September 25, 2014
If you’re like every other Instagram user in the world, then your feeds are filled with pics of natural landscapes, selfies, and food. And, no matter your level of tolerance for such things, the prevalence of such things on the social platform will likely never decline. Especially when it comes to things that go into our bellies, our consumption for visual stills is insatiable: we love looking at pics of delicious food – an undoubted reality. With this innate human desire in mind, one DC-based startup has jumped on the opportunity to create an entirely new experience for finding your next restaurant destination: a visual search engine that shows you pictures of various dishes from nearby restaurants.
Eyefull is a recently launched application that allows users to search for places to eat based on pictures of dishes at restaurants – tapping into our human tendency to make decisions based on the aesthetics of food (that delicious looking food makes us more likely to visit a certain restaurant). The company launched its app earlier this month in the DC-region (spanning Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland, and DC proper) and plans on an October 1st launch in Baltimore, Towson, and Annapolis.
“The concept was created after seeing tons of people getting hungry for food on sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Foodgawker,” said cofounder and CEO Jake Bender. “I realized that if we could localize this then we could start getting people hungry for food they could actually buy at nearby restaurants.”
To use the app, users simply get on the Eyefull app and scroll through high-quality pictures of dishes that are served at restaurants near their current location. There are also options to filter restaurants per certain qualifications, such as whether they serve organic or gluten-free meals, offer free WiFi, have free parking, et al. Essentially, it’s similar to current restaurant search experiences, except it utilizes pictures so that you actually know ahead of time what this food looks like. According to Bender, the creation of the app was a result of a dissatisfaction with current ways food consumers discover new restaurants to try:
“Eyefull is now finally meeting the demands of the visual world with a visual search engine…[and results] from our dissatisfaction [with] other review-based sites. These sites have reviews created from complete strangers and the reviews are many times mixed and confusing. Eyefull finally lets our users regain the power of choice and choose what to eat based on what looks good to them, not a stranger.”
For Bender, the flaw in current food discovery services is this aggregation of subjective public opinion. Eyefull is a return to an objective standpoint: making decisions based on professionally taken pictures of restaurant dishes. Yes – professional pictures; the app houses pics taken by professional photographers that they hire to go into restaurants and task to take these pictures. So, rather than seeing a shitty picture of sashimi taken by a random stranger, users see high-quality pictures that actually show them what dishes actually look like.
Eyefull’s approach – while innovative, and certainly offering a new way to search for restaurants – can be countered by the classic aphorism “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Sure, the pictures of food on the platform may be stunning, but aesthete can often delude the human interpretation of a thing’s actual value – that the food may look good on the app, but actually taste sub-par in reality. I mean, isn’t that why we turn to reviews submitted by strangers on platforms like Yelp and Foursquare? I also raised concern that searching by pictures of dishes could be seen as “tacky” by fine dining restaurants, and prevent the company from getting those places from working with the platofrm (I just remember Gordon Ramsay expressing this notion in an old episode of Kitchen Nightmares).
Despite these minor criticisms, Bender isn’t fazed; he knows that there’s market here, and the Eyefull hasn’t had any issues getting a wide assortment of restaurants to work with them. Since launching, the company has gained a of traction and many positive user reviews, which motivated their extension of service in October. And, additionally, he noted that approximately 10 percent of the restaurants currently featured on Eyefull are fine-dining restaurants. And, even with some of my reservations, it wouldn’t be surprising to find competition in the upcoming months – Eyefull is truly one of the first visual search experiences for dining, and it’s an idea that is sure to catch on.
If you’re in the DC-region, check out Eyefull.
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