8.5.2015: Recommendations / New apps


Return to Real-Time

The Infatuation, a.k.a. “restaurant reviews for the people,”  is staffing up its TextRex recommendation service. Their site lists openings for freelance “Recommenders” in New York, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. The service is basically the opposite of what you’d expect from a newly-launched app or service in that there’s an actual human on the other end of the conversation, not an algorithm or database or any other tech-y solution. Ask a question, get an answer. If you don’t like the recommendation, they’ll send another one. And based on the merits by which they review restaurants across the country, recommendations are good. Which goes to show that sometimes, humans do offer the best service. Remains to be seen how this will scale, but as long as they’re able to attract contributors with good taste who can stick to the unique voice The Infatuation has managed to perfect, expect good things.

illustration by April V. Walters


No One Likes Using iPads in to Order in Restaurants

Surprise! A report out of the UK (sponsored by an Italian pasta sauce company?) found that, while novel, 37 percent of us don’t want to deal with screens while dining out. (Also of note: about half of us really don’t care.) This isn’t super surprising on its own, but apparently those pesky millennials don’t like it either, which is counted as a surprising finding, i.e., “Whoa, a digital native doesn’t want to order her food from a computer? Craaaazy.”

And, yes, as Munchies reports, “ waitress who has actually tried the day’s specials and knows if there’s fish sauce in the green curry is a damn sight more helpful than an iPad cable-tied to the wall.” Agreed. Can we move on now?



Coming Soon: a “Taste Profiling App”

Restaurant recommendations are one thing, but data-driven stats are another completely. Coming soon: an app that knows your food taste and recommends restaurants and dishes accordingly. Called Tasty, the app uses data about a user’s likes, dislikes, and other preferences to make its recommendations. The user does have to input his or her own data, though (this is in the form of a quiz, which is a bit more fun than just selecting preferences from a list, but still takes time and energy.)

If it works, though, the data they capture will be of great value to restaurants who can drill down by age, gender, or other factors to understand preferences and spending habits. App creators are also working closely with restaurants — first in Austin where it plans to launch, and presumably more soon. With this sort of focus, they’re able to profile restaurants, dishes, and ingredients with exacting proficiency; remains to be seen how a service based on this level of detail can scale. What it will require is a whole lot of trust in users who report ingredients and flavor profiles of restaurant dishes (I don’t know if I could give up that kind of control.)



The Latest App: Pay to Cut the Line (sigh.)

I hesitate to even give this publicity, because: ridiculous, but for posterity: there’s a new app that lets customers who pay money move ahead on a restaurant’s waiting list (thereby moving those who don’t pay farther down the list.) It also takes care of the payment for you without having to ask for the check, but at this point what restaurant app doesn’t do that?

The app, called Requested, takes seven percent of the transaction as a fee of its own. While I can see why a family with hungry kids and limited patience would want to use something like this, it just feels… gross. And unfair somehow.



Bon Appetit Announces its 50 Nominees for Best New Restaurants

To be fair, this isn’t really groundbreaking nor particularly interesting, but it’s pretty and I like it. Bon Appetitannounced its 50 nominees for best new restaurants in the country, and included a fun interactive map plotting them across the US. They also included some weird Google Play integration offering playlist suggestions to those wanting to “get in the mood for X restaurant,” which is a little quirky I guess, but mostly kind of weird and I wonder if anyone will actually use it? Regardless, worth a look at the list; it’s one of my favorite rankings of the year.



Should We Split the Check?

Etiquette columnists and probably more than a few trend writers have written about restaurant check-splitting ad nauseum and a proliferation of payment apps aims to make this experience “seamless,” but does it actually make sense to split the check? Such was a question posed to my favorite statistics/common sense siteFiveThirtyEight.

The answer: it’s complicated. They cite a study conducted about 10 years ago that showed people do order slightly more expensive meals when they know the check will be an even split. (This could totally just be peer pressure. If one person gets the salad, everyone wants the salad. Same with dessert.) The piece also talks about externalities, which is a fascinating concept to my econ-loving brain. It concludes with a sort-of solution: if you’re worried about social norms involved with check-splitting and group dining, head for a place that automatically offers separate checks. Otherwise… TTFU.



  • Consistently awesome food site Serious Eats has a new look — SeriousEats
  • Why transparency should matter to food and beverage companies — Forbes
  • Delivery service Good Eggs is downsizing significantly — SF Eater
  • Why millennials are the most food-obsessed generation in history (there’s a book.) — Civil Eats
  • Chef Jonathon Sawyer on raising money for a restaurant on Kickstarter — GrubStreet

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