Consumer Insights

Food Genius to Keep CPGs Abreast of Restaurant Trends


Chicago startup Food Genius aims to consolidate restaurant menu data, assisting CPGs and retailers in spotting new product trends.

By Ann Meyer

PrintFood Genius to Keep CPGs Abreast of Restaurant Trends
Food Genius to Keep CPGs Abreast of Restaurant Trends

All the scanner data in the world won’t tell supermarkets what consumers are craving at the restaurants they frequent.

But dining trends are important as Americans increasingly are looking for restaurant-style prepared foods at grocers. By learning what new recipes are trendy at eateries, retailers and CPG companies can stay on the cutting edge of prepared food trends.

That’s the theory behind a new Chicago-based technology startup called Food Genius, which aims to consolidate restaurant menu data and sell it on a subscription basis to CPGs and retailers eager for new product intelligence. It hopes to become the next big data provider to the food industry and transform the market for new product research.

Big Data on Small Restaurants
“We track explicit attributes on the menu,” said Eli Rosenberg, co-founder of Food Genius. “We’re tracking core menus that account for roughly 300,000 locations across the United States.” Included are menus from more than 100,000 independent restaurants and 900 chain restaurants.

Because the restaurant industry is fragmented with many companies holding only one or two locations, menu data is one of the few areas of the food industry that hasn’t been fully tapped for market research, Rosenberg said. “We’re hedging and going into the industry with a broad focus to see which roles in the food industry find value with it.”

CPGs will likely be the first adopters of Food Genius reports, while retailers can use it to innovate store brands, said Guy Turner, managing director of Hyde Park Venture Partners, which has invested in the company. “The product has the ability to develop insights at a much more granular level than is [currently] available,” including categorizing information by chains versus independents, geography and meal parts, he said.

In September, Food Genius closed on a $1.2 million round of funding led by Hyde Park Venture Partners and Hyde Park Angels. The company plans to offer individual subscriptions for $2,000 a month, but has discounted the price to $899 for a limited number of early adopters. The service, now in beta testing and set for a rollout in January, will offer reports based on menu data from GrubHub, an Internet restaurant menu and delivery service. Companies can use the data to find insights for their specific needs, Rosenberg said.

Consumer-Friendly Interface
Food Genius has taken “sloppy data” that can be difficult to track and analyze and found a way to make it useful, said Owen Shapiro, vice president at Leo J. Shapiro Associates, who is an investor in the company and sits on its board of directors. “They’ve essentially created a consumer-friendly interface. It feels like you’re on CNN Money doing a graphic interface for retirement planning,” Shapiro said.

By consolidating the preponderance of menu data available and updating it regularly, Food Genius will be able to track trends. “No one else has that depth of knowledge,” Shapiro said. “Over time, it can help rationalize decision-making and marketing for the food industry.”

Product development teams will be able to use Food Genius to spot trends in types of foods or ingredients popular at restaurants, then compare the findings with their offerings to find gaps. “If you’re a grocer and there’s a deli item you want to try, you can plug it in,” Shapiro said. Food Genius will report on how common the item is and detail how it is described on menus, such as “savory” or “crunchy.” For example, research & development teams can determine which vegetables are most commonly served with chicken entrees.

“By and large the food trends that emerge in the United States come out of the restaurants and then migrate over time to the grocers, a lot of times through the manufacturers. If you’re looking for food trends, it’s really an ideal setting,” Shapiro said.