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 twice weekly.
Social Media Helps Jean-Georges Vongerichten Run His Restaurants
With restaurants in 18 cities around the world, chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten doesn’t have slow days. Just this year, the legendary chef opened his first restaurant in South America, Sao Paulo’s Tangará Jean-Georges, and the highly anticipated abcV in New York, serving all vegetarian and vegan dishes — among (many) more.
Earlier this month, after a two-month closure and full renovation, Jean Georges Steakhouse reopened in Las Vegas’s Aria. We caught up with Vongerichten during the reopening of his eponymous steakhouse to get his fast take on his business model (he likes hotel partnerships), how he stays connected to his staff around the world, and that new vegetarian restaurant in New York.
The Story Continues Off the Page
Perhaps baited by a whole lot of coverage on Eater yesterday, Empellon’s Alex Stupak, who earlier this year opened a midtown location of his downtown restaurant (you might remember it from the $30 nachos story), took to Twitter to provide additional context around the interestingly titled Quiet Restaurants Are for the Rich, about growing noise levels in New York restaurants. (The post is about New York specifically, but loud restaurants are a nationwide thing right now.) Specifically, the piece posits that hushed restaurants have become a luxury that only expensive restaurants can afford. Sound-proofing is expensive, as are ornate fabrics and upholstered furniture that help absorb the sound. Plus, I still think carpet in a dining room is weird.
Stupak’s restaurant is featured at the beginning of the piece because of its noise level, and then the work it did to fix the perceived problem. Stupak expanded in the piece himself, though, offering more color and practical information about the sound issue. “Do you know what contributes to restaurant noise even more so than lack of sound absorption? Loud f*ing people,” he tweeted. The Times’ critic, Pete Wells, quickly agreed, and the two found some common ground.
This story, while interesting enough on its own, illustrates the larger trend of, 1) the immediate Twitter rebuttal; but more importantly, 2) the fact that the immediate rebuttal becomes an instant part of the original narrative, providing interactive context that a published story doesn’t always have. Of course, writers and editors are free to interact with readers and commenters, but the access to expert talent, in this case, the subject of the story, takes the conversation a level higher.
The instant Internet feedback loop has started to inform every aspect of the restaurant business from design to ingredient preparation to menu offerings. So while press, reviewers, and armchair commenters are free to write literally anything they’d like about a place, readers have come to expect, and enjoy, the extra context supplied around otherwise one-sided stories.
McDonald’s Celebrates 7,800 delivery-Ready Locations
Yesterday was, according to McDonald’s, McDelivery Day, created in celebration of the now 7,800 restaurants in 47 countries offering McDonald’s delivery. UberEats delivery accounts for 4,200 of those restaurants, with 3,500 U.S. locations added in just the past three months. In the spirit of celebration, McDonald’s is offering free swag in select cities when you order McDonald’s delivery via UberEats. Said swag includes a sweatsuit, Big Mac pillowcase, a picnic blanket, and more. Jason Droege, head of UberEverything, says, “UberEATS is happy to make food delivery easy at the push of a button whether you’re enjoying a McNuggets picnic with a side of fresh air or hanging back at home with a Big Mac and matching pillowcase.”
Gimmicky? Sure, but not surprising from a company that’s literally delivered kittens and Christmas trees in an effort to show its reach. The addition of thousands of McDonald’s restaurants in a short timeframe is no small feat either, fundamentally changing the perception of McDonald’s for many customers. Suddenly, we’re talking about our favorite menu items, not the in-store experience or long drive-thru lines.
During Tuesday’s second quarter earnings report, CEO Stephen Easterbrook said, “We’re encouraged by the results we’ve seen so far with expansion of delivery. They give us confidence there’s meaningful opportunity with the customers we want to regain. And we’ve only scratched the surface.” It’s worth noting that McDonald’s outperformed expectations last quarter, posting an increase in U.S. diners for the first time in four years. What’s a little free merch and a gimmicky promotion when it comes to netting new loyal customers?
Get Ready for Lyft’s Taco Mode
Speaking of gimmicks, Taco Bell is now going the extra mile when it comes to guest experiences. In a just-announced partnership with Lyft, Taco Bell will offer a free Doritos Locos Taco when you take your Lyft ride through a Taco Bell drive-thru on the way to your next destination. Taco Mode is only available for a limited time in Orange County, California, but Lyft says to expect a nationwide rollout of the program
I have a lot of questions. Will all late-night Lyfts now smell like Doritos tacos? Will there be crumbs? Can a driver opt-out? (Because this sounds like a nightmare for late-night Lyft drivers.) On a serious note: fast food brands are quickly becoming more than food brands; they’re morphing into lifestyle brands as they attach themselves to other, largely tech-driven, companies.