Have you ever been on the road, realized you were hungry, but had no idea where to get kosher food? We’ve all had that experience. But you don’t need to anymore. “Kosher Near Me” is a smartphone software application (“app”) that will allow you to find kosher food pretty much wherever you are.
Jonathan Myron is a software developer. Myron also keeps kosher. In June, 2007 Myron decided it was time to launch a website he called LocateKosher.com. The site was self-explanatory, and it was pretty useful, but it suffered from a nearly insurmountable hazard – the data became stale very quickly. There is no greater poison for a website than having outdated information. Myron imagined that someday, smartphones would evolve sufficiently that they would be the appropriate hosting mechanism for his concept.
That day arrived. In April, 2011, Myron launched the KosherNear.Me mobile app compatible with Android phones, the iPhone app was launched in January, 2012, and this April, the KosherNear.Me for Windows mobile went live.
How does it work?
To download the app to your phone, all you need to do is go to your smartphone’s app outlet, and then download – it’s free. The KosherNear.Me information has been integrated into the LocateKosher.com website.
Because smartphones have a built-in navigation system, all you need to do is click on the app, enter within what range you want to find kosher food, and the listings will appear on your phone. Conversely, you can enter a specific zip code or search by city, if you are the type to actually plan ahead. The app also allows you to pull up directions to your destination, and it has a “click to call” button so that you can make reservations or call to find out whether the sweet and sour meatballs are on the menu that night, and it displays an immediate icon so that you know whether a restaurant has meat, dairy or parve options.
What Myron is most excited about, though, is that the mobile application allows for immediate feedback by actual users, which then translates into greater utility for those on the kosher food hunt. The consumers have become an integral part of the database building mechanism.
KosherNear.Me now has approximately 10,000 users, a steady stream of which provide instant feedback to the site. That feedback includes names of new kosher outlets, information about restaurants which have closed or changed kashrut supervision, and ratings information. In turn, the app remains current and the level of detailed information expands. This is a huge step forward from “computer-docked” sites.
According to Myron, KosherNear.Me receives feedback from approximately 25 – 40 users per week. Part of that feedback includes suggestions for making the site even better, and KosherNear.Me has incorporated many of those suggestions. For example, a recent suggestion was made to allow sorting of restaurants by specific certification authority, so that non-relevant listings don’t clutter users’ phone screens. Myron expects this capability to be available within the next few weeks.
As of August, when The Jewish Press spoke with KosherNear.Me’s developer, there were more than 2o00 restaurants, bakeries or cafes within the app’s database. The service is available throughout the United States, and is just about completed for use throughout Canada. By late September the entire English-speaking world will be able to find food that is “kosher near them.” The next projected build-out will include all the kosher food establishments throughout Europe.
When asked what the biggest obstacle has been for making the KosherNear.Me app successful, Myron’s response was immediate: “New York City.” He called it a “moving target,” because establishments “come and go so quickly.” There are approximately 800 – 1000 kosher food establishments in New York City, alone.
Because KosherNear.Me tracks a specific aspect of Jewish life, it allows some generalizations to be drawn about the kosher-eating segment of the American Jewish community. And the news is that services to that community are growing, with tremendous increases seen not only in New York City, but also in New Jersey, California and Miami.
KosherNear.Me is on Twitter and Facebook, so users can share immediate information with others, as well as with the app’s software developers.
One pleasant sidenote the California-based Myron was happy to share, is that Las Vegas has a surprising number of good, kosher restaurants. Who knew?