Unless visiting the trustworthy local Thai restaurant that’s been your go-to for years, the odds are that when looking for a tasty meal you’ll resort to technology to tell you where is best to eat and how to get there because, let’s face it – your phone has a better chance of figuring out your cravings than you do.
Restaurant discovery apps such as Yelp fill our location-based food searching needs while out and about, while platforms like OpenTable help us book a table before it’s snatched away by hungry competition.
Also looking to carve its way into the foodtech space is Feedmee, a social enterprise restaurant discovery and booking platform which donates a portion of each booking referral fee to charity.
Looking to feed communities in need using an ‘eat out, give back’ model, each donation goes directly to OzHarvest to pay for a meal of a disadvantaged person, with the startup stating it has covered the cost of roughly 1879 meals since its entrance into market six months back.
For Feedmee’s founder, Tyler Spooner, developing the app meant giving back to the charities which helped support him while growing up, his aim to help others now facing similarly difficult conditions.
“I became an orphan at the age of 10 and grew up in foster homes. In my early years I spent some time on the streets and relied heavily on charities for food and support. Coming from this background, I’ve always wanted to help people that are in the hard situation I faced growing up,” he said.
This led to the idea for Feedmee, which Spooner describes as a “plate for plate movement like Zambrero, but not for just one restaurant but the whole world”.
Spooner began development of the app last year, making his way into the Plus Eight accelerator in Perth earlier this year. With $40,000 in seed funding from the accelerator, he said he took his time to create a discovery system that would help “maximise customer conversions” and differentiate Feedmee from its competitors.
To match its users to restaurants related to their food interests, the Feedmee app uses an artificial intelligence algorithm named ‘Olly’, which takes an individual’s “taste preferences” into account to narrow down the search, according to Feedme’s founder, Tyler Spooner.
“Olly’s ‘brain’ is powered by…clustering algorithms that match individual users [based on] socioeconomic data, geospatial information and behavioural patterns to optimise which dishes are presented to the users,” explained Spooner.
In layman’s terms, once logged in through either email or social media, a hungry user is presented with a single “meal” from a restaurant on the app interface, showing a picture of the meal, its price tag, and the restaurant’s name and location. Embracing the mechanics of dating apps like Tinder, if a user likes what they see, they swipe right to ‘favourite’ a meal or left to ‘reject’ it.
Tapping on a meal will bring up more a detailed profile page about the restaurant, including reviews, opening times, location, menu, and a link to call the restaurant to book a table or reserve a space online. The interface also offers a direct link to Uber, to help find a driver to take the customer to the restaurant.
Once a user swipes through a handful of meals, Olly can then begin to recommend restaurant choices that a user is more likely to enjoy. The AI, according to Spooner, also takes into account the price range the user prefers, as well as where they tend to eat by tracking their selection through Feedmee.
According to Spooner, using AI offers a more automated and accurate discovery method alternate to the popular manual search and category preferences traditionally used by food discovery apps in the market. A user, however, can manually narrow their search based on dietary requirements, search distance, and price range.
“Olly can generate deep insights into the trends underpinning what customers want to eat, when they want to eat it, where they’re eating, and their dining budget. Using this information, Feedmee can help restaurants and cafes to focus their offerings at the right customers, at the right time and at the right price,” he said.
If a restaurant offers delivery, a customer is able to also order a meal through the app and organise for delivery. Either way, the restaurant will be charged a referral fee for successful conversions through the app, which is then split between the startup and the donation for OzHarvest.
Aside for harnessing Olly’s data, the benefit for a restaurant on the platform, according to Spooner, is being able to give back to the community in a direct and simplistic way.
“We’ve spoken to around 50 restaurants in Melbourne that like what we are doing, and would work with us as a way to give back to the community,” he said.
Currently, Feedmee is connected to roughly 250 restaurants across Perth and Melbourne, with Spooner looking to raise $500,000 in the coming six months months to expand across the rest of Australia and into the US.
Image: Feedmee Team – Tyler Spooner (left). Source: Supplied.