Troy-Based App ‘Taste’ Turns User Data Into Personalized Restaurant Recommendations

I love going out to eat, but I hate having to troll through long lists of novel-length recommendations about how many stars the spinach-artichoke dip did or didn’t deserve. It’s lunch and I’m hangry and I just need something tasty now!

Lucky for me (and my hanger), I was recently introduced to Taste, a personalized restaurant rating app with a social media twist, that was created right here in Troy. “It’s like a new and improved version of Yelp,” says Kevin Vanderwarker, one of the app’s co-founders. “It’s taking data that already exists in all of your preferences, tastes, dislikes and likes and pooling them together on a platform that can provide better recommendations that aren’t just about everybody else, but about yourself.” The app allows users to share their dining experiences and build a network of TasteBuds (like-minded foodie friends), thus making it easier to both share and, most importantly, receive more personalized restaurant recommendations.

Vanderwarker and fellow co-founder Chris Raymond launched the beta of Taste back in July and expect the finished version to be out within the next couple of weeks (a “lite version” is currently available on the App Store). Even if you don’t have much of an online presence, Taste allows users to link a bank account or credit card to the app to retrieve data about spending habits and restaurant preferences. “When we first tested it out, we were pulling back 200-300 restaurants in just 12 months’ time,” says Raymond. “So it made a huge difference in terms of personalization.” And for those who’d rather not add their account information to an app, the finished version will have an option to manually add dining preferences as well.

The inspiration for the app evolved from Vanderwarker and Raymond’s shared frustration with restaurant rating apps. “I’ve been working for a large software company for a number of years, traveling across the county, and I was always looking for that great place to eat,” says Vanderwarker. “I found myself sifting through restaurant lists and trying to figure out where to go, and it was taking 35-45 minutes at a time.” Vanderwarker discovered, however, that when he got a recommendation from a friend or someone he trusted, it eliminated that time-consuming decision making. He and Raymond started doing some research and found that no one was really pooling information and curating it into a platform where people felt comfortable to store and share their dining experiences with others. “The wheels began turning, and I realized that there’s got to be a better way to leverage all of this data to serve up things that I actually like,” says Vanderwarker. That’s when Taste was born.

To develop their app, Vanderwarker and Raymond, who are both Upstate New York natives, brought their idea to Troy Innovation Garage, a collaborative, entrepreneurial work space for creative companies. In the past 18 months, they’ve raised more than $250,000 from investors, and are hoping to double that amount in the next thirty days. According to Vanderwarker and Raymond, the response so far to the beta version has been very positive. “We’ve built a way for people to get a better experience instead of only having apps like Yelp or Google Search,” Raymond says. “It’s time to give something else a try.”

Come lunchtime, count me in.

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