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#35 THINK TANK BIG IDEAS :: Food Trucks

March 9th, 2012

The food truck movement is growing at a fast and furious rate. All over the country these incredible little food hubs are moving around, spreading the seed of deliciousness to communities that wouldn’t typically have access (and if they do, this offers increased access). There are the trucks that set up shop and stay, ones that rotate around with a scheduled effort and others that just drive around haphazardly until they see people (similar to a fisherman tooling around until they see a good place to drop in).

Like  the festival circuit, food trucks are convenient for the customer and make a lot of sense for the operator. It is certainly not a new idea, but it is one that is gaining traction and movement and is especially appealing to our entrepreneurial-driven society. It offers flexibility and opportunity.

So why is it now gaining so much traction? This could be a let’s jump on the bandwagon scenario with a domino effect. The movement is getting a lot of press and in turn it is offering a support system to the cause. But we think there is another idea here that is helping to drive this concept forward: the recession.

Rent is expensive and an add-on cost, offering limited flexibility and assuming huge amounts of risk. What if you select a street which gets less footfall that it should? What if construction starts nearby? What if your concept doesn’t work and you need to reinvent? All of these challenges require time and money to make better. 90% of restaurants close their doors in under 3 years and if we assume that statistic, what is the point in even trying? In a food truck, you can just pick up and move. If you want to rebrand your concept, all you need is a new wrap around the outside (which you should replace every two years anyway to keep it clean and fresh looking) and maybe a few new items of equipment. Expectations can be low and reward can be high when you have limited investment into something.

So enter the food truck. Possibly a perfect workplace. It almost feels like we should all jump ship from our corporate day jobs and give the food truck lifestyle a chance. There are the ones with just cupcakes, the ones with just chicken (Ludo Bites), the veggie ones, the burger ones, the veg vans for locations without access to fresh food, the promotion oriented ones (like Air France’s food truck), the grocery ones, etc. Just like a normal lunch truck from the days of the blue collar worker, we are getting an assortment of awesome and tasty food. Yay!

We propose that the future of dining comes in the form of on-the-run eating and a truck fits the bill perfectly. What’s your vision for a food truck? Send in your ideas here.

March 9th, 2012

Posted by Rache

#31 THINK TANK FOOD ISSUES :: School Lunches

March 5th, 2012

The most common discussion we have with Food Service Directors (FSD) is in changing the menu, they fear the students won’t like the food and won’t purchase it. This might be the case in some instances, but let’s give the kids a chance! Lunch Ladies and FSD’s are just as much of a challenge as the food offered as commodities by the USDA in some cases… they, like we, are jaded from past experience. It is true that kids have simpler tastes than we do, but all great change takes time. And it is time to get started.

Try incorporating local fruits and veggies into school food reimbursable ‘Complete’ meals. By this time next year if you want to sell reimbursable meals the kids are going to have to take them anyway. Educate them on why that is (the USDA has changes to the School Lunch requirements effective on July 1st). Make the lunchroom more of an experience focused on students and offer them the chance to work with you on it. The changes don’t have to be large, but they should be focused.

For an example: instead of a cheesy meat pizza, try a whole grain crust, 1/3 the amount of cheese and pile the veggies high. Talk to your students, explain the importance of fresh veggies and fruits in their diet and just get them to give it a whirl. Try it several times in different food prep styles, offer a place to comment on what they would like to see, offer samples up for the teachers to bring into their classrooms, etc. Just remember, don’t get discouraged, they will get excited eventually. The more you talk about it, the more time you spend marketing it, the more they will think about it. The Baby Carrots Association is a great example of this.

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Kids and Food
Right now, we are fortunate that kids are starting to drive some of this. Farm programs are popping up all over the country, schools are getting involved in growing projects and the movement is expanding forward with or without additional promotion on behalf of the FSD’s and Lunch Cooks.

Actual Product
It is a sad truth, but we no longer actually provide real food products. Everything is either grown using a GMO seed or is mass produced in a factory instead on a farm. It is heartbreaking and the amount of raw food waste that we have every day because the product doesn’t match the wholesalers specs is increasing. But the more that we buy, the more money that the schools will have to spend on local and organic food choices. So, participation is key. Also having a strong understanding and knowledge of healthy and fresh food is important because if the students demand it, eventually something will have to give. Right now, with our abundance of canned food options and limited variety of fresh, it is a challenge, but this is slowly starting to change.

Giving students what they want vs. what they need
In most cases, when kids are offered the option, they are going to select things that taste good to them. We have changed our taste buds to match their core flavor profile requirements, instead of their core nutritional needs. Doritos are a great example of this, since this is a food that doesn’t exist in nature, but it marketed in the right way to them. Original marketing was ‘how you can’t just take one,’ which was a good thing. Our country has been shameless when it comes to profitability.

Providing kids information about processed food and then sharing what they should be eating based on nutritional needs is essential. It all comes down to education and promotion of the right things. Change their mindsets about what they want through great marketing. (Again, back to the Baby Carrots Association). Make it cool to eat healthy…

  • Nutrition notes from the USDA
  • Listening to their bodies is key. We need to teach them how to do this through activities and marketing. Our Simply Good campaign is part of this.
  • Working with a good nutritionist to develop a Total Health model might be cool where kids can track their levels.

Food Design
This area is becoming increasingly more prominent and all over you are seeing products that are not built in nature. It is a whole world yet to be unexplored, but almost anything that you see in a grocery store has been tampered with its design. Remember that you can change the presentation of just about anything to try to get noticed. If kids are demanding it and only taking products that meet those interest requirements, try to buy into it. There are many companies doing this, but two of our favorite resources are:


Menu Fatigue

Man oh man… these menus get so dated so quickly. We think having a more modular system in all cases might be a better approach. Break the mold in this and just design really fabulous spaces and include a digital menu board. Why does it have to be a particular concept? When you look at the new McDonald’s and Starbucks of today, you are seeing a space that really could offer any style of foodservice. They have a theme, but it can change as needed. Don’t have a space defined by menu. Another idea is to just throw out the menu all together and have a food style based on the local foods for the season might be a better approach as this will keep things fresh. Kids gravitate towards consistency, but that is not necessarily healthy dining. Many great companies are providing a healthy local menu solution. Here are just a few:

Marketing
Where to even begin with this? Wow! Marketing to students needs to be driven by the students for the students. This could be so open ended, but it is so much more than just programming, it is a total shift in mindset. Create a whole new platform for communication to the students. Think about a complete change.

In addition to this communication platform, the marketing can play a role in education of new products. Let your creativity flow:

  • Small plates
  • New concepts to be more flexi menu options
  • Provide raw food and nuts and fruits on a continual basis all around campus
  • Remove soda, only provide water and whole juices in vending machines
  • Switch the mindset from want to need and making money to provide good quality service
  • Pair working out with meals
  • Drop the processed menu diet completely
  • Provide a full on convenience store in all campus’ (make it part of your model) with chef demos, educational seminars, tastings, etc. Make this store a place where kids can buy all the things that they need to cook for themselves.

The Modern Lunch Line
This is the new K-12 Movement. I found this article pretty stellar, so maybe you will appreciate it too. Really, it is about effecting the way that food is marketed to students. For example, “Power Peas” as a marketing piece actually helped to sell more peas! And using Bugs Bunny with K-8 students drove carrot sales. In 1929 Canned Spinach was the biggest veg seller because of our pal Popeye. It works.

  • Mindless Eating by Dr. Brian Wainsink. The NY Times Article on him is here. Check out Smarter Lunchrooms as well.
  • Stay tuned for some of the great work we are doing at the F&B Lab at Cornell (shhhh… it’s a secret).
  • Spend more time training your staff on knife, interaction and presentation skills. Know What Your Lunch Lady Wants presentation is great!

Making food the main ingredient to learning
Studies have shown that kids that start with breakfast typically perform better during the day. Nutrition is hugely important to education and sustaining brain power. This should be integrated into the curriculum.

  • Make Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner a class or a period that is required on a campus.
  • Integrate food everywhere: Have a smoothie break mid-morning. Grow food in a classroom, have a Salad party. Create a hydrogenated water for after sports. Hand out snacks before kids go home.
  • Do whatever you can to incorporate slow food into the curriculum or your schedule.
  • Think about Family Nutrition.
  • Incorporate tools throughout all classrooms and in the hallways.

Taking it back from batch and into MTO
Kids are willing to wait more if they know that what they are eating is fresh. We have to change the way that our food system is set up in order to accommodate a larger check average and a more thoughtful approach to food. We want kids to benefit from understanding where their food comes from and to spend time enjoying it. It is the respite in the day that takes them away from school and brings them into the folds of a community. Some of the brands that are doing a great job already are:

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TILT’S BIG IDEA:
If TILT were to recommend the plan, we would follow the Bioregional mindset for a better planet. It is called One Planet Living and the principals are now globally defined in the sustainability model of the Olympics. We would also really think about how to get kids involved in their space. Make each dining room into an experience that is unique to the students in that community and crafted for them. Make it a teaching area on campus and offer it as a place to continually learn math, science, language and communication. Food should integrate into all other areas of the school as well. Try making a tasting area in each lunch room. Also think about engaging the students in the recipe development and menu preparation. When they understand it better, they will buy into it more.

With the next steps, I would be thoughtful to also think about this from a Permaculture mentality which incorporates all aspects of sustainability into one thought:

  • Earthshare
  • Peopleshare
  • Fairshare

March 5th, 2012

Posted by Rache

#30 THINK TANK BIG IDEAS :: Frozen Foods

March 2nd, 2012

The TV Dinner from the 1950s is a sensational concept and one that changed our world forever. We were just becoming an on the go society,  with all the external stressers shifting your mindset away from the home and out into the world. So with this invention, life changed – A complete meal you can just pop into the fridge and heat up? Amazing idea. There are entire companies that have made their mark on the world through frozen food, such as Hungry Man and Stouffers. Who doesn’t love a good Stouffer’s Mac N’ Cheese? That impossibly orange cheese? Sweet deal of delicious. In truth it was a somewhat edible meal, with maybe a 1/4 of the actual nutrients you needed, but it did the trick and we evolved and loosened our belt buckles in the process.

Fast forward to 2000s and we are faced with a new challenge; consumers want better versions of the TV dinner. Higher quality, better looking, tastier options that do complete the total nutrient value needed.  We have fallen in love with a brand and it is certain to come to the states soon – Picard in Paris. This concept is truly incredible. You walk into a freezer of sorts and you look into floor freezers to pick custom-made products just for Picard. The whole store is filled with “Own Brand Products.” It is definitely one to watch.

Whole Foods has always done a brilliant job of packaging processed ‘healthy’ frozen options. Below are several images which really hit their target market and offer a quality product in a fantastic package. They have products specific to kids, specific to professionals, for parties, for dads, for moms, for vegans, etc. It is an amazing market and really offers both consumer an opportunity to stock up for those times that are quick and on the go and gives the retail company and opportunity to make some cash.

So the big idea? Make it look good and make it frozen.

March 2nd, 2012

Posted by Rache

BE BACK SOON!

November 15th, 2011

December 1st Event

Think Tank Food Fight

November 15th, 2011

Posted by Amber

#25 THINK TANK BIG IDEA :: Alternative Sandwiches

November 4th, 2011

Alternative sandwiches or ‘ready to eat, easy to hold food objects’ are quite the new/old thing – and are hitting the market hard… creating brand loyalty all along the way, increasing market share of the already impressive sandwich states. The stats read earlier this year were somewhere in the neighborhood of £3.5bn a year in sales in the UK alone. That’s some serious sandwich eating! If you are a retailer with a great signature sandwich or just an idea we think this is the category to be in. If you don’t, its time for you to create a unique product or Own Brand which gives instant recognition.

Think about how you can fill a need that a consumer wants on the go – easy to hold, easy to eat, no need for a napkin or a fork and fills their body up with the nutrients it needs.

How does this awesome brand recognition work? When you think of a brand of restaurant you consider the name, logo, identity, concept, look and feel and potentially the typical clientele. It is very broadstroke and high level. When you think about a product you opt-in for, you consider the same level of detail towards a single object, which is very focused and specific. This level of detail is often in areas like the packaging, taste, ingredients and the specific shelf presence.

We have found a number of products which are unique delivery methods and could be classified as food design. Take a look at what we have found… and let us know if you have any other ideas.

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WAITROSE LETTUCE WRAPS

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GORILLA SANDWICH

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SUSHI POPPER


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CANWICH


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ABOKADO SHWRAPS

November 4th, 2011

Posted by Rache

#20 THINK TANK BIG IDEA :: Tablet Ordering

October 28th, 2011

Life has changed… the touch screen is no longer held to the wall and plugged in like a normal Made to Order screen. It is now wireless, speedy and mobile. But it is not just MTO and QSR’s who are being effected. We have eliminated the need for waitstaff. Imagine sitting in a restaurant and no longer having to engage or talk to someone… iPad technology is here and is running the show.

E la Carte is the latest in the scheme to develop a mobile ordering system and companies are jumping at the chance to take out some of the guess work. Could it be some day that you will just have a tablet at the table which goes to a central help center in Poland and a robot in the kitchen? Who knows what might come next.

Inamo is a similar system in London. With a projector screen ordering system, there was a computer minded table which was our ordering mechanism. We went as a group of three and rarely engaged at all… the whole experience of having control at your dinner seat took away the ability to communicate; our heads buried in the table top.

We are unsure if this is going to be just a thing of the moment, but it does certainly have its perks.

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ADVANTAGES

  • As an operator, you can quickly update the menu from a central location (no more wasted paper here)
  • The consumer can see all of the health and nutrition facts in just a click of a button (depending on how robust your system is)
  • Images can be paired with the items to help sell and market food items to the consumer
  • An operator can share information about the dish and where the ingredients came from
  • The operators can easily upcharge for adding additional items and/or customizing the order
  • It takes the guess work out for the customer and they can see a tally of their bill while they are ordering (works great in Tapas and Sushi restaurants which could be a disadvantage to the operator)

DISADVANTAGES

  • Takes the human element away and makes it much more streamlined
  • Loses the ability to customize as freely as in person for the consumer
  • Costly for the operator; depending on the system purchased, it can be a pretty penny as well as having tablets broken or stolen
  • Removes the quality of the meal and doesn’t give you the respite from technology  you need

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HOW TILT CAN INFLUENCE THE PROCESS…

Tilt works with lots of developers and this could easily be a project that we could come into the mix on and help to develop and implement. Designing a whole restaurant around tablet technology would be another area and way we can bring our skills to the table. If there are options for creating a customizeable food product and using the tablet to order the customized bag of deliciousness and then to have an automated instore manufacturing space, that would be pretty unique.

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October 28th, 2011

Posted by Rache

#16 THINK THANK FOOD ISSUE :: Food Deserts

October 24th, 2011

It is not a surprise we are in an obesity epidemic. With over 70% of the US deemed overweight and more than 46% deemed obese, we are in a crises and it is because of our food. Laced with sugar, MSG, sodium and made with food substitutes like corn sugar, etc. we are creating bionic foods complete with empty calories and a lack of nutrition. Our bodies are basically expanding by leaps and bounds.

A few years ago we started seeing severely obese people receive handicap parking stickers and more than 10 years ago, grocery mobile carts were made available for free. This is a common thread throughout most of suburban life, we are making constant concessions for our growing waistlines and something has literally got to give. Our future hangs on the fact we are over reaching and taking more than we can give back and it is not a sustainable act. Really we are treating this epidemic as much as a genetic illness or disorder… and we are creating it.

We are masking our illness with drugs and making excuses for high medical bills instead of just changing the issue. We see this in our youth with lowered test scores and shorted futures from youth obesity, and challenges with being self-sufficient in adulthood. Something has to give.

Where is it coming from? What is the catalyst? Well, a big part of it is found out in the ‘sticks’ of the country; in areas that don’t have access to fresh or local food. We call these areas Food Deserts and they are becoming more and more common. Companies like Walmart who have been part of the problem in the past are now trending towards being part of the solution.

Why do we have Food Deserts? Well, there are a few answers to this question. Primarily they stem from communities in locations without ready access to grocery stores, but the concept of a Food Desert is shifting and moving into cities based on food preferences, not just accessibility. Instead it is really just packaged, shelved food.

We need to start thinking about the future and educating youth is #1. Our generation is the worst ever feed generation and we are still tipping the scales. The lack of nutritional content, mixed with the high fat, toxins and basically bionic food, makes us large and hungry for more. Remember it is not just what you ingest which counts… it is the manufacturing process, the shipping process the consuming process and then the removal (i.e. waste) process. All the toxins in and throughout the process eventually make up for a very unsustainable system. We need to change this.

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WHAT IS OUR INVOLVEMENT?

TILT works for healthy, fresh and affordable food solutions. Our sector is the convenience, QSR and on-the-go mobile culture style of dining and snacking, so our focus is really on targeting the underprivileged communities that can’t get access to anything but packaged food. As we have been involved, we realize we are starting to create our own movement in this field and the farther we get into it the more we realize the lack of sustainability at the helm.

These preferences beg to question why they exist. But it is a simple answer. The issue is actually the vicious cycle of taste and delivery vs. health and future. The simple, packages with clever marketing and messaging out do the simple natural vegetables in their natural form. So marketing is a key piece of the puzzle.

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IDEAS

  • What about creating a fresh fruit and veggie convenience store with nothing pre-packaged? Probably would be pretty expensive with such a high-food cost.
  • Maybe a mandatory online system would be a better solution with real time delivery? Sounds a little nutty.
  • Perhaps just changing the way that we think and position our minds towards a healthier way of life? Never going to happen as a total culture.
  • Growing our own food and educating the economically challenged on what it takes to make an impact could be one important are of effort.

Really, we don’t have the answer. Ideas are ideas… before they are implemented into solutions which have impact.

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Today is the first ever global Food Day and it is important to take note and to spread your interest level for food into communities you know are seemingly missing the ‘taste chip’ for fresh and local foods.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Support initiatives like Baltimore’s Innovative Food Solution called Virtual Supermarkets.

Join and local CSA – Community Supported Agriculture.

Eat healthy food more often. Eat slower and less quantity.

October 24th, 2011

Posted by Rache

#15 THINK TANK BIG IDEAS – Partial Vegetarian or Flexitarian

October 21st, 2011

There has been lots of speculation in the media over changing your diet from meat-based to plant-based. Tons of research has gone into eating raw (salads, nuts, legumes… mostly uncooked foods in their purest form) or vegan/vegetarian can provide you with a healthier, happier base for life. And it is has been a proven concept.

But what if you still like meat? Well, there are tons of meat look-a-like products like fakin’ bacon strips and veggie chicken nuggets, etc. But there is also a new alternative series of diets like Flexitarianism, Meatless / Meat Free Mondays which are rising styles of eating and they make sense. Moderation, substitutes or control around the traditional 3 meals a day (with meat as the main).

Michael Pollan, guru o’ all things food, says in his Food Rules Book, “Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants.” Even Cojean in Paris has adopted this statement and printed it in English on their lunch sandwich bag. It is a rising movement. Other key figure heads are the Esselstyn Family has been working towards this alternative diet for decades with early cancer patients in the 80′s and most recently the Fire House as documented in Engine 2 Diet. And further, the McCartney Family’s personal pledge and campaign called Meat Free Monday (based on the US’ Meatless Monday) is getting more and more media attention and they are angling towards small, incremental changes.

Its finally getting popular… and with good reason. Even Oprah has hosted The Vegan Challenge on her show! Whether it works or not is still to be determined, but at the end of the day the key is balance.
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DELICIOUS AND NUTRITIOUS

It doesn’t all have to be meat substitutes or non-delicious-looking foods. Moderation is important and especially portion control. Try making meat a side item instead of the main, or use meat flavoring or juices to flavor your veggies (if you are really craving meat). Use fish in moderation or dairy products to make the meal more interesting or spice it up with a smattering of flavours from herbs. The concept of Flexitarinism or one of the Monday campaigns is to eat what you want in moderation, but balance out with a more plant-based diet.

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WHITE HOUSE GETTING INVOLVED

White House Chef Sam Kass and First Lady Michelle Obama work together with kids in DC on her Let’s Move to Schools Campaign. Their efforts and menu opportunities have not gone unnoticed and they are making tremendous change in reeducating the student population around the country on how to eat and it is mostly plants that they are promoting. Her shift to the MyPlate graphics earlier this year are just the first step.

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FLEXITARIANISM IS RISING

Lots of menu development and time is going into Flexitarian Diets. Check out some of the popular cookbooks below!

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RESTAURANTS IN THIS VEIN

We imagine there to be a great opporutnity in food delivery for this rising movement. Eating at a facility that has both raw / vegan offerings along with a full meat-based offering could be the solution. If you want to inquire on our project TILTKITCHEN, we would love to tell you more about how this can be implemented successfully in the same space…

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SMATTERING OF SYMBOLS

There are a lot of key players right now. PETA is promoting, Celebrities, Schools, Parents, Food Companies, Restauranteurs, Authors, etc. Activists all around the world are coming out of the woodwork and telling their story, lightening the mood and getting the party started on change. Last year Planeat launched in the UK market as another Food, Inc. style documentary about living on a plants-based diet. Food Day is going to be marked this year as October 24th, so get out and support! Who knows what will happen next?

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October 21st, 2011

Posted by Rache

#10 THINK TANK BIG IDEAS :: Technology

October 14th, 2011

This post initially was supposed to be about the metro shopping experience of the South Korean Tesco, but we got a little excited about all the ‘ideas’ happening around the world in food and technology. For now check out all the great things happening…

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QR BARCODES

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COKE-A-COLA’S PICK A SODA DIGITAL FOUNTAIN

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MCDONALD’S STREET SIDE ORDERING SYSTEM

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FOOD TRUCK ORDERING SYSTEM

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FLEXIBLE DIGITAL MENUS

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DIGITAL GAS SIGNS

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DIGITAL MENU BOARDS

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DIGITAL SHELF PRICE TAGS

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DIGITAL MENUS WITH VIRTUAL ORDERING SYSTEMS

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DIGITAL TABLE TOPS

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SELF CHECKOUT

October 14th, 2011

Posted by Rache

#5 THINK TANK BIG IDEAS :: The Fourth Meal

October 7th, 2011

Taco Bell came out with the Fourthmeal campaign earlier this year. It is geared towards students and young people. Years ago, Taco Bell became well known for their late night fare and had ’1pm or later’ hours by popular demand. The company jumped on this and decided to make it part of their advertising campaign. Taco Bell incorporated the Fourthmeal as a necessary meal into our ever growing diets. They entice with music and signature foods.

It is a brilliant marketing campaign and has created a movement, especially in the college world. We at TILT are certainly impressed with reservation (have to be since this is perpetuating our ever-increasingly large society). The thoughtful current menu items and delivery through things like Food Trucks, etc. are helping to establish and grow this great brand concept.

We also love their Drive Thru Diet plan and appreciate that it is shown right next to the Fourthmeal. So, diet all day and then binge at night could be the way it is read, but we think the idea and concept are great. Perhaps we should ban unhealthy, high-calorie meals after 10pm and only allow healthy fresh veggies?

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THE FOURTHMEAL CALORIC INTAKE

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STATS

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OUR BIG IDEA

We need to start taking our diets by control, decreasing portion sizes and eating more frequently. The drunken binges with the evening and late night meals should be occasional or non-existent. Below are some ideas on how to decrease the number of calories and increase the times of eating throughout the day. This ignores the concept of the Fourthmeal, but takes into account a small late evening snack.
Too bad we as a society can’t use these great ideas for good instead of evil. Perhaps we could consider mini plates throughout the day? It could be ‘Smallmeals all day” or something to that effect.

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October 7th, 2011

Posted by Rache