With thousands of restaurants in Chicago, how do you choose one to try?
You could look at Yelp and Google reviews from people you don’t know, or you could download Sugr, a Chicago-built app looking to help narrow down those dinner decisions.
Sugr, founded by Ruben Flores-Martinez, the company’s CEO and chief software architect, has built a smartphone app that uses artificial intelligence to generate and match users with restaurant recommendations based on their preferences.
When users make an account, they answer 10 questions about their cuisine preferences by swiping left or right on answers in a Tinder-like manner. Questions ask about whether users like spicy food, if they are early birds or night owls, and if they like to plan ahead with a reservation, among other things.
Based on those preferences, Sugr provides users with restaurants that match them, and since the app is also built with machine-learning tech, the recommendations get smarter over time as users choose and rate restaurants.
“In the span of 10 swipes, we can get a very accurate description of who you are as a person,” Flores-Martinez said. “We wanted to create a very smart product that could easily understand your personality, the things you like and connect with, and help you make those decisions better and faster.”
Sugr, which launched in beta mode in Chicago in May 2017, also operates in Milwaukee. Flores-Martinez declined to disclose how many users Sugr has, but said there are about 10,000 Chicago-area restaurants on the platform right now.
“The dining and drinking ecosystem in Chicago is unlike any other.”
In addition to the restaurant-matching feature, Sugr has integrated other features to make for a more seamless dining experience. Once users select a restaurant they want to go to, the app will prompt them to call an Uber to get them there. And once they’re done dining at a restaurant, they can pay for the meal through the Sugr app using Apple Pay, a feature restaurants have to opt into beforehand.
“We really want to optimize all these little aspects of the experience,” Flores-Martinez said.
The app is free for consumers so Sugr plans to monetize its app by collecting a portion of dining transactions done on the app through Apple Pay, Flores-Martinez said.
Flores-Martinez said his four-person team is looking to fundraise about $1 million to help ramp up Sugr’s user base and expand the platform throughout Chicago.
“The dining and drinking ecosystem in Chicago is unlike any other in the whole country,” Flores-Martinez said. “We really feel like we’re in the perfect city and that it’s the perfect time to make something like this grow.”