What Lyfe Kitchen can learn from the iPod Shuffle

This month’s Wired magazine features a profile of Lyfe Kitchen, which aims to serve up health- and eco-conscious fast-food on the scale of McDonald’s. It’s a fascinating and inspiring idea, something that could change the food system and public health for the better. Read the profile, it’s worth the ten minutes.

The end of the piece focuses on the challenges to scaling up. Consider for example the challenge of seasonality:

No matter how energy-efficient the kitchen, no matter how technically astute the procurement practices—weather happens. Too much rain rots tomatoes. Oranges freeze. Texas onions shrivel in a drought.

The assumption is that the restaurants require a steady supply of the same ingredients month in and month out. After all, the menus will be the same year-round, right?

This got me thinking about the iPod shuffle. Bear with me here. I still remember wondering how small Apple would take miniaturization as we went from the iPod to the Mini to the Nano. The devices couldn’t get much smaller, because soon there would be no room for a screen, and what good would an MP3 player be without visual feedback to select songs and see what is playing? The genius of the shuffle was to take that bug and turn it into a feature. What the heck, let’s name the device after it: “No screen? No problem? This device is for shuffle mode!”

What does all of this have to do with Lyfe Kitchen? How about we make seasonality a feature, designing the menu and diner’s experience to bring us closer to the farmers, closer to the weather. Make us a part of it and we’ll take more pleasure in our food, missing fondly the items that are out of season, eagerly awaiting their return and enjoying the novelty of a new item that nature brought our way.