4Food: New NYC Burger Restaurant Goes All In with Social Media

Adam Kidron's new restaurant 4Food is a quick service burger with the latest in Apple technology. Learn more about his latest concept.

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You may step into the 4Food quick service burger restaurant in New York City and think you wandered into an alternate universe Apple Store by mistake. Or an alternate universe fast food restaurant. 4Food is a bit of both, with substantial servings of locally grown food, socially conscious attitudes, biodegradable supplies and mobile technology that turns loyal customers into loyal marketers. 4Food is scheduled to open on August 16 after a soft launch on August 2. 4Food co-founder Adam Kidron expects 400 customers on opening day.

Food Meets Technology

Kidron has a long history as a music and television producer, but his latest incarnation as the idea man and driving force behind 4Food combines his passions for good food and social media technologies. You can't talk about 4Food without talking about the burgers. The centerpiece is the W(hole)burger, with a donut-shaped patty made from beef, lamb, pork, turkey, veggies, salmon or egg. The missing center provides an opportunity to add a scoop of a variety of rotating filling options.

Take all those different types of burgers and all those different types of fillings and you open up a mind-boggling number of potential combinations. Customers can put together creative burgers, name them and tell the world about it by using social media tools. "People feel very proud and very committed to the food they just created, creating an affinity between the consumer and us," says Kidron.

Ordering can be done in the traditional way at a counter, but people who prefer to handle it themselves can order from a bench that has six Apple iPads tied into 4Food's online ordering system. "We were going to put these big bulky kiosks in so that people who didn't want to stand in line could order their food and go straight to the pickup counter," says Kidron. "Then the iPad came out and we realized that Web ordering would work just as well on an iPad. We reduced the cost and are able to have more terminals."

These uses of mobile and social technologies already mark 4Food as a different sort of restaurant. That also means Kidron is heading down a path less traveled. "Adding technology does add a level of things that can go wrong. Most quick service restaurants are built around things that can never go wrong. We add risk by adding technology, but we also add reward," says Kidron. That pay off comes in engaging customers and increasing brand loyalty.

4Food is already heavily involved with Twitter, long before the official opening day. Nearly 500 followers are busy chiming in with ideas on how 4Food and the people of New York can work toward "de-junking" the city. It all ties into 4Food's mission to "de-junk fast food," and it's just the tip of the social media iceberg for the restaurant.

Employing Customers as Marketers

Most traditional restaurants rely on word of mouth about quality food to bring in new customers. Kidron looks at social media as a new twist on an old story. "Word of mouth is always your most powerful weapon. The question is how you extend it. Social media is a very efficient way of distributing word of mouth," he says.

Customers fill out profiles and maintain accounts with 4Food. After creating and naming a burger, they receive 25 cents in their accounts every time somebody else orders that burger. This encourages customers to market their creations by promoting them through Facebook and Twitter and other social outlets. 4Food also ties in closely with Foursquare, the popular location-based social network where users check in from various locations, rack up points and sometimes get discounts or coupons for participating. 4Food patrons can double their coupons by using Foursquare and by getting on the weekly check-in count leader board.

The use of social media is fun and new, but sustaining it over time requires more than just a quick good time. That's why 4Food offers such substantial rewards to customers. "We don't offer incentives; we just pay people for the work they do. If you want somebody to market something for you, you better have a return for them -- otherwise, they will stop doing it very quickly," says Kidron. That's a lesson all small businesses can take to heart when looking at how social media fits into their marketing plans.

Social Media Meets Business Smarts

Kidron is sitting at his desk sampling local tomatoes and is amazed at the flavor compared to the mass produced off-red things found from out-of-state suppliers. He sees the use of technology as directly tying into high-quality products. The long-term returns for 4Food's social media campaigns will come in the form of a reduced marketing budget. "Marketing costs can be as much as 10 percent of the expense of running a quick service restaurant," says Kidron. "With the money we've saved in marketing, we can afford to buy better products that are genuinely local and genuinely sustainable."

This is the new business reality. Social and mobile tech isn't going away. "It would seem to be pretty self evident that mobile is going to be the transformational method of communication of our generation. We have to find interesting ways to embrace it that suit the business," says Kidron.

Social media is important, but not as important as serving delicious meals that keep customers coming back. That's the real lesson behind 4Food's use of social media and mobile technologies. Social media makes good companies stronger as long as strong business fundamentals are there to begin with. Says Kidron, "The greatest return on investment is going to be the first burger we sell. Our primary focus is the taste experience."

Tags: 4food, Adam Kidron, Foursquare, Mobile, Wholeburger

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