Josh Sapienza, an Allentown, PA resident, is a Philadelphia-area hospitality industry veteran who became fed up with other restaurant review sites, which supposedly "rank" restaurants based on their aggregate popularity. He became frustrated scrolling through other people's reviews, which he feels can, at times, be "entirely too subjective" to narrow down and find new restaurants.
Sapienza remarked, "What someone else likes, I might not like, and what they don't like, I might love."
Not to mention, he wanted to do his part to make supporting independent restaurants easier during continued disruptive times. Restaurants are still reeling from the impact of COVID-19. Supply chain issues, labor shortages, and increasing costs continue to afflict operators and make trying new restaurants a riskier and more expensive proposition to consumers.
"The last thing anybody wants is to go out to a restaurant and have a miserable experience. It's not fun for the customer, and it's not fun for the restaurant either," Sapienza explained. "At the end of the day, I want customers to have a pleasant dining experience and restaurants to have happy customers."
Along with partners, he developed a new restaurant review app called Course®, which helps users find places to dine based on their specific tastes. The app allows users to review restaurants, rate specific menu items, create bucket lists, and keep notes about restaurants all at their fingertips.
Driven by artificial intelligence and personal input, the app calculates a user's compatibility with the restaurants around them and makes relevant suggestions. The app is handy for keeping track of "favorites" and restaurants to visit in the future.
A user's activity on the app helps the algorithm further understand their likes and dislikes to produce suitable new restaurant and menu recommendations. This personalized approach ensures the most optimized dining experience for the user without outside influence muddying the waters.
"Unlike other restaurant review apps, users are the only ones who see their ratings and reviews," Sapienza stressed. "None of the reviews are broadcasted to the public. It's ironic, but we found that the best way of removing bias from restaurant ratings and reviews was to create a platform that is, in many ways, a celebration of bias."
Sapienza and his partners at Hawser, an app development company, fast-tracked the launch of Course® to help restaurants in their pandemic recovery. The app offers month-to-month memberships at $2.99/month, annual memberships at $1.99/month (billed annually at $23.99), or lifetime memberships (billed once for $119.99). For a limited time, it's offering a free 30-day trial.
He explained, "We're just trying to make it easier for people to support more independent restaurants. The ability to do that hinges on an interest in shifting focus away from publicly grading the restaurant as a critic and towards finding common ground that exists between ourselves and the people whose job it is to deliver warm, personal, and engaging experiences in their community."
Marilyn Johnson is a freelance food and travel writer covering the food and drink scene of Philadelphia, South Jersey, and beyond. Food news: firstname.lastname@example.org. Travel tips: email@example.com.