Ex-sommelier launches Foodia for food check-ins. And the app fragmentation continues

By Erin Griffith , written on April 22, 2013

From The News Desk

The "what I'm eating" Instagram pic, or status update, or Tweet, is as cliched as they come. But that hasn't stopped us from posting photo after photo of self-described "food porn." (Which, can we stop calling it that yet?) So as long as we keep posting our food photos, apps are going to try to capture them in their own special place.

Foodspotting, which recently sold to OpenTable for $10 million, does this in a social way. Yelp does it in its own not-so-social way. Foursquare also does it, sortof.

Now, another one is doing the same thing with a few twists, aiming to be both social with the ability to recommend a dish to a friend, and also enjoyable in "single-player mode," with its version of a food diary, so you can remember awesome meals without blasting thrice daily food pics to your Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds.


The app was developed by Max Haines-Stiles, a former sommelier and restaurant manager at B Restaurant & Bar in San Francisco. He called it both a "food journal you can share," and, using a format that PandoDaily's audience will understand, "Evernote Food meets Instagram."

Says Haines-Styles:

Whether you want to write down the name of the wine you just polished off, recommend the coffee shop you checked in at (to a specific person and not just everyone on Facebook), search through your history to figure out where you had that great burger, or simply take a photo of the dish in front of you, Foodia does all of that.
The app lives by the design principle that less is more. Foodia's interface is clean and sparse compared with Yelp or Foodspotting. That is on purpose. It prompts, "I'm eating," "I'm drinking," and more importantly, "I'm making" and "I'm shopping," inspire a variety of food-related pics beyond the poorly lit restaurant plate photo.

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Users add a few who/what/when/why/where tags, so both you and people nearby can sort through relevant photos. This is important because it makes searching for that coffee or wine you had easy; it also makes the data more useful. Instagram's popularity stems from its ease of use, Haines-Styles notes. "Its a strength, but a weakness if you're trying to create more structure to that data."

Foodia's direct recommendations remind me of Spotify's underrated song sharing feature. Rather than blast your entire listening history to friends, the song sharing lets you send a specific song to one person. Foodia's recommendation feature is similar for recipes, restaurant dishes, various food items.

This is not the first app I've seen which tries to beat Instagram at its own game. There are now photo-sharing plays around all the Instagram classics -- pets, concerts, travel, etc. You could argue that we don't need an Instagram for pets, concerts, travel or food because we already have one, and it's called Instagram.

But I see continued fragmentation in the way we communicate going forward. We share information and links on Twitter, "what I'm doing" brags on Instagram, vacation photo albums on Facebook, aspirations on Pinterest, moments of silliness on Snapchat, and deep dark secrets on Whisper. We share food pics on Foodspotting, or maybe now, Foodia.

The only problem with this increasing number of apps we use to communicate is that it is so, much, work to maintain. Looking cool on nine different apps is stressful - that's why I self-edit my sharing on Instagram, posting only the crowd-pleasing photos for fear of a (gasp!) photo with no hearts. It's why I barely post to Facebook any more, either -- its too much work to think about who will or won't see a random musing (professional colleagues? high school acquaintances I haven't talked to in ten years? in-laws? someone I met once?). And it's why Snapchat is so hot -- with one-on-one sharing and no permanent record, the pressure is off to appear perfect there.

Foodia has some of that pressure -- users can "smile" at posts and there is competition for photos to be featured. But the app works as a one-person diary, too.

Haines-Styles shyly notes that he's almost embarrassed to say he's working on a food app -- it seems too common and uncreative. But food is his passion and background. Haines-Stiles has bootstrapped the project on his own, supporting himself with consulting through his business Ristretto Labs.

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