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November 8th, 2013

by Total Food Service

Meet the Newsmaker Michael Shuman


Founding Partner of 4food


4food is a socially networked and socially responsible quick service restaurant company based in Manhattan. 4food’s mission is to de-junk fast food™ by bringing fast, fresh, delicious, and nutritious food, made of sustainable products that are sourced locally and seasonally whenever and wherever able. The 4food menu offers almost infinitely customizable combinations that let customers build their own burgers any way they like.

The 4food space offers a modern and innovative style with an emphasis on tech savvy clientele through dynamic menu boards, iPad ordering stations, and a 200 square foot interactive media wall featuring user-generated content from social media. 4food’s signature product is the (w)holeburger™, a donut shaped patty balanced by one of the vegetable centric scoop centers, each with unique taste and nutritional attributes. Everything is made from scratch, including the bun that holds it all together, in the commissary kitchen located on the lower level of the space. Numerous vegan and gluten-free options are available. All products have their nutritional attributes displayed online and printed in-store on receipts.

What’s your background in foodservice? How did you get into this industry?

I'm an architect by training, a socially minded design entrepreneur. My work has always been mission driven within the public domain. My most relevant foodservice background is as a foodie and conscientious consumer, a customer who believes in ethical consumption, rewarding best practices, and demanding transparency of processes and information.

4food’s goal is to de-junk fast food? Explain the process behind this vision?

4food is the first socially responsible and socially networked quick serve restaurant company. Its mission is to de-junk fast food. We are living increasingly faster and more global lives. With fast food being an ever-growing sector, and ever growing problem, the culture of it must change. It can still be fast and accessible yet needs to look good, smell good, taste good, and actually be good for you. It can, and in fact should and must, promote and support the good treatment of our land and animals and farmers and employees. We set out to do exactly this with 4food, to create a paradigm shift in which the tenets of the slow food movement (local, seasonal, real, etc.) could be attained and celebrated within a quick serve / fast casual setting.

What is Adam Kidron and Niman Ranch founder, Bill Niman’s involvement with 4Food? Work with any other industry professionals?

Adam Kidron is the co-founder of 4food and the brainchild behind our signature (w)holeburger. Together the two of us operate as the managing partners. Bill Niman is a founding non-managing partner who has been instrumental for us within this landscape both in terms of purveyor relations and industry connectivity. The two other founding non-managing partners are Ed Winter, one of the foremost experts on marketing to young people in the US, and Woodson Merrill, a leading authority on wellness and nutrition.

You’re committed to serving fresh and nutritious foods, do you offer healthy beverages? What do you offer the healthy eater who still wants a high-fructose soda… do you offer a healthier version or have a signature drink?

Our beverage platform consists of natural sodas, iced teas, smoothies and hot tea/coffee as well as locally micro brewed draft beers and housemade sangrias for events. All of our menu items are produced in store daily (from beverage tonics to condiments to pickling our cucumbers to baking our buns) in our commissary kitchen and then every order is cooked to order at the counter. We make small batches of fresh food (made from real ingredients by real people using real methods) on a daily basis where we try to match supply with demand. We do not believe in shelf life nor preserving anything. Nothing is deep fried, frozen, artificial, or genetically modified. We do not celebrate largeness as an expression of value and have put much deliberation into responsible portion sizing and the conveyance of honest information. We provide personalized nutrition facts, advice, and menu recommendations every day - in-store, at www.4food.com, and printed on every receipt.

Gluten-Free is such a hot trend. How does 4food incorporate Gluten-Free offerings?

We actually have our gluten-free certification and consider it much more than a trend. We have a significant array of gluten-free offerings as well as those for vegans, vegetarians, and the avidly carnivorous. 4food can really be what you need and made the way you want.

4food is committed to being socially responsible. Talk about the restaurant's design and space. Using any LED lighting or energy-efficient equipment. Did you work with any designers or architects?

We compost in-store and recycle. We build with natural construction materials that are abundant and regenerative. We employ sunscreen systems, LED lighting, energy efficient equipment, and purchase renewable energy credits from alternative energy generators. We are committed to increasing our use of sustainable power as we grow. The design is very natural and honest and innovative with respect to sustainable practices and the use of informational technologies to create a very interactive (and voyeuristic) and efficient experience.

Does 4food have any on-site food waste composters? If so, talk a little about how important this is to being sustainable?

We employ an Orca Green® self contained bio-reactor that decomposes food and biodegradable waste into drainage water, which drastically reduces our waste and makes the restaurant nearly trash-free. We compost all of our food waste and a substantial amount of our packaging in this on- premise composter within our commissary kitchen. This is one of several important practices that help us to further reduce our environmental impact.

Talk about your good4all program, and involvement with City Harvest, GrowNYC, The New York Foundation for the Arts, and Team Red White and Blue.

We believe in good4all. This means doing everything with a greater purpose, including the ability for our customers to do so as well. 4foodies have always been able to save, name, brand, and market their unique creations and earn sales royalties into their accounts for doing so. With the recent integration of our good4all initiative, we can now donate these 25¢ royalties to a good cause each time a customer tags their creation accordingly. Basically one builds their own (w)holeburger, gives it a name, and assigns it a purpose (a specific charitable organization within the domains of health, environment, community, humanity, and creativity). After that, each time someone else buys their (w)holeburger, we donate 25¢ to their selected good cause.

Are there plans to open other NYC locations or move into CT and NJ?

We will now be looking to raise capital to scale locally within the New York / Tri State / Northeastern market while we simultaneously engage internationally with territorial licenses (our first of which is underway in Japan). We are also in the process of building out our suite of technology platforms (profile and recommendation engines, inventory management portals, etc) with the intent on licensing these to other food service enterprises and beyond to any retail component involving customer purchasing and point of sale transactions.

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