1. People are busy, but still like to cook!
Are we losing the art of cooking? Foodbiz Volume 2, Issue 2, August 2004 - an Australian National Food Industry Strategy publication. Looks at the 2003 AC Nielsen Grocery Report - despite today's busy society we are still interested in cooking. Grocery figures show food-from-scratch sales not far behind convenience foods. Popularity of cooking reflected in the numbers of cookbooks, cooking shows on TV.
Is this a new age renaissance in food? B & T Today, 18 April 2002. (1) Gourmet trends: Australia experiencing a "food frenzy" evidenced by gourmet items as staples on grocery shelves, celebrity chefs, the foodie culture evolving since mid-1980s new food outlets "educating" the Australian palate. (2) Food for the masses: wide appeal for practical recipes and shopping. (3) Health, quality, exotic: demand for healthy, organic, natural flavours evidenced in grocery stores and new convenience products.
Super Food Ideas magazine - claims Australia's number one food magazine - target audience is "busy females, aged 25–59, looking for affordable and easy recipe and food ideas." Former-editor Danielle Tibbles says consumers want practicality and relevance; cost of regular dining out too high. She says the market is "not just families but young singles and couples who never learned how to cook from their working mothers and are teaching themselves".
2. Ability to share good recipes increases value of cooking web sites to users
The Joy of Cyber-Cooking by Catherine Holahan, Business Week 21 Dec 2007
Ok - apparently food/cooking sites are HUGE and social networking is adding an extra tidbit to the mix. The big foodie sites are making millions from advertising and cross-marketing, but the main drawcard for users is the convenience of sharing good recipes.
Yahoo's Feast for Foodies by Catherine Holahan, Business Week 3 Nov 2006.
Yahoo research into the highly competitive online food sector. A look at social networking and mobile aspects of foodie sites.
Recipe Sites Embrace User Generated Content, Video, RSS by LeeAnn Prescott, Hitwise 21 Nov 2006
Recipe sites, ripe for "Web 2.0" have long been collecting user generated content.
Cooking Sites Whip Up Audiences by Christopher Saunders, The ClickZ Network 28 Sep 2001
Oldish article, looks at what drives people to cooking sites.
3. Benefits of menu planning - saves time, lowers costs, allows healthier options
Menu Planning: Save Time In The Kitchen - a simple guide by author Cynthia Townley Ewer, November 4th, 2007. People are put off by effort involved in planning, but significantly outweighed by the benefits. How to take the pain out of menu planning.
Recipes for Life: Too Busy to Cook? - Nutritionist Nancy Bennett says being organised and planning ahead is the key to preparing healthy and tasty meals while saving valuable time.
Good food on the run - Nutritionist Peggy Stacy agrees.
4. People are generally disinclined to plan and tend to avoid it
Think We're All Too Busy To Cook? That's A Red (Not A Raw) Herring - Mark Dolliver delivers some (US) statistics about people's preference for cooking their meals and offers the low percentage of people who actually plan ahead, suggests that busy lifestyles have contributed to meal preparation becoming more of an impromptu affair.
Why Do People Avoid Planning? Generally speaking, people tend to avoid planning through various reasons including laziness, lack of inclination (Mind Tools)
A quote from the late Sir John Harvey-Jones: "Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression." Although he was referring specifically to planning in life and business, it could equally apply to preparing meals!
The Developmental Psychology of Planning: Why, How, and when Do We Plan?
By Friedman, Sarah L. Friedman, Ellin is a study of child psychology and development, but lists reasons why people choose not to plan:
a) planning delays immediate action, immediate gratification is often more desirable
b) the process of planning requires self-discipline
c) planning may temporarily move problem solver away from tangible goals
d) planning takes time, speed is often valued over accuracy
e) generating a plan is no guarantee to success
f) planning is often unpleasant because it can be difficult, tedious or conflictual
g) unplanned action can be interesting and enjoyable in it's own right
5. How to make planning less painful
Menu Planning by UMD advocates simple process of stop, look, listen
Strategic Planning Processes - Mindful strategic consultants attempt to simplify process by splitting into three steps: analyse data, make a decision, implement decision.
Food Services America provide some tips in designing menus and menu psychology. Restaurant.org provide further ideas about menu psychology. Although these articles are aimed at restauranteurs trying to sell meals, some points worth considering for a cooking web site - such as categorisation, using pictures.
7. User feedback
Taste.com.au forum discussion about Mealopedia.com service. Some good features - ingredient finder, mobile features, limited cookbook (not multiple versions of same recipe). Liked simple interface, good for people who are time poor.
Discussion on Taste.com.au about menu planning
8. Other resources
The Food Timeline - list of links to various resources dealing with culinary social history, manners and menus.
UrlTrends - search rankings, monthly statistics
Macromedia Website Production Management Techniques - Discover and Define sections offer good explanation of the planning processes involved in a Web site.
Defining your objectives - a detailed discussion of defining the objectives of a teaching web site - easily translated to other genres.