Featuring Food Tech Startups: Nibbly and KickDish
The foodservice industry is in a constant state of change. Whether it is through finding modern ways to perfect traditional methods, or through creating an entirely new culinary concept, food and the way America eats it are revolutionizing day by day.
Unsurprisingly, technology plays a huge role in the transformation of the restaurant and hospitality business. Registers have been replaced by iPad screens, buzzers have replaced the need for hosts to inform guests about table availabilities, and online delivery and reservation services have replaced stilted telephone conversations.
At Foodable, we enjoy hearing about unexpected trends or upcoming tech that will further the industry. We get excited when we discover creative and clever minds that shape the business with their genius.
Cue these two mobile apps that have quietly entered the playing field, but their impressions on their users and the foodservice industry have been making a lot of noise. These nifty newcomers have the great potential to surge with popularity across the consumer audience, and likewise, have the greater potential to affect chefs and operators.
Will these food tech startups be the next big thing? Check out these two concepts cooking up in the restaurant and hospitality business.
Nibbly - “The Fun Way to Find Restaurants Near You”
You’ve seen it before -- when different friends with different tastes come together, deciding on where to eat comes with a few gripes, but now the answer to this painstaking process can come as easily as a few swipes.
Welcome Nibbly, the app likened by some as the Tinder for restaurants. People and restaurants that cater to their tastes are perfectly paired like wine and cheese. At its most basic function, users who are trying to find a bite to eat are shown a number of local restaurants through a series of flashcards. Users swipe right on their mobile device if they like what they’re seeing and swipe left to pass. With each swipe, the app fine-tunes to the user’s individual preferences and begins showing restaurants to reflect that. The data is pulled internationally from Foursquare.
These cards have a photo of the establishment, its location on the map with the option for directions, the ability to view the menu and read reviews, as well as the choice to call or reserve seats through the app’s seamless integration with OpenTable.
What sets it apart from other directories such as Yelp is that while they are just as in-depth and useful, Nibbly truly gives the user a fun, visual experience. Instead of scouring through lists, having to type in searches and going back-and-forth to click-and-compare, Nibbly is proficient, painless, and, above all, personalized.
“The beauty of Nibbly is with the way we’re doing our cluster analysis -- I won’t bore you with that side of things,” Andre Borczuk, who co-founded Nibbly with Andrew Hitti, said jokingly. “We can get you to your taste profile in about six to ten swipes, let’s say. As you’re searching for food, we can just kind of figure out things about you based on how you’re swiping, how it’s similar to other people’s swipes and what that means. We curate a taste profile for you so you can find food you love no matter where you are in the world. You can find food and -- not just. Like cry.”
As part of its features, Nibbly saves the cards users have swiped right for into a deck. That deck can be shared with others, regardless if they have downloaded the app or not. From there, friends and families can see if they have matching interests and can choose where to grab some grub. But the deck sharing also has another purpose.
“What we want to do is encourage this community of chefs, restaurateurs and expert foodies to share the knowledge that they have in this kind of non-threatening format. Swipe through just to see what’s happening, what the Gordon Ramsays of the world are saying,” said Borczuk.
Since its public release in December, Nibbly’s download count has hit the thousands and at one point was the second most upvoted app on Product Hunt, a website where dedicated tech-enthusiasts discuss the latest projects and creations.
In the restaurant and hospitality industry, the term “millennial” has been the buzzword. In order to survive, businesses must learn how to advance their technology and adapt to the millennial consumers who, now at the age of stabilizing their careers and starting new families, are becoming the defining generation.
Nibbly’s creators know that the best. As two, witty twenty-somethings and best friends who met 10 years ago on their high school tennis team, and who had the dream of starting a business together one day, they are true millennials catering to the millennials.
(No, really. At Pitch-Off: Boston 2015 hosted by TechCrunch, which Borczuk described as an event where innovators had 60 seconds to pitch their work to a blank-faced, “pretty dead” crowd of 1,000 people “watching us nervously shake around on stage,” he rapped Nibbly’s pitch and won third place with lyrics such as “You want your food now and the rest is irrelevant. You’re seeing restaurants that you’d never pick, and you’re sick of it, well, Nibbly is the medicine!” Who does that? Millennials do. Here’s a video of the rap that MasterCard recorded for a later event.)
But Nibbly doesn’t just cater to consumers. Restaurant owners can nibble on a piece of this pie, too.
“We’re working to partner with restaurants -- and I’d love to talk to whichever restaurant would read this and message me,” said Borczuk. “Let’s say it’s midday and your restaurant is kind of slow, and you want to keep everything fresh, everything moving. You’d be able to send deals and daily specials to people who liked your restaurant in the app and people nearby...that way you can greatly ensure your restaurants will be full.”
Aside from easy as 1-2-3 marketing, Nibbly has another use operators can sink their teeth into. The app itself is very data-driven. Borczuk and Hitti would be able to help restaurants discover which lead photo for the restaurant gets the best swipe rate in the app, and they could even show operators the radius of people who will make a trek to the store, which would be useful if industry experts are prospecting a new area.
Borczuk and Hitti aim to make the food-finding process as easy as possible, and continue to take feedback and improve the app based on foodie and user suggestions. The duo has been more focused on product development and retention, but is ready to switch over to growth. If this app continues its steady path, it will become the new, fun way for consumers to find restaurants and the new, fun way restaurants can connect to consumers.
And so, parting words from Borczuk’s infamous rap: “So next time you’re hungry, seize the day! Go download Nibbly -- eat and play!”
KickDish - “The Savings-Savvy Meal Planner”
Sometimes the hardest part about cooking is the planning that goes beforehand. Identifying recipes that will suit everyone’s tastes and health needs, heading out to hunt for the ingredients at the grocery store, and then actually pulling out the pots and pans to whip together a little magic is a process that takes hours, but with KickDish, mobile app users can plan meals in minutes.
KickDish, based in Switzerland, is the first meal and grocery planner that price compares across online supermarkets. And breaking news: it just launched in the United States today for all platforms.
In the short time it has been publicly released, KickDish has already made a name for itself. Earlier in March, it was chosen as a finalist out of 550 apps in a mobile startup competition hosted by the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association.
As consumers become more educated on food, they turn to healthy eating, but that lifestyle can be challenge to achieve when there is an abundance of options and a shortage of guidance. KickDish narrows down the chaos of confusing choices and tailors them to the dietary preferences of users and their families.
“It has always intrigued me why some people are able to change their lifestyle, their eating habits and why others don’t succeed in that,” KickDish founder, said Alex Greve. “Why isn’t there a tool to lead you through the whole process, to take you by the hand?”
Greve, inspired by these question, and inspired by his own intolerance (a whopping 31 of them), sought out to find an answer. Better yet, he developed it over a course of five-and-a-half years.
“I thought to myself I want to make it as easy as possible. Whatever you choose to eat, whether you want to eat paleo, whether you want to eat vegetarian or vegan, or lactose-free or gluten-free, it doesn’t matter to me. I will facilitate you and make it as practical as possible,” Greve said.
Users first begin by listing their allergies, intolerances, likes and dislikes. Based on that information, the app generates recipes, which come from a bank of recipes that is continually updated to keep things interesting. Users have complete control of their nutrition plan and can adjust their personal shopping lists depending on the number of people who will be gathered around the table. Once the grocery basket has been defined, the app price compares different online supermarkets, which were selected amongst the biggest online grocers in the United States. This regular price comparison is useful because one week a grocery store might be more expensive than one in the next week.
Another special feature of the app? The shopping list is completely collaborative.
“My app is connected to the app on my wife’s device, so as soon as she drops something into the grocery list, like, I don’t know, we’re out of olive oil, I get a push notification immediately, and then I know, oh, we should get olive oil,” Greve said with a laugh. “That’s how she gets me to do stuff in the house.”
Greve’s main goal is to make dining-in as convenient and affordable as dining-out. Will an app like KickDish be a threat to the restaurant chefs and operators in the industry?
“It will not beat the the take-out market, but the balance will shift, I think,” he said.
KickDish is all about data. That being said, the KickDish team can disclose requested information to those chefs and operators in order to help them improve their service. However, there is another way KickDish can impact the food and hospitality business.
“KickDish provides someone a personal passport of safe recipes. To give you an example, now sometimes people come into restaurants with cards. ‘I can’t have this, I can’t have that,’” said Greve. “But wouldn’t it be great that when you reserve with a restaurant, you can share your food passport, so to speak, so that they can take that into account from an earlier stage? You know, that’s where we’re going. Personal data is becoming more and more digitized. Restaurants should embrace that and be able to respond to particular customer needs.”