8.3.2016: Copycats! (Instagram Stories / Delivery / Meal Kits)


Instagram Launches Stories

If you’re a fan of social media — or just a fan of Instagram — you’ve likely noticed the new Stories feature, launched Tuesday. Meant as a direct competitor to Snapchat, Stories lets users choose a few photos — perhaps not quite as composed as a typical Instagram post — string them together, draw on them, add commentary, and pop them into a slideshow that’s displayed, via avatar, at the top of your Instagram feed when you open the app. Cool.

So, yeah, I agree with the tech press that this is a pretty direct copy of what Snapchat does with its own Stories (Instagram’s Kevin Systrom thinks so, too), but how many times have you heard someone struggle to “learn Snapchat?” It was definitely the story of SXSW this year (at least…. The SXSW “over 30” crowd, who spent the whole of Interactive figuring out the app. Seriously.) At least once a week, another friend “learns Snapchat” and talks about it. But Facebook owns Instagram, Instagram has a massive, massive (and active) community, and more importantly, people aren’t as afraid of Instagram. This feature will definitely get used and likely become a vital part of the Instagram product.

As for copying… that’s what happens, right? A particularly smart friend of mine compared Facebook to Microsoft, saying, “They’re the Microsoft of social software. Their only real imperative is to neutralize any potential threat to market dominance.” So, I’m not sure if people are calling Instagram Stories “Snapchat for grownups” or whatever yet (I’m on a plane, my internet connection is slow), but they probably will, soon.

A quick note on restaurant usage here, because restaurants should use this feature a lot — this is perfect for step-by-step recipes, how-tos, showing off specials, new menu items, funny photos from the kitchen, photos with your regulars, or anything else that might not be composed enough to warrant a full Instagram post. Bonus: points for early adopting and placement at the very top of the app upon opening. Do it!


So Amazon Prime Delivers Restaurant Food Now, Too

Speaking of copying (Curious why this is a big deal in social media but not in ….anything else?), Amazon Restaurant Delivery is a thing now. Since quietly launching in Seattle in 2014, the service has expanded to more cities offering Amazon’s totally awesome Prime Now function. (The list is at 12 and counting, with Atlanta launched most recently, it appears.)

Amazon joins the ranks of the white-hot delivery industry, with other key players like GrubHub, Uber Eats, Caviar, Sprig, Munchery, and Postmates. In fact, the popularity and growth and demand in restaurant delivery recently netted industry powerhouse GrubHub a 26 percent surge in share price recently.) While business models of these companies vary, their branding and messaging supports a consistent message: NOW. I’m not sure that anyone does “now” better than Amazon, so curious to see what that means for Amazon’s piece of the pie.

(Speaking of pie, Business Insider has a good graphic breakdown of the delivery industry’s key players and their market share.)

Amazon’s foray into restaurant delivery feels a little different than some others who have broken into the market, because Amazon is already such an established powerhouse. Brand recognition is there, proof of value is there (in Amazon’s continued ability to deliver anything to your house in a seriously impressive timely fashion), and, presumably, the financial resources are there to keep the business afloat in a notoriously challenging industry to generate revenue. Delivery continues to grow and change despite me thinking it couldn’t possibly get any bigger. So: more to come here, I’m sure!


Whole Foods Offering Meal Delivery Kits

Second only to delivery is the white-hot meal kit market (craze? Fad? I think it’s a market.) The latest player: Whole Foods, who apparently discussed the concept in a July investor call.

The company hasn’t released details yet, so not much to share here. But the idea of a grocery store getting into meal delivery kits makes me giggle. Isn’t a grocery store — one that works essentially in tandem with Instacart in lots of places — essentially one big meal delivery kit? What am I missing?


“Michelin Competitor” Renzell Launching this Fall

All right! Another restaurant ranking system! This one is called Renzell, and touts its status as a data-driven ranking system. From Eater’s coverage“The company picks hundreds of locals that do not have media or industry ties to anonymously rate restaurants (on their own dime) through a 60-question survey that takes biases into account.”

The company says it solves the Yelp problem of “who knows who these people are?” (Though… that argument might still stand here), but also the “Michelin problem” of the same few people dining at restaurants to rank them. (I guess this would also be described as a reviewer problem, which… ok?)

So this is like a “reviews for the people by a few people who are not trained reviewers but better than Yelp randoms.” To be fair, no ratings have been launched yet, and the company claims to be paying particular attention to each restaurant by asking reviewers very specific questions in a number of categories. Great! But I don’t know what would compel anyone to trust or to weight a brand-new site with no proof or proven chops higher than reputable — if flawed — existing systems.


  • Tickets for the second annual TechTable Summit went on sale this week. The Summit is scheduled for Wednesday, September 28 in New York. Last year’s event (my writeup herefeatured some great insight into the state of hospitality technology; this year promises more of the same. Several speakers have already been announced, including OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles and Anthony Lye, CEO of Hot Schedules. Tickets at techtablesummit.com. (This event sold out last year, so I recommend securing your spot early, it’s a good one!)
  • Food+Tech Connect’s next New York meetup focuses on restaurants. Join the awesome team on August 16 in New York for Rethinking Restaurants. RSVP here (and do it soon, these events fill to capacity!)  


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