App unites food­ies hun­gry for love

PB&J matches sin­gles by their din­ing pref­er­ences

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - Food -

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.

Con­trib­uted

the dat­ing app PB&J launches Feb. 25.

Vikram Bha­tia Con­trib­uted

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