Food Genius Tells You Which Restaurant Dishes to Eat--Not Just Where

Editor's Note: See all our Excelerate Labs coverage here.

: Netflix for menu items: learns your likes and dislikes and makes recommendations on what to eat, not just where. The Food Genius database has categorized 172K dishes in Chicago on everything from ingredients to cooking technique. Users start with a list of dishes and rate them. They can also recommend dishes they have eaten.

LAUNCHERS:  Justin Massa, CEO; Eric Cooper, lead developer.

WHEN/WHERE: Beta July 2011 / Chicago

WHY: No apps can help you decide what to eat in your area. People like getting accurate recommendations. Restaurants don't have a reliable data source about what local consumers want.

BACKSTORY: Justin, who used to work in downtown Chicago, would pull out his phone at lunchtime to look for something to eat, "but nothing answered the question the way I wanted it to. I wanted something like Netflix that I could train it for a little while and then it would just work."

BUSINESS MODEL: Free app. Selling data to food manufacturers, restaurant chains and small- to medium-sized restaurants so they can understand consumer behavior in their area.  

ON THE INDUSTRY:  The restaurant and packaged goods industries together spend about $2B on data from Nielsen and other companies for market trends. Of that, the restaurant industry spends about $30M. Justin thinks they would spend more for the right product, like whether "the green onion in that dish is the same [to a consumer] as a scallion in another dish," he says.

COMPETITION: Foodspotting, Nielsen, NPD Group.

CUSTOMERS/GROWTH: 1K app users have rated 4K menu items in the first five weeks.

WHO BACKED IT:  Excelerate Labs $25K, New World Ventures $50K.

ON EXCELERATE LABS: "Amazing. It is beyond even what I had hoped it would be. The gauge I use is: One could I have done any of this without Excelerate? The answer is maybe, but not as well and certainly not as quickly," Justin says.

"Secondly, the funding itself from Excerelate, while not huge, was just enough to allow us to quit our jobs and allow [co-founder] Eric to move to Chicago from Pennsylvania where he was living, which allowed us to kick the project into high gear. And then just the access and mentorship and guidance that you get through Excelerate has just developed the business and the product so much in the past months."

RAISING: Not disclosed.



When you get started with Food Genius, you'll see the most recommended dishes from other Food Genius users, the price and the distance from your location [ everything shown here is over 1,700 miles away since we're in California ]. You can start by rating these dishes.

Food Genius wants you to build your taste profile. You'll see a list of dishes that you can rate on a scale of "Ate it, loved it!, "I'd like to eat this!" or simply "No thanks." Note: there's no way (yet) to indicate up front that you are allergic to something or have dietary restrictions.

Based on your taste profile, Food Genius recommends several dishes. Flag a dish you'd like to eat with the ribbon-plus button, just below the price. You can also see dishes that near your location.

From any recommended dish you can pull up a restaurant's entire menu.

Justin Massa (left), CEO,and Eric Cooper (right), lead developer.


1. The Enterprise Opportunity of Big Data: Closing the 'Clue Gap' (Enterprise Irregulars, Aug. 15, 2011)

2. Building with Big Data (The Economist, May 26, 2011)

3. Food 2.0: Sharing & Making Use of Restaurant Menu, and Farm Data (Food Tech Connect, June 13, 2011)


Justin Massa
Email: Justin at GetFoodGenius dot com
Twitter: @justinmassa

Eric Cooper
Twitter: @ecooper

Food Genius
Twitter: @getfoodgenius

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