Right to left: Miguel Norigenna, Troy Smith and Chris Gruler of ScottsdaleRestaurants.com/Photo by Laura Burnett
Website offers ‘generic dude’ restaurant reviews
Armed with a domain name, an appetite and a goal, Chris Gruler, Miguel Norigenna and Troy Smith launched ScottsdaleRestaurants.com in February, in hopes of being the definitive source for restaurant reviews. With the personality and voice that other restaurant review sites lack, the three self-proclaimed “generic dudes” hope to bring something new to the table.
The group of friends, brought together by Gruler after he had secured the domain name, is diverse. Gruler does branding and marketing work, Norigenna has his own videography business and Smith is a civil engineer. And they all love food.
With a home-sung intro, their main purpose is clear from the beginning: These guys are here to have fun. While making a video at a restaurant, it’s just three friends out for a meal, but with a GoPro on the table watching their every move, and a video camera that comes out when food and drinks arrive.
However, the restaurant visits aren’t just about these three guys eating. They research history of the restaurant and look for off-menu items to try. They peruse websites like Yelp, searching for what others have enjoyed as points to highlight in the videos, as well as a chance to see if the bad reviews are warranted.
Giving an honest look at local restaurants, establishments that even locals might not have heard is the goal at ScottsdaleRestaurants.com. The three keep their opinions honest and authentic, but don’t spend their time bashing the restaurant.
“We’ll try to highlight the positive in it, because we want to elevate,” Smith says. “There are already enough sites out there that people can go on and write negative reviews all day long, and we don’t want to do that.”
The group-nominated “wild card,” Norigenna, often behind the scenes in the videos, stole a recent video’s opening by turning the camera around to himself, throwing off Gruler, who normally does the introductions. The videos are casual, and make you feel like you’re at the table with them, or at least like you want to be there with these friends for these meals.
Smith is the “friendship builder,” and along with writing the site’s content and running social media, contacts restaurants to find interested parties. While they’ve been turned down a few times, the group says that most restaurants have been eager to be involved, especially as the site has grown.
With a growing subscription list, the group asks restaurants to donate gift cards which are then given out on the website. It brings readers back to the websites, and eventually diners back into the restaurants. “We feel like we’re the mediator between a restaurant and an end-user,” Gruler says.
Naturally, the food is the star of the project, but the three “generic dudes” have found something more.
“I’m going to say our friendship,” Gruler says of his favorite aspect of the startup so far. What started as a way for the three to spend time together has now turned into something that’s great for the local market, he says.
Though he admitted the food at a recent restaurant visit challenged their friendship, Norigenna agrees, “Finally, (I am) just working with friends,” he says.
That collaboration with friends is evident and ultimately what makes the website unique to the restaurant review website market, and could lead to the website becoming the definitive source they hope it will.