In times when Apple’s App Store will be home to more than five million active apps by the end of 2020, launching a new free app seems like dropping a fresh gulp of water in the ocean.
Although the competition is tougher among gaming apps, restaurant apps follow close, with different players trying to nail the recipe of the next hit. To name a few: OpenTable is one of the most common options for online restaurant reservations. Nowait, which was acquired by Yelp for $40 million, allows diners to track the restaurant’s waitlist, while Tricount may come in handy to split the check among a numerous group. More locally, Shark Tank contestant Jamie Manning invented a mobile app to reserve seats at bars, which later shut down.
Another attempt to provide value by connecting customers with restaurants is ForkOut, a just-launched free app that is supposed to simplify the experience of making plans to going out to eat, especially among many friends. The app has been available in the App Store for around three weeks, with a venture bearing the same name based in the CIC co-working space in Kendall Square and a team of five people.
“I’m using five to six different apps to get my friends together, find a great restaurant, find a ride-sharing service,” ForkOut co-founder Caleb Singer said in an interview, explaining that the process usually involves messaging friends, reading reviews on Yelp and checking locations and expected times of arrival on Google Maps. Instead of using this combination of platforms, Singer and co-founder and programmer Lida Tang thought of gathering all these resources in the same place – namely, another app.
After completing the onboarding process, users are prompted to “create a new outing” and select up to three restaurants to send to friends to vote on. Friends are imported from contact information; if they don’t have ForkOut, they receive an invitation. After voting, users can compare rates of different means of transportation to get to the place and receive notifications once their friends are there.
ForkOut pulls out restaurant data from Google and Yelp, so it works everywhere in the U.S. In Boston, Tang said that ForkOut is partnering with a few restaurants – including the Chicken & Rice Guys – to provide exclusive events and promotions to users in the Boston area.