Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Growing up in Northern Virginia, Joe Smiley rode on food trucks with his church handing out warm meals to people in the community.
“I was always struck about how many people in my own community lacked basic necessities, including a warm meal each day,” Smiley said, adding, “These volunteering experiences were instrumental in planting a seed in my mind that there had to be a better way that I could help out using my technology background, as well as my experience consulting in the food and beverage sector.”
Combining his experiences, Smiley came up with the idea for Craavings — a no-cost online platform designed to help people find their favorite foods while providing meals to those in need.
Unlike restaurant rating platforms, Arlington-based Craavings enables users to quickly search and discover the best individual dishes available nearby by searching across all restaurants in an area or within a single restaurant. There are more than 30 million menu items in Craavings’ database, which covers the majority of the 1 million restaurants in the U.S. and parts of Canada, according to Smiley, founder and CEO of the company.
Users can save foods — or drinks — they try by completing ratings or reviews of menu items for future reference. In addition, a newsfeed feature focuses on social networking so that users can see what their friends and family like or dislike.
But the platform is about more than just finding your favorite foods. Users collect points through Craavings by signing up for an account, completing ratings and reviews, adding photos and marking favorite menu items.
“We’re making a pledge to provide a meal to someone in need — right here in the U.S. — every time you earn 15 points on this app,” Smiley said. “Find your craavings and help others who are in need. Win-win.” Craavings has pledged more than 750 meals so far, via volunteer work, food drives and donations, according to its website.
After launching a beta version of the website two months ago, Craavings already has thousands of registered users, Smiley said.
For now, he said the company’s primary focus is finding angel investors to aid in further development of the platform, as well as begin marketing in the D.C. and New York City metro areas. “We’re also looking for business partners and anyone who can help market Craavings in their cities and communities,” Smiley said.
In addition to improving the web interface and building out the mobile app, he said the company plans to add nutrition information, advanced filtering, loyalty management and new menu items and restaurants (including food trucks).