After becoming frustrated with long Yelp reviews and misleading Foursquare rankings, recent University alums Omeid Seirafi-Pour and Calvin Schemanski decided to create an easy way to find the best food in town.
“I was trying to use my phone just to find a place for us to eat, and it was the same pain: I was spending like half an hour reading reviews before I could decide if a place was going to be worth it or not,” Schemanski said.
Seirafi-Pour, a 2011 graduate, returned to Ann Arbor to work with Schemanski to found MyFab5 in the summer of 2012. John Gulbronson, a 2011 Michigan Engineering graduate, joined the team in January 2013. The company is currently operating out of the University’s TechArb, a startup accelerator.
MyFab5 isn’t your typical rating system. Instead of ranking restaurants on a scale, users pick their top-five restaurants within particular food categories, such as pizza, sandwiches and burgers. The website excludes long personal reviews in favor of a top-five list.
Schemanski said they decided to forgo traditional rating systems because he believes they become ineffective in conveying a restaurant’s popularity to readers.
“All of those ratings, what they end up doing is make everything pretty much look the same,” Schemanski said. “After a few hundred people will rate a place, it all just kind of goes towards the average.”
The MyFab5 team started its efforts in Ann Arbor but quickly expanded to all of Michigan. In August, the website expanded to the entire United States.
While the website is available in every city, Schemanski said smaller cities might not have rankings simply due to their smaller populations.
“As of today, our users have created more than 5,400 rankings in Ann Arbor alone,” Schemanski said. “Since each ranking can contain multiple restaurants, our users have made over 18,000 restaurant recommendations in Ann Arbor.”
Pete Sickman-Garner, marketing manager for Zingerman’s, said it makes sense to start a food-centered website in Ann Arbor because of the variety of restaurants in the city.
“Given the way Ann Arbor’s food scene has exploded in recent years, this would be a good town to try out something like this,” Sickman-Garner wrote in an e-mail interview. “Foodies are definitely people who like sharing their opinions.”
New advancements at MyFab5 include a recent won $15,000 grant to help grow the company. The money will go toward hiring a professional design team that will work to improve the website’s logo, graphics and website functionality.
The company is also trying to include Instagram on its site and use it to more effectively to gauge users’ favorite places. It hopes to include this function on the website by mid-December.
Although MyFab5 was created to help customers decide where to eat, Schemanski said their website also helps restaurants.
“There are a lot of people out there that are taking advantage of the fact that they can hurt a business’s reputation,” Schemanski said. “Sometimes customers will try to extort them for a free meal, saying they will leave a bad review. Sometimes it is just disgruntled employees that will go on and do that, or a competitor from other restaurants.”
Schemanski has big hopes for the future of MyFab5 expanding into categories beyond the food industry.
“Going out to a restaurant is part of an entertainment experience … so we can apply it to other forms of entertainment, like movies, TV shows and books,” Schemanski said.