Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

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

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,643.01 -11.76 -0.07%
Nasdaq 4,828.33 15.62 0.32%
S&P 500 1,988.87 1.21 0.06%
Treasuries 2.19 0.02 0.83%
Data as of 4:07pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 10.50 0.31 3.03%
Bank of America Corp... 16.28 -0.17 -1.00%
Apple Inc 112.95 0.03 0.03%
Intel Corp 28.44 0.72 2.60%
Alcoa Inc 9.37 0.51 5.76%
Data as of 3:50pm ET
Sponsors

Sections

Efforts to unionize low-wage employees of fast-food franchisees and outside contractors get lift from decision of NLRB. More

After Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans had to reinvent the way it manages water and protects itself from future storms. More

The market volatility in China and the U.S. could hit private companies, especially late-stage unicorns. More

How do you run a successful crowdfunding campaign? Indiegogo's CEO Slava Rubin offers his top tips and mistakes to avoid. More

Mom and pop investors are dumping their investments and moving to cash at levels not seen since the financial crisis of 2008. More