There are some smart ideas happening with these startups but they and others looking to enter dining must remember that hospitality and personality, even more so than personalization, can never be abandoned.
Choosing which restaurant to dine at each evening during a trip can be both a joy and struggle for travelers the world over. Travelers want to make dinner reservations on their smartphones, pay with their smartphones and leave a review of their meal with the same device. Many restaurants continue using antiquated technology that doesn’t allow for one or any of these steps to happen, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for startups to do some heavy lifting so that the technology is offloaded to their end.
These five startups imagine a future where a waiter is removed from a meal, where menus become more helpful, where travelers quickly receive tailored recommendations of where to eat and when texting or messaging a dining reservation is the norm more so than calling or even using an app to do so.
>>Fly Concierge is an on-demand text message based concierge service for restaurant and bar recommendations and reservations. Offered on a $5 monthly subscription basis or $3 weekly enrollment, the startup has so far launched in New York City and also runs a weekly email newsletter for subscribers.
SkiftTake: Messaging is already the principal form of communication in many parts of the developing world and growing in the U.S., making Fly Concierge’s expansion prospects brighter as they can meet travelers as they perform a natural function already very much a part of their lives.
>>RSVP creates lists of pop-up restaurants and events in cities around the world.
SkiftTake: Pop-ups are popular in many large, cosmopolitan cities and it’s time there was a common sense way to know about them so that travelers and locals can indulge in their culinary delights.
>>QuickEats is a mobile app for iPhone that allows diners to browse the menu and order from their phone without the assistance of a waiter.
SkiftTake: Without a waiter, where is the hospitality? This could work well in some restaurant environments, but likely a non-starter in many establishments where travelers seek conversations with wait staff and want to know more about the food they’re eating.
>>bitemonk helps travelers with dietary restrictions (food allergies, vegan and vegetarian) discover compatible dishes wherever they are.
SkiftTake: Especially when traveling internationally where menus in foreign languages make it difficult to for travelers with dietary restrictions to feel comfortable, it’s high time for an idea like this to get integrated into every restaurant, though bitemonk has its work cut out.
>>Kraver provides travelers with a curated list of restaurant recommendations based on questions and filters they answer through a mobile app.
SkiftTake: At least when we tried the demo on the Kraver’s desktop landing page, the list of results aren’t totally “personalized.” You get a list of about five restaurants that, while they probably all align with at least some kind of food or taste you’re looking for, doesn’t necessarily tell you exactly which restaurant to go to. Travelers still must decide from a list which one is their final choice, when Kraver’s purpose is to eliminate that last step.
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