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4Food's Rex Sorgatz Talks Donut Burgers, Fast Food Leader Boards, and Virtual Meetings

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4Food concept artwork

A few weeks ago we learned about 4Food, the new 150 seat burger place opening up near Bryant Park in July that will, among other things: serve organic burgers with holes in them, feature employees with iPads taking orders, employ people from New York City’s work displacement program, use a massive ecologically sound trash compactor, and feature a 220 square foot monitor streaming Twitter feeds, Foursquare check-ins, and Facebook activity. The new spot is actually one of a proposed twelve restaurant chain in the New York area, and a project that has been several years in the work. Recently we sat down with 4Food rep Rex Sorgatz to chat about the concept, and how it relates to the always-evolving world of social media.

The menu at 4Food has an interesting concept – how does it relate to the social media aspect of the restaurant? So, there’s a personalization element, which is you’ll be able to customize your burger, or food item, but particularly the burgers. You’ll choose from a handful of buns, six different patties, including egg and beef, lamb, fish, and so forth. And the kicker is that there’s a hole in the middle of it, and inside of that hole you’ll have the option to put a “scoop” in. At launch there will be 25, eventually we have an idea of about 100 of them, of items to put inside the burger. And that’s the real customization layer. Are there more toppings you can add on top of the burger? Yes, condiments, stuff like that. The kind of crowd sourcing social-networking idea is that after you make your burger you have the option to name it, and then after you name it, it becomes yours, and whatever options you choose, you can choose to market it, and if other people buy it after you put it on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, then you get a quarter every time someone purchases it.

How do you get that quarter back? Store credit. So you get to use it next time you order, so you’ll see how much money you have from other people ordering your burger. So, the hope is that people will invest themselves a little bit, they get to name it, and then, once they own it, we’re hoping they do the marketing for us.

So, if someone creates a burger and gives it a name, you will be able to see it on the menu, online? Yeah, you’ll be able to look it up, but there’s also a leaderboard, and the idea is these are the most popular items. You’ll want to get it on the leaderboard, because there’s a layer of competition and gaming in there. Like the New York Times’ most popular e-mail list, it’s self-perpetuating. I suspect that someone who ends up on the leaderboard, every time they come to the restaurant, they'll have a free burger waiting for them.

Do you think the organic element will draw people to the restaurant, too? We hope so. It’s interesting because we talk about so many things that are interesting little angles -- some people will be attracted to that aspect, some people will be attracted to the speed and the social quality of it, but my biggest concern is that as we talk about all these things, the thing that I hope they really like is the actual food. And I don’t want to get lost in that, because it’s really great. I hope that when people try it, they will instantly understand a quality of health and cleanliness about it. It will taste good. In terms of price, the base burger is $5, and as you add extra things on top of it, it can get up to $7. It starts off really, really inexpensive—comparable to an unhealthy fast food place.

Are you guys fans of the Shake Shack? There’s lots of things around that we’re borrowing ideas from. Shake Shack, obviously. I love the culture that’s grown up around the Ace Hotel, and I’d love to get some of the clientele that’s in the Flatiron, that are hanging out there, and similarly minded people that are in Midtown. We’ll have free WiFi. We want it to be very open. There are a lot of interaction possibilities, especially since when we open multiple stores, you’ll be able to interact between them, through various terminals and other things we’re trying to figure out right now. Like, you could hold a meeting with someone in the financial district while you’re in Midtown?

Also, one of the features that we haven’t talked about yet is this thing called “Feast.” When you are creating your menu online, you'll have the option to hit a button that says “create a feast,” and you can invite people to it, and make a list of things that you recommend to them. And when you’re doing it you can choose to say whether or not you’re going to pay for it all, or whether you’re going to pay separately. And so, it’s again, it’s another online social component, you invite people to a meeting there, and use that to do group activity there. And yeah, again, what’s happened up around the Ace Hotel, people using it as a kind of casual hang out spot, is of interest to us.

And what about the 240-foot screen? It’s actually a 220 square foot screen. It’s huge. I’ve seen it, it’s actually one of the few things that’s finished right now. We’ll be using it for multiple purposes. The standard purpose is that it will be a visual display unit for activity that’s going on in and around the store, so it will be streaming Twitter information, Foursquare check-ins, any activity that’s going on on Facebook.

So, if people are eating at the restaurant and they tweet about it, and they use a certain hashtag, it will pop up on the screen? Right, with the hashtag, it will pop up, right up on the screen. And we’re toying with some ability to give them a reward for doing that too, and again, kind of using social media as a mechanism to reward people that are interacting in an outside-the-store kind of way, and I think Foursquare will be a big thing for us. And then, we’ll do coupons and rewards for people that become mayors, or for doing a set number of check-ins, that kind of thing. But the screen's just huge, and it just has so much potential to do other things. We’re doing a series of pre-launch events before the actual restaurant launch, one of the things we’re talking about is streaming the World Cup final, and throwing a party around it, and inviting people that are in the sports industry. It’s sort of unlimited. We spend a lot of our time thinking of things that we can throw up on the wall.
· All Coverage of 4Food [~ENY~]

4Food

Madison Ave. and 40th St., New York, NY

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