A year after a launching in Atlantic Canada, HelpMeOrder has just expanded its dish-rating service into the Greater Toronto Area, hoping to capture clients in Canada’s culinary capital.
Based in St. John’s and Mississauga, HelpMeOrder is a restaurant rating app with a difference. What HelpMeOrder does is let people rate or recommend specific dishes and to share the reviews with friends and people in the local community.
The idea is that people are often confused about what restaurant they want to go to, or once they arrive at a restaurant what dish to order. HelpMeOrder lets them know the plates that people are talking about, so they can sample cuisine that other people have found interesting.
“There are so many great foodie apps out there, but they’re mostly focused on overall restaurant reviews,” said Co-Founder Mina Michail in a statement. “You have to scroll through pages and pages of reviews to get a sense of what’s good. I always had such a hard time deciding.”
Michail and his boyhood friend Peter Francis started the company last year to offer something new to foodies. They bootstrapped the company to develop an app for both iPhone and Android devices and launched it last year for Atlantic Canada, mainly in the St. John’s area, where Francis lives. Working out of the Genesis Centre on the Memorial University campus, Francis focused on the vibrant restaurant scene in the Newfoundland and Labrador capital, though it also had some uptake in Halifax and Moncton.
There were about 1500 downloads of the free app in the first few weeks, then came the challenge of producing a product that people would engage with again and again over time, said Francis in an interview last week. The solution was a feature they have just added – smart location-based notifications that tell users the dishes people are highlighting at restaurants in their cities.
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“We’re now making recommendations of what’s trending in the community and what your friends are writing about and saying you have got to try so you can make your own bucket list,” said Francis.
The new feature has just been rolled out and Francis said the company now has to monitor the market reaction over its first 30 days.
HelpMeOrder, which with through the PropelICT accelerator last year, plans to make money by partnering with the restaurants, many of whom are frustrated by existing online marketing efforts. HelpMeOrder is able to get data on what people like and help restaurants communicate with people who would like their fare. However, first the company has to build up a base of users before restaurants will subscribe to the service.
Meanwhile, the company is launching this month in the GTA, which offers the largest culinary community in Canada. Michail and Francis – who grew up together in Mississauga -- believe Toronto is the right size city to target, and its foodie culture is perfect for HelpMeOrder.
“In recent years in Toronto specifically, there’s been a lot of growth in foody influencers – there are bloggers and instagrammers and the like,” said Francis. “There are tens of thousands of people who follow them just to get recommendations on food. So Toronto is the right place because it’s primed and ready for us.”