Tag Archives: start up

The Facebook IPO is Not the Only Game in Town

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It’s the biggest IPO in years and there will be none for you.
There’s a long line of bankers, venture capitalists, institutional investors, and well-connected individuals getting first dibs on shares of Facebook when the social media titan goes public this spring.

Less buzz, more bunny.
Why bother when you can easily buy into the initial offering from Annie’s Homegrown? When Annie’s announced plans to go public, there was none of the frenzy that surrounded recent offerings like LinkedIn, Groupon, and now Facebook. The organic mac and cheese maker doesn’t generate the same kind of heat, but unlike so many technology and social media companies, it does generate profits: in each of the last five years, Annie’s sales have grown by an average of nearly 16%; in 2011 the company reported a profit of $15 million.

Annie’s makes the second most popular macaroni and cheese, trailing only the iconic blue box from Kraft. In the natural and organic market, it’s number one for macaroni and cheese, snack crackers, fruit snacks, and graham crackers. The company makes crackers, condiments, frozen pizza, and 100 other products that can be found in 25,000 specialty and mass market locations across the U.S. and Canada. Annie’s is a premium-priced, high-margin brand with a loyal customer base that is better-educated, more health-conscious, and spends more on food than the average consumer.

Annie’s also has a cute bunny logo and a way better stock ticker symbol (BNNY) than Facebook’s (FB).

See full financials and learn about the stock offering–read the company prospectus filed with the SEC.

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Waiters vs. Technology

Does it take a rocket scientist to split the check?
The gossip was flying when Rajat Suri, a promising Ph.D. candidate, withdrew from MIT and began waiting tables at a nearby chain restaurant. Did he flunk out? Had he cracked from the pressure of the rigorous engineering program? His classmates were certain that one of their own would never choose to abandon all those years of scholarship so close to the prestigious terminal degree.

Clearly, his mind was on more than tips.
It’s now two years later, and this week saw the official launch of E la Carte, Suri’s start up that attracted million dollar funding and a board stocked with heavyweights from the technology sector (the founders of Reddit, Gmail, and Dropbox) and the restaurant industry (senior management from Applebee’s and other national chains).

E la Carte supplies partner restaurants with an ordering system utilizing hand held touchscreen tablets. Customers view pictures and read descriptions of menu items, and orders are fully customizable using a checklist or by typing special instructions. A timer counts down each dish’s estimated time of delivery, and the device provides entertainment and social media diversions for the wait—electronic doodles, a coloring book, trivia challenges (solo or for the table), and Facebook updating. An especially welcome feature allows bills to be split in any number of ways and paid for with any number or combination of credit cards (swiped through the integrated card reader) and cash.

The national rollout has begun; first up—Boston and San Francisco.
E la Carte is currently in just a few dozen locations, but with an enormous backlog of orders and a deal pending with an as-yet unnamed major American restaurant chain (looking at the corporate board’s composition, I’d say the smart money’s on Applebee’s).

The company claims that compared with the traditional service model, E la Carte is more efficient, more user-friendly, and even more profitable for restaurants. According to figures based on six months of data from beta testing, the devices increased overall restaurant revenues by 10-12%. Most of the increases came from impulse orders of high-margin items: the screen asks “How about a nice bowl of soup to start?” while you’re looking at a lovely photograph of steamy bisque, and you’ve been told there will be a 20 minute wait for your entrée. Tap-tap and it’s on its way.

Bad news for struggling actors?
E la Carte is not necessarily a waiter-less system. Humans still bring orders to the table and perform customer service functions like seating and beverage refills. And yes, you still leave a tip. With higher tabs from all the up-selling of impulse items, plus the system’s tip calculating function (choose from 15-25%—another easy tap-tap—or write in a custom amount), the servers should do just fine, although restaurants will probably need fewer of them.

Vindicated.
As for Rajat Suri, the company he founded currently has 15 employees, most of them engineers with degrees from MIT. And every one of them has a stint of restaurant service on their resumé. Suri requires it.

 

Posted in restaurants | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The WikiGullet Project: the new ‘Wikipedia’ of food

 image via Will Write for Food/Dianne Jacob

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Who doesn’t love Wikipedia?
It’s vast, fast, and always up-to-date. It’s the first place we turn to settle disputes.
It’s also messy, quirky, and sometimes less than authoritative—very much a human product.

You too can have a hand in shaping the ‘Wikipedia’ of food.
Like Wikipedia, the WikiGullet Project aims to be a community creation, written an entry at a time by a broad assemblage of volunteers. […]

Posted in blogging, cyberculture | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Shoulder to Shoulder with Strangers: Dining at the communal table.

  image via The Publican

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We tend to like our public dining experiences to be private.

The communal tables of school cafeterias and summer camps are in the past. As adults, we envelop the experience in an aura of privacy, seated with just our private party, at our own table, booth, or banquette. We seldom pay to eat a meal at a table alongside strangers. […]

Posted in food trends, restaurants | Tagged , | 3 Comments

This Restaurant Makes Its Own Rules

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We’ve gotta have a great show, with a million laughs… and color… and a lot of lights to make it sparkle. And songs – wonderful songs. And after we get the people in that hall, we’ve gotta start em in laughing right away. Oh, can’t you just see it… ?”

— Judy Garland, “Babes In Arms”, 1939.
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It’s like an old Mickey Rooney movie. Hey kids, let’s put on a restaurant!
It’s What Happens When, it’s opening this month in New York’s Soho, and it’s a crash course in how not to run a restaurant. […]
Posted in food business | Tagged , | 4 Comments

What Are Your Leftovers Worth?

The recipe made four servings but there are just three of you.
All over town there are working singles tucking into their yogurt and takeout burritos.
Could the solution be more obvious?

Book of Cooks is an online marketplace for home cooked meals.
Home cooks (and professionals) post dishes and full meals for sale—it can be something already in the works or planned for a later date. They can include pictures or video and cite licenses, ingredients, and other pertinent details, including customer reviews and ratings. […]

Posted in cook + dine, food business, food safety | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Kicking Around Any Ideas?

Are you the kid with the lemonade stand or the one with the quarter?

Kickstarter is the place for both of you.

Kickstarter connects people looking for money for their business projects with people willing to kick in.
It’s not a loan; it’s not an investment. It’s more like micro-patronage with a bit of crowd-sourced business advice.

In a nutshell:
Budding entrepreneurs post a video with their pitch and funding requirements.
Patrons pledge the funds in increments as small as a few dollars and up to $10,000. Pledges are pooled until the goal is met within a specific time frame.

It’s all or nothing. The rejection message is two-fold: the public has weighed in with a poor funding response, telling the hopeful entrepreneur that it’s back to the drawing board for a better concept; and it’s clear that a start-up shouldn’t be launched without sufficient resources.

Patrons are generally rewarded in the form of project mementos or perks—recently a $10 pledge brought a snack bag from an organic nut roaster, and $120 pledged to an occasional spice club (like spice-of-the month but, you know, not as regular) got you a year’s membership, a spice named for you, AND a refrigerator magnet. No less important are the thrill of proximate inclusion in a creative endeavor, and the warm and fuzzy and oh-so-hip feeling that comes from contributing to a worthwhile endeavor.

Kickstarter is open to projects of all kinds, but food is a constant motif. Food is the third most popular of the site’s 19 categories, and one of the most successful, with a 56% funding rate. The proposals  skew heavily toward food trucks, cupcakes, and home canners—a sign of both the times and the company’s Brooklyn location. The average food project has a funding goal of about $5,000, although this summer saw the founding of a North Carolina craft brewer who raised $44,000. Other recent launches include a solar-powered mobile crêperie, construction of a pedal-operated machine that churns butter and powers a toaster, and an Illinois high school class that wants to publish a cookbook (watch the typos in the business plan, guys).

Get in on the ground floor.

Currently seeking funds:

  • Tails and Trotters, a Portland, Oregon chef-farmer partnership, is almost half-way to its goal of $10,000 with 8 days remaining. The team is developing a true Northwest prosciutto produced from pigs fattened on hazelnuts. $100 will get you a ham and a VIP invite to the opening of their retail shop.
  • The clock is seriously ticking for Leo & Co., mother and son organic dog biscuit makers. With one day and just a few hundred dollars to go, they’ll send you a biscuit personalized with your pet’s name when you pledge as little as $1.
  • $40 gets you a screen credit in the forthcoming documentary Pimento Cheese, Please, currently looking for another $1,800 to cover production costs.
  • Help restore a 60 foot long dragon costume for use in the Chinese New Years Parade in San Francisco. 13 days and $2,000 to go, you can pledge as little as $1, but $50 will get you your picture taken wearing the dragon’s head. Not the foodiest of ventures, but the group behind the costume provides funding to the SF Food Bank. And how awesome is that dragon’s head picture?!.

See all the projects pending at Kickstarter.

Do you have an idea kicking around? Learn how to post your own project.

 

Posted in cyberculture, food business | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Daily Deals for Dining: Groupon and its many imitators

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Everyone loves a bargain.

Just 21 months old, the online social shopping service Groupon has signed up 12 million subscribers, adding nearly two million more each month. It’s grown to more than 1,000 employees, has been profitable since June 2009, and recently attracted a $135 million dollar round of investment from the venture capital group behind Facebook. (Gigabiting first looked at the Groupon phenomenon when it reached the one million subscriber mark) […]

Posted in cyberculture, restaurants | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Underground Food Markets: The New Speakeasies

Pssst… wanna buy some contraband pickles?

First came the informal but still legitimate businesses like food trucks, pop-up restaurants, and CSAs. Now we have the appearance of their unlicensed brethren: the home bakers, canners, pasta makers, meat curers, and foragers that make up an underground food scene that’s gaining steam in cities around the world.

Mmm… that’s so good, I bet you could sell it.

It used to be a compliment. Now it’s a business plan.

Take the growing DIY movement. Throw in a high unemployment rate, some entrepreneurial spirit, the promotional capabilities of social media, and a dash of hipster hype. You end up with something like Anarchy in a Jar (jam maker), Brazelton Price (demi-glace), Bundt (cake baker), and Charcuterie Underground (bacon and sausage). […]

Posted in food policy | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Single-Serve Cup ‘o Wine Flies Off Shelves

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http://www.conagrafoods.com/images/brands/product_jpgs/hunts_snack_pack.jpg + See  full size imageLe   Froglet wine-in-glass

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Grocery stores in England are struggling to keep up with customer demand for Le Froglet. Basically a lunchbox pudding cup with a stem, Le Froglet is a single-serve plastic goblet of French wine with a tear-off lid.

Once you get past the imprudence of introducing yet another single-use, disposable plastic item into the waste stream, it is easy to understand the product’s appeal, in a down-market kind of way. The convenience and freedom of glass- and corkscrew-free portability even outweighs the less than stellar reviews received by the wines. […]

Posted in beer + wine + spirits | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

You Can Pay Me in Chocolate

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Exchange-traded derivatives. Market-neutral hedge funds. Yield curves, indexed annuities, and currency swaps.

Can’t we just eat some chocolate?

A U.K. chocolatier that’s looking for expansion capital is issuing bonds that pay chocolate dividends. […]

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Restaurant Pricing: Pay What You Want

image courtesy of The Food Channel

Same decor, same frontega chicken panini and banana nut muffin tops, same youthful, chipper cashiers. Panera’s newest bakery/cafe is identical to its other 1,400 locations with one exception: here the menu has no prices.

Apparently there is such as thing as a free lunch. […]

Posted in food business | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

How Much is that Beer Worth to You?

Have you had enough of the stock market’s ups and downs? Then you might want to try your luck at New York’s Exchange Bar and Grill. Like the NYSE, the market sets the prices based on supply and demand. Instead of the economy, menu price fluctuations are based on the ordering trends of the restaurant’s current group of patrons.

The popularity of individual food and drink items moves their prices up and down in 25¢ increments for a total swing of up to $4.00. An electronic ticker tape behind the bar broadcasts the action, while flatscreens display the current state of the menu. […]

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What’s the Big Idea?!

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A better mousetrap

The bagel guillotine. The salad shooter. The Veg-O-Matic. Not a one came from GE Research or Westinghouse Laboratory. Each of these contributions to the culinary arts was conceived in the mind of a home cook.

A new website has come along that applies a crowdsourcing model to turn concepts into products. Quirky is not exclusively a platform for kitchen innovations, but with a strong natural affinity between cooking and tinkering, the site receives a steady stream of cooking-related submissions. […]

Posted in food business, gadgets, Science/Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

All the Cool Kids are Drinking Coconut Water

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It’s huge in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In the U.S., not so much.

No, we’re not talking about soccer.

As the bottled water market falters under environmental and economic pressures, the beverage industry is on the lookout for a new cash cow. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are both betting that coconut water could be the next big thing, with matching investments in Brazilian producers. […]

Posted in food trends | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

I’ll Get the Next Round: BuyaBeerCompany.com

beerfund

Pabst Blue Ribbon is:

a) a blue-collar favorite decades past its heyday; or

b) the hippest, hottest beer around.

If you were born much before 1980 you probably missed this one.                             […]

Posted in food business, social media | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Gourmet Magazine: the aftermath

GOURMET TODAY Cover

Where are they now?

When Conde Nast pulled the plug on Gourmet Magazine, none were more shocked than the magazine’s 180 employees who were cleaning out their desks as we were reading news of the closure in the morning paper. They were cut loose along with the employees of more than 450 other magazines and countless newspapers that folded in 2009. But a stint at Gourmet is something special on a resume, and many former staffers have resurfaced in new and notable capacities. […]

Posted in Entertainment, food business, phone applications | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Whatever will you name your bacon?

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A documentary film about ice cream trucks. A graduate student who would rather be making chocolate. A sculptor who wants to cast endangered apple varieties in porcelain.

These are some of the projects that have been successfully funded through Kickstarter, an online funding platform that matches artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs with a pool of patrons. […]

Posted in food business | Tagged , | 2 Comments
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