One of the reasons Tinder has been such a resounding success is that it functions like a game.
Even if you never go on a date, swiping this way and that, and seeing who thinks you’re attractive, is just inherently fun.
But that’s a problem, according to Keisuke Kamijo, the CEO of Tokyo-based Mrk & Co., whose company recently launched a new dating app in the US and Canada called Dine.
The goal of Dine is to get you from a match to that first dinner or drinks date as quickly as possible.
Being consistently charming in a text conversation, especially with a complete stranger, is not necessarily a perfect indicator of whether you’ll be compatible. That’s why Dine tries to get you in the same room.
Mrk & Co. was founded by veterans of Japanese gaming giant DeNA, which Nintendo partnered with to bring its games to smartphones for the first time last year. But Dine strips most of the game-like elements out of its dating app, relying instead on a smooth path toward an actual date. Apple was impressed enough with the concept to feature it on its list of “best new apps.”
Here’s how Dine works.
After filling out a profile, you pick three restaurants or bars (there’s Yelp integration) where you’d want to go on a date. Dine then shows you two to five people a day, and which places they chose, and you can request to go on a date there.
Once you send someone a date request, and they accept, a chat box opens so you can get some sense of whether you have any chemistry. But the act of having the restaurant or bar right there at the start makes it feel much less nebulous than chatting on Tinder.
Kamijo gives a rough estimate that about half of accepted requests lead to actual dates within two weeks, based on data from the beta testing Dine did in Vancouver. Now Dine has launched to all of the US and Canada (though you’ll have better luck where there is higher population density).
I tried Dine in New York City. Here’s what it was like:
First, you select where you are. You can be anywhere in the US or Canada, but the cities below are where Dine is trying to make a big push.
Then you select three restaurants or bars. They can be your favorites or ones you have wanted to check out.
You also set up a standard dating-app profile, although one interesting feature is that Dine will auto-sort your pictures based on which ones are proving to be most popular.
Of the photos Dine pulled from my Facebook, the puppy is the most popular. People were not as into my college-era long hair.
You get to select a bunch of descriptors, and though some of them are a bit over-the-top in the wording, at least you don’t have to be witty right off the bat. You can also select “It’s my treat” if you want to pay for the first date, or “Let’s meet with friends,” if you don’t want to go on a solo date.
Then you’re shown matches, two to five a day, along with their restaurant respective choice of restaurant.
If you click on their picture, you can see their full profile, including things like education, height, religion, job, and so on. (If they have them filled out.)
If someone chooses you, you’ll see a request that looks like this.
You accept not just the person, but the specific restaurant or bar as well.
Now it’s time to send a message. Dine will auto-populate it, but you can customize it as well.
Once you’ve sent it, a chat window pops up. You can chat just as you would in an app like Tinder, but it feels much more focused on the logistics of meeting up.
Once you have gotten a few requests or chats, they appear in your inbox.
To streamline the process you can also swipe through a list of people’s pictures, so the app can gauge your preferences. This doesn’t lead to matches, just helps Dine suggest better potential dates for you in the future.
And, of course, there is a “premium” tier that lets you request certain users Dine deems to be the most “popular” ones. (Otherwise you cannot.) Though this is a way to make the premium tier more attractive, and limit the amount of requests popular users are inundated with, it feels like it has to potential to frustrate users deemed “popular” (as they will only get requests from paying users, who might not be their ideal matches). Kamijo said the company is also interested in making money through partnerships with restaurants down the line.