thumbnail_JohnKeaneFeedWhat’s for dinner? It’s the age-old question tens of millions of families face daily as the clock strikes 4 p.m. I, like many foodies, love to cook. However, deciding what to cook every night can be a chore. For many of us, it’s a quick-fire decision on the phone with a spouse or partner. For my family and many others, it gets even crazier as we have to navigate around kids’ sports schedules, individual taste preferences, allergies, dietary restrictions, diets, etc.

To help families meet these challenges, Allrecipes is tapping into the power of machine learning to deliver highly personalized meal suggestions that cater to each cook’s unique taste, habits and preferences.

I like to think of it as the “because you watched …” feature on Netflix or music selected for you on Pandora based on songs you’ve “liked.” Essentially, Allrecipes will recommend dinner ideas specifically for you based on previous recipes you’ve enjoyed and other signals such as the time of year, weather, or your geographical location.

Looking for a dessert recipe? Allrecipes will recommend pumpkin pie in the fall and berry cobbler in the summer. It’s also true weather plays a big role in what we eat. In Miami, 70 degrees might call for a slow cooker recipe, while in Seattle we would be drinking margaritas and looking for grilling recipes. Allrecipes will take your local weather into consideration and present an appropriate recipe you can make with the foods you have on hand. Love spicy food? When you search for chicken recipes we will take this into account and prioritize recipes with extra heat. Everything you do on Allrecipes will contribute to your “cook’s fingerprint” so we’re able to make finding just the right dinner recipe and getting it on the table easier, faster and more enjoyable.

In addition to meal suggestions, our new framework allows us to also surface food-related content that aligns with your food passions. There’s so much chatter in the food world, from new trendy ingredients to varying perspectives on what’s healthy and what’s not, to time-saving tips, that making sense of the overflowing food conversation can be overwhelming. Now, we’re building an experience that is able to match the articles and videos that appear within your Allrecipes feed to your cooking habits. For example, if you tend to select healthy recipes, you may see an article about healthy food swaps in your newsfeed, which ultimately makes the food conversations you see on Allrecipes more meaningful to you.

As a dad with two teenage boys who are bound and determined to eat their way through my paycheck, I can also appreciate the need to manage food to a budget. Our acquisition of Qponix paved the way for us to provide recipe and meal recommendations based on products and items on sale at a store near you. Want to make that “World’s Best Lasagna” recipe? Not only will Allrecipes show you how to make it, we can also show you how to save money by shopping at local stores where the ingredients are on sale.

To implement these changes and expand our capabilities, we needed the right partner. After considering a handful of cloud platforms, we chose Microsoft Azure because it enables us to continue evolving the customized content we believe will help home cooks find meal inspiration, cooking tips, and tutorials that make their day a little bit easier.

From a business perspective, Azure allowed us to scale our skillset and capabilities without scaling our staff or investment. For example, on Thanksgiving Day, Allrecipes sees more traffic than many digital food sites see in a month or entire year. We need to be able to support those big cooking moments just as seamlessly as we’re able to handle our day-to-day traffic, and Azure allows us to do that. We’ve been able to improve our own efficiency as well as create new opportunities for our advertising partners that resonate with home cooks.

Check out this short video to learn more about how Allrecipes is leveraging the power of Azure Machine Learning and Cortana to help solve the daily  4:00  p.m. dinner doldrums for our community of 50 million home cooks.

The result is an experience that inspires cooks with confidence, offers guidance, and drives customers to their neighborhood market. Hungry yet? Don’t wait ‘til 4 p.m. to start exploring!

John Keane
Allrecipes CTO