Randi Zuckerberg envisions a future of integrated technology--and that starts with parents embracing interactive tech for their kids in a healthy way.
That's the inspiration for the Zuckerberg Media founder and CEO's latest venture, Sue's Tech Kitchen, an interactive "tech-driven pop-up dining experience" opening in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on July 28. It's a space where families, and especially kids, can immerse themselves in adventure and in what Zuckerberg sees as the tech and science of tomorrow. There will also be food.
"I felt one thing that was really missing was a place that families could go together where you can enjoy great food," Zuckerberg says. "But you could also have incredible technology experiences that introduce children to all the exciting aspects of coding, tech, and gadgets that they're going to need throughout the rest of their lives."
Based on the adventures of her new character Sue, a tech-savvy young girl who loves chemistry and cooking, the pop-up is set up like a sweet shop--though Zuckerberg says it will become a sit-down restaurant in the future. The shop has stations where families can take part in activities from coding with candy and 3-D printing desserts to creating ice cream with liquid nitrogen.
Families can make reservations for $5 a person, or walk right in to see which stations are available. In addition to having the immersive edible tech stations, Zuckerberg is inviting local startups and vendors to Sue's in an effort to connect with the community.
"I want to keep [Sue's] modular so that wherever we go, we can integrate local startups that are doing exciting things," Zuckerberg says.
The idea for Sue's Tech Kitchen first came to Zuckerberg around a year ago. She was writing a new book to follow Dot, a children's book about a girl who integrates tech with her everyday life that's now a TV show on NBC Universal Kids. Zuckerberg has long been an advocate for spotlighting women and girls in tech in hopes of giving young girls role models in STEM fields.
The character Sue was her latest attempt to push that mission, and the idea for Sue's Tech Kitchen seemed like an obvious and interesting way to bring Sue to life, says Zuckerberg. While books and television are traditional mediums that can deliver her message in one way, Zuckerberg believes that experiences are a more modern way to launch content. "These are modern children who love technology experiences," Zuckerberg says. She asked herself, "Where is the Chuck E. Cheese's for the modern child? Why does that not exist?"
Sue's Tech Kitchen is set to open its doors at the Tomorrow Building in Chattanooga at the end of July for four days of beta testing, and then the pop-up will set off on a national tour that will last through 2018. Zuckerberg decided Chattanooga was the perfect jumping off spot for Sue's Tech Kitchen, after visiting earlier this year.
"I think it's just one of the coolest cities that is attracting a real innovative tech startup community," Zuckerberg says. "I was just blown away by how this city was really rebranding itself--in the wake of losing factory and manufacturing jobs--as a new technology hub ... I think that's a really exciting model that a lot of cities could learn from."
The cities have yet to be decided for Sue's tour after Chattanooga. Hopefully, Zuckerberg says, her company can find permanent locations for the sit-down version of Sue's while taking in feedback from the families that visit at each tour city.