December 15, 2011 in ATDC News

Startup Chronicles: Usable Health

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Frustrated by statistics revealing how few people follow the dietary advice of their health care providers, Jiten Chhabra began researching ways to address the problem. A physician with a master’s degree in human computer interaction, Chhabra took a unique approach – one that focused on providing on-the-spot nutritional decision support at cafeterias and restaurants. Following three years of research and IT development at Georgia Tech, his solution became a reality. Usable Health was launched in early 2010, providing menu-personalization software to generate diner loyalty.

“Data showed that our menu personalization application can help people make better eating choices, while also making restaurant operators more money,” said Chhabra. “That is when I knew there was a sustainable business here.”

Usable Health provides an in-restaurant kiosk system – called a SmartMenu – that will customize meal recommendations based on the customer’s nutritional goals. An interactive computer screen displays a detailed description of each item on the menu, including photos and details on all nutritional content. The technology then lets guests tailor each meal to meet their dietary goals by offering a series of recommendations based on their nutritional preferences. For example, if someone is looking for a low-carb or high-protein meal, the SmartMenu will produce a list of on-demand suggestions.

Currently, 22 restaurants feature the self-service kiosks, including Tin Drum, a quick service establishment, and the Fresh To Order fast casual restaurant chain. Most locations are in the Atlanta area, but as more restaurants strive to meet new federal nutritional guidelines and provide a healthier dining experience, Usable Health is seeing increased interest in its SmartMenu technology. The ATDC member company hopes to expand into other restaurants and major nationwide chains in the near future.

“Right now we are busy with product development and in forming channel partnerships,” said Chhabra. “Web and mobile apps are coming up in collaboration with our partners as well. An upcoming SmartMenu feature I am looking forward to is diner recognition, which learns a diner’s ordering history and makes recommendations based on that. It is kind of like how Netflix makes movie recommendations…but better.”

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