Famished for a new way to find just the right La Jolla restaurants? App nears local rollout

Lobster West in La Jolla will be among the participating restaurants on the Famished app when it rolls out locally.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The Famished app is coming to La Jolla.

The Los Angeles-based app uses artificial intelligence technology to connect its users with local restaurants and make recommendations based on a user’s likes and dislikes.

La Jolla Village Merchants Association Executive Director Jodi Rudick called it “like [the dating app] Tinder, but for restaurants.”

The La Jolla rollout, in partnership with LJVMA, currently has 90 participating restaurants, and once the launch happens, “we’re looking for early adopters and people to use it,” Rudick said.

A launch date is still being decided.

Famished founder and Chief Executive Abhi Chatterjee said the choice to expand to La Jolla was personal.

“My sister goes to [San Diego State University] and every time I visit her, we would come to La Jolla,” he said. “Every time I went there, I realized there are so many options and … for me to figure out what I want to eat, it took awhile and a lot of searching online. We feel the Famished model works in La Jolla because there is a cluster of restaurants and a lot of people that come, and there is so much food to experience.”

Chatterjee started meeting with LJVMA earlier this year to get local restaurants on board.

“We’ve built the app and we’re getting ready to launch, but menus are still being onboarded,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to serve the community of La Jolla; we’re very excited. Once the community starts using the app, we’ll start seeing the true benefits for the whole food ecosystem, from the restaurants to the community as well. We’re looking forward to seeing how that goes.”

The free app allows users to create a “profile” with dietary restrictions, allergies and favorite types of cuisine. Each time users access the app, they are presented with food options based on their parameters to swipe left and right, indicating whether they like or dislike something, and the app comes up with a recommendation.

“It is different from most of the platforms out there in that other apps don’t get smarter as you use them; they don’t get to know you,” Chatterjee said. “With Famished, there is an AI-based recommendation system. You see photos of the food, not a picture of the restaurant or reviews. It is more of a curated experience. ... You get on the app, start swiping to see what is new and what is recommended based on what you like.”

Drawing on the social aspect of eating, users can see what friends who have the app have eaten and what they like. Users also can save the dishes they like for later reference.

A restaurant’s entire menu will not be on the app, just three to five “star dishes,” Chatterjee said.

Ordering through the app is not an option, so users must contact the restaurants to place an order or make a reservation, though they can call directly from the app.

Famished also features an event option in which users can see the food vendors participating in certain events and what kind of food they offer.

The app — while in the “beta stage” of development — has already launched in Los Angeles with more than 200 participating restaurants.

“We feel the Famished model works in La Jolla because there is a cluster of restaurants and a lot of people that come, and there is so much food to experience.”

— Abhi Chatterjee, Famished founder

Before the rollout in La Jolla, the data is being improved to make the experience easier, Chatterjee said.

“We want this to be a seamless experience for restaurant owners and people in La Jolla, so we’re doing everything on the back end,” he said. “We’re getting the menu data available so it will be ready when the app releases.”

When that happens, he added, there will be perks for early adopters and locals.

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