Why a 'Tinder for Restaurants' Is Inherently Problematic
Should we be as shallow about our dining habits as we are about our dating preferences?
Photo: Getty Images / Ezra Bailey
No good and decent person on this earth should be able to look you in the eye and say, with any shred of enthusiasm, that they "really like" Tinder. And yet, anyone who has ever spent time on the app knows how addictive it can be. The repetitive swiping motion puts you in a trance of quite self-loathing where the stakes are just low enough to be both engaging and tranquilizing, like a fidget spinner in the form of a human Rolodex. Suddenly, three hours have gone by and all you've done is told some guy named Tedd that you studied English in college and accidentally super-liked your ex.
Of course, it's not always so bleak, and Tinder has made the occasional connection between star-crossed lovers possible. But this doesn't take away from the fact that most of it is a flaming trash heap full of bios endlessly full of phrases such as "life-lover" and "world traveler." These literary masterpieces are usually punctuated by airplane emojis—intended to signify the Tinder users' jet setting lifestyle—and written by people just as sad and horny as you.
A new app called Feed Me created by Montreal-based food journalist Amie Watson is looking to eliminate Tinder's ugly underbelly and make swiping fun. The app markets itself as Tinder for restaurants, but it can more accurately be described as Tinder meets Yelp. Its interface looks exactly like Tinder, except instead of pictures of frat bros fondling sedated tigers, you'll find pictures of restaurants accompanied by user-generated reviews. Watson wrote many of the reviews herself. The rest come from Yelp, as do all the pictures.
"With Feed Me, you see tons of restaurants back to back quickly, and you can have this immediate response to something you see and think, 'Yeah, I want that!'" Amie Watson tells MUNCHIES. "But you can also just open the app for ten minutes while you're waiting for the bus or you're in class or a meeting—basically anywhere appropriate or inappropriate that you'd use Tinder to kill time—and it's just fun."
In our aesthetically inclined food culture, creating yet another platform where pretty dishes are more important than delicious ones hardly seems like a step in the right direction when it comes to the future of food.
The app's gamified approach to dining makes the whole process of choosing a restaurant seem lighthearted and enjoyable. It even includes filters like "date night" and "hot and spicy" depending on the type of cuisine you're looking for.
But just as Tinder before it, no one is going to bother reading the review of a restaurant with bad profile pictures. Instead, they're going to swipe left and promptly move on to the next. This makes Feed Me a questionable way to discover new restaurants, as the intensely visual medium acts as yet another incentive for chefs to sacrifice taste for aesthetics in the never-ending quest of making "Instagrammable" food.
"Chefs should focus on their food, ingredients, and most of all, the guest experience," Chef Craig Wong, whose award-winning Toronto restaurants Patois and Jackpot are not on Feed Me, tells MUNCHIES. "When all you give a shit about are those three things, you can be confident that you will get a lot of swipes right."
But even if a guest's experience is great, it's unlikely to trump a bad picture, which users have to look at before getting to what could be a glowing review. In our aesthetically inclined food culture, creating yet another platform where pretty dishes are more important than delicious ones hardly seems like a step in the right direction when it comes to the future of food.
Chefs and restaurateurs put a lot of time into their menus, much more than anyone has ever put into their Tinder profile. Reducing the entirety of this equation into a simple swiping motion feels like a colossal "fuck you" to the entire culinary industry.
Just as Tinder helped introduce us to people we otherwise never would have met, Feed Me could expose users to new restaurants they otherwise may not have stumbled upon.
More likely, however, is that they'll just keep swiping, holding out hope that the next picture is hotter than the last.