What’s For Lunch?

It’s a working day, 11am, and my rumbling tummy tells me lunchtime is approaching. The plethora of options in the city means I’m spoilt for choice of cafes and food stores and I can spend ages wandering around each to look what’s on offer for the day. But why waste time when my phone can tell me what’s available either, by web, twitter or app?

The more technology savvy food companies have started to use social media to entice customers through the doors. For people like me it saves precious time in my lunch hour so I can have those extra minutes watching the world go by before returning to the chaos of the day. I started checking the web daily for food stores such as Pret a Manger and EAT. who, as well as publishing their main food items, update a weekly soup menu. It’s very satisfying on a cold winter’s day to avoid the wandering and get to the store safe in the knowledge that your favourite soup will be there ready and waiting 🙂

But recently a few companies have taken things a step further than the web and focus on delivering their information to you via Twitter and Apps. I can’t say I’m convinced it can always be good for the store to have a menu published…if I don’t like the items they’ve specified, I decide not to go to the store and so will not be tempted by any of the other foods on display. However I’m still more likely to check the menus first and use these stores as a preference.

You’ll have noticed by now that EAT. is one of my favourite stores, and this is because they seem to have invested the most in promoting themselves via web, Twitter and iPhone App. Their current 1344 followers are presented with a couple of tweets a day informing them of  the daily soup choices…simple and effective. Twitter users are also invited to become Mystery Shoppers and the offer of free lunches is a great way to ensure further business. Much to my delight, the EAT. iPhone App was published earlier this year and living in a city where they have several stores I find this really useful, and quicker than the web and even Twitter. The criticism the app has received in the App Store seems to be mostly from users who do not have an EAT in their locality, though others raise good points about the level of detail about food items and the ability to filter lists of food items based on dietary requirements. I think it’s a good effort though and a good starting point to build from.

Starbucks also released their iPhone app this year, however as a regular to the many stores in the city I am familiar with their menu which changes on a far less frequent basis. It’s a useful app though with a store locator, options for browsing food/drinks and the ability to save your favourites in a MY Starbuck’ s page. The detail about the food is excellent including pictures, availability and nutritional information. I’d really like to see Starbucks use the app to deliver offers to customers -maybe that will come in the future. Being in the UK, I have found myself frustrated with the main Starbucks Twitter page being based in the US. The offers of free pastries is very tempting, only to find I’d have to cross the Atlantic to benefit from being subscribed to their tweet. Should I feel strongly enough about it (which I don’t by the way!), I could contact the Starbucks UK MD on Twitter (@Starbucksukmd) and have my say.

As well as the big chains, it’s nice to see smaller companies investing the time to promote themselves such as Birmingham’s Urban Coffee Company (@urbancoffeeco). This company have fully embraced social media, using Twitter to provide information and interact with customers throughout the day, as well as Foursquare to offer the store’s Mayor free drinks. The store also runs book clubs and gaming events, and the social media aspect to this form a real sense of community both actual and virtual. This is surely going to prove lucrative as it’s kinda nice as a customer to feel loved by your local coffee shop!

I feel like I’m neglecting facebook as a source of information for lunch times, however I’m not sure whow much information these pages offer me. I’m not a fan of Becoming a Fan (perhaps I should start a page?!) and these pages seem to be used more as comments forums than a platform for companies to share information. I could be wrong.

So thank you to those companies who deliver all your information to my phone/PC. For saving my tired and aching feet I salute you. I’ll be interested to see how many other stores follow suit and embrace the technology to attract customers – it pretty much has to be a win/win situation.

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