#Tech news

Buffet’s new app tackles the loneliness epidemic by connecting people in the real world

If you’ve been feeling lonely over the past few years, you’re not alone. According to a 2023 report from the U.S. surgeon general, about half of U.S. adults reported feeling lonely, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The report warns that loneliness and isolation can lead to physical consequences, such as a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

A new app called Buffet is aiming to address the loneliness epidemic by helping users meet new people by quickly matching them with a person and a place to meet up (think Tinder + OpenTable). The app is designed to remove the barriers and hassles that come with meeting new people and then trying to find a place to hang out. Buffet aims to help users meet likeminded individuals, whether they’re looking for a new friend, romantic partner or gym buddy.

At launch, Buffet is available in Los Angeles, with expansions planned for additional cities later this year, starting with New York City.

The app is the brainchild of Buffet CEO Rich Hacking and COO Sean Emery. The pair worked as financial analysts before starting Buffet and came up with the idea for the app while they were on a business trip in Dubai.

“We started throwing this idea around, and thought, hey, there’s something there,” Hacking told TechCrunch. “We saw the loneliness epidemic and saw that the market was in need of something new. The massive incumbents have lacked innovation in the last decade. There was an obvious key opportunity for disruption. So we put one foot in front of the other and started building Buffet.”

To get started with Buffet, users enter five of their interests, such as motorcycles, horseback riding or reading. The app then asks a series of five questions to get a better understanding of their personality and what kinds of places and people they would be interested in.

Image Credits: Buffet

Buffet’s algorithm then pairs users. If interested, they can send an invite to the person they’re matched with; the matched pair can then message each other via the app to decide on a time and date to meet. Buffet is designed to allow people to do most of the talking and getting-to-know-each-other in-person. Buffet encourages people to go beyond a chatbox and digital communication and actually meet up in the real world.

If there’s a match with someone, but the app-suggested meeting place isn’t a good match, users can choose from a list of other places that might be more interesting. And if users aren’t interested in their match partners, they can refresh and get matched with someone else.

Buffet’s target demographic is people who have been affected by the loneliness epidemic the most: 18- to 25-year-olds. The app also wants to target young professionals in the late to early 30s. Hacking believes that if Buffet can win over the average 25-year-old female professional, it can win over anyone.

“The app will be free to use for the foreseeable future,” Hacking said. “We want to win over users. We want to build trust and right now, when you read the market, people are frustrated with all of the paywalls.”

In terms of the app’s business model, Buffet will leverage advertising. The company plans to build up an in-app community forum where local businesses would be able to advertise directly to users and promote happy hours and other discounts.

The app is currently only available on iOS, but the company plans to launch an Android app in the future.

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