Hungry For More

Tell people where to eat and how to get there.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the August 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Unless you've been living under a rock, you may have noticed Americans love to eat out. If you smell every you pass a , consider a in the restaurant aftermarket . Here are three to chew on:

1. Interactive restaurant Web site

Paul Lightfoot, 30, appears to have concocted the perfect blend of technology and his passion for . In 1998, he and co-founder Bob Thomas, 30, came up with the idea for as a way to leverage the Internet to make the interaction between restaurants and their customers more efficient. To the consumer, is an online guide where you can make reservations, but it also provides technology solutions to restaurants by giving them Web-based marketing tools and consumer data.

Headquartered in New York City, currently serves 23 markets, using partnerships with companies such as and "I didn't set out to do something small," Lightfoot says. The company started off with an investment of $250,000 raised from personal savings, as well as family and friends. Subsequent angel and institutional investors have put millions of dollars into the company. "We're the kind of company that has to spend a lot to grow," Lightfoot says.

2. Guide to affordable restaurants

Make it easy for people on a budget to find a good meal and you'll tap a ready and willing market. Marc Kravitz, 31, formed Spirit of '76 Publishing in 1999 to produce $18 and Under: The Guide to Reasonable and Entertainment in Philadelphia. "A lot of guides give descriptions that are basically paid advertising," Kravitz says. "My book consists of objective reviews."

The Philadelphia guide, updated annually, fits in a pocket, retails for $9.95 and is sold in local bookstores and on the Internet. Kravitz also markets versions with customized covers to companies as alternatives to traditional giveaways or gift premiums. With about $15,000 in start-up capital, Kravitz says he broke even his first year and expects to turn a profit in 2000. He's considering his expansion options, which include the possibility of taking $18 and Under to other cities.

3. Internet restaurant guides

Start-up entrepreneurs will probably have to do these guides locally. Anne Karle-Zenith of Brooklyn decided to create a local guide on the Internet. Karle-Zenith, 35, and her husband Lenny Zenith, 39, took $10,000 of savings and launched last October. Karle-Zenith doesn't consider the large online and print guides direct competition, because her site focuses exclusively on Brooklyn and its various neighborhoods and is more comprehensive. She admits, however, that "it's difficult to make money from advertising on a content-driven site. You have to have something that goes along with your site that has the potential to generate revenue." She's currently working on a plan to turn into a marketplace guide, complete with personal Web pages for local businesses.

These businesses are only the first course in a wide-open market. So who wants to be a restaurateur?


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