Tuesday, May 21, 2024 May 21, 2024
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How a DFW College Student Is Building a Multimillion-dollar Restaurant Marketing Platform 

Anisha Holla, a 21-year-old UTD student, has built FoodiFy, a dating app for restaurant owners and influencers. She already boasts 25 local restaurant clients.
Anisha Holla

Anisha Holla is just several weeks away from graduating from UTD, but the 21-year-old entrepreneur has already built a wildly successful restaurant marketing startup—a venture that has been profitable since day one, she says. Dubbed FoodiFy, the platform is essentially a dating app for restaurants and influencers. The platform connects influencers with restaurant owners who then pay a fee for that influencer to taste test and post about the restaurant.  

In just eight months, FoodiFy has generated 180 posts with at least 50,000 views, a total of 56 billion impressions, and an average of 150 percent increase in sales for its clientele of 25 DFW restaurants that include Casa Pollastro, Piefalootin, and Casa Del Bro. Holla says FoodiFy is on pace to do $1.5 million in revenue in 2024, and in 2025, she is expecting to report $6 million.  

“Most diners nowadays use social media to find restaurants. It isn’t Google or Yelp anymore,” Holla tells D CEO. “By signing up for a subscription, restaurants will be matched by our algorithm to a local food influencer each month who will come in, eat, film, and post about them on their social media platforms. So all the restaurant is really doing is having to host the influencer, and then they sit back and see the results the next day.” 

To accelerate growth, Holla was recently granted $6,000 by Entrepreneurs Organization’s Dallas chapter. She and her team of four full-time employees plan to use the funds to fine-tune the company’s technology and launch a FoodiFy app, which will use artificial intelligence to match restaurants with influencers based on the business’ desired consumer demographic. Holla plans to amass 300 clients in DFW before expanding to other cities—specifically, she wants to launch the product in New York City and San Francisco. 

When Holla was a senior in college, she was inspired to create FoodiFy after becoming somewhat of an influencer herself. She launched an Instagram account @dallastx_foodies, and it currently boasts more than 50,000 followers and 40 million annual impressions. While navigating the life of an influencer, she became troubled after consistently visiting restaurants with amazing food, great concepts, and passionate owners, only to find out later that they had shut down.  

Early prospective clients were skeptical about using social media to market their brand, but after signing on to give Holla’s platform a shot, restaurants were quickly blown away by the results. FoodiFy then grew through simple word-of-mouth recommendations. After three months, her first client—Casa Pollastro, a family-owned Brazilian-Italian restaurant that opened in January 2023—went from seating around 20 tables a night to more than 200 tables on an average weeknight.

The restaurant first hosted an influencer night in August, with Holla being one of the invited content creators. After the success of the initial influencer event, Casa Pollastro’s executive chef Gabriel de Sa hoped to keep the momentum going and not lose business once virality stalled. Holla then pitched the owners her FoodiFy platform, and now the restaurant has two influencers create content each month.

“He called me on the phone in tears and he was like, ‘I’ve never seen a line outside this big. I’ve never seen such a big crowd of people. What did you do?’, and he’s been with us since we started,” Holla says. “It’s just a testament to how powerful social media can be, and it’s empowering to me to know that we’re changing these restaurant owners’ lives. A restaurant might have shut down otherwise. Now they’re able to grow, expand, and most importantly, be able to follow their dreams.” 

De Sa tells D CEO: “We went from about 100 customers throughout the whole week to doing 1,000. We’ve been in the restaurant business for a while, so we have a lot of connections and a staff pool that we can pull from. So we adjusted quickly in terms of making sure service was on pace and meeting our expectations for the guests.” 

Before launching FoodiFy, Holla set up meetings with more than 50 public relations firms and reps in DFW to learn about pricing. She realized that most PR firms have a large full-time client base, which equated to an average starting fee of about $4,000. FoodiFy’s subscription service costs restaurants just $500 per month.  

After Holla identified the gap in the market, she recruited an operation assistant, a salesperson, and a tech specialist to build the platform. The influencers working with FoodiFy were then selected based on their credibility, demographics, and engagement rates. 

“My goal was to make this more accessible for small restaurant owners, and we’re able to do it just because I don’t really have any labor on my side. We’re trying to streamline everything into this automated process,” Holla says. “Small restaurant owners have tight pockets, and they don’t have the money to spend yet, but we still want to give them a way to have access to how powerful social media can be.” 

Though her venture has been marked by chaotic days and sleepless nights—typical of a college student—Holla knows that running a startup is not an easy task, especially while she is still in school. The founder echos that seeing the impact made on local restaurants is her motivation to keep scaling the business—because the restaurants’ success is FoodiFy’s success. 

“I’m really passionate about this, and I am not going to give up on this anytime soon—anytime at all, really—because it’s already off the ground, it’s running, and we’re producing amazing revenue,” Holla says. “We’ve been profitable since day one.” 


Celie Price

Celie Price

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