TU Darmstadt spin-off „foodQuest“ is developing an iPhone app for personalized restaurant recommendations
What do a student, a top-manager, a loving couple and a family have in common? Indeed, they all are hungry! And: They always want to discover great restaurants. The requirements, however, vary a lot: Low price, suitable for business talks, romantic or child-friendly. Not every restaurant is suitable for every guest and every occasion. foodQuest is the first app for restaurant recommendations that caters to the individual needs of its hungry users. The suggestions are derived through a hybrid model of automated analysis, crowdsourcing, and editorial content. In the current version, foodQuest supplies culinary assistance for the cities of Hanover and Frankfurt. The next release will feature recommendations for all of Germany. The app is available for free in Apple’s App Store.
“foodQuest’s core concept is to enable its users to find restaurants that fit their individual needs as well as their current situation”, says Chris Chard, co-founder of foodQuest. An unhurried evening with friends, a nice café with a fast Wi-Fi connection for mobile working or a spontaneous lunch with business partners – foodQuest understands the occasion and recommends the best suitable restaurants in the vicinity. Thus, foodQuest is not only about pricy gourmet restaurants. “A great café or a passionately run takeaway can be perfect choices depending on the situation”, says Chard. However, the prerequisite for any recommendation is a high quality standard.
To assure the high quality of the recommendations, foodQuest employs a hybrid model of semantics, machine learning, crowdsourcing, and editorial supervision. The technical process considers relevant information from gourmet guides, websites, blogs and rating communities. The analysis does not only rely on hard facts like location, opening hours, cuisine, and price range, but also on “soft factors” such as a pleasant discussion atmosphere, speed of service, clientele, or comfort. The resulting recommendations are further enhanced by foodQuest’s community of foodies and double-checked by editorial staff. foodQuest lays great emphasis on reducing the amount of information that the user is confronted with. “For any query, we only recommend a handful of restaurants. Thus, the accuracy and quality of those recommendations is of upmost importance to us,” says Ken Knoll, who co-founded the startup out of Darmstadt together with Chris Chard. The entrepreneurs are passionate about creating a great and easy user experience. Vital steps in the process of choosing a restaurant are embedded such as routing directions or booking a table online directly from within the app.
In March 2012, foodQuest was publicly presented for the first time on the CeBIT in Hannover. Ever since, the startup has close ties with its alma mater, the TU Darmstadt, and closely cooperates with the institute of Multimedia Communications. “We greatly benefit not only from the shared office space and infrastructure, but also from invaluable know how: The technologies at foodQuest’s core have a significant overlap with the institute’s scientific work. The collaboration with Multimedia Communications provides us with an unparalleled environment for our startup,” explains Knoll.
The institute explores vital components of the Internet’s future: Textual analysis, semantics, distributed sensor networks and peer-to-peer infrastructures. Professor Ralf Steinmetz, head of the institute of Multimedia Communications, recognizes mutual benefits for both sides: “We put great effort into fostering the intensive exchange between research and practice. Having young companies like foodQuest or our second spin-off “wer denkt was” on-site dramatically improves this exchange.”
Dipl. Wirt.-Ing. Chris Chard