A Burger Revolution - Design Bureau

4food designed by Michael Shuman and Adam Kidron. Photos by David Sundberg/Esto


A Burger Revolution

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

by Jenny Seyfried

What if, instead of just “having it your way,” you could make, market, and profit from your own burger creation at an upscale fast-food joint? That’s what’s happening inside New York City’s 4Food.

Architect and co-managing partner Michael Shuman is the one puting the power into the hands of the consumers. Using what is called a “Build-Board,” customers can dream up their own burger (pick any combo—there are 140 million possibilities), name it, brand it, and promote it online. Then, every time someone orders it, the burger genius that dreamed up the combination receives a royalty. “It’s been interesting to see how people use the ‘Board’ to express themselves in very creative, humorous, political ways,” Shuman says. “We’ve had burgers named ‘Libyan Democracy,’ ‘Bed Intruder,’ and the ‘Winning Burger,’ after Charlie Sheen.”

Outside of 4food, Shuman focuses on his passion for designing public spaces and serves as the principal architect at MASdesign, which he founded. The company works primarily with nonprofit and arts-centric organizations. “It’s fulfilling to not just design and build things, but to develop, promote and embody the programs,” Shuman says.

Shuman and his business partner Adam Kidron refer to 4food as “pro-social,” referencing its sustainability. The restaurant’s seating is constructed from regenerated pine and features exterior aluminum louvers that mitigate direct sunlight and reduce energy costs. They even turn food waste and packaging into compost.

But the energy bill isn’t the only thing being reduced. “We don’t spend anything on traditional marketing,” Shuman says. The crowd-sourcing Build-Board has proved a game changer. “Our customers become our marketers, and we use the money saved on making the product better,” Shuman says.

Following the tsunami in Japan, 4food gave a week’s proceeds to Japanese relief and Shuman was pleasantly surprised to discover that not only did numerous customers ask that their “Build Board” royalties for the week be donated to Japan, “but they were asking to continue that model and choose organizations to donate to permanently.” Just goes to show that, given the choice, customers are willing to both chow down and give back.