IBM’s Foodborne Illness Outbreak Detection System

IBM has had a breakthrough in their research and managed to find a way to use technology to identify likely sources of contamination during a foodborne illness outbreak. Using past computed retail data combined with public health data, a search can be run on the system to look at billions of food items sold in supermarkets to automatically identify the probability of certain suspect products for outbreaks in a given area. Every time there is a report of an outbreak, using statistical techniques and visualization, the algorithm recalculates the probability of each food item that could be causing the illness.

This system is capable accelerating the time that is usually taken to identify contaminated food products which will in turn help reduce the economic losses experienced by food companies as well as healthcare expenses. Dr. Bernd Appel, head of the Department for Biological Safety for the German Federal Institute for Risk Assesment recently stated in a press statement, “The success of an outbreak investigation often depends on the willingness of private sector stakeholders to collaborate pro-actively with public health officials…this research illustrates an approach to create significant improvements without the need for any regulatory changes.”

This program will relieve some of the strain on the public health system in detecting contaminated food to minimize the spread of the foodborne illness. Jaes Kaufman, Manager of Public Health Research for IBM Research states, “Predictive analytics based on location, content, and context are driving our ability to quickly discover hidden patterns and relationships from diverse public health and retail data..we are working with our public health clients and with retailers in the U.S. to scale this research prototype and begin focusing on the 1.7B supermarket items sold each week in the United States.”

To read more about IBM’s research and how this new system works, click here

New Shake Shack Dumbo

The new Shake Shack location in Dumbo opens today on the corner of Fulton St. and Water St directly across from the Brooklyn Bridge Park. This location’s décor has a nautical vibe with sailboat images hung on the cedar plank walls that were stripped from old New York rooftop water towers. The burger chain’s new Dumbo location is the first to offer their Frog’s Leap “Shack Red” and “Shack White” wines on tap and not just in bottles. There are also a few other features that are only specific to this location. For instance:


  • The “Caramel Carousel,” made with a vanilla frozen custard base with bananas, caramel sauce, sugar cone pieces, and sea salt was inspired by Jane’s Carousel; a nearby tourist attraction.
  • The “Brooklyn Pie Oh My” consists of vanilla frozen custard blended with a slice of Four & Twenty Blackirds pie. Currently the Brooklyn Pie Oh My features a slice of strawberry-balsamic pie; the pie flavors will rotate.
  • Although not convenient in the summer, the gas-burning fireplace in the front window will definitely be a bonus come winter!
  • 5% of proceeds from the location-specific beverages will benefit the nonprofit “Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue.”


To read more about the opening of Shake Shack’s new location, click here


Coffee Operators Driving Revenue Through Mobile Payments

There is a definite compatibility between specialist coffee shops and mobile payments due to the fact that their primary product is purchased at such a high frequency. Consumers purchase coffee daily (often multiple repeat purchases per day) and would benefit from a streamlined payment method and loyalty programs such as can be offered by mobile payment solutions. The consumer demographic is also most likely to participate in the mobile payment methods as it consists mostly of young students interested in technology and consumers who have easy access to mobile technologies.

While Starbucks was the first to launch its well-known loyalty program and mobile payment app years ago, third-party mobile payment technologies are now cropping up targeting independent coffee shops to help them drive revenue and better compete with larger chains such as Starbucks. CUPS is one example of a third-party mobile payment apps designed to engage consumers by providing incentives through loyalty programs that offer discounts and special offers based on their purchase history. BeansUP is another recently launched innovative app that allows consumers to set coffee pick-up times; this will allow for an enhanced consumer experience as the product is prepaid and the guest can avoid peak hour lines and pick up their coffee directly at the counter.

The increased demand for efficient, streamlined transactions will only continue to grow and these mobile technologies definitely help meet this need. In order for consumers to adopt mobile payment methods they must first be intrigued by the incentives and sign up for a subscription to their preferred coffee shop’s mobile app. As consumer engagement increases so too will the use of mobile payments and therefore help to drive traffic and revenues.

To read more about these two new innovative mobile payment technologies, click here


Rescue Plan for Crumbs Bakery

Marcus Lemonis, star of the CNBC show and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterpries, decided to take action when Crumbs Bakery closed their doors last week. Lemonis is devising a plan to attempt to rescue the bakery by partnering with owners of ice cream brand Dippin’ Dots to not only loan money but also to outline a new strategy which involves incorporating more products into a larger sweets shop beyond just cupcakes.

For the moment Lemonis is financing the chain to get their doors back open but is still working on a plan to really bring the company back to life. The owners of Dippin’ Dots are already investors in Crumbs whose ultimate goal is to buy the company. Lemonis is seeking to involve the founders of Crumbs, Mia and Jason Bauer, throughout the process even if it is only at an advising capacity.

Lemonis, who hosts a reality show based on helping troubled companies return to turning a profit, stated,  “I don’t believe a single (product) cupcake business is viable in the long term,” Lemonis said. “It was originally envisioned as a bake shop.” Hopefully Lemonis’ plan will be successful and enable Crumbs Bakeshop to recover, stay open and do a complete turnaround.

To read more about Lemonis’ involvement in resuscitating the bakeshop, click here


New Amsterdam Market Comes To An End

The New Amsterdam Market has ended having hosted its last market on June 21st. The market will no longer be taking place on South Street in Lower Mahattan on the site of the Old Fulton Fish Market. Unfortunately, Robert LaValva, founder of New Amsterdam Market, informs the public that they did not manage to raise the funding necessary to ensure the survival of the organization. Sadly, more than one acre of the public space will soon be property of a suburban shopping mall developer.

The market had been growing in frequency ever since its opening seven years go. The market consisted of a community of businesses who prioritized fair trade and sustainable food production. The market created over 350 jobs and supported 500 food entrepreneurs during the 88 times the market was held. The New Amsterdam Market also hosted numerous events to celebrate regional fare and products.

To read more about the market’s fate, click here

Root & Bone: Southern Mecca in Alphabet City

Root & Bone, a traditional Southern food restaurant, opened last week in Alphabet City. After having worked together in Miami at the popular southern food restaurant Yardbird, Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth, both previous Top Chef contestants, partnered together to open their own restaurant in New York City. The menu is focused on a revival of rural and coastal American cooking that uses seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients of only the highest quality.

This concept has been long in the works and is finally open and creating a lot of buzz. Menu items include a fried chicken brined in sweet tea and served with tabasco honey, the classic southern shrimp and grits, a blue crab Waldorf salad and of course fried chicken and waffles. In case you weren’t salivating yet, Crystal Cullison, pastry chef at Root & Bone, is also offering delicious southern sweets such as Mississippi mud pie, coconut layer cake and a kitchen sink sundae!

The antique/farmhouse looking restaurant also has a takeout counter (The Little Root Market) which offers many options such as buckets of chicken, pie, sandwiches and soft serve from lunch through to late night. To take a look at the menu and some photos of the space, click here


American Chefs Looking for Argentinian Grills

Charles Eisendrath spent the 1970′s as the bureau chief for Time magazine in Buenos Aires, and he brought back a love for the Argentinian tradition of open-pit grilling.  He didn’t though, bring back a grill.  That’s how Grillworks was born in the early 80′s.  After a few years of working with local welders on over a dozen designs, the first grills were rolled out to much local fanfare.  Over the next few years, Eisendrath’s hobby company moved along nicely.  In 2006, his son, Ben, opted to take over the family business.

At the same time, American interest in Argentinian cuisine was growing.  Chef Francis Mallmann published his kitchen manifesto “Seven Fire: Grilling the Argentinian Way,” and his love for wood-fired food caught on in the States, from the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party to Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

It’s a labor of love, though.  Some of Mallmann’s signatures–such as whole cow–can take days to roast, but the result is worth it.  Adam Perry Lang, of NYC’s Daisy May’s BBQ, says “when you’re cooking on wood, the flavor is like nothing else.”

More chefs are chasing that flavor.  Now, Grillworks makes between 200 and 300 grills per year for restaurants and residences.  Most are custom built; Dan Barber had a second grill designed after ruining his first.  Tapas restaurant Tertulia has a gargantuan Grillworks built into the wall, and Reynard, in Brooklyn, has a wood-fired oven, grill, and rotisserie as its centerpiece.

For more information, click here.

Snacks Take Over Meals

Times have changed; Americans, in large part, are no longer sitting down for three distinct meals but opting instead to snack throughout the day, and the implications are making waves in restaurants and grocery stores across the country.

While the grazing trend started in the ’70′s, we’re now eating with even less structure.  In the last 30 years, the percentage of Americans snacking three or more times has day has rise from 10% to 56% in 2010.

Breakfast is the first to go; Kellogg’s sales dropped 3.1% last quarter, and the company is moving its focus from cereal stalwarts to strawberry shakes in order to remain relevant. Meanwhile, General Mill’s snack division–which includes the Nature Valley and Fiber One brands–grew 6% in its last fiscal year.  In a 2013 survey by IRI, about 30% of respondents reported eating an early morning snack–a big jump from 14% in 2010.

Lunch and Dinner, too, are on the move.  Both ConAgra and Kraft are repackaging products in smaller portion sizes at around 200 calories.  And traditional snacks–such as chips and nuts–are also expanding.  Kale chips, vegetable chips, and lentil chips are challenging the long-reigning potato for shelf space, and “nutritional snacks and trail mixes” are up 9.9%, again from IRI.

Smaller businesses can capitalize on the change, as well: “Snacking occasions represent a growth channel for restaurant operators,” said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, Inc. “The retail market is aggressively promoting snacks, but there’s plenty of room for restaurants to expand their snack programs and grab share. By providing more innovative, healthy and easily portable snacks, and boosting variety, restaurants can position themselves to increase incremental traffic and sales—particularly among a younger customer base.” Look no further than snack-delivery services Graze, Boxtera, and Naturebox, for example. To read more, click here and here.


FDA Regulations on Artisanal Cheese Aging Process

A request was made for clarification from the FDA on their view on aging cheese on wooden boards. An FDA official responded that cheese shouldn’t in fact be aged on wooden boards without realizing the impact this would have on the cheese business. Within a couple of days the FDA retreated the statement due to the backlash of the press and the general panic of artisanal cheese makers.

Although the artisanal cheese business is quite small the potential regulation still would have had an enormous impact on their production. There is no indication however that this aging process which has been used for centuries could be harmful to our health. Critics of the FDA believe that more time should be spent focusing on bigger food production businesses that could pose more widespread threats rather than meddling with artisanal producers.

What started as a request for guidance on a policy created a stir that now may even go through congress. A Vermont Democrat, Peter Welch, has proposed an amendment that would prevent the FDA from banning the use of wooden boards in the cheese aging process. To read more about the issue and how people are getting involved click here



Bar at The Ludlow Soft Opening

A new French restaurant is set to open in the brand new Ludlow hotel on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side. Rich Torrisi, Jeff Zalaznick and Mario Carbone, known as the Torrisi Team of Major Food Group, are working together to put the last touches on the restaurant, Dirty French. In the meantime, so as not to keep us waiting too long, the Ludlow Lobby Bar will have a soft opening tonight!

The bar space is still having some minor work done, however the bar and outside seating area will be open tonight for anyone who wants to check it out and get a drink. David Waugh from Major Food Group’s ZZ Clam bar has been working with infamous drink-maker Dan Nicolaescu to create an exciting cocktail list. To check out the original cocktail menu and read more about the soft opening click here


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