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Friday, August 2, 2013
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The App That Knows Your Food Likes Better Than You Do
Two weeks ago I arrived late in the day in Singapore after a long flight. I had not done much research about restaurants in town, so I dropped off my bags and wandered to Club Street, a hilly lane of restored traditional shop houses in Chinatown. Lively, attractive restaurants lined the street. I randomly picked one place. It was pretty good as well as expensive, as are many things in super modern Singapore. But I left feeling I might have done better with a little more planning.
I thought about that meal after I learned about , a company that promises to find restaurants that you love anywhere, based on your own preferences. The site calls itself a “personal discovery engine,” which means it painlessly leads you to restaurants based on the data you have entered into the site.
There plenty of apps to help you find a place to eat: Foursquare, OpenTable, UrbanSpoon, Yelp. Nara claims it uses a new type of neural-network algorithm to do the job better, using more sensitive analysis of your (and everyone’s) picks and pans. To date it has made its money through revenue-sharing deals with , Uber and GrubHub. The service is opt-in only and Nara says it does not share any data about its end users. The company started in 2010 and last year raised $7 million from angel investors.
On Tuesday, the Cambridge, Mass. company announced a deal to license its technology to Asia’s leading telecommunications group, . The deal, the first of its kind for Nara, marks the latest step in greater personalization of the Internet. It also raises questions about how companies will use the ever greater amount of personal data they are learning about us.
SingTel is not disclosing details about how it will use Nara’s recommendation engine, saying only that it will deploy first in Malaysia, then Australia and Singapore, for restaurant recommendations. But Nara is planning to move beyond dining into financial services and other commerce categories and sees SingTel as a way to do that. SingTel has made a greater effort to buy and license apps for its 468 million mobile customers than typical U.S. wireless carriers. It even bought a mobile advertising business last year.
As more people enter their likes and dislikes in Nara’s engine, the overall data network will improve in its sensitivity. “An important component of Nara’s engine is its ability to learn from all of its users across the platform,” Nara CEO and founder Thomas Copeman said. “Eventually, all users across all businesses that are powered by Nara can improve our knowledge about both user tastes and preferences and related venues and entities.”
As its sophistication grows, the service should be able to recognize national differences in taste. For example, it would steer Brits and residents of its former colonies toward restaurants that doled out the Marmite while sparing Americans the unpleasant sensation of eating it for the first time. “Over time, we believe that this could be an incredible hyper-local value-add to SingTelGroup’s half a billion mobile customers,” said Loo Cheng Chuan, head of SingTel’s Digital Life.
But blending services into one huge personal profile may not go down well with those who don’t like being data-profiled as they move around Asia and across multiple apps. Nara sees itself more as part of the solution, not the problem. “Nara provides a ‘privacy silo’ where the system can work and transact on the behalf of the user,” Copeman said. “We almost imagine it as a personal anonymizing avatar that acts on your behalf to gather information and act with the internet, which is especially crucial given the growing number of services who are dedicated to linking your transactions to your identity.”
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Wendy's tops expectations; to sell restaurants
Wendy's reported a quarterly profit above Wall Street expectations and said it's selling 425 of its restaurants to franchisees, a move that's expected to help boost its profit margins. The move isn't unusual; fast-food companies often own only a small percentage of their restaurants. This helps keep their operating costs in check and gives them a more stable stream of income that's tilted toward royalty fees and rent, rather sales at restaurants.
Wendy's, based in Dublin, Ohio, also raised its dividend by 25 percent to 5 cents per share. Its stock was up 10 percent at $7.32. CEO Emil Brolick said that the sale of the restaurants will also help expand adoption of the company's new restaurant designs. That's because Wendy's plans to sell the restaurants to "well-capitalized" franchisees willing to pay for the remodeling.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Sarah Green, 10Best.com
If you've ever visited New York, or are lucky enough to live here, you know that there is no city more deserving of the name "the city that never sleeps." With thousands of restaurants and delis open around the clock, there is certainly no shortage of good food, and perhaps the most iconic is pastrami.
Pastrami has a strong presence in New York, one that can be traced back to the Romanian Jews who immigrated here in 1872, bringing the traditions of their homeland with them. Once in America they found beef to be more affordable than pastrami typically made from goose breast, and soon adapted their recipe.
Today you see pastrami from all different cuts of beef in different parts of the country, but the most popular is the belly, and brisket in particular. It takes bringing, numerous spices (including a lot of pepper), smoking, and finally steaming to make this typically tough piece of meat worth the wait, and New Yorkers stand in line for a good pastrami sandwich day in and day out.
Seek out a traditional institution like Katz's Delicatessen on Houston St. and you'll find heaping sandwiches, perfectly prepared, of pastrami on rye. The recently reopened 2nd Ave Deli at 162 East 33rd Street has garnered much acclaim, and for good reason: it takes two hands to hold its pastrami sandwich. Blooms Deli, in the heart of the city on Lexington Avenue, is one of the few places to enjoy a pastrami sandwich on gluten-free bread.
Each place has a committed following of customers who keep coming back for more. While anything can be put between two slices of bread and called a sandwich, it's the ingredients that count, and these delis offer some of the very best.
Are you a fan of New York pastrami? Vote for it at 10best.com/awards, as your favorite iconic American food in the 10Best Readers' Choice Awards contest.
Posted by Whilly Bermudez at 10:45 AM