App unites foodies hungry for love
PB&J matches singles by their dining preferences
After repeatedly striking out on dating apps, Vikram Bhatia, a software developer, decided to build his own. But to improve his odds, the 31-year-old Toronto man needed to create something different.
So he did some research, trying to figure out the recipe for love and the special ingredient that binds people. What he found is that connecting over food can spice up a fledgling relationship.
That’s the thinking behind PB&J, scheduled to launch later this month. Members post photos of restaurant dishes they like, and browse the favourites of others. Swipe left on images you don’t like and right on those you do — an idea borrowed from the online dating app Tinder.
Using a series of algorithms, PB&J tracks an individual’s profile preferences and liked photos, and connects that person to others with the same tastes. The individual then views their profiles and decides whether to connect.
“Food tells you about a person,” says Bhatia, who used to have a blog of food photos. “It’s generally a very good ice breaker. If you start talking with people about food you’ll find out there are other common things between you.”
The app — developed for both IOS and Android platforms — won’t just tap into lovelorn foodies, it will rely on restaurants’ need for promotion as part of its business model, he says.
Torstar News Service spoke with Bhatia about researching via pizza parties, enlisting food influencers and his own search for love.
How did the idea for PB&J surface?
I was on dating sites — Tinder, Bumble, and some others — and getting lost in the crowd. They were a bit impersonal in the approach. They were very profile-based and the process of connecting felt a bit empty to me. You basically connect with a person based on looks. So I thought of creating something where you put someone’s interests up front, with looks being secondary. So I researched the different factors that connect people and food was the No. 1 thing — and it’s close to my heart as well. So I’m like, “Let me give it a shot and create something on my own.”
How did you do your research?
I looked at what instantly connects people and found that it was the same taste in food — and music, which was a close second. A lot of dates happen around food, with people going to a restaurant or coffee shop. I thought, food actually connects and what if you were to start looking at people who want to have the same food?
How did you come up with a list of favourite foods?
I posted an ad on Kijiji saying I was hosting a pizza party — with free pizza and Coca-cola — in the (party room) of the condo where I lived. People came and I gave them a questionnaire about their experiences on different dating apps. I ran about four or five focus groups. I also sent out questionnaires. Once I interviewed between 100 and 150 people, answers started overlapping. That’s how I learned what people generally like and what they have on the first date.
You’re appealing to restaurants to promote their favourite dishes on the app.
That’s where our revenue model comes in — we want to keep it free for users. If a restaurant posts more than three pictures, it will pay us a certain amount … But for the next six months, PB&J is going to be released as a freefor-all, and restaurants can post unlimited pictures before we come out with a subscription program. For now, we’re collecting data in terms of how restaurants would want to use such a tool. Do they only want to post pictures? Or do they want to also collect analytics, such as: Who is liking the pictures most? Who is connecting? Who is going to the restaurant after making a connection?
So, are you still single?
Through the process of making PB&J I found somebody. She’s helping with the marketing of it.
Are you two a good match when it comes to food?
Totally. We are the same kind of foodie. We both love pizza and neither of us likes seafood.
the dating app PB&J launches Feb. 25.
Vikram Bhatia Contributed