By Brandon Gillet
A new app built by a uOttawa alumnus promises to help people around the world share their food photos, rank individual restaurant dishes and avoid dining disasters.
Issam Dalati, who graduated with a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2011, launched BestYums in early April. The app allows users to upload photos of dishes and rate them according to taste, appearance and price. It now features photos and ratings of about 70 dishes in 14 cities, with 13 of those “must-eat” locations here in Ottawa.
Dalati explained that with so many people already routinely taking photos of their food, the next logical step was to put all those pictures to good use. “The app is simple and easy to use. You can search by city or type of food and use a variety of filters,” he said.
The idea for the app occurred to him two years ago while he was preparing for a trip to Madrid. “I was only going to be there for six days and wanted to try the most famous dishes,” he said. “I spent hours researching and making notes, but had trouble figuring out exactly which dishes I should try at a particular restaurant.”
When he learned last year about a Google Startup Weekend being held on campus, open to students and alumni, he signed up. He competed, on his own, against seven teams — and his idea won the day. While plenty of apps rank restaurants, the judges liked BestYums’ focus on individual dishes.
Dalati then built the app with help from online freelance coders for some of the features that were particularly tricky or time-consuming. He did this in his free time, while holding down his regular job as an IT security consultant.
The app is barely a month old, but once the database has had a chance to grow, Dalati hopes to interest restaurants in purchasing subscriptions to have their signature dishes featured at the top of a page, with the option of linking to special offers.
Dalati says the Startup Weekend held at uOttawa was instrumental in getting his idea off the ground. “I think it’s great that they encourage students and alumni to bring their ideas to action,” he said.
The tough part now is marketing BestYums to build the user base, so Dalati is turning to social media sites, such as Instagram, to get the word out.