In our over-digitized world in which any person with a mobile phone and a motive can have their opinion heard by millions, there has emerged a plethora of online restaurant reviews that can not only alter our plans regarding where we dine out, but even cause analysis paralysis to the point that we may forgo dining out at all. A new mobile app aims to revolutionize our dining experience by adding an ingredient that has gone missing over the past 5 years; spontaneity.
Launching in Boston this May 9th, the new GoPapaya mobile application provides consumers with real time last-minute amazing deals in great restaurants for immediate seating. Being spontaneous has its rewards. Click here to try it for yourself or learn more on their website here.
When GoPapaya reached out and described their new mobile app to me, it was a no brainer to share it with the Wicked Cheap Boston audience. WCB’s mission is to help Bostonians enjoy all the city has to offer without emptying their wallets. Based in Boston, GoPapaya has the potential to make it even easier for you to eat at great restaurants for lower costs.
Wicked Cheap Boston has a page that lists for you food deals in Boston so you can plan for an affordable night out. However, what if you’re just not the planning type, or it’s too last minute for legit plans? Or what if you make plans to check out a restaurant only to find there’s an hour wait to get seated and you’re not willing to wait that long. This is where embracing spontaneity can be helpful. While our list of Boston food deals can be helpful for planning your night out, there’s a new resource coming out that can help you find discounted meals at the last minute. It’s a new app called GoPapaya and it’s launching in Boston this May 9th, 2016. If you’ve used Hotels Tonight, it’s kind of like that…. but for restaurants. I’ve stayed at swanky hotels for much less than their typical rate thanks to that app, and I’m hoping GoPapaya will provide a similar experience for dining out.
Here’s how it works:
- Great deals (actual money saving, not free appetizers)! Restaurants give us last-minute discounts on their unsold tables, which means you score amazing last-minute deals.
- Choose from the whole menu, discount applies to entire bill. Alcohol may be excluded depending on the state (Alcohol is excluded in Massachusetts).
- Get a table in just 5 seconds – 3 taps and all done!
- The customer has only 30 minutes to get to the restaurant.
- The customer does not need to show anything (his/her phone, any paper) to the host when arriving to the restaurant. It is a free service for the consumer.
- GoPapaya screens all the restaurants they work with, and only feature the ones where they know you’ll have a great experience.
I was fortunate enough to discuss this new app with its CEO, Marik Marshak, and here’s what he had to say about it.
The restaurant promotions will go live starting on May 9th. We currently have about 30 full service restaurants in 8 cities around Boston, including Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.
We screen the restaurants in many ways. First we physically visit each of the restaurants. In addition, we use a combination of techniques that include: reading reviews about each restaurant from multiple resources, observe the way the staff treat the guests, try the food, look at the way food is serviced, determine if the restaurant look and atmosphere is welcoming, talk with the owner and staff, get feedback from friends that ate in the restaurants, and so on.
We think that people will find the app very useful, and extremely simple to use. But we are not really objective.
The deals we offer to consumers are very simple -> money off the bill, without any fine print. Due to Massachusetts law, alcoholic drinks are not allowed to be discounted. Free appetizers or discounts on specific entrees do not trigger an immediate reaction by consumers based on our research. Ultimately, paying less is more attractive.
My Experience with the App (Test Version)
GoPapaya was kind enough to provide me with access to their beta version of the app which included 5 demo restaurants, just so I could see how it worked. I did give the app a try with the demo restaurant deals and made an account for myself. Here’s what the home screen looked like for me on my iPhone 5c.
I was able to book a deal for two people at a restaurant nearby, and was immediately sent a text notification confirming my deal. Claiming a deal took less than 10 seconds. I just picked a restaurant, entered my party size, and clicked the Claim Deal button. I cancelled the deal shortly after with no problem and this also only took seconds.
I decided to try it again for another restaurant. This time I wanted more info on the restaurant. Right within the GoPapaya app it told me the name, price range, distance from me, address, a map with its location in relation to my own, a brief description of the restaurant, the attire expected, whether credit cards were accepted, and it even had a link to both the restaurant’s website and a direct link to the menu. There were also 5 photos of the restaurant and the food. It didn’t include any reviews of the restaurant, but this is a fake restaurant for testing purposes so perhaps they will include user reviews in the future. Whether they’re able to integrate with Yelp’s reviews or build their own review system will be an interesting development to keep an eye on. Then again, too many reviews to read can take away from the spontaneity that GoPapaya is hoping to create, so perhaps just a number of stars a restaurant receives or a “featured review” could be shown rather than dozens and dozens of them.
It did require me to be within 5 miles of the restaurant in order to claim the deal. Once I claimed it a timer started to count down from 30 minutes, implying I had only 30 minutes to get to the restaurant to be able to use the deal. I suppose this is why it requires me to be within 5 miles. So while the app does encourage spontaneity, if you’re looking to eat somewhere further than 5 miles from where you are, I recommend you plan heading to the general neighborhood you’d like to eat and then opening the app. For example, go to the North End first, then open the apps and see which Italian restaurants you can get a discount at. It’ll be interesting to see if they create more options, like giving you more time to get to a place that’s more than 5 miles away. Or if it could integrate with Uber, Lyft, Waze, or Google Maps to tell you your odds of getting to the restaurant on time to collect the deal, that’d be neat. One thing at a time I guess.
My Opinions on the App
In my opinion, it felt very easy to use and certainly something I would try using myself. I do like the idea of getting a simple percentage off of my meal. If it were something more specific, like half off an appetizer or specific item, it would probably make me do more research on Yelp on that item and whether it’s any good. The % off is quick and easy to comprehend, making a spontaneous decision easier to make, and the app more fun overall. In the words of Michael Scott, ‘K.I.S.S.’
GoPapaya understands this concept.
The 30 minute window definitely makes picking a deal nearby a priority, but I suppose that’s good because the closer somebody is to the restaurant the less of a trek it feels like to a place they may not have tried before. I believe that would make them less likely to cancel. The deal I picked did expire after 30 minutes and I was promptly notified by the app. I did not seem to be penalized in any way for claiming a deal and then bailing on it. I guess it’s not like making a reservation at a busy restaurant. You’re claiming a deal at a restaurant that already happens to be having a slow night, so you’re failure to show up doesn’t really hurt them. If you do show up, both you AND the restaurant benefit. I do imagine that in the future they could come up with some sort of minor penalty for canceling too frequently, but that’s just my assumption and not confirmed by GoPapaya.
More Details on the App
People that download the app do NOT need to create an account just to SEE the deals. However, if you want to claim a deal then you will need to first create an account and verify your email address. The app is FREE for the consumer. He/she does not need to prepay (they do not ask for credit card information). So basically, there is no risk in downloading the app and claiming a deal. That definitely makes it worth a try.
As of now there is only a version for iOS. An Android version will be available down the road.
The goal of the app is to allow people to do less planning when going out, enjoy great food and experiences, and save money. The app is not just about saving money, it’s about helping Bostonians find great dining experiences.
As of now GoPapaya has formed partnerships with 32 restaurants in the following cities – Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Jamaica Plain, Brookline, Newton, Watertown, Waltham, and Arlington. There is a very good chance they will also get restaurants in Needham, Natick, Norwood and Medford prior to the launch, or shortly after. They are currently adding new restaurants to the app at a rate of about 5-7 per week.
Marik added, “I suspect that after the launch and once we become a known brand (at least more than today) the sale effort will be quicker and we will be able to double the rate [of restaurants added] per week. So I believe we will be able to add about 40 restaurants a month after the launch. Today there is only one sales person on the team, and we plan to add another sales person. When this happens the rate should be much higher.”
Once they gain a solid foothold in Boston, MA, GoPapaya has plans to expand to New York City and San Francisco later this year. Personally, I could see this app being huge. Of course, I like deals and spontaneity. For the app to succeed, they must hope other people do too. They also need to do a great job getting as many quality restaurants on board as possible.
Why Spontaneity Sometimes Beats Planning When Dining Out (Warning: Rant)
I don’t know about you, but it seems like too many times for my girlfriend and I, the process of planning where we’re going to go out to eat is getting longer and longer. It usually goes something like this…. (BGPL – Before GoPapaya Launched). Let me know if this sounds familiar for you too.
Me: “Want to go out to eat tonight? Maybe somewhere new?”
Her: “Sure, what are you in the mood for?”
Me: “I could do thai, or maybe just a burger and beer.”
Her: “Ok, let me check Yelp to see what’s good nearby.”
Me: “Cool, you check out thai places, I’ll check out gastropubs.”
30 minutes later…
Me: “Find any good thai places?”
Her: “Well, theres this one that’s really close and the menu looks great and it’s pretty cheap, but it only gets 3 stars. Although, a recent review of the pad thai said it was amazing and that’s really what I want. But, I don’t know. I don’t want to go all the way out only to have bad food. What did you find on gastropubs?”
Me: “I found a bunch. This one I’ve heard great things about, but I’m not psyched about the beer list. It supposedly has an amazing burger, but I want good beer too. Now, this other ones seems to have it all, but it’s pretty new so it only has like 4 reviews and they’re all good, but that’s just not enough data to justify the drive there. Remember when we tried that place that got so many good reviews and it ended up being gross? And then that time that all the reviews were negative at that other place and we thought it was great?”
Her: “Yea I have no idea what to do, and now it’s already 8:00. Should we just heat up the frozen pizza we have?”
Me: “Ugh, no, we’re not that old! It’s Friday night, let’s get out of the house. I guess we could just go down the street to the [insert mediocre restaurant we’ve been to a dozen times]. You good with that?”
Her: “Yea all right, as long as I don’t have to do my hair at this point.”
And then another night of a mildly satisfactory meal at a place we’ve been to a dozen times ensues. After finishing our meal she’ll say something like, “why do we keep coming here? We should have just went to that first Thai place I found. At least then we’d know for ourselves if it were good.”
I’ll respond: “Yeah, that’s why sometimes I don’t like Yelp. We’ve become reliant on the mixed reviews of other people that don’t even have the same tastes that we do. If it didn’t exist, we’d just try a place for ourselves and spend less time wasting away online reading reviews and staring at photos of food we’ll never eat. I mean if a place has hundreds of terrible reviews, then of course I’m glad I checked Yelp first before wasting my money. Yelp has its benefits. I just wish we weren’t so beholden to the reviews of strangers before making what’s ultimately a really trivial decision. Like what’s the worst that would happen… the food wouldn’t be great… oh nooooo big whoop. We’ll eat again tomorrow.”
If only we had a way to force us to be more spontaneous with picking restaurants… oh and what if it had an incentive built in so that if the food wasn’t very good, it wouldn’t feel like a total failure of a night. Like if it were a good deal, I wouldn’t care so much. Hmmm……
Fast forward to May 10th. Let’s say we try to go out to dinner again.
(AGPL – After GoPapaya Launched)
Me: “Want to go out to eat tonight? Maybe somewhere new, like for real this time unlike the last 3 times.”
Her: “Yea let’s get Italian. I’ll check Yelp, but I’ll do it really fast this time.”
Me: “Ugh not the Yelp trap again… it’s already 7:30, let’s just pick one and go.”
Her: “Ok well then where?”
Me: “I have no idea, whatever is nearby is fine. I just don’t want to spend an hour looking at reviews. I just want chicken parmesan, I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, and I already see you getting ‘hangry’.”
Her: “Oh hey wait, I was reading an article on Wicked Cheap Boston about this new iPhone App called GoPapaya that shows you last minute deals nearby. Let’s give it a try.”
We open the app…
Me: “Hmm, 20% off at that gastropub I was thinking of trying last time. It’s not Italian, but that is a good deal. Should I do it?”
Her: “Yea sure, you’ve been wanting to try that place anyway. Let’s just try it.”
Me: “Ok I’ll claim the deal while it’s still available. Oh crap, we only have 30 minutes to get there.”
Her: “Screw it, let’s just go as we are, it’s 20% off! Then we can put that extra money towards ice cream afterwards.”
We throw on our go-to outfits and shoes, race out the door, get there just in time, the food is great, and we get 20% off. Boom, a good night out at last.
THANKS GOPAPAYA!! You’ve revolutionized dining out!
If you try the app, please leave a review of your experience in the comments section below. Or, if you also would like to rant about Yelp reviews, that can go in the comments section. If you think spontaneity isn’t really your thing and would prefer to know the deals far ahead of time, please check out Wicked Cheap Boston’s list of nightly food specials in Boston, which we try to update as frequently as possible. Thanks for reading!