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The New Platform for ‘Social Foodies’

It was a warm afternoon in early April when I spoke with Arthur Brenninkmeijer, the amiable and perceptive founder and creator of SpotDrop, a new app revolutionizing food recommendations to be more interactive, helpful, and authentic. I quickly discovered that Brenninkmeijer’s vision of SpotDrop goes beyond solving a culinary conundrum but offers a new way to connect with friends in a personal way. 

BEGINNINGS

A senior at Boston College, Brenninkmeijer’s interest in creating SpotDrop ties closely with his multicultural background and love for exploring different culinary scenes. French and Dutch, Brenninkmeijer grew up all over the world, including Brazil and parts of Europe. Having lived in Europe, Brenninkmeijer explained that it’s easy to “travel from city to city and from country to country,” which put him in close proximity to “a lot of different cultures and a lot of different food scenes.” When exploring new areas, Brenninkmeijer sought to eat where the locals ate, attempting “to stay as far as possible from tourists.” To this end, Brenninkmeijer often turned to his friends for authentic food recommendations. However, he mentioned the process to be “painful” since it often required manually calling or texting people who may be busy, “taking a screenshot of a conversation to remember the place’s name” or “adding the name of a specific restaurant” to a folder or note. In other words, there was not a seamless, easy way to access friends’ food recommendations. 

He faced the problem once more when arriving in Boston for the first time and being “overwhelmed by how much choice there was” in the food scene. Brenninkmeijer sullenly admitted that he “didn’t do a good job of keeping track” of his friends’ recommendations, which led him to “completely miss out on everything that my friends have told me” to check out. However, inspiration struck Brenninkmeijer when he saw a prime opportunity to “build something new” that addresses this recurring problem. Thus, the idea for SpotDrop was born the summer after his freshman year. He chose to study at Boston College to “pursue my interest in startups and entrepreneurship,” which provided a basis to launch his foodie-fueled idea. After years of hard work with a team, he launched SpotDrop on the App Store in February 2022, and pitched it at Boston College’s Accelerate@Shea Demo Day in April 2022.

APP OVERVIEW

What is SpotDrop? Brenninkmeijer explained that SpotDrop is an app where users can view “different restaurants, cafes, bars and nightlife experiences that your friends enjoy” on the platform by posting “spots” and following friends. When a user posts a “spot,” they have the option to attach photos and write a review for their friends to see. Value comes from seeing real recommendations from people that users choose to follow and trust on a personal level.

Brenninkmeijer solidified SpotDrop’s mission with an example. Say “you’re going to New York one weekend, and you know that your friend Abby goes to New York all the time… You can open spot drop, go to Abby’s profile, and then see the places that she’s been to [that] she would recommend her friends” to go. Brenninkmeijer believes that the heart of SpotDrop lies in offering “a much more personal recommendation because it comes from someone that you know.” He finds it “fun” to think about that “knowing that the reason I’m here is because my friend Abby added [a post] on SpotDrop.” There’s a “certain level of connection” in that experience that is “quite special,” Brenninkmeijer mused.

APP DIFFERENTIATION

What makes this different from food influencers on social media? Brenninkmeijer revealed that platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, while very helpful and engaging, are not “curated for a foodie’s journey and experience.” As a result, such platforms often fall short on “key features” and “information that foodies look for.” SpotDrop caters to the foodie experience, targeting digitally-savvy and social young people. For example, it has a “a map feature that can be filtered based on exactly what kind of cuisine you’re looking for.” In addition, SpotDrop is partnering with OpenTable and will soon offer users the option “make reservations at different restaurants” through the SpotDrop app. Therefore, “Spot drop is just a bit more curated to the foodie side of things” and takes a foodie’s journey closer to actually eating at a recommended restaurant.

As for platforms like TripAdvisor and Yelp, Brenninkmeijer underscored three ways SpotDrop is different: authenticity, subjectivity, and sustainably engaging.

First, the recommendations and content from these platforms comes from strangers, missing the personal connection piece that makes SpotDrop different. “SpotDrop is building a platform where the only content I see is from people that I’ve chosen to follow,” Brenninkmeijer emphasized. “Hopefully, users will be following people that they “know and trust” so they therefore “will know and trust the recommendations” of people they follow. Recommendations are founded on authenticity and trust.

Second, Brenninkmeijer scrutinized the “one-size-fits-all” approach of such platforms. “What might be a great restaurant for me… is not necessarily a great restaurant for you,” since taste and experiences are subjective. Instead, he advocates for recommendations based on people users choose to follow and trust, which is different for every person. This informs why SpotDrop doesn’t have a “star-rating” feature. 

Lastly, Brenninkmeijer finds a “gamification approach,” often seen with points or badges, as unsustainable for long-term platform strategy. “The incentive that we decided to go with people posting on SpotDrop is just being able to engage with people’s content.” He built in incentives similar to other social platforms, including commenting on and liking posts. Brenninkmeijer’s goal is to take the existing incentive model and “optimize it” for foodies in a way that is unobtrusive.

UNCOMPROMISING ON AUTHENTICITY 

SpotDrop seeks to offer an authentic experience to the user. What this means is that upon opening the app, there will not be a “For You” or “Explore” page that bombards the user with information. Instead, the user only sees the content from people they follow. So, “if you download SpotDrop, and you don’t follow any foodie, and you don’t add any of your own places, the app is going to be empty.” Currently, there are a few Boston College foodie accounts recommended (including Gusto!) upon downloading the app just to get a user’s journey started on the relatively newly released app.

The overarching premise is that “we want to make it so that every time you see a picture or spot or something on SpotDrop,” it relates to “someone that you’ve chosen to follow, because that’s really what’s going to keep SpotDrop personal,” Brenninkmeijer affirmed. In the future, the platform might consider recommendations from friends of friends in less explored geographical areas, but SpotDrop plans to keep itself as personal as possible. “We definitely don’t want to be a platform that pushes content to users without it coming from a source that they decided to follow.”

Brenninkmeijer mentioned that SpotDrop’s key mission of curating a personalized food experience is constant, but the app development itself is ever-evolving. After all, it’s there to support the foodie’s journey. “We really are building an app for our users,” Brenninkmeijer stressed. As a result, constantly testing and implementing user feedback allows SpotDrop to offer a more frictionless experience with each app update. 

Ultimately, Brenninkmeijer finds value in connecting with friends in a deep way. What better way than food? “I really want SpotDrop to also be a platform that fosters genuine connections with people you already know,” Brenninkmeijer shared cheerfully. It adds “a new way to connect with your friends,” since “food and experiences are such powerful things,” he concluded.

The next time you struggle to remember a deep-dish pizza restaurant your friend recommended you check out in Chicago, consider downloading SpotDrop. Not only does it save time for all parties involved and is easily accessible, but forges a new connection between friends. Perhaps walking a mile in a person’s shoes is not the only way to really understand a person. Eating a plate of their favorite food at a place they love could be just as informing and of course, delicious.

Cover photo courtesy of Eataly Boston

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