Connecting Food, Tech, And Hackers In NYC

With challenges issued from Google GOOGL +0.12%, Chipotle, Applegate,  and  the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, a collection of food and tech “hackers” converged in New York City last weekend.  Food+Tech Connect created an event, Hack//Dining NYC, to focus on bringing digital innovations to restaurants, quick service, and institutional dining.
While hackathons have grown in popularity in recent years, as a way to bring together people interested in solving problems and creating companies, Food+Tech Connect partnered with Studio Industries to create a new hackathon model called “design hacking” to blend hacking with design thinking. My understanding is that the event helps facilitate, or teach, participants how to approach problems from a customer or user viewpoint. Tim Brown, CEO of well-known innovation firm IDEO, explains the concept in his 2008 Harvard Business Review post: Design Thinking.

20120106-OC-AMW-0080 (Photo credit: USDAgov)
The event brought restaurateurs, data scientists, engineers, chefs, and programmers together to “design hack” solutions to make the restaurant and food service industries more efficient, responsive, and sustainable. Among the many issues on the agenda; examining are improving supply chains for high-quality ingredients, digital strategies for scaling up small businesses, and streamlining food safety compliance. We’re not talking about glitzy smartphone apps here, but building problem-solving tech to help the industry improve in variety of ways.
For example, Google put forth a Corporate Wellness Challenge:
“How might corporate foodservice use technology to help people make food and behavior choices that allow them to achieve their personal and professional lifestyle goals?”
According to the challenge details on the site, Google wants to help their employees stay active and eat high quality, nutritious food – because the healthier and happier makes for more productive employees. This challenge is focused on how corporate foodservice providers can use technology to help people make more purposeful food and behavior choices, so they can achieve their personal and professional lifestyle goals.
The Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group challenge is the one that caught my attention because it took aim at “improving the ways in which foodservice operators find the food safety rules that apply to their situation and then have a clear picture of how to comply to those rules.”
Many restaurants are small businesses and for these owners to keep up with running their food service establishment as well as food safety compliance is a difficult task, to say the least. Naturally, owners have food safety as a priority, but the process could be easier.
The food safety compliance process is a complete and confusing maze. This challenge with the design hacked solutions could seriously help the industry, if a simple tech solution could be built. You can visit each of the challenges here.
Food+Tech Connect is itself design hacking the food and tech cultures by providing a place for people to gather and synthesize the two.  The site and its content and events, founded by Danielle Gould (a contributor here at Forbes on Food and Agriculture Tech I learned after starting this post), is focused on the news and education for the food and ag tech sectors. If you are a foodie, and thinking about how to use tech to change a portion of the industry or build a food tech startup, this is a site to watch.
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