Dining

Four-tune Teller

Foursquare knew how bad things were for Chipotle before the chain's execs did
Photo: Mike Mozart via Flickr
Chipotle

Earlier this week, Chipotle posted its first-ever quarterly loss. The mega chain says sales have dropped by 30 percent. The news of losses isn't hugely surprising. Chipotle has struggled to recover from a series of foodborne illness outbreaks tied to its stores in a number of states.

But it looks like Foursquare knew just how bad things were before perhaps even the Chipotle execs did (or at least before that information was disclosed to the public). Foursquare predicted the 30 percent drop in sales in a Medium post published two weeks before the announcement, The Washington Post points out. Last year, Foursquare also accurately predicted how many iPhones Apple would sell on a specific weekend.

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Researchers say the remarkably accurate predictions prove just how valuable data from smartphones and apps like Foursquare could prove to be—one even likens it to the microscope. "In biology, the microscope changed the world. In physics and astronomy, the telescope," University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Lav Varshney tells The Washington Post. "These data sets give a very detailed view of human behavior. It's a really powerful instrument in all kinds of settings."

Still, the data from smartphones and Foursquare likely applies only to particular types of businesses, mainly ones that people visit in person. Foursquare also relies on large pools of data, so its predictions like the Chipotle one could likely be replicated only for other major chains. So will Foursquare be able to predict the future of fast food perhaps? We'll have to wait and see.

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