An app that actually wants to decrease your screen time?
It might sound like a contradiction, but Charlotte-based Offline is looking to do just that by helping people rediscover and reconnect with local restaurants.
Founder and CEO David Shaner, a chemical engineering graduate from NC State, was fresh out of college when he started working on technology to facilitate real-world experiences. The platform works as a “local concierge” to local restaurants. As a subscription service, Offline curates new restaurants to try each month and provides specific user discounts.
It’s all about creating a “positive feedback loop of exploration, local love, and economic growth.”
On the restaurant side, the team has been focused on getting in front of owners to show the value Offline can bring. “Restaurants owners are incredibly busy people, so direct sales is our bread and butter. We hyper-focus on restaurants that we really believe would get value from our product and we chase them down,” Shaner told Hypepotamus.
On the member side, it is all about facilitating new experiences in a user’s own backyard. “Our focus is always on improving the fit between our members and the restaurants we’re matching them with,” Shaner added. “If we do our job well, we’re introducing our members to restaurants they’ve never been to and end up falling in love with.”
Growth on the consumer side has been largely word-of-mouth and through a growing food-centric Instagram and Tik Tok presence.
Offline is currently available in Raleigh, Durham, and will be launching in the next few weeks in Charlotte.
Building a startup that focuses on in-person dining experiences hasn’t been without its challenges over the last two years of the pandemic. “We helped restaurants drive their takeout business for a bit, but we believed in the long-term resilience of in-person experiences and hunkered down until that started to snap back. Overall, we tried to resist the urge to reinvent a business that was already working really well. I don’t think there was a one-size-fits-all way to deal with COVID. The key was n=1 thinking about how it applied to your particular context,” he added.
The upcoming expansion into Charlotte will be a test for how the concept can stand up in a new market from scratch.
The team has been backed by angel investors to date.