Food for Thought: March Edition

Amuse-Bouche

"You won't understand why, but you'll keep going back for more sips, likely until it's gone."

-  a writer for Food & Wine discussing Sonic's new pickle juice slushy debuting in June.


Hor's D'Oeuvres

Interested in joining the food truck craze? Then it's time to move to Denver, Portland, or Orlando. PBS News Hour identified these three cities as the best place to set-up shop due to the friendly vibes and favorable food regulations. Markets like Boston, Minneapolis and Washington, DC have strict permitting rules and high annual regulatory fees. As the communications director for the Colorado Restaurant Association explains, "any opportunity to raise the level of awareness about going out to eat is good for our entire industry.”

  Image from ZD Net.

Image from ZD Net.

The future is now. Korean-based food techie Woowa Brothers has developed Deli, a food delivery robot. Short for "delicious delivery", Deli will begin its careers as food runner and table busser before being promoted to delivery robot. The company plans to roll-out the robots at a food mall this summer. If all goes well, Deli will be available for commercial purchase in the next five years. 

If you're planning a trip anytime soon, be prepared to take out more than your laptops, lip glosses, and lotions: TSA is now requiring the removal of food items at most of the big hubs. Don't worry, your Goldfish crackers and KIND bars are safe. It's simply to cut-down on the X-ray screening time used to scrutinize your snacks. Now, TSA can focus on the really important things like making sure giant lobsters and meat slicers don't sneak through. 

  Image from JC Gellidon on Unsplash.

Image from JC Gellidon on Unsplash.

Not too long ago moving to the suburbs meant succumbing to chain restaurants and mediocre diners. Luckily, that is no longer the case. From Alice Waters' Chez Pannisse to an array of Lebanese, Iraqi, and Syrian food joints, the suburbs are anything but bland. Many urban areas have seen an influx of diverse people heading to the suburbs bringing their sophisticated palates; Alexandria, VA, Dearborn, MI, and Berkeley, CA are all home to some of the best restaurants. So, the next time your friend gives you flack about moving to the suburbs, you know what to say! 


The Main Course

With busy schedules, longer commutes, and a desire for 30-minute meals, meal delivery kits are becoming more and more popular. With established names like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, the grocery giants are now wanting a piece of the action. Whether they're branching out on their own or carrying local meal kit company's products, they're bringing this popular style of cooking to a brick-and-mortar near you.

  Image from Scott Warman on Unsplash.

Image from Scott Warman on Unsplash.

  • It's a big industry: Data from Nielsen states that "9% of consumers, about 10.5 million households, have purchased a meal kit either online or in-store over the past six months." But, it's a generally small category since the majority of Americans are using traditional methods to purchase groceries. 
  • What makes meal kits appealing? With technology allowing us to explore different countries and cultures, consumers are more adventurous. Through meals kits, they can try new ingredients, adhere to their diets, and simplify cooking at home; companies like SunBasket, Purple Carrot, and PeachDish offer meal kits geared towards dietary restrictions and regional flavors. Plus, the delivered meal kits cut out the middle man; these meals are shipped directly.
  • Increased purchases from brick-and-mortars: Although most consumers associate meal kits with door-to-door delivery, more grocery brands are offering meal kits in-store. In 2017, Nielsen data showed that in-store meal kits grew 26.5%; that's $154.6 million in sales. This has companies like Blue Apron changing their model to increase revenue through grocery partnerships.
  • Who's getting in on this?  With lowered in-store sales, grocery stores are finding ways to integrate the meal kit market. Last year, Albertsons purchased Plated and Amazon delivered Martha & Marley Spoon, a collaboration with Martha Stewart. Recently, Walmart decided to join by creating its own brand available via delivery using its partner Jet.com.  

On The Side

  Image from Digital Trends.

Image from Digital Trends.

If you like house boats but want something a little more nuanced, you're in luck! A Dutch-themed Japanese theme park in Japan has launched its newest style of room: a floating pod. With a capacity for three guests, the two-story room features a lounge area, deck, and bathroom on the first floor and a sleeping area on the second. Let's just say, this is not a good choice for those easily sea sick.

  Image from Virgin Hotels Development website.

Image from Virgin Hotels Development website.

The British are coming. Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Hotels is buying the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. The first of the brand to feature a gaming component, Branson explains that "you're not going to walk into slot machines the moment you walk into a Virgin Hotel like you do the Hard Rock, but we'll be tasteful, fun and we'll get the right balance.." Renovations begin in 2019 with the hotel operating as a Hard Rock until then.


Sweet Escape

If you're looking for pre-vacation inspiration that you can binge on Netflix, you must watch Somebody Feed Phil. The creator and producer of Everybody Loves Raymond, Phil Rosenthal, uses his quirky, unusual charm to highlight the amazing food from destinations like Portugal, Israel, and Vietnam. Be prepared for hilarious Skype sessions with his parents, the real life Frank and Marie Barone, at the conclusion of every episode!