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Geoff Bartakovics

CEO & Cofounder, Tasting Table

It’s Friday night, and you’re looking for a last minute date spot to haul that Bumble booty. Chances are, you’ll flock to Yelp. Scroll hundreds of user generated reviews deciphering if a place actually sucks or some dude just hates risotto balls. Those seeking an authoritative opinion, on the other hand, might turn to New York Magazine or the Times; Infatuation for circumstances more casual.

“People spend hours switching between platforms, trying to get a comprehensive view of a restaurant,” says Geoff Bartakovics, cofounder and CEO of food media site, Tasting Table (TT). “But what if there were a place that aggregated all those critical opinions? A single app that gave simultaneous access to multiple viewpoints?”

Take Rotten Tomatoes, which conveniently displays film reviews from numerous critics. You can look at the score up top, or move down to compare why the New York Observer declared Legally Blonde 2 “the worst film” ever while Richard Roeper found it “charming.” Well, Bartakovics has taken that idea, scoring aside, and applied it to restaurants. With TT, he’s created DINEthe world’s first multi-critic restaurant discovery app fusing critics, blogs and Yelp for a 360 view of any restaurant. No additional research required.

The Rotten Tomatoes of food

Geoff Bartakovics - CEO & Cofounder of Tasting Table

TAKE DINE NEW YORK CITY, which taps an average of eight sources per restaurant. This requires the physical transfer of information — a data dump so large, it would have quickly surpassed the TT team’s desire to “copy and paste.”

“People see food criticism as art, and it is,” Bartakovics explains. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t approach it analytically. When you imagine how many restaurants there are in this country, we’re talking millions of data points. Our goal was to find a scientific way to ingest that data without losing its initial essence.”

For DINE, that meant employing the help turks. Now we know what you’re thinking — a turk is Zach Braff’s trusty sidekick on Scrubs — but it’s also a crowdsourced individual paid small amounts to complete simple tasks on the Internet.

“So, once a new restaurant has enough reviews… We place a script, or a request, asking Amazon’s mechanical turk community to scour leading publications for their reviews.”

A sample script might include: Visit a restaurant’s website. Copy and paste the hours, phone number, location. Next, hit New York Magazine’s review of the same joint, let’s say Dirty French, and find a blurb you feel best captures the spirit of the review. Send that, too. Once you’ve finished, move on to Time Out. Repeat.

“Turks enable us to evaluate restaurants faster than a human and more thoroughly than an algorithm,” Bartakovics asserts. “We can process thousands of reviews for the country’s most important restaurants, and then provide a comprehensive amalgamation of critical opinion. It’s convenient authority.”

And since Amazon has roughly 500,000 turks online at any given moment, the opportunities for data ingestion are limitless — even when, for quality assurance, two people are assigned to every review. It’s the perfect blend of art (the initial critique) and science (the amalgamation of opinion).


Geoff Bartakovics - CEO & Cofounder of Tasting Table
Geoff Bartakovics - CEO & Cofounder of Tasting Table
Our goal was to find a scientific way to ingest [restaurant] data without losing its initial essence.”

WHAT THIS OFFERS, young diner, is an alternative to two things: one, untrusty user generated reviews found on OpenTable or Yelp; two, visiting multiple sites. (DINE links directly to the original review if you want to read more.)

“I think there was a hankering to bring tech into food media — to use data analytics to provide better ‘service’ journalism,” Bartakovics explains. “But in reality, this wouldn’t have been cost effective 5, 10 years ago… and no one else has tried it since.”

And while the trend these days is for everyone to have a site and an app of their own — just take Eater 38 or Infatuation — Bartakovics and TT hedged people would appreciate the simplicity of a single source. A single source, of course, that’s not Yelp.

“A Yelp score is the average opinion of the average user,” he says. “And while that’s valid, I think people understand it’s fairly inconsistent. Someone who really cares about food wants the opinion of someone they trust.”

Why Not Yelp?

I think there was a hankering to bring tech into food media — to use data analytics to provide better 'service' journalism.”
Geoff Bartakovics - CEO & Cofounder of Tasting Table

IN THE FUTURE, TT plans to expand DINE’s roster of experts to include a different kind of critic: the influencer. Coming this summer, you’ll be able to follow experts who share your style for even more specialized opinions.

“It boils down to a pretty simple fact,” Bartakovics concludes. “People want to hear opinions from sources they trust — from people who share similar tastes… but that doesn’t mean we want to work hard to get them. What DINE really offers is authority with an element of convenience.”

And with all the noise on the Internet, this return to simplicity might just be the most disruptive thing yet.

For more food disruptors, check out our interviews with Michael Chernow and Tom Colicchio. And to download DINE, visit the app store.

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