5.12.2016: Reserve for Restaurants / Meal Kits / Allrecipes


Reserve for Restaurants

This week, Reserve announced big news: a brand new table management system for restaurants, and a website targeted to consumers looking to “discover great restaurants and instantly book reservations.” Reserve for Restaurants, as the table management software is called, is designed to manage the restaurant’s relationship with its diners, with included customer relationship management software. (Reserve’s blog post on this topic has a ton of information about the new product, including pricing, so very worth a read if you’re interested.) 

Along with its restaurant software, Reserve launched a new website giving diners a totally different experience than the Reserve app — instead of booking a hard-to-find table through a virtual concierge, diners can see available reservation times at restaurants using Reserve for Restaurants, and book, for free, directly through the site. (You do need to have a Reserve account in order to book this way.)

The competition with OpenTable, the current market leader in restaurant reservation/ table management software, almost goes without saying here. In its post, Reserve details that the new products and changes are designed with the diner experience in mind, before anything else. As a diner, I like this perspective. I’m interested to watch Reserve’s growth in the space. 


Will Money Be the End of Meal Kits?

Admit it: you’ve read news of some startup funding or idea that’s somehow gone big, only to furrow your brow and contemplate the potential longevity of such an idea. How will it make money? Why would people pay for that service? Why are these VCs throwing money at an idea that won’t take off? But when an idea is genuinely good, creating a service or filling a need in the market — as I’d say that meal kit delivery services do — you might think they have some staying power. 

According to a piece in Mother Jones, though, while meal kit delivery is the current darling of anyone covering food+tech innovation, (guilty!), “that meal kit service that sends you your dinner may be doomed.” 

Apparently, “very few, if any” of these startups (like Blue Apron, or Plated, or Purple Carrot, which just lost its big-name hire) are cash-flow positive. Ok. Restaurants aren’t usually cash-flow positive just after starting out, either. But the problem might occur when the VCs come calling for profit; it takes a lot of money to attract and keep customers. Packaging is expensive. Shipping is expensive and logistics are beyond challenging. Food safety is paramount. 

I don’t know that the article supports its own dramatic headline, but the point is clear: there are a lot of these companies attracting a lot of dollars, and the market probably can’t sustain all of them. That’s fair. So, what happens when a real heavy-hitter joins the game? It looks like we’re about to find out, as Amazon is planning to launch its own meal kit service in partnership with Tyson Foods, through its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service. 


No-carb, Low-carb? There’s Always Google

According to recent food search trends, as released by Google, people really love googling pasta. “Rigatoni” as a search term has grown continually for the past several years, but over the last year, it’s seen a 25 percent increase in search. (Cue 25 recipe sites compiling slideshows of Easy Rigatoni Dinners. I know they’re doing this because I used to build those slideshows.) 

According to a Munchies piece: “All this searching has led Google to pronounce the obvious: “Pasta Is Back,” they say.”

Are we finally fed up with the low-carb diets of yesterday? Has gluten free pasta become so ubiquitous, we’re no longer afraid? Apparently not, says the article, quoting findings from the Washington Post that say we’re actually eating less pasta than before — dried pasta sales are down 6 percent from 2009. 


Don’t Judge Us by Our Recipe Searches

Is the internet contributing to the downfall of at-home haute cuisine? Slate looks at the site Allrecipes.com, which produces recipes that are consistently listed at the top of Google search results for a ton of food terms (the piece calls out “broccoli casserole” specifically. YUM), and how it’s different from more aspirational recipe sites, like Epicurious or Bon Appetit

Allrecipes, which is apparently the top English-language food site in the world, features home cooks (and photos of dishes from home cooks) — quite a contrast to produced editorial images we see on more polished sites. The thing that the Slate article explores, though, is the fact that the number-one food site seems to have nothing to do with any of the conversations happening in mainstream food media. “The gap between the food we cook and the food we talk about has never been larger.”  (It also has a list of its most popular recipes, worth a look.) 


I am not even going to touch the current political climate in our country, but during a time where it’s never been more apparent that every word, every quote, every tweet is scrutinized, you have to be careful what you post… right? Kind of. An example: yesterday, @MichelinGuideNY tweeted about profiling diners at an ethnic restaurant:  
“When eating at a Korean restaurant and I don’t see a Korean person in sight, I think it’s time to leave #redflag #rulesofthegame”

Eater restaurant critic @quailtyrye was quick to jump on the tweet: 
“michelin inspector 1) enters restaurant. 2) profiles ethnicity of clientele. 3) decides whether to stay or go.” 

Perhaps the circumstances are different here because of the inspector vs. man-on-the-street perspective, but in this month’s Bon Appetit, Anthony Bourdain says: 
“If you’re in Singapore and there are two chicken and rice places, and there’s one with a huge line, go to the one with the huge line. Already, that’s a clue. If a place is crowded, but the people lining up are not local, that’s a clue—a bad clue. If it doesn’t have signs in English. it’s almost always worth investigating.” 

Just saying. 


Don’t freak out, Instagram did just completely overhaul its look.

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