Thursday, May 28, 2009

From the kitchen to Twitter; the power of social media

Last week we launched a new product for our restaurant clients. It’s a interactive tool that allows our clients to get proactive and empower diners to make their own choices when it comes to nutrition information and the “what’s better for me” purchase.

It’s called our Nutrition Calculator (in-vogue name coming soon..) and you can see it here:

And to learn about it here:

NOTE: I’m not sales plugging, or should I say sales blogging, but I had to reference the topic :-)

Moving onto the interesting stuff such as “how does this help my restaurant?” I’ll explain:

Our client, Mixt Greens:, a San Francisco-based Eco-Gourmet® restaurant that serves environmentally responsible fine food, found that during week 1 the calculator had generated 742 customer uses with an average of 6 calculations per customer. A co-founder of Mixt Greens said "we have seen an increase in website traffic due to the calculator. Our customers are very excited that the nutritional information is available and that they can customize to exactly what they are eating, which will contribute to long-term customer loyalty and happiness."

And their customers say “the calculator is really helpful for anyone counting calories, Weight Watchers points or just trying to be aware of what they put in their mouth. I track everything and it's no longer a shot in the dark!” and “I try to monitor my daily food intake, so being able to know exactly what is going into my body at a place that I like to eat at a lot is really helpful for me.”

I did some recent Google’ing I found that people on Yelp, Twitter and Facebook all gave Mixt Greens a thumbs up for adding the calculator to their website. By listening to their customers and being proactive (Mixt Greens is not affected by a menu labeling bill), they have managed to generate buzz in their target market.

And the best part: it’s free! Social networking is free.

As the days went on, I received my normal Google Alert referencing our company name. Instead of our name coming up in a trade newsletter, it was from a Twitter user who had linked to our calculator saying “FINALLY!” – In less than 2 days we had managed indirectly reach the third most used social network (Facebook being the largest, followed by MySpace): Twitter; with reportedly 4-5 million users. Again, for free!

We didn’t intend to reach the Twitter community, but through the power of social media we did. Most of our target users may not be on Twitter, they are most likely to be on the restaurant community site: FohBoh: but from a restaurant’s perspective, the 4-5 million users on Twitter are all potential diners.

For someone who has spent 10 years in the “disruptive technology” world, I was thrilled to see the speed and accuracy that Mixt Greens informed their customers – and more relative to this blog, the momentum at which their customers were able to tell Mixt Greens exactly what they thought.

It's time to get social!

I look forward to your comments…


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NRA Show 2009

Quick FoodCalc News: CEO Lucy Needham and Lead Dietitian Alyson Mar will be attending the National Restaurant Association's Annual Show 2009 on May 16th to May 19th. If you are attending and would like to find out more about MenuCalc and FoodCalc's other services, please feel free to give us a call or email to arrange a meeting with them during the show as schedules permit of course.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Post or not to Post and Why?

The old discussion of calories in vs calories out seems to be common knowledge among American diners these days.  Comments like "It seems to me to be a little obvious that Big Macs make you fat," made by Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah ring all too true to those who oppose menu labeling laws.  The argument of to post or not to post nutrition information and policy is old news.  What is ethical in terms of caloric disclosure is now in the hands of local and maybe soon national legislation. 

But as more and more restaurants begin to provide this information, their competition and clientele seem to be providing a new motivation to provide nutrition information themselves.  New factors above “what’s right” and what’s required are coming into play.  In an independent study here in the FoodCalc offices we found that 62% of over 400 restaurants surveyed with 15 or more units provided some or all of their nutrition information on their websites. As more multi-unit restaurants start complying with menu-labeling laws and general concerns about healthy dining increase, consumer demand for nutrition information has also increased.

Think about it; if Sally is dieting and is choosing between a sandwich shop that does provide nutrition information, and a deli across the street that doesn’t have it, which do you think she’ll choose?  She may wonder what the non-disclosing deli is hiding, or she might just settle for the peace of mind of simply knowing where she stands in her day’s calorie requirements. 

Others may argue that there aren’t enough “Sallys” out there to justify the cost and trouble of getting nutrition information.  But times are changing.  In a study done by the National Restaurant Association’s 2009 Industry Forecast, researchers found that three in four adults say they are trying to eat healthier now at restaurants then they did two years ago.  With increased consumer demand and more sophisticated and affordable methods of performing nutrition analysis come to light, the “Sally” situation may be worth its weight in calories.  

--Alyson Mar, RD