Creating the next-generation customer experience is always on the minds of the best restauranteurs. For restaurants to evolve, understanding the next generation customer is critical and Manhattan is the hotbed of the new and the emerging.
Amazon.com is poised for a takeover of the restaurant delivery trend. Now that Amazon has a major power position in the grocery industry after acquiring Whole Foods for a not too shabby $13.7 billion, it’s next conquest is restaurant delivery. Amazon has joined forces with Olo, “digital orders done right “ which has Shake Shack Inc. founder Danny Meyer as an investor, and provides digital order and pay technology to 200 restaurant brands with about 40,000 U.S. locations. The $1.5 trillion U.S. food market is split between groceries and restaurants and this market is most valuable to Amazon because it is a constant type of order and can collect valuable data about their shopper’s preferences to use with their other markets. Olo is the tech platform to publish menus and take orders while Amazon arranges the deliveries. Olo launched a new product called Rails that makes it easier for restaurants to take delivery orders from Amazon and other third-party services. Olo helped build Shake Shack’s mobile order and pay app, and it also developed the technology for Chipotle’s catering service.
The most important technology for dining is Instagram; dining and Instagram go hand in hand. It is so important to patrons that restaurants consider it in every aspect, from menus to decor to glassware to dish presentation to lighting. No restaurant category is excluded from the Instagram culture, from fine dining to fast food and everything in between. These days, it is de rigeur to snap that Insta-worthy shot and post for your followers to see.
But delivery and social promotion cannot be perfectly done without physical bricks and mortar presence. David Chang’s delivery-only restaurant Ando is no longer just delivery. He opened a “fast-casual” storefront at 31 West 14th Street, between Sixth and Fifth Avenue, Union Square. Originally only supposed to be a virtual restaurant, this physical restaurant has an expanded menu including breakfast and places to sit. Prices are the same, and delivery is still available but with a fee.
Danny Meyer’s just-opened pizza centric Martina, 198 East 11th Street, calls itself “fine-casual” but operates under the “fast-casual” style with a limited menu, ordering at the counter, and takeout. Like at Shake Shack, guests will order and pick up from the cashier, who will hand them a buzzer while they wait for their pies to finish cooking — a process that takes just two minutes. For to-go orders, Martina uses new age boxes that vent steam while keeping the pizza hot.
Other new and noteworthy openings around the City:
Upper East Side: Le Bilboquet , 20 East 60th Street, opened the doors to its new cafe, Cafe Bilboquet, at 26 East 60th Street, on the same block as its parent restaurant, in the former Gene’s Coffee Shop. Customers can choose to eat in or take out from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Hanley Building, 1136 Third Avenue now has its own outpost of Sant Ambroeus called The Coffee Bar at Hanley.
Midtown: Filling the long vacant Tudor City restaurant space, near the border of Turtle Bay and Kips Bay, is Tudor City Steakhouse, 45 Tudor City Place, three blocks from Grand Central. Miami-based healthy cafe Dr. Smood has a fourth Manhattan location, 485 Lexington Avenue.
Greenwich Village: Aunt Jake’s, the Italian spinoff from Mulberry Project, has opened its second location less than two years after opening the Mulberry original, 47 West 8th Street. Coffee chain Blue Bottle has its tenth New York location at 101 University Place.
West Village: Fairfax, 234 W 4th Street by Gabe and Gina Stulman of Joseph Leonard and Fedora fame is a cafe by day, and a wine bar with Mediterranean-accented small plates for lunch and dinner. 4 Charles Prime Rib by Brendan Sodikoff of Chicago’s Au Cheval, created this West Village steakhouse focusing on its cuts of beef, richly topped patties and elaborate sundaes at 4 Charles Street.
Chinatown: The newest vendor inside Canal Street Market is Calito, 265 Canal Street, a Cal-Mexican stand serving hand pressed tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and plates like pollo asado. Sherman’s, a fast-casual Greek and rotisserie chicken restaurant on Division Street is essentially a Kiki’s spinoff that has taken over a former shoe store at 121 Division Street.
Technology-centric dining is becoming the new norm, improving the way we engage with restaurants and enhancing our culinary experience. Dining establishments are embracing the latest technology trends, integrating them, even replacing the service elements that defined more traditional restaurants. And, the shift to social media platforms are becoming a function of that experience, where a snapshot is virtually as important as the food itself, and the hype created around that photo-op can turn you into the next destination hotspot.
Savor these new bites of the season and watch for my next edition of Faithful Food! Happy Fall and Happy Dining!