It may seem counterintuative, but when you live in a big city, finding a good place to eat can be very difficult. That's not because there aren't places to go. In fact, it's exactly the opposite: because there are actually too many places to try, and it's hard to know which one is the best. The experience can be overwhelming.
That's the problem that Wine n Dine is solving. It's a food-centric social discovery app that algorithmically surfaces the best restaurants and dishes internationally.
On Wednesday, the company came out of beta, announcing the official launch of its free iOS app, along with a $2.5 million seed round led by Jordache Ventures, The Chetrit Group and Carmelo Anthony’s Melo7 Tech Partners.
Founded in 2015, the New York City-based Wine n Dine features user generated images of food, which are shared to the platform. Through a combination of image feeds and algorithms, users can discover relevant restaurants and dishes in cities around the world. Users are able to comment, connect with new friends and share restaurant and dish recommendations.
Other features include Wanna Try, a button to save dishes and restaurants, which are stored within a user's feed to reference, so the app can send push notifications to remind the user of what to order. There's also an Explore feature, which has algorithmically generated lists of the best restaurants in real time, as well as featured user generated lists and a nearby mapping feature.
"People constantly struggle to find the next restaurant and the discovery market is saturated. Wine 'n Dine cuts through the clutter and takes a very focused approach -- it's all about the food. Our platform is totally image driven and our users love discovering not based off reviews they're reading, but images of delicious food others are sharing we eat with our eyes!" Josh Stern, Co-founder of Wine n Dine, told me.
"Our platform is completely positive, which massively cuts down the white noise. It's all about what to eat, not what to avoid. It's a community of people saying "you need to try this now." We take the discovery one step further and help our users discover not only great restaurants, but great dishes to order, killing two birds with one stone."
While the company has, until now, been in beta, users have generated recommendations at over 70,000 restaurants in 6,000 cities around the world.
"Our growth has been completely word of mouth to date and our users love to share the app with friends. We've built sharing tools that echo what happens in the real world. People see a dish, or restaurant they want to try and they share it directly out of the app to friends via message, or social channels," said Stern.
Unlike the company's competitors, which include such heavyweight as Yelp, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor, what differentiates Wine n Dine is the highly specific nature of its dish content and data.
"We're all about the dish and food. In our popular cities like New York, we consistently outpace photos at restaurants versus Yelp, Foursquare and Trip Advisor, despite having only a fraction of their total users. We're very excited by these early findings. We're also a very positive platform, so the lack of negativity is something we're very focused on nurturing," Stern said.
So far the company as been focused on two things: building its team and product, and the company will use the funding to keep investing in those two areas, in order to build out better personalization for its users.
"We're now 11 strong, pulling intelligent and hardworking folks from places like Microsoft, Square, Groupon and Ogilvy. We're super data and engineering focused since we're the only player in the space gathering very specific dish data and plan to continue focusing on the product and team. We feel the problem we're solving is one felt by millions and a great product will grow itself, as it has early on," said Stern.