The average consumer nowadays will probably use multiple different apps to figure out where to eat on any given night: discovery, recommendations, booking a reservation or ordering food for delivery. As the folks at Hypepotamus recently noted, a new company, MealMe, wants to simplify the food lover’s food journey by bringing its many pieces into one single app.
Matthew Bouchner and Will Said, both students at Emory University, created the MealMe app as a kind of Instagram-like social network for food that also integrates table booking and ordering capabilities. The idea is to offer a one-stop-shop for all your food needs by aggregating the many disparate parts of the food journey into a single interface.
When a user opens the MealMe app, they see an AI-powered feed that combines Yelp’s data (location, cost, etc.) with user-generated data such as comments and likes, and pulls the most relevant results to that user. So if you live in Indianapolis and tend to order a lot of Thai food, the app will pull up restaurant results relevant to that criteria. The app also pulls in Yelp’s mapping feature, so you can see where your restaurant of choice is and your distance from it.
Users can also snap photos of their meals and share them, much like they do on Instagram, and restaurants can do the same to promote specific items. When a user clicks on a photo, they are given the option to access services like Opentable or Postmates, to book a reservation or order delivery.
The visual aspect of this food journey is especially important to the MealMe folks. Research has shown that the visual cortex of the brain plays a much more significant role in decision making than was previously thought, and can impact whether or not we choose an item from a menu. So in addition to making the logistical side of “what’s for dinner” easier, MealMe also bills itself as a place for people who also just “love looking at food porn,” an activity that’s so popular it’s a bonafide industry.
In fact, multiple companies are now zeroing in on the visual aspect of the food industry and trying to turn it into a business. Wine n Dine, which like MealMe lets users order from within the app, is a food-porn-lover’s dream that shows a feed of pictures a la Instagram and even breaks pictures down into cuisine. And Pinon is another group of students, this time from the University of Massachusetts, who have created “smart” menus that show videos and interactive pictures of food items, and also lets users order from within the app.
Bouchner and Said have been at work on the MealMe app since 2018; it’s currently in beta, with a launch planned for later this year and is currently free to use. The company has said it makes money by taking commissions from delivery orders, offering targeted ad space, and selling premium data packages to restaurants and CPGs. Right now the company is currently bootstrapped and seeking a $120,000 seed round.