It's arguable whether we've fully arrived at Web 3.0, but there has been a progression in the recent history of online companies trying to bring us food and drink — whether as a product or through an event. Foodzie morphed from an online marketplace to shop for small-batch products into the web equivalent of a suburban shopping center called Joyus. Gilt Taste started as an editorial driven site with articles from an all-star cast led by former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl, only to drop the component altogether. Amidst this evolving arena, Truffl launched last Friday, May 3 as an online club with food events and editorial content tailored to member preferences.
“L.A. is uniquely situated to be the first city for this. It's not a very organized city in a lot of ways. You really have to be someone who is dedicated to find good things here,” says Raphael Farasat, CEO and founder of the company. “A lot of people feel like — at least a lot people I interviewed — they're stuck in their own neighborhood with many people in their own industry and not necessarily have these natural opportunities.”
In theory, Truffl is meant to grow with its membership. After a short quiz asking for preferences in food, drink, location and interests, members will find a personalized menu with content and events compiled according to their profiles. Each event will be open to a small group of attendees, ranging from five to 20. The editorial content, as provided by one of the company's partner Levity Entertainment Group, includes interviews and videos of local purveyors such as Handsome Coffee.
“Essentially, Truffl will be different for everyone. For a selective group of people who only like electronic music, Japanese food, and Venice, it will create a unique experience just for them,” Farasat explains, adding that the customization will become even more specific in the future.
“If you've told us that you like whisky, we're going to have future questions about what type of whisky. When you show up at one of our events, we'll know you like Yamazaki whisky 12-year aged and that will be your usual.”
A self-professed workaholic, the L.A. native came up with the concept in part out of personal frustration. “I used to travel a lot and when I did, I'd try to find unique experiences that reflected the city I was in. I came home and I found myself falling into the rut of going to the same bars and restaurants with the same people,” Farasat says.
With a rough idea for a company to address this problem in mind, he went on an interview spree of sorts, chatting with hundreds of people. “I said, 'I want to build a company around your case. This is kind of what we're thinking. How can we fit this into your life and how can this be useful for you?' And slowly over those interviews, as I learned about what people wanted, this idea came into fruition.”
“We're focused on finding creative people that are people you want to spend time with,” says Farasat, explaining that a membership committee selects from a pool of applicants who answer an online questionnaire.
“We're not necessarily looking for the wealthiest people or most successful people in the city. We're looking to people who have good taste and enjoy new experiences.”
Before founding Truffl, Farasat worked with Adam Fleischman in launching Umami Burger locations around town. “I was one of the first members of the team there and was a small part in helping them expand from about six locations to about 20 when I left,” he says.
Fleischman is now one of the partners in company. “Adam is very inspirational in all this. He helps to bring the hospitality arm of this business, because what we're trying to do is use an online platform to learn people's taste and deliver personalized experiences offline as a part of a community.”
In its current phase, Truffl is accepting applications for their founding members who don't have any annual dues yet, but are asked to pay for individual events. By summer's end, there will be annual memberships ranging from $500 to $5,000. Farasat is eyeing San Francisco and New York as the next cities to launch a Truffl chapter.
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