Food. We all need it. Most of us love it, and if you are like me, you kind of graze throughout the day; all day… every day. I’m not really a three big meals a day person. I’m more of a six snacks per day person. No matter what your eating habits are, have you ever thought about how you find the food you eat?
Some of us are real do-it-yourself, old school, get your hands dirty in the kitchen cooking champs who love to prepare meals from scratch. Some rely a little too heavily on packaged convenience foods and microwaves, while others are into the whole “meal prep” trend, preparing sensible fuel in bulk and storing it up for the week. And many, particularly those who work in bustling urban areas, lean towards takeout and lunches and dinners out at restaurants. If you are the latter, then the age old question, “What do I want to eat?” has probably plagued you on more days than you can count. Sometimes it goes more like this:
“What do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know. What do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?”
“Mmm, I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?”
Eating a meal when you don’t really know what you want to eat never tastes that good and you rarely enjoy the experience. Now, eating something that you are absolutely craving and enjoying every bite? Now that is a great experience that we can all agree on. So what to do?
For eons, people have been relying on vague recommendations from co-workers, friends, and acquaintances to determine where to find great food. But great food is subjective. For the past fifteen years or so, the search has moved online to Google searches like, “Italian Restaurants in My Area,” “Asian Fusion Bistro,” “Bagel Shop” and so forth. Online menus and Yelp reviews have had to suffice, though the big reveal doesn’t happen until you are sitting in that restaurant and the plate of food is set down in front of you. Or, until the delivery guy drops off your order and you open the bag to see what’s inside. Particularly busy bees might fall into the pizza or Chinese takeout trap. You know the feeling: if you have to have one more “slice” or serving of Chicken and Broccoli you just might hurl. I’ve been there.
Traditional ways of searching for and finding food has excluded an all too important component: the connection between imagery and craving. And don’t we all want to eat what we are actually craving? When it comes to food, let’s face it, we are all visual creatures. Would you rather hear about the best ice cream sundae in the world or see a picture of it? Same goes for a cappuccino, a pasta dish, a hamburger, Thai noodles, colorful salads… you get the point.
In an earlier Huff Post article written by Jenna Amatulli in March 2017, Amatulli states, “An obnoxious 69% of millennials take photos of food before eating.” Though the Generation X and Y set may roll their eyes at this exploding food photography and food sharing trend, millennials are actually tapping into a new form of food marketing and public relations. They are leading the way in how food is shared and consumed. It works on the theory that sharing pictures of food is actually the best way to “sell” what you are eating to others. They know that a picture of food is far more impactful than any written review or menu, and their wish to inspire food envy is actually working to the advantage of restaurants as well as hungry young urbanites.
Just ask twenty-four year old Sydney Epstein, a millennial television editor in New York City who created the FoodFaves app based on this philosophy. Epstein’s frustration at plugging into the best eateries in cities from Los Angeles to her native New York led to the idea for her app. “I was out in LA working on a television set one day when I started to get hungry for lunch. I had no idea what I was craving or where the best eateries in town were.” After trolling tons of Google search menus and Yelp reviews, it hit her. “I realized that pictures of food would really help me pinpoint my craving. If the pics were tagged with the restaurant’s name and location it would lead me right to the restaurant’s front door to make my craving a reality. That’s how people should search for food.”
The FoodFaves app has several methods with which to search for your next meal or snack. Users can take the app’s Crave Quiz which Tinder-izes food pics so you can see different types of food on your phone’s screen and swipe left or right to let the app’s patented algorithm learn your food preferences. It then recommends targeted food pics to you. You can also search the app’s “Feed” by typing in food-related hashtags, following popular food influencers to see what food pics they are posting about, or tap the “Discover” button to see a bunch of food pics close to your geographical location pop up like an endless collage of streaming food porn. Tap the pic you like and see the tagged restaurant’s name, location and amount of miles from where you are.
I checked out FoodFaves’ “Discover” stream earlier this week and saw a pic of the best brownie sundae I’d ever laid my eyes on. One tap on the pic let me know that sundae was at a restaurant just 4.1 miles from my house. I saved the pic to my FF profile for that rainy day when I am in the mood for a good old-fashioned calorie fest. It’s a neat little tool.
What I really like about the FoodFaves app is that it allows anyone to build social equity as a food influencer for nearby restaurants. Joe Millennial goes to a small bistro on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He snaps a pic of his entrée before digging in and posts it to his FoodFaves profile, tagging the restaurant’s name and location automatically. Joe’s friends see what he is eating and they think it looks delicious. They tap on the pic and it directs them to where Joe is enjoying his amazing meal.
Restaurant owners listen up: next time you see one of those annoying 69% of millennial food pic posters snapping away on their phones inside your eatery, they could be directing more guests right to your front door.