Meet Jonathan Shapiro, Founder of the recently launched Grubster, a new iPhone application and website that allows you to search for recommendations on specific dishes at a restaurant, currently available in New York and Austin. Like Eastdrink.it and Dinevore, Grubster wants to help you socialize, simplify, and optimize your dish choices at a restaurant. Shapiro recently told me he hopes to build the “Pandora of Social Restaurant Recommendations.”
We are thrilled to have Shapiro showcasing Grubster in the upcoming IdeaCOMM, the interactive farm-to-table lunch we are hosting at SXSW. Attendees will be using Grubster to rate dishes prepared by an all-star group of guests chefs, in real-time. We look forward to seeing how attendees use the ratings and comments to enhance their dining experience.
Jonathan Shapiro: There are two parts to my inspiration. The first is my giant passion for food. Whether its cooking for friends/family, watching it on tv, or discovering new places to find the best of the best, food is my life. Part two started one day about 2 years ago when I was at Philipe in NYC, and there is a chicken satay appetizer on their menu. One would think to themselves, chicken satay, no big deal, but just below the name, in red writing it said “The Chicken Satays are Amazing”, NY Newsday, Jan. 2006. Naturally I ordered it, and the recommendation was spot on. Right then and there it clicked. Why can’t these dish level recommendations exist for all menus but in a digital format? There are some great apps/websites out there that will give you recommendations on where to eat, but they have a tough time giving you the goods on the food, which is where Grubster comes in.
DG: What brings you to SXSW?
JS: I like to call SXSWi the “Spring Break for Tech Geeks.” Austin is an amazing town with a great startup community and great food. SXSWi brings together high energy, mixed with passionate people and innovative thinking. As an entrepreneur, if you don’t get excited about that, then I don’t know what will. Plus did I mention the great food?
DG: How are you using information technology to innovate the way we consume and interact with food?
JS: Information technology is important to Grubster. Whether it’s viewing recommendations from your Facebook friends or viewing in real-time what spots and dishes are trending at food events, information technology is key to providing an enhanced and efficient way to experience food around you.
DG: Could you describe Grubster’s features?
JS: Features include:
– Rate, post photos, and comment on individual menu items
– Short and sweet commenting, so you can avoid reading through paragraphs of reviews
– View comments/ratings from your Facebook friends, for some added credibility
– Add menu items to “MY FAVEz” to remember for next time
– Share your dining experiences with Facebook friends and Twitter followers
– Those without an iPhone can still access the website from their internet-enabled phone, and it will have a similar experience as the app
There are quite a few additional features that will launch in the next couple months as well, which will enhance the user-experience even further. Charlie Sheen would probably call them, “Epic features”.
DG: Who is your target market?
JS: Grubster was built in a way to attract all restaurant-goers, from the hardcore foodie, to the mom figuring out what to order for her children.
DG: What’s your business model?
JS: From a high level, the business model is very focused. In addition to the restaurant-goers, Grubster was built and will continue to be optimized to provide value to two other groups: restaurant owners and brand marketers. I call it the trifecta. Every move that’s made is done in a way that will provide value to at least one of these groups, the more overlapping the better, and will eventually lead to revenue opportunities.
DG: Why are you participating in IdeaCOMM?
JS: IdeaCOMM is going to be an amazing event for all participants. Forward thinkers. New friends. Passion for food. Enhancing the farm to table experience through technology.