The next time you settle in to an Applebee's for a beer and some queso blanco, you may be struck with the urge to speak with one of your fellow patrons. But, instead of just turning to the booth behind you, or (gasp!) walking up to a nearby table full of strangers, why not use an app?
“What’s Applebee's” (a play on What’s App, the target of a recent $19 billion Facebook acquisition) advertises itself as the latest hot new social network. The app allows you to connect with other Applebee’s fans around the country.
But this is a highly exclusive network; you must be physically inside an Applebee’s to use it. Think of it as a virtual red velvet rope.
Dan Smith, spokesman for the Kansas City, Missouri-based company, says that it’s no surprise that people wonder if the app is actually associated with the Applebee's chain, because of the brand’s “dynamic and strong social following.”
For all the sarcastic fun the app espouses, including the joking reviews from some ironic users, the goal isn’t a multi-billion dollar buyout or the search for brand recognition.
Developer Mike Lazer-Walker says there’s actually more behind what appears to be such an absurd app: it’s intended to start a deeper conversation.
“It mostly came out of frustration with the current tech industry,” he said, “seeing so many of my friends and colleagues spending so much time at work building completely meaningless things.”
The intention was to create something that’s so outwardly silly, yet just on the cusp of plausible in today’s landscape of social-media driven brand engagement. “There's so much talent being wasted on apps that don't actually make people any happier,” Lazer-Walker said.
So, if the capabilities of technology are speeding past the public’s ability to really harness their benefits, what’s the solution?
Lazer-Walker doesn’t know, but he hopes that starting that conversation may guide us down the road closer to an answer.
For now, even he admittedly spends most of his time on the phone playing games.
Asked if he uses “What’s Applebee's,” Lazer-Walker says he checks in from time to time using a special build that affords him access from anywhere. And, while he hasn’t befriended any strangers through the app yet, he “did have one guy e-mail me to invite me to his birthday party.”
And if he gets hungry? They do have that "2 for $20" deal - and surely someone will want to share.
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