Hacking Dining

imgresWhen did food become a huge part of the new economy? Did it start in urban areas or did it start with the organic farm movement?  It is a movement that began with people driven by a desire for healthy high quality food. They wanted to know where their food came from and that they were not eating processed foods. Is it a knee- jerk reaction to friends and family members getting ill? Is it the desire to live a more healthy live? Or is it just a cycle of change in which people want to return to our original roots of local farming vs. big business?  I believe it is a combination of all of these things. That is how movements start and grow. It is not just one thing, but several.

I have always been into good eating. I grew up in a kitchen where my mother was an excellent cook and had a coffee grinder and Melita drip coffee maker. Bad food was just not an option. When I got to NYC there was a food movement around California cooking. Jams and Union Square Market were the beginnings of the “new” restaurants in the city. People flocked to them. I can look back now and point to that time where food was really beginning to be a conversation and the green market was an important part of that.

Fast forward to 2006: Eater starts to gain an audience. That website changed everything. No restaurant was able to quietly launch and fine tune its menu; People were alreadywaiting for the door to open. To me, that was the beginning of how technology would change the food world. It changed the way we dine.

Then others like OpenTable came along.  Why call a restaurant when you can book online? And now Resy wants to be the new way to book a last minute table? Will people be willing to pay up for the last minute reservation? Foursquare and Swarm have created apps because it has become important to check into the restaurant of your choice or to search for places to eat by following your friends and seeing their food pictures.

It appears that more people are certainly interested in cooking at home and having recipes and ingredients delivered to their home. Blue Apron and Good Eggs are a a few of the companies doing this. Fresh Direct started home delivery almost 10 years ago, and they could easily get into meal kit delivery without having to building the offering out themselves using PlateJoy.

And don’t we want to know exactly what we are eating in those packages?  Look at how HowGood enables customers to make smart choices about the products they are buying. And we can not forget Food52, which builds communities around recipe sharing and e-commerce with Provisions.

And then there is the explosion of new food products. But when did the desire to create new products begin? Food artisans like  Ricks Picks started 10 years ago, and there are more and more food startups launching every year. CircleUp saw the opportunity and began a crowdfunding platform for consumer product companies to raise money and expand their businesses. Others like the team behind Smorgasburg saw that food was a way to bring people together to taste, try and buy, too. And Mouth built an online business where you can buy the best indie food products from beef jerky, jams, pickles, cheese, liquors, chocolates and more

Now that I have set the ground work, let’s talk about another way to hack dining: Kitchensurfing. Through the platform you can hire a chef come to your house and make a meal for you and your friends, teach you how to cook with a group or solo, stock your refrigerator with food for the week with information on how to prepare each dish simply or have a chef come a few times a week to cook for the office. This ability to connect people who love to cook with people who want to eat well defines hacking dining. Have a chef over and tweet it out to the world with pictures of your amazing meal. Now that is where technology meets dining.

Hacking Dining is online conversation exploring how we might use technology and design to hack a better future for dining. Join the conversation between June 2-30, and share your ideas in the comments, on Twitter using #hackdiningFacebookLinkedIn or Tumblr.  Here is the link to this post that is part of the conversation this month on Food Tech Connect.

Comments (Archived):

  1. takingpitches

    Nice survey of the food tech landscape.In food, unlike other areas, moving away from lowest common denominator automation which has led to the ills of food processing. A big opportunity in addition to consumer benefits to create opportunity by reallocation dollars away from big food.

    1. Gotham Gal

      shifting the food laws is not easy but the movement is here with hopes that big business will not completely prevail.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Or the FDA, USDA, EPA, OSHA etc etc etc. It is amazing what is going on in food. Knowledge and transparency, and we are learning that food can be just as effective as drugs. Another hashtag you can check out is #foodiechats. They do stuff on Monday evenings.

  2. Brandon Burns

    I’m *extremely* sad that I’ll miss the Hack Dining event due to a wedding. I’m on the hunt for foodie entrepreneur types. Please post more of these!

  3. Brandon Burns

    I just took a look on CircleUp. Two very telling things:1) Over 50% of the businesses on CircleUp are food and beverage. That’s very interesting. Are they targeting food specifically? Any idea how this came to be?2) There are only 68 companies actively raising on CircleUp. That’s not a bad number for CircleUp, since I found some press that suggests the average deal is $1mm, so even if they take a small transaction fee they have a healthy business. Still, only 68 companies?! There are **thousands** of tech startups raising money, with probably hundreds on AngelList alone. Why is everyone rushing to build software and online experiences when there’s, apparently, far less intellectual capital competing to make compelling businesses built on physical goods?

    1. Gotham Gal

      Remember on CU you have to be hitting a certain revenue to get on the site. It is a super smart space to crowd fund.

      1. Brandon Burns

        Ah, I see. CircleUp is hyper-selective. Makes sense.Still, even more telling that over half the businesses with the revenue to qualify are food and beverage.

  4. ChuckEats

    i’d argue that food blogs, not Eater, kicked this into gear. Eater saw an opportunity to effectively sit a layer above blogs and obviously executed well. Chefs also became more savvy – instead of slaving away forever, they took a start-up approach to food – start small, fail fast, scale up (eg, posterboy David Chang.) So you got more ideas being tested. Instagram can’t be discounted. And, at the end of the day, everyone likes food – now they have platforms to advertise the fact.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Fair enough. Food blogging was how Eater began. I totally agree with you

  5. awaldstein

    NIce–Tech around food is not nearly as challenging as being in the food biz itself.The food biz is really a bitch.Creating perfect, amazing, consistent product with a minimal wage workforce and uncontrollable supply chain.I need to write up my learnings of a tech person investing in his first food biz. I amazed just about every day.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Food is absolutely a bitch.