Archive for July, 2012

Apps Your Customers are Using

July 17, 2012

Yelp isn’t the only place to check when you’re wondering what customers are saying about your restaurant after they leave (and increasingly before they even finish eating!).  New services are popping up every day to help customers decide where to eat, and how to share it with their friends.  Here’s an overview of what you should be checking into if you want to keep up with your brand’s unofficial digital image.

The Source

Get Ready, Foodies – Apple Is Adding A New Food & Drink Category To The App Store — Alex Heath, The Cult of Mac
The All-Important Apple App Store, the store that started it all, is bringing new emphasis to food-related apps, and has, in part, inspired this post. With more information available on the go, customers will be making decisions about where to eat, what to order, and what to expect based increasingly on an establishment’s social presence. Certainly this doesn’t affect every eatery, but it never hurts to be aware of what’s out there.

The Tools

The Foodspotter App — Foodspotter is a beautifully-designed, image-based mobile phone application.  It’s meant to be used at a restaurant, shockingly enough, while dining.  So, if you see customers pointing their phones at their plates between bites, they may well be using this service to share your creations with the world.  These images are paired with short reviews, so just looking good is not good enough for this app (:P).  Other users can compare photos and reviews of the same dish, and the overall impression of each dish is calculated in terms of each “Sighting”.  So essentially, this is  Foursquare for cheeseburgers.

The GrubHub App — GrubHub has been making a huge splash in cities all over America, as it expands from humble beginnings as a tool for two hungry guys living in Chicago. Here’s the scoop: users tell the app where they are, and the app tells them what restaurants deliver to them. There doesn’t seem to be any ‘sign up’ responsibility on the part of managers to get listed, but it wouldn’t hurt to make sure it’s as accurate as possible for your establishment, right?

Complain About a Business Directly By Texting the Manager — Jesse Kunze, Gadgetica
This entry may have been more at home in our Guide(s) to Social Media for Restaurants, but it’s going here because this collection is all about how technology is shaping the way restaurants build relationships with their customers over technology. This app is subscription-based, paid for by the establishment, and allows customers to directly communicate with the manager. Proponents say it is a great tool for minimizing (and even capitalizing on) the fall-out of an unfortunate dining experience, because it allows them to address complaints immediately.

The “We’re Not Groupon”

GrubWithUs — We’re not here to pass judgments on daily-deal sites, but this service is quick to point out how different the two services are. With GrubWithUs, a diner looking to meet up with other food lovers sets up a meal with a participating restaurant. Other diners join this meal through the website, and if enough people join, the first person pays in advance for the meal and a reservation is made. The goal of this site is to connect people who want to share a delicious meal with new people, a stark contrast with the target customer base of Groupon and other daily deal companies. Often these diners are from out of town, or otherwise unfamiliar with the area, so this may be their only chance to discover what you have to offer!

Sustainability and the Kitchen

July 10, 2012

In light of the news surrounding the foie gras ban in California, we’ve chosen to revisit a common debate: Should a chef need to be concerned about how his materials are sourced?  Should chefs necessarily take a stance on the conditions under which food animals are raised, or the environmental impact of growing each plant?  Champions of sustainability say yes, yet those who exalt the creative prowess of the chef above all else may say no.  Naturally, this question stands for any artist and their medium, so let’s take a look at this question as it stands in the American culinary community today.

Thomas Keller and Retort

For Them, a Great Meal Tops Good Intentions — Julia Moskin, The New York Times
An interview with Thomas Keller and Andoni Luis Aduriz on their views toward cooking with sustainability in mind. In this case, the title sums it up: for them aesthetics and delicacy trump all, at least when it comes to fine dining. To focus on anything else would be to disrupt the artistic process of the chef, preventing him for adequately performing his duties.

Thomas Keller’s Disappointing Stance on Sustainable Cooking — Nick Wiseman, The Huffington Post
A contrasting opinion in direct response to the positions laid out above. Mr Wiseman notes the power of well-known, respected chefs to effect great change in the world, or at the very least to influence public opinion. This article occasionally reads more like a lament than a call to action, but the points being made are certainly valid.

“Farm-to-Table”

Finding Sustainable Burgers in TexasThe Daily Meal
This article is really more of a restaurant guide than a newspiece, but all the same its observations of a state known for its steaks reflect the condition of finding sustainable meat across America.

Sustainable Seas

3 Apps For Eating Seafood Sustainably — Eleanor West, Food Republic
This quick bite of a story profiles 3 simple apps that help diners choose their fish dinner based on the fish’s ecological condition. In each app, fish are marked by an ecological evaluation of how sustainably each is being fished, noting those to avoid and those to go for.

Chilean Sea Bass: It’s Baaaack! — Brad A Johnson, Food Republic
Mr Johnson admits to having ‘fallen off the wagon’ when it comes to avoiding Chilean Sea Bass, a fish that is frequently avoided in the name of sustainability. In light of his newly-re-discovered guilty passion for the fish, Johnson comments on the fish’s actual ecological state, and the nature of the predicament surrounding its place on many chefs’ ‘Do-Not-Fry’ list.

What We’re Following: Foie Gras

July 1, 2012

The end of a long period of waiting has finally arrived: the 7 and a half year long difference from the signing of legislation to ban foie gras in California and the date the law goes into effect has finally shrunk to zero  (For more on the history of foie gras legislation, check out the companion to this post, our Foie Gras Timeline).  In light of this contentious landmark, we present here a condensed overview of the final months in this debate.  Please feel free to add any further resources in the comments below.  As this issue elicits so many strong emotions from both sides, all the articles below should be read with an eye toward an Op-Ed context. For readers with shy stomachs, some, perhaps, should not be read at all. Articles with particularly graphic description have been noted in our annotation.

Proponents

Foie gras isn’t forever — John Burton, LA Times
Mr. Burton, who wrote the bill for the ban on foie gras nearly 8 years ago, revisits the conditions under which the law came to be. He highlights that a major factor in providing such a long grace period was to give farmers the opportunity to develop alternative means of producing foie gras that were less offensive to the animal’s nature. According to Mr. Burton, this is an agreement that has failed to produce the promised results.

Foie gras is torture in a tin. It’s time for a ban — Steven Berkoff, The Guardian
Opinions from across the pond, in England, where ‘gavage’ (but not the sale of foie gras) has been banned for some time now, and where the source of the dish, France, is closer to home. Mr. Berkoff focuses on the graphic detail of conditions in foie gras farms, but distinguishes between those found in America and France, with the latter being described as generally less humane.

Foie Gras Fighters Make False Resys to Thwart Service — Kat Odell, Eater
The title says it all. In the wake of the foie gras ban, the California culinary world has become increasingly confrontational, and this article takes a brief look at a few of the tactics being utilized.

Opponents: The CHEFS Movement

Chefs Say Foie Gras Ban Could Spread Beyond California — Elena Ferretti, Fox News
The headline does not get to the real meat of this article, which concerns threats allegedly received by several chefs over their insistence on continuing to prepare foie gras until the ban takes effect.

Waddling into the Sunset — Jesse McKinley, The New York Times
An almost-elegaic portrait of the steps taken in the weeks before the ban’s effect by those who oppose it, peppered with the commentary of those who support it. Some still hope for a successful appeal, while others are just hoping to enjoy their last taste of the versatile dish (at least until they head out-of-state, of course). The commentary by food-focused journalist Michael Pollen on the second page is worth clicking through for.

With foie gras ban, chefs say state is force-feeding morality — Jonathan Gold, LA Times
Mr. Gold presents the stance of chefs who favor foie gras in parallel to the move of so many individual Californian chefs removing Bluefin tuna from menus, in light of the threat of extinction for the fish.  He thereby argues that the chefs affected by this legislation are chefs whose sense of morality is well-adjusted, and fully in accordance with their menus.  This piece, probably the most opinionated of this post, is included for the clarity with which it seems to capture the general sentiment of the CHEFs members.

A Foie Gras Timeline

July 1, 2012

2004 – SB1520 passes in California, allowing producers 7.5 years to arrange a different means of foie gras production

2006 – Chicago passes law prohibiting the sale of foie gras within city limits, with 90-day grace period; meets with repeated deliberate infractions as a form of protest; only a single establishment fined — a gourmet hot dog stand

2008 – Chicago foie gras ban repealed, under criticism from then-mayor Daley

2012 – CHEFS, or, Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards, union of pro-foie Californian chefs formed by several well-known Californian chefs

             – Pro-foie chefs begin ‘foie-mageddon’, preparing an unprecedented number of foie-based dishes for patrons in anticipation of the law’s enactment; anti-foie activists attempt to thwart these statements by making false reservations, and picketing outside participating restaurants

             July 1 – California law enacted in full.

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Further Reading:

Chicago:

Chicago Prohibits Foie Gras — Gretchen Ruethling, The New York Times

Chicago Overturns Foie Gras Ban — Nick Fox, The New York Times

‘Foie-Mageddon’ :

With Time Running Out, California Is Gorging Itself on Foie Gras — Ben Worthen, The Wall Street Journal

CHEFS:

The CHEFS group is covered at length in our companion post —  What We’re Following: Foie Gras