Restaurant discovery apps have become increasingly simple, all the better to cater to diners rendered indecisive by low blood sugar. UrbanSpoon’s signature gimmick is serving up new listings with a shake of your phone, while Dish.fm’s newest version focuses on specific dishes. The freshly launched MyFab5, however, may be the most streamlined. The Web site and iOS app only lists the current top 5 restaurants in each category as ranked by users (or, as its motto puts it, “discover the best, forget about the rest”).
Users can rank their favorite restaurants, agree or disagree with top 5 lists and leave short comments about each venue, but MyFab5 eliminates reviews and ratings entirely. MyFab5′s founders see it as an alternative for consumers who are tired of reading reviews on Yelp or distrustful of the algorithms used by recommendation engines like Foursquare.
The app, which launched last week, was founded by University of Michigan graduates Omeid Seirafi-Pour, Calvin Schemanski and John Gulbronson. The trio financed the development of MyFab5 through bootstrapping and grants from their alma mater, incubator program TechTown Detroit and the Michigan state government.
CEO Seirafi-Pour says he came up with MyFab5′s concept while on the hunt for the best thin-crust pizza in Chicago. His online searches brought back a ton of reviews for restaurants specializing in the city’s signature deep-dish pie, but none of them told Seirafi-Pour exactly where he needed to go to satisfy his craving for the crispiest slice of thin-crust. Around the same time, he began working with a consulting company that helps Fortune 500 companies understand the review industry.
“I got to learn that customers really want an easy-to-understand system instead of the frustration of having to read long reviews or deal with an inaccurate rating system,” says Seirafi-Pour.
Schemanski adds that MyFab5 was designed to be intuitive by replicating the way people talk about their favorite restaurants.
“No one turns to a friend and asks for a star rating or review,” says Schemanski. “The conversation always sounds something like ‘what’s a good place to get pizza in this town?’ or ‘this is my favorite place because it has great deep-dish pizza.’”
MyFab5′s founders say its straightforward methodology will help it avoid the complaints that many small businesses have about sites like Yelp and Foursquare because there is little room for fake reviews or inflated rankings. In order to avoid sockpuppet accounts and ensure the accuracy of its lists, MyFab5 requires users to sign in with their Facebook accounts and is building an account-verification system for email signup that will possibly include phone-number verification.
As MyFab5 gains user traction, it help restaurants see who their most loyal customers are, what items sell the best and who their main competitors are. MyFab5 is exploring a monetization strategy that uses its data to help restaurants target diners and figure out what kind of promotions to offer.
“Small businesses don’t want to pay for an ad from Yelp or deals on Foursquare or Groupon,” says Seirafi-Pour. “They have deals already. What they want is a better way to distribute them.”