BOSTON—We live in an app-happy world, saturated with services that deliver everything from cookies to wine. But when it comes down to ordering a meal, how convenient are apps such as GrubHub, Foodler and Eat24 (just to name a few)?
Consider the steps: choose an app, select a cuisine, read restaurant ratings, pick a restaurant, choose your meal. But what if an app learned your tastes and habits, helping to choose a meal for you, skipping all the other steps?
“‘Menus are so 2014’ is what we joke about,” the new app’s lead designer Nick Samia said. “Nobody enjoys flipping through a menu. If you order food, you have to decide the restaurant and ask people and do this and that.”
Since launching last Monday, Every Labs founder Michael Sheeley—who co-founded RunKeeper and was the chief product officer at Mobee—said Chef Nightly has only received “super positive” responses, including from popular online community Product Hunt, where users submit and vote on the best new tech products.
“Someone in New York posted [Chef Nightly] on Product Hunt,” Sheeley said. “It went up over 100 upvotes, and it sat on the front page for a few days, which is great for getting feedback from smart people on the concept [despite the app only serving Boston for now].”
With funding from Kayak founder Paul English, Cambridge VC firm Atlas Venture, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and more, Chef Nightly works with more than 20 independent, local restaurants to deliver meals to customers within two miles for $12 each, which includes delivery and tip for most meals.
“We want the main, high-quality companies that can deliver, but we want them to be independent companies,” Sheely said. “We don’t want chains at all. We want it locally made.”
In fact, by giving the app a personality tailored to each user, Samia said he sees a future with “nobody having to make dinner decisions anymore” and the app “nailing it every time.”
“Every interaction the chef is learning a little bit more,” Samia said. “I see all users having personalized meals from kitchens that are tailored to them that Chef Nightly works with.”
Boston innovation expert Scott Kirsner blogged that the Westford-based startup takes “an interesting approach to generating new business for restaurants.”
But despite its customization, is this just another app for not only the target population of young, busy professionals and students, but also restaurant owners?
Antonio Baros, owner of Cinderella’s, an Italian restaurant in Cambridge’s Central Square with which Chef Nightly partners, said the restaurant has so far received “very few orders because [the app is] new in the market.”
Baros said that Cinderella’s works with many other companies that request its pizzas, pastas and other Italian fare, and he expects more orders as the app expands its audience.
“It’s just another option,” Baros said. “But it’s very interesting.”
Sheeley said an upcoming campaign will highlight the cooks behind these local kitchens.
Food tasting the same at each chain “lacks the personality that should be in food, and it lacks the locality,” Sheeley said. “These neighborhoods put their personality into their food and that’s important.”
Despite limited orders so far, those who have used it have responded positively, especially on Twitter.
“There’s nothing better than seeing someone on Twitter tweet, ‘This is awesome,’ ” Sheeley said.
Samia, who left his job at a small design firm that worked with Fortune 500 companies shortly after hearing Sheeley’s pitch for the app, said that user feedback is important for understanding what users want.
Expanding the variety of meals, for example, is among the challenges that Sheeley plan to work on, due to the lack of options in some neighborhoods.
“We got some feedback pretty quickly that there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from,” Sheeley said. “Getting new kitchens on board is actually fairly easy, but we just have to make sure they’re up to the quality that we want.”
So far, the app, available for download on iPhone and Android, offers items that include soups, salads, wraps, pizzas and calzones.
“Simplicity is key,” Samia said. “People don’t like complications.”
And now, there’s an app for that.