The founders of Perfect Menu created their company in 54 hours during Bend's Startup Weekend, Nov. 16-18.
Today, less than three weeks later, more than 300 owners of restaurants and other food-related businesses from around the world have signed up for the menu-building application.
“The goal with Perfect Menu is getting control back in the establishment owner's hands," said Aviv Hadar, the president of the six-man startup team. “They distribute (the menu), social networks talk about it, people share it, people go there ... The menu becomes alive."
While restaurant owners can choose from a slew of applications to design their own websites, most treat the menu as an afterthought. They generally give restaurant owners one option — to upload their menus as PDFs, he said, referring to the file format created by Adobe Systems.
But, Hadar said, making changes to a menu, saving it as a PDF and uploading it can be time consuming. Perfect Menu allows owners or chefs to log in, create a custom menu with their own logos and make changes online. They can change menus for multiple locations, and the company plans to integrate Perfect Menu with restaurant apps like Yelp and social media sites like Facebook.
David Touvell, the owner of two Bend restaurants — Chow and Local Slice — was Perfect Menu's first customer, signing up about 30 hours into the weekend event.
Before the app, Touvell said, it was a challenge to consistently update his menus and make sure everyone could see them, because some mobile devices do not display PDFs correctly.
“Perfect Menu has made it more user-friendly," he said. “They've taken out the guessing equation to make sure everyone can see what the menu is."
The target market for the product is restaurant, bar, cafe and other food-establishment owners, Hadar said. Along with making menu creation easier, Perfect Menu makes it more accessible to customers, driving more people through the restaurant's doors.
Hadar, 28, had the idea for Perfect Menu months before the Startup Weekend, but made it into reality over the 54-hour event. During the weekend, five team members developed the application and put together a sales operation. Recently, the team added Darren Buckner, a Portland resident who helped Hadar work out his idea before the event.
Perfect Menu is Hadar's sixth startup company. He explained that the reason so many software startups fail is because they create a product that is too complex, investing time and money into developing and fixing features people will never use.
“Ever since moving to Bend and taking the Perfect Menu idea to Startup Weekend, I've been reintroduced to lean software development," he said.
His strategy for Perfect Menu: develop a simple application that does one thing — creates menus.
Hadar said the company is already profitable, with customers paying more than it cost to run the business. But, he said, team members don't get paid for their hours because they own the company.
“The most expensive part of a software startup is development and design, and we do all that, so we haven't had to spend money on it," he said.
The app costs $5 per month, per location, Hadar said. While the company has 300 customers, many of those customers have multiple locations. In the U.S. alone, Perfect Menu has 4 million potential customers, according to its website.
Carter Miller, who's in charge of social media for Perfect Menu, said the $5 price makes purchasing Perfect Menu a no-brainer.
“There are things you would blindly spend $5 on," he said. “A restaurant makes back $5 in one dinner. They don't need to question Perfect Menu."
But the successful, fast launch has been a challenge for some team members who are trying to juggle school or a full-time jobalong with their work for Perfect Menu.
Miller, a 16-year-old senior at Summit High School, said he hopes he can go to college and continue with Perfect Menu.
Colton Fent, in charge of Perfect Menu's customer service, said he's balancing a full-time job at G5 Search Marketing and the startup company.
“Now all of a sudden, I'm working close to 12 hours a day ... I'm going to be spending a lot more money on coffee," said the 22-year-old Bend resident. But Fent's investing his time in Perfect Menu because he believes in it so much.
Team members are currently “bootstrapping it," financing the company themselves by doing all the work, Miller said. But as the company grows, it could add an office and take on new members.
“We hope to have 100,000 clients on the West Coast by the time we consider ourselves successful," Miller said.