How many times do you have plans to go out to dinner or lunch, but can’t decide where to go? Alfred, what some fans are calling “Pandora for the real world”, helps take the guesswork out of finding new local businesses. This iOS app helps make that decision-making process much easier for you.
Just like how Pandora made it easy to listen to hours of music by learning what you personally like to listen to, and building stations around that, Alfred does that with local businesses, eating establishments mostly. It learns where you like to go and makes suggestions around that.
Right out of the starting gate, Alfred begins “teaching”. It’s not teaching you, though; you’re teaching the app about you, your likes and dislikes. You can choose to teach it later, but then you will be missing out on the personal recommendations.
Alfred begins “teaching” itself about your habits by asking you questions. While Pandora builds your personal library with just one song, and gets more exact as you build more searches on different songs, Alfred does its work by asking you where you like to go. It asks you where you like to go for breakfast, dinner, a quick lunch, a drink after work etc.
Based on that one place you like to go, Alfred makes several different suggestions for lunch, dinner, coffee, etc. You can then check off the places that you do like, very much the same way like you like or dislike the the song suggestions on Pandora. Each additional business that you like helps the app make better suggestions for you the next time.
An app like this is only made better by connecting to Facebook. If you select your friends that you enjoy going out with, it will pick up their suggestions as well and improve its suggestions for you. You can also have it connect through Facebook and ask your friends what they think about some of your choices. Both of these steps can be skipped if you don’t want Alfred to bother your friends at all.
After you get done “teaching” Alfred, you can either review your places, like or dislike the current place you’re at, or find a new place. The latter choice is asking Alfred to make suggestions of where it thinks you would like to go for breakfast or for drinks after work.
Alfred presents you with a pictorial list of choices, ones that are both places that you’ve already mentioned you enjoy and places it thinks you should try. It tells you a percentage of people who like this establishment, a general price range, and the distance you need to travel. In the upper right corner is a map option, and using this plots out all the choices on a map. If you want to narrow your choices down, you can tap Filter, and narrow down the list by price, distance, cuisine, and options such as being kid-friendly or having free WiFi, etc.
If the pictures of the food in the listings aren’t enticing enough, you can tap it to get even more information. The contact information, menu, and photos are included here. Additionally, if Alfred found any comments in its search, it adds them here. The menus are added via the establishment’s website, and surprisingly there aren’t that many included. I suspect that will improve the more others use Alfred.
I found that some of my favorite places to go weren’t included here in Alfred. All of the major establishments were, but a new restaurant wasn’t included, and neither was a local bar and grill. With the bar and grill, it’s mostly what I would consider a “hole in the wall”, meaning just a small local establishment. However, I find those places sometimes have the best food and generally aren’t that crowded. For those instances, Alfred includes an option to suggest a place to them. It’s hidden in what looks like an icon to turn sound on and off, but is really an icon for “sounding off.”
Critics are right, that Alfred is Pandora for the real world. However, what would improve it would be to not just include restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses, but all local businesses. It would be great if it would also suggest a movie theater, book store, mall, mechanic, etc.