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Editor’s Note: In September we announced that Skift was expanding into food and drink with the addition of the Chefs+Tech weekly newsletter.
We see this as a natural expansion of the Skift umbrella, bringing the big picture view on the future of dining out, being fanatically focused on the guest experience, and at the intersection of marketing and tech.
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TripAdvisor’s Latest Restaurant Offering
Finding and booking the perfect restaurant has become a central part of the travel and tourism world. Why would any traveler be content with the spattering of “tourist” restaurants clustered around landmarks, major shopping areas, and other destinations when there’s a whole internet filled with photos, reviews, and recommendations tailored to every taste? TripAdvisor is smartly cashing in on the growing popularity of restaurants (or, at least, the growing popularity of finding and booking the best restaurants on your own without a travel agent). The travel review site today announced a new feature aimed at restaurants: a paid product that allows businesses to pin favorite or favorable recent reviews to the top of the list and to create “storyboards” with featured photographs.
TripAdvisor marketing VP Heather Leisman says that “restaurants snuck up on” TripAdvisor, as the company has noted consumers looking for restaurants on its platform are ready to book — different behavior than they’ve seen from hotel listings. As such, the company has been rapidly expanding in the restaurant direction, acquiring reservation services a couple years ago. This new product, giving a restaurant more control over its listing, seems on par with advertising opportunities on other review sites, so is a smart move — especially for smaller businesses that may not have huge marketing budgets. Still, when it comes to paid advertising vs. user reviews, companies should tread lightly to maintain integrity.
The Ascent of the Veggie Burger We’ve All Been Waiting for
We knew the time would come when Silicon Valley decided to tackle fast food. Sure, Hampton Creek has played around with Mayo (pretty hard to dethrone Best Foods — who are we kidding) and there’s a start up working in the belly of SF’s countless coworking spaces solving for how to chemically create shrimp, steak, you name it. But the biggest play to be made yet is The Impossible Burger. As The New York Times reports, “[It] wants to be the tech industry’s answer to the Big Mac.” Made from wheat, coconut oil, potatoes, and most notably the addition of heme, an iron-rich molecule contained in blood produced by fermenting yeast, this not your average Boca.
There is Nishi from David Chang, there is Superiority Burger, there is Locol. Not sure these concepts can take their shtick to the I-66 if you know what we mean. Honestly, between the spiffy website and burger-like behavior of the patty, we think they have a real shot. At the end of the day, adoption is the question, and widespread adoption on the scale of our nation’s hated/beloved fast food chains is all about price. So, can they do it for $0.99? To companies like Impossible and Sweetgreen, we salute you. Let’s call this Burger, Disrupted.
Munchery Cuts 30 Percent Staff Following Founder Departures
Yet another tough week for the food delivery space. Bye bye, Roy Choi (the company terminated their partnership with the LA-based chef) and bye bye, 30 percent of marketing and R&D staff at Munchery’s SF headquarters. With a new sheriff in town (the founders were replaced by new CEO and notable start up turner-arounder James Beriker), the company is tackling the, oh you know, $1.9 million of food waste they incurred in the past two years delivering warmish chicken dinners with the requisite Brussels and sweet potato mash to the hungry citizens of 1,000 cities. Earlier last week Zesty made a similar move, trimming 13 percent of its staff and backing out of a lease to a new office space. Spoonrocket has shuttered, Sprig keeps trying to refine to keep up. Calling someone to figure out why no one can figure out food delivery. Clean up on Aisle 13.
What Noma’s Rene Redzepi Thinks Is Up in Fine Dining
In these times of uncertainty and fear-mongering and think pieces about the hospitality industry’s future, it’s good to stop, look up, and find some perspective. Lucky Lucky Peach sits down with the “once-and-future king” of restaurant culture, René Redzepi, to discuss what’s actually happening in the restaurant industry today. This here newsletter has done its fair volume of coverage of the impending shit-storm about to wreak havoc on the livelihood of restaurants everywhere, but let’s all take a deep breath and draw a little intellectual historicity from the father of foraging and beyond. In short, René says all the jargon — “it’s bullshit!” — and that the intent to satisfy and delight forty people happy with their dining experience is shared between a 16-course night at Noma or a Saturday lunch at Superiority Burger. All the same. Call this the democratization of fine dining and it is coming to a theatre near you.
- Former Food & Wine’s Kate Krader, who now helms the rapidly evolving Bloomberg Food, tells us Filipino’s where it’s at. We’re inclined to listen.
- The nerds have figured out how to pump 5,000 cans an hour at a brewery you can tour next time your engineering buddies come to town.
- It’s that time of year to shake down the proverbial VC tree and get some funding for that food idea you keep talking your roommate’s ear off about … here’s how:
- Submit to the National Restaurant Association’s StartUp Alley (deadline February 1)
- Submit to Foodbytes, a sort-of Shark Tank for food+tech (deadline January 20)