by Susan Ellis
Mark Dinstuhl is the great-great grandson of Charles Martin Dinstuhl,
This new-found free time spurred Mark, 35, to begin building marksmenus.com, an interactive restaurant menu website he’s working on with business partner Scott Brown.
As a Dinstuhl, were you the most popular kid in school?
You would think so! Sadly, I was such a nerd that not even owning a candy store could make me popular. The only thing that I found interesting in school was the small computer lab.
You're currently building an online restaurant-menu site called marksmenus.com. What's the concept?
One of the things that sets us apart from other restaurant websites is that we are building a user-generated, community-owned searchable database of not just restaurants but the actual menu items themselves.
Ot will allow people to type in "Pad Thai" and find out which restaurants in the area have Pad Thai and what other users think of that dish. There is a light social network feature on the site that will allow users to discuss individual menu items. One of the things that I would really like to see is people actually arranging meetups at local restaurants to sample the different items. I hate eating alone and I love meeting new people, so I expect to use that feature quite a bit.
Another aspect that I really like is that it gives restaurant owners a simple-to-use tool that will allow them to quickly list and update their menus online. Most restaurant owners are too busy running their restaurants to worry about working with a web designer and scanning in a PDF of their menu. We also want to encourage owners to join the site so that they can enter into a dialog with our users. While there is no charge for a restaurant to be listed on the site, we do hope to offer them marketing and advertising services through our internet presence on the website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Looks like you plan to take it national… Mark's Menus as sort of a Craig's List?
Our end-goal is to be the Wikipedia of restaurant menus. Right now we are focusing on the Memphis, and we hope to move into other "secondary" markets soon. One of our biggest strengths so far is that there are several sites that are all fighting for a slice of the big cities. For example, there are two similar sites competing for the Austin, Texas, market. They can have it for now — I'll take Memphis, Nashville, Huntsville, Alabama, Little Rock, Arkansas, etc. I'd rather have a majority of the "flyover" country than a little bit of New York. There is a lot of great food to be found out there and no one seems to want to take a stab at locating, organizing, and presenting that data to the general public.
This could potentially compete with the Flyer's own online restaurant listings. What did we ever do to you?
Nothing! We love you guys! We're not trying to compete with you or the Memphis Restaurant Association at all.
As a matter of fact, we like to think of ourselves as complimenting other online resources like yours. Our focus is primarily on capturing and presenting menus (including information about individual dishes), rather than on reviews and general restaurant information.
You must like to eat out a lot. What's your favorite restaurant?
I do like to eat out a lot, but that's mostly because, other than candy, I cannot cook to save my life.
As far as a local restaurant, it all depends on the time of day and my mood. I've recently started doing Pilates and, for some reason, have been craving red meat after my workouts. If I'm in a hurry, I usually eat at the bar at either Molly's La Casita or Huey’s. As I mentioned, I hate eating alone, so I try to find people to meet for lunch. If that is the case, I'll go to Cafe Eclectic or Boscos. If I feel guilty for not eating me veggies I'll go to the Cupboard or the Little Tea Shop. For dinner, if I feel like something classy I'll meet someone at Itta Bena or Circa. If I'm going stag it's usually the Blue Monkey downtown or the Kooky Kanuck. My favorite thing to do is weekend breakfast/brunch. Brother Junipers, Republic Coffee, and the Beauty Shop all have great menu items for the weekend, and I sometimes have a difficult time deciding where to go!