Steve Raggiani is the co-founder and CEO of 8it, a mobile app that helps foodies discover their city’s best food quickly and easily. The app also helps food writers, chefs, restaurant owners, and influencers share their reviews, food creations, content, and restaurants with people who haven’t yet discovered them.
The future’s looking bright for 8it. After creating viral content on their social media channels, they’re developing a strong presence in NYC, where they’re based, and are beginning to build an amazing community of people all around the world who are waiting for the app to become available in their home cities. We think 8it is an incredible idea, so we catch up with Steve to find out how he plans to grow it.
Who are you and what brand did you start?
Hi, my name is Steve Raggiani and I am the co-founder and CEO of 8it, a mobile app that helps food-lovers find the best food in the simplest way and empowers food-creators to get discovered.
With our app, food writers can be confident that more people will get to see their reviews, chefs will inspire more people through their fantastic food creations, restaurant owners will attract new guests to dine with them, and influencers will be able to connect through the innovative, intuitive app we’ve created.
BRAND IDEA - how did you come up with the idea for 8it?
It was 2016, and I had just relocated to NYC from The Bay. I was beyond excited to dive headfirst into the biggest and best food city on the planet. From Burgers to Ramen to Pasta - I was ready to try the abundant offering of delicious & iconic dishes NYC had to offer.
Me looking at all the food options in NYC
So I did what every newbie does in this situation: I opened up Google and typed in "best burger NYC."
I started plowing through articles and listicles from Eater and Infatuation to TimeOut and The New York Times. I then cross-referenced those recommendations with the restaurants' Instagram page, followed by sifting through hundreds of negative reviews on Yelp that had nothing to do with the actual burger (thanks, #Karen). Not to mention when you search "burger" on Yelp, you get an ad for McDonald's at the top (not helpful, Yelp).
Finally, after narrowing down to the favorites, the final step: triangulating the restaurant's whereabouts on Google Maps to figure out directions. SO EXHAUSTING, and now I'm HANGRY.
Me trying to find the best burger near me
A solid 45 minutes later, I finally concluded that the Emmy Burger from Emily was my target. As I made my way to the restaurant, I text my long-time friend and fellow lover of food, Joe:
And that’s when the idea of 8it was born. We immediately began mapping out the simplest way to help hungry people like us find and get to top-rated food in less than three thumb-taps.
BRAND LAUNCH - take us through how you launched 8it.
First, we downloaded every damn food app that existed to make sure there wasn’t anything already out there that we had in our minds. After doing that, we realized everyone was over-complicating the process of finding great food and not focusing on trust and credibility.
We then focused on mapping out a user experience that was so simplistic, a 13 or 65-year-old could pick it up and use it without a tutorial.
The branding came easy to us since we built our careers in the Advertising, Marketing, and Creative industries. The name 8it came after realizing that when people describe food, there’s a 60-80% chance they say it in 8 words. And the pun... obviously.
We secured as many social media handles and URLs as possible and reached out to our lawyer to formally start the company and filed for the trademark.
ONLINE STORE SETUP - what are your top 2 tips for successful Ecommerce store setup.
- We did this about a year into starting 8it since people seemed to love our merch. We created a Shopify store. One pitfall we ran into was that our site was built on Squarespace but our store was on Shopify. It would be best to have everything on Shopify, so we’re working on migrating everything onto one platform.
- Make sure all your products are linked to Facebook and Instagram. The majority of our merch sales come from people discovering our items on social media.
CUSTOMER RETENTION - what has worked best to attract and retain customers?
Retention is vital in the app game. At the early stage we're currently in, we retain users by leveraging push notifications in the app and emails reminding our users of the new delicious dishes and food categories that we've added to the app. Customers sometimes need reminding that the app is constantly refreshed with new food to try, giving them a reason to continue to use the app on an ongoing basis.
SOCIAL - what are your top 2 tips for successful use of social media to engage with customers.
TikTok, TikTok, TikTok! Admittedly, I was skeptical at first. One of our investors told us it was something we should focus more on because of the algorithm's ability to help creators get discovered.
My advice is to be consistent and not precious. I gave myself the goal to post one TikTok per day at around the same time every night. Some days feel less creative than others, but the key is to identify as many trending themes and try to come up with your brand's spin on that trend.
Don't overthink it either. The two videos that we've had go viral were the least polished of anything we've posted. Stack up as much content so you have a reserve for your non-creative days.
Consistency is the hardest part. Set an alarm to post if you have to. I started in January, and on March 16th, it paid off. We saw a massive increase in app downloads after people saw our video. Keep cre8ing!
BUSINESS GROWTH INSIGHTS - how has 8it changed and evolved?
Needless to say, the pandemic dramatically changed the restaurant industry. We created 8it with the intent to drive customers into the restaurant because the food is always best enjoyed in real life.
The pandemic made us take a step back and realize that the way people consume food will change forever. Delivery and takeout services will be more important, and customers will also be trying to figure out where to eat when things return to some version of “normal.” We’re now rolling out a new feature within 8it that will allow users to not only call an Uber or Lyft to the restaurant but also:
- Make a Reservation
- Order delivery or takeout (we prioritize direct orders vs. third party delivery apps if the restaurant has its own e-comm site)
- Order a Goldbelly Kit (if available)
- Find the recipe to recre8 that dish at home (a lot of chefs have given out their recipes throughout the quarantine)
- Buy the restaurant’s merch
- Watch a YouTube video about that dish
MANAGING CHANGE - what are the top 2 tips you’d suggest others adopt to safeguard their business.
- Make sure your concept is flexible enough to change with the times. If you’re locked into one way of doing things, it will be hard to adapt when things don’t go exactly as planned.
- Establish your core values, mission statement, and objectives. When those unexpected changes happen, you can always look back to these for guidance to stay on track with the bigger picture.
FUTURE BUSINESS PLANS - how is 8it doing today and what does the future look like?
We are developing a strong presence in NYC and have started to introduce ourselves in LA. We've also begun to build an amazing community worldwide of people that are excited for 8it to arrive in their city. Because TikTok is global, many people have discovered 8it regardless of whether the app is live in their market.
Based on the reactions we've gotten from people worldwide, the future looks bright for 8it. The demand is global, and we're looking forward to bringing 8it to every major food city in the world. We also have some exciting new features we'll be rolling out that will revolutionize the way people eat and recommend food.
ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS - what has been your biggest learning experience since starting 8it?
Getting people to download an app is much harder than I thought. In today’s world I think many people have been burned by bad app experiences and the real estate on someone’s phone is very precious. The analogy I’ve been making these days is that downloading a new app is like convincing someone to get a face tattoo. However, if you have a quality experience and do make the conversion, they will be a fan forever.
ONLINE BUSINESS TOOLS - what are the business software tools you couldn't live without?
At 8it, we live and die by Slack. We’re always communicating there in real-time whether it's about new dishes to get into the app, talking with our development team in Vietnam, or brainstorming social media ideas.
See what tools other founders use here.
SELF DEVELOPMENT - what are the educational resources you’d recommend?
Amazing and inspiring entrepreneur stories on Starting Small Podcast.
Weekly Energy Boost for spiritual advice and wisdom.
INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ‘shout-out’ - who have been the most influential people for you during your brand journey?
We wouldn’t be where we are today without Chef Carl Ruiz. He was our first legit chef co-sign. He hated Yelp and #Karens with a passion, so when we discovered 8it, it was a match made in heaven. He became our first Official 8it Critic and was our biggest hype-man. Unfortunately, he passed away in the Fall of 2019, but his legacy will carry on with our brand forever #RUIZINGFOREVER
- Carl’s Manager & BFF: Gloria Chabot.
- All Carl’s Food Network friends that have supported us.
- All my friends & family for the advice, support, and investment you’ve given us to get where we are.
- Kyra (our Integrated Product Marketing Manager) for sticking with us after her internship.
FINAL WORDS OF INSPO - for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
Your goals should make you feel a little uncomfortable. Focus less on HOW you’re going to get to the end goal, just take the daily baby steps and the universe will take care of the rest.
Latest offers & promotions - where can we go to learn more about your latest offers and promotions?
Download 8it and keep your notifications on to stay up to date with the latest product features, new city launches, and more! Also follow us on Instagram and TikTok!