About three and a half years ago, local restaurant publicists and brothers Jared and Steve Rivera decided to launch an app that collected the food recommendations of chefs the idea being that who better to ask where to eat in any given city than the chefs who live and eat there. Fast forward to 2015, with the addition last year of CEO Rich Maggiotto (formerly of Zinio and AOL), and their app, Chefs Feed, now covers 24 cities and locales, with respected chefs in each city recommending their favorite dishes, the emphasis always on the positive. And as the Chronicle just reported, the company just secured their first official round of early-stage funding, to the tune of $4 million.
Sidebar: You may recall Chefs Feed also was the sponsor/organizer of this crazy food-and-entertainment tent at Outside Lands last summer.
As Jared Rivera tells SFist, getting chefs on board has been a no-brainer, given the antipathy for Yelp and its crowdsourced, often uninformed and totally un-curated stream of opinions. "Chefs were keen on participating because they had reached their breaking point with sites like Yelp," Rivera says. "And in term of retention, we’ve built some very cool chef-only features in the app that keep them engaged. One basic feature, for example, is that chefs are able to see how many people have taken their recommendations. That’s important because they can quantify their influence on how people eat."
While Yelp may boast tens of millions of amateur reviews at this point, Chefs Feed has the value-added benefit of institutional knowledge from some 1200 chefs and as Maggioto points out, chefs aren't just recommending their friends' dishes because their taste is their reputation, and "They’re very wary of recommending something that’s not good." He says app downloads are now "in the millions" and their content is reaching 50 to 75 million eaters a month.
And, obviously, when restaurants are now paying third parties to pad their Yelp pages with positive reviews, it may be time for another player in this sphere with more trusted content to gain some traction.
"We’re changing the way people eat food," says Rivera. "Mario Batali recommends the burger from The Spotted Pig and 5,000 people 'planned' to eat the dish in under an hour. It’s insane."
Learn more about the app here.