ChefVille combines restaurant management sims with real world food

Zynga’s getting ready to serve up ChefVille on Facebook. The game was recently revealed at this summer’s Zynga Unleashed event, and is designed to appeal to established Zynga fans and hopefully bring in foodies as new players. We recently sat down with studio GM Jonathan Knight for a hands-off preview of the game.

ChefVille is a restaurant management sim where players are tasked with building up a building up a small eatery into an establishment of epic proportions. Players can turn customize their restaurants to specific themes — we saw examples of 50s diner, Italian and Asian themes — or mix and match the types of food they serve. Like so many other “Ville” games, ChefVille takes place on a map broken up into a grid that’s off limits until unlock new areas by meeting milestones or spending hard currency.

Players cook specific dishes using different appliances. Examples of these appliances include brick ovens that can cook pasta and pizza, a grill for barbecue and a wok cooker for various Asian meals. In order to cook these edible goodies, players have to combine ingredients and then let them cook for a certain amount of time, then served to guests at the restaurant. The ingredients have to be crafted from raw materials that are acquired by visiting spots around the map — like a pond that generates seafood or a food truck with fresh produce — or visiting friends’ eateries and ordering food (which then provides the materials).

After cooking food, players serve the meals to their customers in order to increase their business’s recommendations. If a player’s not logged into the game, the wait staff will take care of serving guests; though in-game rewards are greater when players serve the food. Extra rewards can be earned by providing “V.I.P. Service” to certain customers, which is accomplished by delivering goodies like roses to a table or hiring a musician to play a violin solo.

The game’s social mechanics seem a bit more limited than in Zynga’s other Ville titles. At the moment, players can visit friends’ restaurants to eat at, but there’s not yet an option to hire friends as restaurant staff. When asked about that, Knight tells us the development team is working on a hiring element, but it won’t be available at the time of launch.

The cooking element in the gameplay also comes with a real-world bonus: actual food recipes. Each time a player cooks and serves a meal, experience points are earned towards mastering that specific dish. There are three “mastery stars”, and reaching the second star on certain foods will cause a real recipe  (from Zynga’s own executive chef) to be unlocked and emailed to the user. At the time of launch, the game will have over 50 different recipes to unlock, and Knight tells us there are plans for users to submit recipes of their own in the near future.

The last restaurant sim put out by Zynga was Café World, which is still the top game in the restaurant genre on Facebook with 600,000 DAU and 2.7 million MAU. As a result, it’s likely ChefVille will quickly rise to the top of the list, based on how much traffic The Ville gained when Zynga turned cross-promotion on. When asked about how ChefVille will differ from Café World, Knight tells us the key differences include being able to interact with the environment outside the restaurant, as well as the recipe sharing mechanics.

ChefVille is scheduled to launch sometime this week on Facebook and on Zynga.com shortly afterwards.