Ever spent 45 minutes deciding which restaurant to choose before the hangry mist descends and you lose your appetite completely? Oh, just me then.
It can be a difficult process trying to find the right place to eat, particularly in a city you’ve never visited before. But no matter, as there’s no an app to solve those mealtime woes: Eaten.
Instead of relying on reviews of a restaurant, Eaten relies on reviews of one thing, just the food or, more specifically, one dish. So, when you’re looking for the best spaghetti carbonara dish in central London, or a juicy burger in the east, you can find it through a simple search on the app.
Tim Lui first had the idea for Eaten after ending up in Lille on a road trip and wanted to find some ice cream. “We stood on a corner of the street in Lille searching for ice cream places on Google, TripAdvisor, blogs, for about half an hour,” he tells the Standard. “After about half an hour, we finally settled on a place nearby.”
Luckily, the chosen place had Lui’s favourite, raspberry sorbet, so he was happy with the choice. But afterwards, he felt that it shouldn’t need to take so long to find a specific dish that you really want to eat.
Back in London, he began hashing out the idea when he bumped into co-founder Jehoo Park in the co-working space they were both working in. They discussed Lui’s idea and decided they had to put it into practice.
“I have a background in finance and private equity, but had a lot of experience with food-related businesses,” says Park. “Tim and I got talking, and boom, that was it.”
How Eaten works
To develop Eaten, Lui and Park went through all the problems with current review platforms, namely that they review the restaurant and the atmosphere, marking it out of fives stars, rather than just a specific dish. The app was built in order to take care of this one need: to find a place with the best raspberry sorbet near you, the best doughnuts, or the best piece of pizza.
When users review a dish, they drag and drop descriptions of the dish and rate it, so it becomes part of a list. If you have spaghetti carbonara in one restaurant and believe it was the best one you’ve ever tried, you can make that clear in the review. If you have the same dish somewhere else and it was even better, you can change your original review and change the ranking.
“By removing that five-star rating system from the platform, we made it [about] comparing, which is something all people do on a daily basis,” says Park.
There's also a wishlist column to collect all the dishes you're hoping to eat
As you can imagine, the app has already picked up traction, with people attempting to eat one particular dish in every restaurant in their city, in order to find the best one. The team are creating the Eaten Golden Dishes Awards, pulling in the data from the 25 most popular dishes around London to find the best one in each category.
“People are so excited about this,” adds Park.
How to stop fake reviews on Eaten
As with any online-based review system, there’s always the fear of fake reviews. However, Lui says that Eaten’s algorithm has been designed to mitigate this issue.
“If you sign up to the app and add one review, it won’t hold much weight with the trust algorithm, it won’t have a great overall effect on the dish’s score,” he explains. “Whereas the ‘experts’ [who post a lot of reviews] build up trust with our system and are going to influence that score a lot more.”
It’s impossible to fully prevent against fake reviews on any platform, but Lui says this trust algorithm helps to mitigate against it. For the any other issues, there’s always old-fashioned moderation to fall back on.
Whilst using an app to find the best dish possible around you is handy, there is an issue that this could remove the spontaneity of people chancing upon a really special place because, instead, they have their head buried in their smartphone.
Lui and Park aren’t too worried about this. They say Eaten is already serving up ‘hidden gems’. “We have users who say, 'oh my gosh I never would have known that place existed but my life would not be complete without going there.' [Eaten] is building that community,” says Park.
“The good thing about Eaten is that it shows everything around you and that there’s something amazing there, often in a place you didn’t really expect,” adds Lui.