4food gets interactive, eyes growth


Expansion is at hand for 4food, a year-old New York City restaurant marrying alternative quick-service fare like lamb burgers on brioche with interactive technologies that make guests key to the creative and marketing processes.

Opened in August 2010, multi-level 4food is known for its signature “(W)holeburgers.” They are typically priced from about $6 to $9 and are made from rings of different proteins, including ground beef, turkey and salmon, that are filled with the buyer’s choice of one of 25 different “Veggiescoops,” such as shaved and roasted Brussels sprouts or butternut squash–garlic mash.

But beyond its menu of alternatives to conventional fast food — which also include rice and salad bowls adorned with sandwich makings; vegetable, grain and potato-based sides; soft drinks; sangria and beer — 4food is known for its Web-based and mobile-device friendly software. The operation uses in-restaurant digital menus and marketing displays and iPad tablets for guest self-ordering. The tools aim to spark guest interaction and competition.

“I would hope that you would see simultaneously this time next year a second location in New York City and one somewhere else in the world,” said Michael Shuman, 4food LLC co-founder, architect and managing partner.

Shuman recently told Nation’s Restaurant News that while 4food’s suite of technologies is currently scalable, the restaurant’s development team nevertheless is taking a reflective “step back, now that we’ve built all of this and seen how it is working, how we want to use it and how customers want to use it.”

“We’re rebuilding a few of the components from the ground up with that hindsight,” he said.

Select components of 4food’s community-building software:

The online “Build-A-Burger” interface. Users assemble personalized sandwiches, rice bowls or salad bowls by clicking on the restaurant’s extensive list of ingredient options. In a defining twist for 4food, guests can name and market their customized creations to entice other customers to order them. Guests will earn 25 cents in “4food dollars” royalties, or purchase credits, each time their proprietary item is ordered.

“We Know You Better.” 4food account holders’ profile information and ordering histories can be used to make customer-specific food recommendations aimed at helping guests reach specific nutrition or weight-related goals.

• The “BuildBoard Chart” of top 10 ordered burgers created by 4food customers and the “Trending Burgers” table of most recently purchased and branded user creations.