Highlights from the Grant Achatz + Nick Kokonas AMA

Yesterday, chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas of Chicago’s Alinea Group (and also founder, and chief executive officer at restaurant ticketing service Tock) hosted a Reddit AMA (that’s “Ask Me Anything”). The celebrated business partners are regarded as forward-looking and tech-savvy, so an AMA makes perfect sense. For an hour, the two answered questions about Chicago, their restaurants, their company, their future, the industry, and more. Kokonas has been particularly transparent about the restaurant industry’s pain points; he created Tock to directly compete with traditional online reservations services and has not been shy about his reasons for wanting to change the industry. Most recently, he penned a lengthy and informative piece about self-publishing the group’s next book.

The entire thread is worth a read if you’re interested in forward-looking industry thinking (On hospitality included: “Honestly, the people who ‘return to a traditional model’ simply haven’t executed the transition correctly. Mostly on communication to both their own staff and to their customers.”); restaurant economics (“Restaurants are one of a few businesses where you incur almost the totality of your production costs up front, before marginal costs. You can’t serve customers without spending quite a lot of time and money”); or just intelligent home cooking (sous vide is the new slow cooker). Also have to say, I’m particularly interested in Kokonas’s response to my question about how smaller restaurants, who don’t have Alinea’s resources, can take advantage of the new technology he lauds. There are many tools available, some for free, that give restaurants of all sizes at technological advantage. Excellent advice.

Resy Offers Recommendations and reservations for Airbnb in San Francisco

Earlier this year, Airbnb led a $13 million Series A investment in digital reservations service Resy and announced plans to incorporate Resy reservations into the Airbnb app. Now the home-sharing company is testing the functionality in its hometown of San Francisco.

Resy-powered restaurant suggestions live under the “for you” tab in the Airbnb app, allowing visitors (or anyone searching in San Francisco) to find and book a restaurant without leaving the app. This is a natural extension for Airbnb, which has been touting its “experiences” feature in popular destinations for over a year. So, while not surprising and totally sensical, this integration further emphasizes Airbnb’s work to establish itself as a kind of worldwide-but-local expert. The company relies on its hosts and guests around the world to essentially catalogue neighborhoods and locations that it can then recommend to visitors. Incorporating Resy’s recommendations, which are likely the growing list of restaurants that are Resy partners, gives Airbnb even more authority on what’s new, notable, and popular in major cities that Resy services.

As restaurant reservations services grow and compete for customers, this partnership could be a boon for Resy’s restaurant partnership efforts — if a restaurant is looking to market itself to Airbnb guests in any given location, choosing Resy as its reservations provider means additional marketing and visibility to anyone using the Airbnb app.

Is Alcohol the Secret to Fast Food Success?

Booze at fast food restaurants is still novel enough to grab our attention in the United States. Fast food chains aren’t something we normally associate with alcohol (that is, unless you’re adding vodka and Kahlua to an In-N-Out milkshake to make a frozen white russian… I can’t be the only one), but Quartz reports that a few specific fast food restaurant locations are seeking the licenses required to serve alcohol alongside their other menu items. Burger King in New York and a few Taco Bell locations in Canada are seeking permission, presumably in a bid to compete with fast-casual restaurants and make their dining rooms a place where people hang out, not just pass through on a road trip or eat and run on the fly. It’s worked in some Shake Shack locations, why not an upstate BK?

Book a Street Food Vendor for your Wedding in the UK

In an interesting twist to the food delivery app landscape, a London-based company called Feast It just closed a seed round of funding for its business: an online marketplace for finding and booking street food vendors for weddings, parties, and other events. This is a smart idea, helping small street food businesses market themselves to a larger audience and make some more money during off hours. Currently, the platform partners with 200 of London’s food trucks and street food vendors, and plans to use its funding to expand across the UK.

Digestifs

  • I missed the meme, but yes, the Avolatte is real. — Newsweek
  • Wait. Is it? Now I don’t know. Why are we still talking about this? — The Australian
  • A look at the new tech on the NRA Show floor in Chicago — Nation’s Restaurant News
  • I guess there isn’t always money in the banana stand when a monopoly uses its power to overwhelm the market with supply — WSJ (paywall)
Photo Credit: Chicago's Alinea creates and serves some of the most innovative dishes in the US. Star5112 / Flickr.com