96 billion burger combos -- tweet yours

4food.top.jpgDiners at the newly opened 4food, where customers can customize -- and then market -- their lunches. By Laurie Segall, CNN


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If your social network ran a restaurant, it might feel a lot like 4food, a new Manhattan burger joint.

Customers who step into the restaurant are met by staffers ready to take orders on their iPads, a 240-foot screen featuring live Twitter feeds and Foursquare check-ins, and a menu that offers more than 96 billion customizable burger options. (Doubt the numbers? Check our math.)

4food is relying on social networking -- fueled by a grab bag of of-the-zeitgeist gimmicks -- to break through in New York's crowded food scene. CEO Adam Kidron's gamble is that throwing a chunk of his marketing costs into customers' hands (or, more accurately, their mobile phones) will pay off.

"The idea is we'll save somewhere between 8% to 10% of our gross sales, and that we'll be able to spend that on better ingredients," Kidron says. "We've taken a gamble by spending it on the better ingredients in the beginning, so the social media has to work."

4food's menu is targeted at the "I want it my way" set. Burgers come with holes in the middle, which customers can fill with "scoops" ranging from mushrooms to edamame. Eight patties (including egg, beef, lamb and salmon), seven cheese options and a dozen condiments expand the customization options.

Once customers have designed their ideal burger, they're encouraged to advertise it through sites like Twitter and Facebook. Marketing prowess pays off: Every time a custom burger is ordered, the creator gets a 25-cent credit towards their next meal. Constantly updated leaderboards spotlight the current champs.

It's a concept Kidron hopes can launch a whole chain of 4food outposts.

"A very essential part of 4Food is that you will be so impressed and so proud of the burger you made that you'll tell some other people about it. Now people do that," Kidron says. "The question is whether they'll use these tools."

If the restaurant's opening days are any indication, people are very willing to use them -- the challenge will be keeping up. The restaurant's second day in business was a "complete mess," popular New York food blog Midtown Eats declared: "Reports have been pouring in all day complaining of long waits, restless crowds, and empty bellys."

But like any savvy startup, 4food recognizes that glitches are inevitable (hey, even Chase.com can crash) and attentive customer service is a tonic. Its Twitter stream this week is filled with personal apologies for problems -- "uh oh! Fixed :)" -- and retweets from happy customers. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,357.22 161.80 0.94%
Nasdaq 4,627.52 61.38 1.34%
S&P 500 2,013.35 18.70 0.94%
Treasuries 2.33 0.02 0.91%
Data as of 10:21am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.14 0.11 0.62%
Facebook Inc 74.76 0.65 0.88%
Intel Corp 33.47 0.89 2.72%
Apple Inc 107.40 0.42 0.39%
Citigroup Inc 53.32 0.18 0.33%
Data as of 10:05am ET

Sections

San Francisco-based Tumml is an accelerator fostering 'urban impact start-ups' that aim to tackle civic problems -- and turn a profit. More

Amy Kukec thought leaving her abusive husband would be the beginning of a new life, but so far she's hit one debilitating financial roadblock after another. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.