The Week in Ideas, June 3, 2011

This week in ideas leaned heavily toward the high-tech, with social media, online games and ordering via apps. It also brought a DIY restaurant reality show and a couple of really dumb ideas. Enjoy!

Another social media idea: Wendy’s is asking its customers to give them new menu ideas. The first 100 customers to have their new-idea video posted to the chain’s Facebook page will get a $25 gift card.

High-tech with cheese idea: How do you jazz up a grilled cheese concept? Fill it full of cutting-edge technology, that’s how. Jonathan Kaplan—whose background is in technology (he came up with the Flip camera)—has garnered funding from Silicon Valley venture firm Sequoia, which backed YouTube, to launch Melt, his grilled cheese and soup concept. Customers can order using apps and pay with their cell phones. Melt will begin with eight stores—at close to $1 million a pop. To make things even more techie, he promoted the concept at the ultimate of high-tech gatherings, the Wall Street Journal's D9 technology conference. He even named a sandwich after the Journal’s technology writer and conference organizer. It’s called The Walt.

A mouse in the house idea: Chuck E. Cheese is taking its popular skeeball game into cyberspace. Players can win 40 tickets from the free online game redeemable for prizes at the restaurant. “For as long as we can remember, one of everyone’s favorite arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese’s has been Skeeball,” said Brenda Holloway, Chuck E. Cheese’s marketing manager. “For the first time, kids and parents can play a long-time favorite right from their home while still winning tickets for great prizes.”

Dumb name idea: Want to get sued for trademark infringement? Name your church International House of Prayer. IHOP, the chain, sued the Grandview, Missouri-based ministry before they could say Moons Over My Hammy. Try Kentucky Fried Church next time, guys.

As seen on TV idea: Jason Vogel has experience as a restaurant owner and TV producer. When he bought the Merced, Calif., unit of Big Bubba's Bad-to-the-Bone BBQ, he decided to merge his two career paths and produce a reality show based on the restaurant. Of course restaurant reality shows are nothing new, but Vogel isn’t waiting for a TV deal to come to him. He’s producing a pilot on his own and will shop it to the networks. The Merced Sun Star reported that there will be a contest element, with underperforming staff fired on camera. Now there’s a stiff dose of reality.

We knew it was a bad idea idea: That North Carolina restaurant we featured last week that said its business had tripled after it posted an English-only sign on its door? It’s gone out of business. The new sign on the door: for sale or lease.



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