It’s rare for startups from other places to launch in Montreal. But that’s exactly what Dishcrawl is doing. They’re from the Valley, and have expanded into other West Coast locales but now they’re setting their sights on their first Canadian city. I reached out to speak with Founder, Tracy Lee about Dishcrawl and why they’re moving officially into the city.
In order to kick things off, Tracy and her team are running a couple dishcrawls in the city. One of their dishcrawls is tonight!
I can’t share all the details of what’s going on at Dishcrawl; they’re very new (only about 7 months old or so) and there are a few things they haven’t yet publicly announced. But it’s interesting nonetheless to see Valley-based entrepreneurs take notice of what’s going on in Montreal. And for a location-based startup, expansion has to be done city-by-city, so picking Montreal is a big step.
The food space is also an interesting one. We’re seeing lots of startups in this area: Foodspotting (which just raised $750,000), Foodzie, Foodoro, Tasting Table, etc. It’s clearly an area where entrepreneurs feel there’s huge opportunity.
So here’s our interview with Tracy Lee at Dishcrawl. Enjoy!
NextMontreal: What is Dishcrawl?
Tracy: Dishcrawl.com is the matchmaker for your mouth. By creating a taste profile on Dishcrawl and telling us what kinds of things you like to eat, we help you find the best dishes in the restaurants around your locality.
The definition of a dishcrawl is a progression of 3 or more dishes at once. Restaurants are typically known for one or two best dishes, so we like to restaurant hop, or dishcrawl, through 3/4 of them at each meal. Sometimes if we’re tired, it’s only one restaurant, but that’s rarely the case.
NextMontreal: Who is the team behind Dishcrawl?
Tracy: We have a great team, but not everyone has announced their involvement yet publicly. So stay tuned!
NextMontreal: How did you come up with this idea?
Tracy: Usually, restaurants are known for one or two best dishes that people seek out. Being a foodie, I always optimize for maximum palate stimulation, therefore a meal for me might take me to 3 or 4 restaurants in one night. I found it difficult though, in creating these foodie excursions, to sort through the massive amounts of data on Yelp, Urbanspoon, Chow, and local food blogs. It would take me hours to plan a dinner. I decided it would be great to have a tool that could help me plan my dishcrawls and where I could recommend dishcrawls to friends, therefore dishcrawl.com was born. You can literally create a dishcrawl and plan dinner in seconds.
NextMontreal: Your website says you’re currently looking for funding. How is that process going?
Tracy: We’ve just begun the process of seeking funding. So far we’re mostly just putting our feelers out for people who might be interested, and getting advice from some really great people. If you know of anyone who is looking for an investment, send them our way!
NextMontreal: What’s the goal of Dishcrawl? What’s the big vision?
Tracy: Our goal is to bring people together via food. The first step is to help people find the great food and encourage sharing that experience with others. Eventually we will add in the social aspects that connect people together based on their taste profiles (kind of like the way online dating sites work, but based around food and friendships. )
NextMontreal: Clearly you see this as a scalable business. What’s the business model?
Tracy: We just launched our matchmaker program, where experts in different cities can advise dishcrawlers of the best dishes in that locality. Our business model is to monetize around driving diners to local restaurants and providing metrics to those restaurants about their patrons. Dishcrawl encourages bridging the gap between “in real life” connections and those in social media. It’s a way for diners to discover and connect with the food in local restaurants online.
NextMontreal: Why are you launching in Montreal? You’re currently in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles. All West Coast. So now you’re jumping to the East Coast and into Canada?
Tracy: The Montreal climate for foodies is at a very interesting stage right now. Last year, I spent quite some time in Montreal restaurants and fell in love, however restauranteurs were not that keen on social media, and neither were many Montrealers (it was mainly tech). Within the past year, I’ve watched social media become integrated into the Montreal foodie culture at such a rapid rate. We want to be a part of that. We want to give our exclusively-selected matchmakers (foodie supernodes) the opportunity to lift up the local restaurant community, feature the hidden gems of Montreal, and make it easy for other Montreal folk to find this information. It’s a win-win for everyone.
NextMontreal: Do you plan on running multiple events in Montreal? Can other people run and host events? How does this all work?
Tracy: Anyone is welcome to throw dishcrawls themselves using the site! We encourage it! If you throw a dishcrawl, you can email email@example.com and request personalized buttons for the foodies of your event. We need 2 weeks notice.
As a company, we will be throwing more dishcrawls in Montreal in the near future. Dishcrawl events are a simple way of experiencing the concept of dishcrawling and connect with other food lovers. We usually visit 3-4 restaurants and eat at least 4 courses through the night.
NextMontreal: How many dishcrawls have you run? What has the experience been?
Tracy: We dishcrawl every time we eat! But larger events like our official dishcrawls we’ve done in LA, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley/Bay Area. It’s been amazing, the acceptance of social media in restaurants we visit. Chefs come out and introduce their food to us and take pride in what they present to us dishcrawlers.
NextMontreal: Do you have people in Montreal helping?
Tracy: Yes! Marcella of eataliangirl.com is our first dishcrawl matchmaker as well as our point person for Montreal. She is absolutely amazing. We have 3-4 more matchmakers that have yet to be announced.
NextMontreal: Dishcrawl is a hyperlocal business (at least right now.) How do you scale that out, and what experiences have you had (positively and negatively) in doing so? What tips would you give other entrepreneurs looking to build hyperlocal businesses?
Tracy: We’re highly focused on the local food communities in each city we enter. Every experience has been a positive learning one, so I can’t say we’ve run into anything negative. Tips for other entrepreneurs? Take note that each city will embrace you in a different fashion, therefore a strategy in one city may not work in another.
NextMontreal: Do you model Dishcrawl after any other existing startups or businesses that you admire? In the foodie space or otherwise?
Tracy: We do not model what we are doing based on any other business, however we do take note of different startups and their keys to success, but moreso to understand things like social engagement loops, viral loops, how the public reacts to different ideas in the marketplace, and the like. We definitely follow the Lean Startup model.