The team behind startup Tasted Menu thinks it has the technology to help you find the exact dish you’re looking for. The company is launching its iPhone app today (its website was already live), and it’s also expanding from its hometown of Boston into Austin — just in time for South by Southwest.
Of course, there’s already a popular iPhone app for food recommendations — Foodspotting, which said in January that it has nearly 2 million app downloads. However, Tasted Menu CEO Alex Rosenfeld argues that Foodspotting and similar apps “effectively amount to check-in apps for food,” whereas Tasted Menu helps the vast majority of people who aren’t interested in that, but “would love a product that helps them make better ordering decisions and discover new dishes and restaurants.”
The difference may not be as big as Rosenfeld makes it sound — after all, even if Tasted Menu is focused on recommended dishes, there’s still an element of “checking in,” since users can take photos of and rate each dish. And Foodspotting isn’t just a food photography app, especially with its recent redesign, which CEO Alexa Andrzejewski described as a “Pandora-like” interface for food recommendations.
Tasted Menu’s real weapon may be something that Rosenfeld calls its Culinary Taxonomy, which he says was modeled on Pandora’s (yes, them again) Music Genome project. The company works with nearly 40 Menu Curators to classify each dish in nine different categories like ingredients and cuisine type.
“We tag every single dish at every restaurant we cover,” Rosenfeld says. “The end result is a powerful discovery tool for our users, especially when combined with ratings, reviews, and photos from other users. I’d also argue that this leaves us better positioned to understand and tap into people’s ‘taste graph’ than anyone else in the online food or social commerce space.”
Tasted Menu has currently collected around 10,000 reviews, which will presumably increase dramatically with the iPhone app and geographic expansion. And now that it has tackled its second city, Rosenfeld says he has a model for how to add other locations in a fast and cost-effective way.
The company has raised angel funding from investors including Russell Siegelman, former Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins; Tamim Mourad, Founder and former CEO of PriceGrabber; Thomas Lehrman, Co-Founder of the Gerson Lehrman Group; Michael Katz, Founder and CEO of Interclick; Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg, Co-Founders of Invite Media; and Greg Bettinelli, Senior Vice President at HauteLook.