It’s safe to say I’m a foodie. When I’m not trying a new restaurant, I’m drooling over online menus of restaurants I wish I could go to. We can’t have too much of a good thing, but at the rate new restaurants are opening in Austin, it’s challenging for this humble foodie to keep up!
Thankfully, an inspiring group of young engineers has created an app called Tasty. It puts my foodie problems to rest and has the potential to change the way we all experience dining in Austin.
New Way of Understanding Taste
As coworkers and housemates, Mokshika Sharma, Federico Galarraga and Dimitar Dimitrov spend a great deal of time together. They have two things in common: passion for food and interest in technology.
“We are all from cultures immersed in food,” notes Sharma. “I’m Indian, Fede is Spanish and Dimitar is Bulgarian.” Their culinary upbringing, coupled with their ever-analytic engineering minds, inspired them to delve deeper into the flavors they grew up with and are still discovering.
“We wanted to quantify the taste of a dish. Why is it that something tastes good to one person, but not to someone else?” Sharma continued. They decided the collective experiences people have in life affect how they eat and interact with food. When it comes to trying new dishes, the best experiences diners have typically involve servers who take time to get to know them and their personal preferences, dislikes and dietary restrictions. Since not all restaurants can provide this level of personal interaction, the Tasty app was born.
Sharma describes the Tasty app as “Netflix for food.” Tasty gets to know your food preferences before recommending specific dishes at local restaurants. As you rate dishes you’ve tried, the app begins to understand your personal taste profile and offers more recommendations, similar to Netflix. Only this isn’t just an experience for your eyes–your taste buds get to come along for the ride.
During a test drive of Tasty, bright colors lit up my phone screen, with photos of delicious-looking food from the consumer’s perspective. Like a patient best friend, the first screen asked what types of food categories I like. I could choose as many as I wanted, but my virtual friend urged me to pick at least three. Options ran the gamut: healthy, vegan, BBQ, avocado, cheese, seafood, Asian…and the list went on.
Next, I was given the option of choosing tastes I absolutely do not like. I’m pretty open to trying anything, but thankfully Tasty realizes we all have our picky moments. Can’t deal with a flaming tongue and sweat dripping down your face? Click on the spicy button and Tasty will sweep those options under the rug.
After reviewing dislikes, a thoughtful screen asked me about dietary restrictions. Tasty will not tease you for going gluten free or vegan, like your horrified friends might.
In no time at all, I was presented with a screen of different meal categories. So far, Tasty covers small dishes, entrees, appetizers, hangover cures and date night options, with more to come.
After choosing my category, photos of different dishes popped up. With each click, I was awestruck by the thought and detail put into the app. I was informed that the quinoa and avocado salad I had chosen matched my taste preferences by 60%. Tasty explained why I would like this dish, with a colorful pie chart mapping out the flavor profile. Most importantly, it told me which restaurant I had to visit to sink my fork into it!
The Big Picture
According to Sharma, we eat an average of 15,000 meals a year. If we’re going to eat out for a percentage of those meals, why not make the time and money worth it?
The problem many people face when stretching their wings to try new restaurants is that they order a dish off the menu that isn’t right for them. Not only is this disappointing for the consumer, it’s also bad news for the restaurant.
The Tasty team wants to bridge the gap between eaters (consumers) and feeders (restaurants). It turns out that many restauranteurs are hesitant when it comes to technology, especially apps. Unsurprisingly, Yelp can be the bane of a chef’s existence. Sharma explained, “Restaurants are great at creating beautiful dishes and churning them out with consistency in mass quantity. If for some reason an eater has a bad experience at a restaurant and they review it on Yelp, other consumers will base their decision to try it on this singular experience.” With Tasty, consumers come armed with personalized recommendations, and chefs can rest assured that their work will be valued.
When the team decided they wanted to create Tasty, they reached out to restaurant owners in the most personal way they knew how–through food. Federico spent three days making Spanish almond cakes using a secret family recipe. These cakes, decked out with the Tasty logo, made their way to 100 local restaurants and food trucks. That’s true grassroots networking, if you ask me. Soon enough, chefs understood the Tasty mission and felt comfortable partnering with the talented threesome.
Changing Perspectives, One Bite at a Time
If you’re not a daring foodie, or maybe not a foodie at all, don’t shy away. This app could still be for you.
Are you a meat and potatoes kind of person, who sticks with what you know? Tasty will not recommend escargot covered in caviar. Like a parent teaching a child to ride a bike, Tasty will be there each step of the way.
Sharma offered an example: “If someone only likes burgers, their first recommendation through the app will be a burger. Maybe that burger will have spinach on it, so the next dish the app might recommend will be a burger that is similar, but with kale instead of spinach. Slowly but surely, Tasty will help you develop your tastes and try new things.
As a foodie, a member of the food service world and an advocate for startups and creative minds, I’m excited to see where this app will go. If you’re interested in taking Tasty for a spin, visit the website or visit your phone’s app store to download it.
Tasty currently has 350 dishes profiled. That’s nearly a year’s worth of meals waiting to be matched to you.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What Austin dish should the Tasty Team profile next?