The Week – Joy straight from the fork

One clever group of Victorians has found the cure to the common food craving: an app that does it all.

Your craving is only a scroll away thanks to the newly created Victoria-based smart phone app, “ForkJoy.”

Your craving is only a scroll away thanks to the newly created Victoria-based smart phone app, “ForkJoy.”

While you might have had your fill of holiday treats, one clever group of Victorians has found the cure to the common craving: an app that does it all.

Now stalking over 460 searchable menus at a Victoria restaurant near you is the new smart phone app “ForkJoy.” The app, downloadable for free, is the newest prize in Victoria’s food culture that’s aiming to make eating out simpler for everyone. Users can type their cravings into the app’s search key and find, for example, where the nearest pulled pork is being served, how much the dish will cost at each restaurant, how patrons have rated the food, the dish’s ingredients in some cases, photos and even how far away the restaurant is and how long it will be open on that given day.

“Our goal was really to create something that we saw was lacking in this city,” says Mike Rowe, co-creator and designer of ForkJoy. “The biggest difference between our app and competitors like ‘Yelp’ is that those just provide reviews of the restaurant as a whole. Our search is a lot more powerful. If you were craving nachos, you could go on ForkJoy and find all the nachos in the city.”

Rowe has teamed up with four other Victoria students between the ages of 22 and 26. Two specialize in software engineering at UVic, one has a focus in finances and social media, and one in website and app design. The group has been working on the project for the past year, and was recently accepted into VIATec’s Accelerate Tectoria program, where the team will receive six months of office space and mentorship to accelerate the growth of ForkJoy’s startup.

While Rowe says plans are already in the works to expand the business model — it’s now available in Vancouver as well, and next will be Seattle, Portland and San Francisco — the team will keep focusing on how to capture every one of Victoria’s restaurants. Rowe estimates the app covers about 75 per cent of the city’s food outlets, but is currently missing coffee shops and fast-food locations. After that, the task will be, ultimately, finding a way to turn the app profitable.

“It really is amazing how much time these things can take, and the challenge of keeping everything free to the users will always be finding that financial balance,” Rowe says.

The app is interactive. Users can rate and review individual menu items as well as upload photos and comment on dishes. The group hopes to make it another way of stimulating the local food community and, with over 600 users downloading the app in one week, chances are good it will.

“In Victoria, people don’t just go out to eat, they are selective about who they are supporting, and what that meal will do for them and for the business, and for their environment,” he says. “Now, they can figure that all out with one app on their phone.”

Please sir, just a crumb?

Many are looking for handouts on the streets of Victoria this season, but thanks to the recent changes of a city bylaw, offering free grub to wild animals residing in the core will cost you a pretty penny.

The City of Victoria’s animal control bylaw already prohibits the intentional feeding of certain animals anywhere within the city, like deer. Yet city council adopted changes to the bylaw on Thurs., Dec. 13, that now prohibits handouts to raccoons, squirrels, feral rabbits, pigeons, crows or gulls anywhere in the downtown core. While the motion was moved last March, the amendment came when the minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations approved the bylaw, since gulls are a protected species in B.C.

“What we’re really trying to address is feeding where these animals can become a nuisance or a public safety risk,” says Mark Hayden, manager of Bylaw and Licensing Services. “Our goal is to achieve voluntary compliance and, in the case of birds, for example, prevent a situation where dozens or hundreds of the birds are congregating in the core to go after food.”

Despite the goal of voluntary compliance, the fines remain steep — unlawfully feeding deer and raccoons is $350, and feeding the other animals will set you back $125. The off-limits area is roughly bounded by the Inner Harbour, Bay Street, Cook and Superior. Beacon Hill Park is exempt from the small animal feeding restrictions, though deer are still not allowed to be fed anywhere in the city.

Hayden says deer and raccoons can become habituated when fed, potentially causing a public safety risk and resulting in the destruction of the animal. Feeding of birds can cause excessive droppings, a potential health risk. Bylaw enforcement will be on a complaint basis, and will be enforced by the city’s bylaw officers and animal control officers. M

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