App for That

Ness 2.0 Debuts, a Revamped Restaurant App to Find You a Square Meal

"We want to show people a different way, a better way."
Yes, please. (Photo: Ness)

Yes, please. (Photo: Ness)

It’s surprisingly difficult to stand on a street corner and use your smartphone to find a restaurant you’ll actually like. Yelp, for example, just serves up a long list of other people’s favorites. But a new-and-improved version of the recommendations app Ness, released late last night, hopes to remedy that.

Open Ness 2.0, CEO Corey Reese told Betabeat, and “it provides instant recommendations without a person having to take any interaction at all.”

“Now, when you boot up the application, the first thing it does is says we’re finding recommendations for you,” Mr. Reese added. The app adjusts its results based on factors like time of day (no legendary brunch spots at 10 p.m.) and location (people in Palo Alto can drive farther).

Meanwhile, version one’s list of options has been replaced with recommendation cards explaining why you might like a particular place, illustrated with photos pulled from Instagram. Users are also provided with a “likeness” score, a best guess for how much they’ll like a place.

If you like the looks of a rec, you can swipe down, and a pop-up gives you the option of calling, getting directions, or making an Open Table reservation. If you’re not quite ready to book, you can flick down to save the suggestion or share it with friends.

Mr. Reese said that 300,000 people have downloaded the app in the last year, and users have generated more than 4,250,000 ratings of restaurants. Back in August, the startup raised a $15 million Series B from SingTel Innov8 and American Express Ventures. Based on Ness’s own surveys, he added, “over 70 percent of people prefer the new version of Ness to Yelp and are likely to continue using it.” New York is its most active city.

Eventually, Ness would like to expand the service beyond eateries. “We want to show people a different way, a better way, where each time they pull up their mobile device, they can get a personal set of recommendations unique to what would make sense for them right now,” said Mr. Reese.

See the new version in action in this video:

Ness 2.0 from Ness on Vimeo.

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