“It’s definitely more for high density amount of restaurants and St. John’s is that, but Toronto is even more so,” says Peter Francis, who co-founded the tech startup with close friend Mina Michail.
“The launch for us is about getting a lot more dishes and a lot more reviews in Toronto so people can get the most value out of it.”
Unlike other food review apps and websites, Help Me Order allows users to submit their favourite dishes at local restaurants. The app then tallies up the number of submission each dish gets to give it a ranking in the local market.
In St. John’s, for instance, the No. 1 ranked plate is The Stephanie at Piatto Pizzeria.
Users can also select a specific restaurant to see which dish is ranked the highest or search by food type to find, say, the best burger in town. (In St. John’s, it’s the burger at the Fifth Ticket Kitchen and Bar.
“Of course people can comment about the service or whatnot, but we’re really out there to hunt for hidden gems in terms of food and have those be recommended to others,” explains Francis.
The latest version allows the user to create a list of favourites, “Gotta Try” items, and “Hidden Gems,” which is a counter that keeps track of the dishes a user list as favourites.
It’s also taken on more of a social networking feel than previous versions based on input from users who were looking for a Facebook- or Instagram-style feed.
“Our users were telling us, ‘No, I’m looking more for a curated feed to my tastes and my preferences so that every day I open it I get to see something different because let’s say I’ve already tried the top 10 dishes in St. John’s, I still get value from your app if every time I open it I get recommendations from my friends and from the community.’”
As such, Francis says users get the most out of the app when they log in via Facebook, Twitter or Google+ because it allows for more recommendations to come from friends who are also using the app versus going on the advice of strangers.
In preparation for the Toronto launch, Francis and Michail, who is based out of Mississauga, have partnered with some restaurants in the GTA along with some social media influencers.
Moving into Toronto also allows them to move closer to monetizing the app since there’s a greater likelihood of acquiring the critical mass that’s required to bring restaurants and event planners on board in an effort to reach their specific target audiences.
“I think that we really need a metropolitan city like Toronto to be on board in order for that network effect to take place,” Francis says. “It wouldn’t be fair for us to monetize when the usership isn’t there because then our clients wouldn’t be satisfied.”