in-between. The Infatuation sees the humor in this situation and created a parody site called The Banana Boat, similar to the now-infamous Clickhole, dealing with food and food news. This stuff is gold: 12 Chicken Pot Pies We Found by Googling Menus, and 12 Loaves of Bread that Just Got Baked and What That Means for Your Weekend.
I’d imagine this stuff is as fun to write as it is to read, and I hope it continues to “innovate.” Those “600 things to eat before you die” listicles don’t write themselves.
Why Shared Food Apps Aren’t Taking Off
“The sharing economy” has progressed from a buzzy phrase to an actual industry that’s super popular with just about everyone. Airbnb is the easiest example, but there are also car shares and nanny shares and couch shares and plenty of “food shares,” too. But the food sharing thing hasn’t taken off in a way that many thought it would. Eater does a good job of explaining in detail.
The short version: meal-sharing and food-driven experience-sharing apps and companies are a great idea. We love food. We want to make friends around shared experiences. But in reality, taking these ideas from online to offline requires actual people who make actual commitments, and in many of these cases, they often don’t reach critical mass. (The Eater piece says this much more eloquently and very thoroughly; worth a read if you are interested.)
- Food52 has a lovely new app, and they explain why now was the perfect time to launch it — Food52
- Delivery service Postmates now offers a subscription option — The Verge
- Reserve receives investment $ and acquires payments/data tech company Dash — Reserve on Medium