Restaurants have always used technology to generate interest — think of the computerized touch-screen wine lists at SD26 and at Adour — but midtown’s 4Food, which opens September 7, might be the most tech-savvy ever. Not only does it look like an Apple store (as you can see in our slideshow) and come stocked with iPads and Android devices for online ordering, but it’s playing social media to the hilt. Case in point: 4Food’s owners recently reached out to the Foursquare mayors of the spots featured in our slideshow of New York’s Best 101 Sandwiches, and tomorrow these “sandwich influencers” (as 4Food’s creative consultant Rex Sortgatz calls them) will get the chance to preview the restaurant’s so-called W(hole)burgers — doughnut-shaped hamburger patties that are custom filled with “scoops” of everything from edamame to macaroni and cheese to moussaka. How do you select a scoop? Well, like a lot of other things in the restaurant, it involves a mobile device.
• You’ll be able to order either at 4Food.com, in store via an employee who will guide you through ordering with an iPad, or by yourself via iPads that are attached to the tables. Or you can simply go up to the counter.
• While you’re choosing between five buns, six types of patties, 25 scoops, and five “slices” (tomato, cheese, avocado, etc.), you can name your burger and promote it via Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc.
• Every time someone orders your burger, you’re given a 25-cent store credit (you get $12 just for registering an account).
• A 220-square-foot screen will display the most popular burgers.
• You can use the iPads (on the first floor) and Android devices (on the second floor) that are attached to tables to browse the web. They’ll also notify you (as will the big screen) when your order is ready.
• You can also receive a text message when your order is ready.
• A viral video promoting 4Food’s launch is in the works. The restaurant already held a “How Would You De-Junk NYC” contest that gave the best Twitter user with the best answer free food for a month.
This is all the brainchild of former TV and record producer Adam Kidron, who counts Bill Niman of Niman Ranch as an investor (a Niman burger is in development). Our first question: Aren’t all those iPad screens going to get super-greasy? (The Observer recently made clear what sort of ickiness lurks on restaurant surfaces. Sorgatz says he hopes the burgers aren’t that greasy, actually. The company’s chef comes from FreshDirect, and uses ingredients that are local, organic, and humanely farmed whenever possible — hence the motto “Dejunking Fast Food.” Also, utensils and such are biodegradable; in fact, they’re all composted in the basement and flushed away as waste water.
There’s a lot going on here! The real question is, are the burgers enough to bring you to 4Food for reasons other than checking your e-mail when your phone is dead? After all, the last time we went to SD26, we just asked the sommelier for a recommendation. The menu (complete with descriptions) is below. Sandwich influencers, let us know what you think — all 101 of you!
4Food menu [pdf]
4 Food, 286 Madison Ave., nr. 40th St.