Foursquare Is Banking On The Power Of The Secret Omelet

Our favorite location-based mobile application Foursquare has been in the news a lot these last couple of days. Not down with Foursquare? Here's a quick crash course: Foursquare allows users to "check in" to their current location, broadcasting the venue (with map and Yelp-like reviews) to their network of followers. Meaning, you can see if your dude is watching the Red Sox game at the bar up the block — and if that bar is worth visiting. Don't want people to know you're there. Don't check in. Simple.

Yesterday, Foursquare rolled out "promoted updates" — which, like sponsored Tweets, are a way to bring brands (advertising) to the platform. And last week they launched a pilot program where venues (bars, restaurants, coffee shops) were given the power to message their most devoted fans. In today's New York Times, Foursquare's Chief Revenue Officer Steven Rosenblatt gave the example of the Dos Caminos restaurant chain messaging "an offer for a secret omelet that only Foursquare users can get."

This is interesting. First, Dos Caminos chef Ivy Stark is really talented, so we have no doubt that the omelet will be special. Second, this could actually work. In the always-evolving, chalkboard nature of the urban restaurant scene (looking at you New York, SF, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland(s), Miami, Los Angeles), a special can make or break your restaurant visit. Some restaurants are even special-driven. Take Roberta's in Brooklyn for example, which offers a long list of daily selections driven by their robust garden. Specials are called specials for a reason. Unless, well, they are not.

Back to Fourquare's promise to not just alert users of specials, but to offer exclusive specials to fans of the restaurant. These fans are determined, analytically, by the number of check-ins over time. So, if I'm a Momofuku Ssam fanboy (four check-ins in a month), Christina Tosi can offer me a special plate of charred marshmallows. Or, if I've checked-in at Los Angeles cocktail den The Varnish in Los Angeles (five check-ins in two months), they can pull out a barrel-aged Old Fashioned, special for my visit.

Foursquare has taken the idea of the your 11th visit is free stamp card to the next level. Free is good. Exclusive, brag to your friends about your secret menu hookup at ABC Kitchen is better.

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