App serves up Midlands food and drink deals

jwilkinson@thestate.comApril 13, 2013 

— Jason Rikard and Jonathan Mayhak love dishing up daily specials, but they aren’t in the restaurant business.

The two Lexington natives and USC grads have cooked up a new smartphone application to let folks know about food and drink deals in the Capital City.

Called grubbly.com, the download gives you the lowdown on cheap eats and drinks at locally owned restaurants and bars, mostly in Five Points and the Vista.

“You can find all this information on the Internet,” Rikard said.

“But it’s not all in one place,” said Mayhak

“So we thought, ‘Why don’t we make this easier?’” Rikard said.

If the two tend to finish each other’s sentences, it’s no wonder: They went to Lexington’s White Knoll High School at the same time. They both studied computer programming at USC. They even were in a local Ska band called Maladroit.

“We’ve lived a lot of life together,” Rikard said.

The 25-year-olds (although Rikard prefers his age be listed as 25½) were even married recently, although not to each other.

“Please put that in the paper,” they said in tandem.

Rikard develops software for Clemson University. Mayhak is working on an iPad educational platform for home schoolers by Atlanta startup Dew Learning.

The two launched the grubbly.com app for iPhone in February as kind of a lark. And they are working out a few kinks in the Android version before publicizing it.

The two received advice from USC’s Center for Entrepreneurial and Technological Innovation, which assists recent graduates in getting businesses off the ground.

Essentially, the app lists specials by day of the week, rather than being a medium for coupons like sites such as Groupon or creating the specials itself. Tapping “Monday” will give you daily specials around town for Monday, “Tuesday” for Tuesday, etc.

“Restaurants already do specials,” Mayhak said. “We just help with that.”

But it certainly isn’t a comprehensive list. Mayhak and Rikard list only the bars and restaurants they particularly like or which strike their fancy, like The Whig on Gervais Street or Village Idiot in Five Points. There are even some fine-dining restaurants, like the new Oak Table, on Main Street.

“We’re more focused on local businesses, not the chains,” Rikard said.

Sometimes, as was the case with Village Idiot, a Five Points pizza institution, the owners don’t even know they are being included. But they like it.

“Innovation like this (and other technological marketing trends) keeps us relevant,” said Village Idiot owner Kelly Glynn. “It keeps us on people’s minds.”

App marketing is even more important given that a big chunk of Glynn’s demographic — college students and graduate hipsters — are more tuned into electronic marketing.

“I do one direct mail piece and that’s it,” said Glynn, who noted that 75 percent of her business is driven by daily specials.

For the moment, grubbly.com is not a money-maker. Mayhak and Rikard glean specials from the Internet or by personal experience. They often just snap pictures of specials boards with their iPhones to be logged in later.

“We go out a lot,” Rikard said.

The app is more of a showpiece for their freelance programming startup Apparctica, they said. And perhaps, once the two can figure out a way to quantify how much traffic they are driving to restaurants (without the use of coupons), they can institute a small monthly fee.

In the meantime, they are kicking around ways to build grubbly by communicating such things as the vibe of the room, the character of the clientele, the décor, the architecture – taking it to the next level.

“Information about how cool it looks and the people who are there,” said Mayhak.

“Not just an aggregate of information,” Rikard said.

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