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  • Writer's pictureAshish Bhatia

Helping people experience a new city through their stomach

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

FC'22 Member Maitri



Paradox of Choice: What to Eat?


It is no secret that NYC's food scene is legendary. But, with over 27,373 restaurants in the city, where do you start? Having too many options causes stress and problematizes decision-making rather than making people happy and ensuring they get what they want. Grabbing meals is a major social scene at New York University. I discovered this paradox of choice three months into college when my friends had exhausted the most obvious restaurants around our dorms. To sympathize with this problem I began interviewing strangers to learn more about their struggles while finding their ideal dining experience.



"Foodies" have unmet needs

I realized that my friends weren't the only ones. Yes, apps like Resy and OpenTable exist to solve this issue, but this is what I heard in my interviews, "I find myself scrolling on Resy for hours and end up more confused than when I started." Charlie said, "Food is my first love and my ideal experience is when someone surprises me or recommends food and it meets with my expectation. I want an element of mystery." While interviewing some college students, I found out that 7/10 students ate Chipotle 4 or more times every week only because "finding where to eat is stressful, Chipotle is a convenient option. " If you break it down, you could eat at a new place every day in NYC for almost 77 years, but people still find it challenging to find new restaurants in the city. 47 interviews and 13 in-context observations later, I had two insights that inspired me.


Foodies meet your Match


These insights lead me to my ideation stage. In a world where Food is people's first love, I converged towards making a matchmaker for people and restaurants. A restaurant recommendation engine that would act like a matchmaker for people and restaurants. Just as a person puts traits and characteristics of their ideal partner in a matchmaking app, this engine asks various questions to the user, gauges what occasion, food, ambiance, and experience the user is looking for, and matches the user with their perfect restaurant match. The idea was to partner with already existing giants like OpenTable and Resy and provide a better filtering system. This was the solution to a stressful restaurant hunt.


Feedback from customers


I then went back to potential users to get feedback on the prototype. Some common feedback I received from the interviewees was that answering the questions confused them more. There was too much choice, and then the big idea was to limit choice and include an element of mystery. These filters were similar to Resy and made the process more stressful. They were unsure what they had in mind and wanted to select everything on the list. "I want to find the perfect restaurant without looking for it or describing it." This led me to my new insight: Foodies want an element of surprise or serendipity.


A Food Maze


This is the problem I am currently solving, allowing the foodies in New York to experience the Food they want with a mystery. Food maze is the solution to it. The Food maze is a combined experience of culinary walking tour experience and a treasure hunt. It will allow the foodies to experience the food we curate for them and create a mystery they rave about. Our first two target customers are tourists and corporates looking for Team building activities. This solution provides a different value add to both segments.



Tourist as a market segment


Tourists are looking for ways to experience cities in immersive and meaningful ways. Unfortunately, one only has options like the Hop-in, Hop-off bus, city tours, and Airbnb experiences. I want to help foodies hop off of the hop in- hop off bus and experience the city of food through their stomach. The idea is to create a platform that helps tourists connect with crucial food destinations in a fun game throughout the day. A food treasure hunt that will guide tourists through the city, with riddles they must solve using the sites around them. It is a part escape room style mystery, part culinary walking tour. The puzzles will direct them through a curated list of food milestones and let them unravel and experience the 'must-eat-at' spots across the city. Airbnb distinguishes itself from a hotel by creating a local-like experience and providing a living space for their customer. Similarly, my venture will not just make a restaurant's recommendation list or another city tour but will create a tasty way of experiencing the food city, NYC, like never before! You an contact me at mrc9447@stern.nyu.edu.

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