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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 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.
Bonus: We now publish C+T every Monday and Wednesday.
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Philadelphia’s Rooster Soup Co. Gives Profits to Charity
In a feel-good follow-up to this month’s announcement of Food & Wine’s best restaurants, Bloomberg goes deeper on Philadelphia’s Rooster Soup Co., the thoughtful project from chef Michael Solomonov. The restaurant, which serves soups, salads, and sandwiches, gives all of its profits to a local Philadelphia charity, which in itself is a different model for business — but the restaurant was born out of creative problem solving. Fried chicken is the hot menu item at another of Solomonov’s restaurants, and after breaking down a whole lot of chickens, he was left with a whole lot of chicken carcasses. He didn’t have room to store the carcasses or the stock he made from them, so he crowdfunded a new, soup-centric restaurant on Kickstarter, raising close to $200,000, and Rooster Soup Company was born. Each week, he delivers a check totaling around $500 to Philadelphia’s Broad Street Ministry. This do-good, feel-good, make-good business model is clearly not sustainable for everyone, but after seeing success in other restaurant ventures, Solomonov and his business partner, Steve Cook, are happy to give back to their community.
Grubhub Partners with POS to Make Delivery Easier for Restaurants
This week, Grubhub announced partnerships with three major restaurant point-of-sale (POS) systems: Oracle Hospitality, Breadcrumb POS by Upserve, and Toast. This means that delivery and orders placed via Grubhub will be displayed within a restaurant’s system alongside its in-house orders instead of on a separate tablet screen. Most restaurants use lots of disparate systems to manage menu items, recipes, take out orders, in-house orders, inventory, staff information… and more. As restaurant-specific software continues to evolve, programs (slowly) become more inclusive — this news included.
There are plenty of advantages to combining systems into one operating system: increased efficiency, better control of inventory, orders, and cost, and, of course, not having to have seven different tablets at the service station. For Grubhub, this integration also adds a selling point for its service: with many different delivery options to choose from, a restaurant may be more likely to choose the option that’s already baked into a system they’re comfortable using. It’s worth remembering that any technological change is an investment for a restaurant — financial, time, or staff-wise. So, adding a new system or dealing with major changes to an existing one can seriously slow down an operation. As software companies continue to grow and evolve, expect more changes to existing systems that streamline operations with as little friction as possible.
Delivery Robots Are Here (But Some May Be Leaving)
UC Berkeley students have already experienced one of the buzziest concepts in food tech: the delivery robot. A delivery service, called Kiwi, is using robots to deliver food on Cal’s campus. According to the company’s CEO, this is no small pilot program; Kiwi delivered 500 orders last week alone. Users can order via app or on the web and restaurants from Chipotle to Bay area-favorite The Melt use the robots to deliver. Delivery robots use LIDAR, the same technology Waymo and Uber use for their self-driving cars. Kiwi’s delivery bots do get help from an actual human if they have to navigate a tricky situation like a crowd or a busy street. Honestly, choosing a college campus to launch delivery bots is sort of brilliant: there’s a captive, hungry, tech-friendly audience and high population density.
Across the bay in San Francisco, Eat24 has been testing its own fleet of delivery robots, but new proposed legislation could ban them from city streets. One city supervisor introduced the legislation, saying “I want to keep our sidewalks safe for people. Seniors, children, people with disabilities can’t maneuver quickly” to avoid the robots. He also cites potential lost jobs, security and surveillance concerns, and even terrorism: someone could load the robot with explosives. (Great, hadn’t thought of that one yet.) Supporters of robotic delivery argue that they’ll help alleviate some traffic, taking delivery drivers off the street.
The Alinea Group’s Keeping Its Content Close
In a recent Medium post, Alinea Group co-owner and Tock CEO Nick Kokonas explains why his team (led by revered chef Grant Achatz) decided to self-publish its next cookbook. The post is incredibly detailed and gives a look inside what Kokonas calls “the opaque world of cookbook publishing.” Royalties, advances, real costs, editors, and publishers make for complicated business. As such, he says, the team decided to self-publish its next book, a collection of cocktail recipes and imagery from the group’s famed Aviary cocktail bar, which Kokonas details in the Medium post — everything from production to photography to the $736,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund the book’s production. He’s refreshingly transparent about the numbers and the process — and why he believes the publishing world needs to be upended. (Short answer: to give an appropriate amount of compensation to the creators.) You can also follow along at theaviarybook.com. As he did with ticketing service Tock, Kokonas not only attempts to upend industry norms, but he documents and explains the process; an invaluable tool for any decision-maker potentially in the same situation. The transparency is refreshing.
- Whirlpool bought a recipe search engine valued at $100 million — TechCrunch
- Foursquare releases data on location-based fast food marketing in its QSR report —Foursquare
- Creepy. DNA food testing can determine fraud. (As in, “is that fish really fish?”) — Modern Restaurant Management
- A helpful timeline view of food delivery startups since 2011 — CB Insights