Written by: Adam Grenier
Over the last decade the internet has turned the world of food on its head. When I was growing up, my mom had five cookbooks and a box of recipe cards from family and church friends, whereas now, I can access literally millions of live recipes being edited, rated and improved by people across the globe. Food and restaurant happenings used to be a weekly newspaper treat. Now, thousands of authors, bloggers and tweeters provide live 24/7 updates. Believe it or not, Gourmet Magazine even used to be … wait for it … a magazine.
I hope you enjoy change
Mobile (which includes cell phones, tablet computers, portable gaming devices, etc.) is the next great food disrupter. From applications and text messages to Foursquare and iPads, mobile communication is revolutionizing the way people interact with food … again.
The topic itself is a bit much for a single post, so I’ll be breaking it into three parts – the eater, the traveler and the chef.
Mobile Meets the Eater
Where the internet made vast amount of data available, mobile makes this data accessible from anywhere. For the home chef or foodie, this greatly changes your ability to buy local, change recipes on the fly, manage your ever growing shopping lists and stay updated by your favorite food friends.
The Locavore app on the iPhone is an amazing example of bridging the gap of information and location. By putting you in touch with local growers and farmers markets while also keeping you updated on what’s in season based on your location, shoppers are more empowered than ever to make convenient decisions while staying green.
Epicurious, AllRecipes, BigOven and hundreds of other service have taken the steps to make recipe decisions on the go easier to manage. Being able to choose a recipe for dinner based on what’s fresh and available in the store takes meal planning to a new level. GroceryIQ elevates the shopping list, allowing you to sync your online shopping list, get coupons, know which aisle your items sit and sync your list with friends and family. No more coming home to find out your husband forgot to buy dessert.
The portable Nintendo DS and smart phones can also spice up the actual cooking process. While we’d all love to bring our favorite TV chefs into the kitchen with us, having a computer or TV next to the stove isn’t always possible. Personal Trainer: Cooking on the DS and Rouxbe on the iPad offer video-driven cooking classes in the palm of your hand. Other video sites such as YouTube give any home chef with a phone a world of instructional videos when cooking in their own home, in someone else’s, or even the street.
Mobile phones also impact global nutrition and diet. By being able to track calories on the go, take pictures of your food so you can journal your diet or join support groups to give you encouragement when you’re out, mobile devices raise the bar on personal health responsibility. Even our first lady in her quest for healthier kids in America recognized the importance of mobile in her recent challenge for developers to build mobile tools and games that encourage healthier eating for our youth.
Obviously, mobile devices also affect dining out. Yelp, Google, Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook Places put a new level of engagement in the dining experiences. The influences of friends are no longer limited to one-on-one connections. If I walk into a restaurant, I now have the option to see if other friends, or food experts, have been there in the past, what they thought of the place and which dishes they enjoyed. Heck, I could even see what I had last time, in case I forgot. This also introduces an entire new conversation of ethics around location based services. Is it tasteful to update twitter when you’re sitting down for dinner, if it results in a better choice of food? Are you okay that Starbucks knows you’re in Starbucks, if it means you get a dollar off your Frappe?
Finally, mobile is also transforming how we consume food media. Gourmet recently announced it is reviving their “magazine” as an iPad application. Publishers see tablet computing as the natural evolution of print media. Even though magazine readers still significantly outnumber tablet owners, the trends of each are heading in opposite directions. Does that mean it’s correct to ditch one for the other? I would argue no, as they likely work better in tandem. However, the publishing team at Conde Nast believes in it enough to make this jump with one of the oldest food publications.
People are consuming more of their media on the go,
and writers and publishers who keep that in mind, will benefit. I read all my morning news during my commute. If your blog doesn’t have a mobile friendly (WAP) experience, I’ll likely avoid it. The types of content people choose to read varies greatly when on the go compared to when they’re home on the computer. The need for super quick information will drive a higher interest in shorter content. Tumblr is essentially “blogging” 2.0. Instead of focusing on 500-1000 word entries, authors highlight pictures, videos and quick snippets of news. When I’m in a cab heading to a business dinner, a short perspective on the restaurant I’m heading to will be much more valuable than the two page story I read at home on your blog.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, barely touching the many implications of mobile in the food world. If you’re still with me, check back soon as I discuss the affect of mobile on food and travel as well as chefs and their restaurants.