No-risk restaurant dining

Food lovers can discover the best restaurants and dishes with a new user-driven iPhone application that is gradually evolving into a ‘Twitter for foodies’   Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90. Preparing food at a restaurant in Tel Aviv. The problem with …

Food lovers can discover the best restaurants and dishes with a new user-driven iPhone application that is gradually evolving into a ‘Twitter for foodies’

 

Food-preparation

Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.
Preparing food at a restaurant in Tel Aviv.

The problem with eating out is that you never know who you can trust. Who are you going to believe when choosing a restaurant – the newspaper reviewer, who got top service and most likely a free meal? The chef, who is likely to love his own dishes? Or what about advertisements, which are unlikely to quote negative opinions?

If you prefer to rely on the opinions of friends and foodies who have visited the restaurant where you’re planning to dine, sampled the dishes, and posted their honest opinions as to whether a meal is worth the time or money, then an Israeli company has the answer.

Fiddme is a new iPhone application that brings together a network of like-minded food lovers to share their thoughts on restaurants. “Most people aren’t interested in restaurant reviews, which are what you find in newspapers and most of the Internet,” Yossi Taguri, founder of Fiddme, tells ISRAEL21c. “They’re interested in good food.”

With Fiddme, you can do a search for restaurants and check what users who have been there have to say about their experience. You can see what they ordered, how they rate it, and even get tips on special dishes that aren’t on the menu. This allows you to avoid the ‘loser’ dishes and come away from the table satisfied.

Similarly, if you’re out on the town and you’re in the mood for, say, a burger, just search for burgers and you’ll get recommendations of the best places to find one. And for the pièce de résistance, Fiddme lets you take and post photos of what you’ve ordered, using your device’s camera – so you can show the world what you’re describing.

Fiddme-iPhone-App

Designed just for the iPhone now, the company is developing applications for other cell phones.

The world’s best ‘cremshnit’

Options include posting Twitter-style short messages, or simply clicking on a button to rate your meal (from “Awesome” to “Still Hungry”), and your opinion automatically becomes a part of the stream using the keywords you’ve chosen (city name, steak, name of restaurant, etc.). If you come back again and want to order something different, just call up the restaurant’s name and see all the dishes you and others have ordered, rated and photographed.

“In essence, it’s a visual menu, one that leads you to the best meals, wherever you are and whatever your preference,” Taguri explains.

Taguri agrees that it sounds a little like Twitter for foodies. “I got the idea last year, when I went to Paris for the first time, and found the bakery with the world’s best ‘cremshnit’ (also known as a “Napoleon”). I wanted to share my experience with the world – but there was no way. I decided to put my opinion on Twitter, with the hashtag “#fiddme,” and I noticed after a few days that others were doing the same with their dining experiences. It was then that I realized that I had a start-up on my hands,” Taguri recounts, adding that you can also post your Fiddme opinions to other services, like Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare.

The app’s usefulness goes beyond eating out, Taguri claims. Apparently, catering business are being built using Fiddme. “There is a fellow in New York who used Fiddme to ‘advertise’ the cheeses he was making, and they will soon go on sale in Paris, thanks to his posts,” he explains.

Others are using the app to show off their recipes to friends and potential customers, Taguri adds, and Fiddme is planning to host games and contests for users (like awarding points to users who discover the best new dish of the month).

Waiting for the right investor

So far, the Tel-Aviv based company has several thousand users, in Israel and abroad. “They really like it in Italy – we have hundreds of users there, even though we never advertised there and no one here speaks Italian,” Taguri declares. What he’d like to see in terms of numbers is a “critical mass” – users in thousands of cities around the world. “If we could map the popular places in many cities, it would make Fiddme even more useful. That would be a great result for us, as a user-driven information program,” he continues, one that Fiddme hopes to achieve within the next year.

Taguri founded Fiddme along with his three partners – Eran Kampf, Udi Milo and Naor Suki – and so far they have been funding the company mostly themselves. “I recently introduced the app at a high-tech show, and the minute I got off the stage, I got an SMS from someone who wanted to talk investment,” Taguri reveals – but he’d prefer to wait until he finds the “right” investor, “someone who will take our ideas and help them grow properly.” For now, the company’s immediate goal is to expand its user base.

Currently, the Fiddme app is available only for iPhones, but the company is developing a web-based implementation that would be compatible with all cell phones, as well as native Blackberry and Android applications. “We are also planning to open our API to others. We want to concentrate on the user interface, and make it as user-friendly as possible,” says Taguri, mentioning that he and his partners are working on various business models.

“Location-based advertising – where users get an ad based on their phone’s GPS data – has not succeeded like its proponents hoped, so we have to examine how to monetize this application,” he says. One thing he does know is that “for restaurants, getting customers in the door is more than half the battle.” He’s banking on the restaurateurs figuring out that Fiddme can help them fill seats, at which point he’s sure that they’ll be the ones suggesting a business model.

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