The Social Kitchen: Your Micro Moments of Truth
Consider the impact of how people are cooking today.
It seems for decades now that none of us has the time to enjoy preparing a home-cooked meal. The planning, the shopping, the prep, the cooking, the serving, and finally—the consuming. Work, commuting, social engagements, and all of your kids’ activities can make preparing a daily meal nothing short of impossible. This can be extremely frustrating for the growing portion of the population that craves fresh, flavorful, and healthy meals. The rise of fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Panera cater to those who are in a hurry, but want something freshly prepared rather than something dropped into the deep fryer from the freezer. This may be further evidenced by the slow decline of chains like McDonald’s who focus on efficiency and consistency over quality and experience. Great food and convenience don’t have to be diametrically opposed.
Companies like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Plated will deliver an entire meal’s fresh ingredients to your door, boxed and ready for you to prepare. They’ll design the menu, assemble all the ingredients, and send them right to your front door. These companies aren’t only helping you with convenience and eating healthy, but they hope to also help make the experience more fun and less stressful. The days of pre-packaged, processed food with high sodium, high cholesterol, and artificial I’ve-never-heard-of-this-chemical additives are numbered.
Even for more traditional vendors, such as grocery stores and restaurants, consumers are demanding more transparency in what they’re eating, and it’s having an impact on food manufacturers and restaurants. Companies like Kellogg’s are going ‘all natural’ with their ingredients by taking out artificial colors and flavors. Thanks to the FDA, nutrition labels are getting more ‘honest’ with federal expectations to add more specificity on details such as sweeteners and serving sizes. And whether they like it or not, many fast food chains are acting more responsibly by sharing the calorie count for their prepared items. This information may help spur even more growth in at-home cooking. No longer can customers claim blissful ignorance about their diet and its effects. These realizations drive many individuals to take matters into their own hands and prepare food at home. There are also many other factors that are changing the experience of cooking. Consider the social aspect.
The dinner table as social network is an old idea made new re-connecting humans with real world friend networks rather than virtual friend networks. Much of the fun and enjoyment of cooking seems to be focused around shared social experiences. Cooking with and for others can make the experience in the kitchen far more satisfying. For some reason, everyone ends up in the kitchen at house parties. Perhaps it’s the proximity to the food and quick access to drinks, or it’s just where the host is usually staging the event.
The internet has enabled a growing underground food scene arising from peoples’ love of social cooking. A startup called EatWith helps bring strangers together for a communal cooking and dining experience. The EatWith website claims the company reaches 200 cities in 50 different countries, and has ‘hosted’ 11,000 dinners. Another social networking portal called Meetup promotes real world engagement for those with similar interests. The Meetup website boasts 28.63 million members and more than 200,000 meetup groups. A search for ‘cooking’ within 50 miles of Cleveland, Ohio reveals a half dozen groups and one open-ended opportunity for someone to organize one’s own group based on ‘interested’ members nearby.
And where would all of these ‘social chefs’ be without the ability to post all the memories from their shared cooking experiences? Social media has become a proxy for many in-person experiences already—meetings, dating, playing games—and sharing the food experience with friends or family members is no different. Posts about successful creations, new food hacks, creative mixed drinks, and any other variety of food ‘moments’ can be found on places like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. These moments of digital content can include photos, recipes, videos, and can be found scattered all around the online universe. Users access, share, edit, and add to the content which keeps it dynamic and potentially more relevant as time passes.
Devices Invade the Kitchen
Our digital food experiences are all part of a much larger, ever-changing world of shared content. Author Kevin Kelly refers to this open-source online peer-production and collaboration as ‘Digital Socialism’ and it’s likely never going away. With the proliferation of smart and connected devices all around us, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to avoid contributing to and accessing this world of content.
The simple fact is that these smart devices are not only ubiquitous, but are becoming more durable and even waterproof. Now you can safely take your devices pretty much anywhere you go with far less fear of dropping them to their death in a swimming pool, or worse yet, your freshly prepared hummus.
Social chefs are using devices to access food ideas, images, online recipes, and how-to videos to learn how to do all kinds of things in the kitchen. Whether it’s how long to cook chicken or finding that new and interesting quick and healthy recipe, these fledgling cooks can have dozens of points of contact with online content during a moment of inquiry and discovery. Websites like Allrecipes, Epicurious, Tasty on Buzzfeed, and YouTube provide never-ending how-to discovery for the curious chef. There must be some value in the split second moment it takes to find that YouTube video on ‘how to cut pineapple.’
Micro Moments of Truth
That incredibly short moment in time is referred to as a ‘micro moment’ by Google researchers. It’s that moment when you reach for your smart device to search for an answer or idea. It’s the moment when the social chef finds that recipe, that Meetup, that fast-casual restaurant, that video, or that appliance that’s perfect for the job at hand. When your brand, product, or experience is there at just the right time with just the right answer, you have a much better chance of connecting with a valuable and motivated customer. These brief engagements can happen anytime and anywhere, and with the correctly focused content, may be very effective.
Not only is it a great moment to get in front of consumers, but it’s a fine opportunity to learn about their wants and needs. This information and data can help evolve design and marketing strategies for a multitude of companies and brands.
What Does This Have To Do With Me?
Sure, there’s a lot to think about, and so many places for a brand or product to play and so many touchpoints for end-users, consumers, and customers. It’s difficult to keep up with the constantly growing stream of digital content and information.
Consider a few starting points for your brand, product, service, or experience.
- Be ‘fast-casual’ – find a way to mimic the freshly-prepared, instantly-assembled world of these restaurants at home.
- Partner with the fresh and fast delivery companies—food tailored to your product or a product tailored to the delivery trends—from the box into your appliance. And imagine your product being delivered to the door along with the ingredients!
- Be a part of the ‘shared cooking’ experience—if these companies are bringing chefs and foodies together, be their go-to tools of choice to support planning and prep.
- Embrace smart devices in the kitchen—and no, not just with a clever device stand for a tablet…
- Sponsor the sites, apps, and businesses that bring these people together. Be the company that has a small online appliance marketplace at the bottom of a recipe page.
- Partner with major brands—check out one of the major food brand recipe sites—why aren’t you there?
- Acquire data and information about micro-moments of decision that relate to your current and future product plans—and be there when that moment strikes!
The next generation won’t grow up cooking only the family recipes; they’ll be combining recipes and techniques from across the internet and globe to create new hybrids. And as soon as the meal is finished, it will be shared right back to that hyper-connected world of amateur and professional chefs. Being relevant at these micro moments of influence, whether in the kitchen itself or somewhere in the ether where content is being shared, is key to your business success in this dynamic space.