If you're the kind of person who worships at the altar of Netflix's recommended titles, and you're also the kind of person who loves scrolling through beautiful photos of food, one new Richmond startup is combining the best of both worlds to make your perfect website. Vibeats, an image-driven restaurant guide, launched today from the minds, brains and resources of Steve Kim of KIMKIM Korean Hot Sauce, award-winning photographer Tyler Darden, Joel Erb of INM United and Frank Gilliam of Elevation Advertising.
"We want to help build one-to-one connections between restaurants and individuals," says Kim. "It's a combination of technology, high-definition curated photography and eventually video, and the data and the analytics behind it that's going to personalize the experience for the person who's going to be using it."
Although the site is live, there are still more components to come.
Employing the visual appeal of Pinterest, eventually coupled with the customization of Netflix, Vibeats (pronounced "vibe eats") currently offers photos of food, ambiance and staff from roughly 25 Richmond restaurants, which, when clicked, reveal a brief description about a given restaurant, along with all pertinent photos taken at its location. Eventually, Kim says, the team will employ user profile capabilities with analytics similar to Netflix's, which will track the types of photos you've been clicking on, as well as what you're typing into that search bar in the upper right-hand corner. From there, you'll receive customized restaurant recommendations, once this aspect of the site launches.
But which photos you're drawn to and what you're looking for won't be available to only you; that information could also be made available to participating restaurateurs curious about trends and consumer interest, for a fee.
"One of the areas we can provide information back to the restaurants in is data," Kim says. "Like, if you are a chef in Richmond, knowing and understanding what are those food items that are trending really high. If you can get that analysis on what's trending, that can help guide how you fine-tune your menu. Like, what are the places people are seeking out? That could help you figure out, 'How should I position myself as well?' "
According to Kim, restaurants also can pay a small fee to have additional photos of their restaurant and food taken by the team, in the case of staff turnover or seasonal specials. In the future, Kim says you can expect video content, as well, in an effort to make a more visually appealing site that provides much of the functionality of Yelp, minus the negative user reviews.
"[I thought], 'Can we set up a different way, instead of the ongoing paragraphs or somebody had one bad waiter or waitress experience and gave [the restaurant] a zero-star on Yelp?' To me, I just feel that's wrong. I feel like even if a restaurant isn't very popular, there might be one dish or one kind of cool thing about the restaurant that people love, so we want to make more one-to-one connections, not just one person saying 'zero stars' because the waiter had a bad day."