Order regret is real. You’re out at a restaurant and what’s just been delivered to your table does not match what you’d pictured when you ordered. Now Melbourne-based tech startup Mr Yum is working to manage your expectations and mitigate disappointment.

Mr Yum has built a free tool that allows diners to view photos of dishes before they order. Using a smartphone camera to scan a QR code on the menu at participating venues, diners can access a digital version of the restaurant’s menu on Mr Yum’s online platform.

No app is required to use the service; iPhone users can scan the QR code by using their phone’s default camera app, and Android users can scan it using Google Lens.

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"If the instructions said, ‘You need to download an app’, you’d be like, ‘I’ll just go on Instagram, thanks’,” says Kim Teo who co-founded Mr Yum with Adrian Osman and Kerry Osborn.

In fact, trawling through a venue’s Instagram to get a picture of what a dish looks like is one of several behaviours Mr Yum’s co-founders hope to change. The others include being jealous of your friend’s order, always ordering the same dishes out of fear you might order something you don’t like and scanning the room to see what other peoples’ food looks like – a practice the Mr Yum site refers to as “food perving”.

“People already want to do what we are offering, and that's helped us tremendously, because we walk into a venue, talk to the owner, and they're like, 'Yep, people already do that, they point to photos on Instagram and order off that, you don’t need to explain it’.”

As well as photographs of the food – which are either taken by Mr Yum’s in-house photographer or provided by the venue (“We’re very clear that the photos have to look like the food that comes out,” says Keo) – the platform has a tool that allows guests to filter the menu for items that match their dietary requirements (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free etc.). It also features a glossary of ingredients, and a translation tool for five different languages.

Following trial periods at Collingwood and Abbotsford cafes Lemon, Middle and Orange and Three Bags Full, Mr Yum will expand into the CBD where Teo hopes the language tool will help non-English-speaking tourists. Presently, the platform can be used in about 15 venues in Richmond, Fitzroy and Collingwood – where the startup is based.

Mr Yum is currently free for both customers and venues. And while its co-founders have plans to monetise at some point, Teo says “this won’t be a subscription fee”.
Teo and her co-founders eventually want to develop an app as part of an ambitious plan to become the “Spotify of food”. The app would offer users venue, dish and drink recommendations based on their previous dining experiences, in a similar vein to Spotify Discover. The more data the app collects from users, the more adept it will become at making those recommendations.

“It's all about helping customers decide what to order and encouraging them to actually try new stuff – that's what we're passionate about,” says Teo.