The Food Talk -- a community of food enthusiasts from all over the city and beyond -- has grown over the years, and had a role to play in improving the restaurant experience for people. In a candid conversation, Taskin Rahman, Founder, discusses the 6-year journey of the group.
The Food Talk turns 6! Tell us how you came up with the idea of The Food Talk in the first place.
I used to travel a lot, and have been lucky enough to try out food from all over. I initially planned on writing blogs on Tumblr about my experiences, but sadly I realized there weren’t a lot of Tumblr users in Bangladesh. Then I thought of starting a Facebook page as it had more users, especially in our country. However, the posts needed regular ‘boosts’ to reach more people so they would engage more; after a little while, I thought of starting a Facebook group which The Food Talk is now all about -- a community of food lovers from mostly Dhaka and some from Chittagong. We have active support from New York, London, Sydney, Melbourne, and Bangkok, mostly through the Bangladeshi community.
How were you able to bring such a big community together?
Ever since I had the idea of The Food Talk, I always wanted to bring all the food enthusiasts around to form a community where everyone would share their experiences with dishes they try out in restaurants or even food they make themselves at home. This would enable people to know what restaurants or even what new dishes to try out. I personally believe, the restaurant culture in our communities took a sharp rise right after the first season of the popular television show MasterChef Australia. That’s when I believe people started experimenting with different kinds of food. So, by the time The Food Talk came into the scene, there was already a strong community of food enthusiasts, and when I created the platform, it didn’t take long to gain popularity.
Any interesting incidents that took place in these 6 years?
Well, there was one really interesting incident when someone sent me 20 kilos of mangoes as a gesture of appreciation. I mean, 20 kilos is a lot! And mangoes aren’t something you can have lying around for very long.
What are some of the challenges you might have faced along the way?
It has been 6 years, and like any other initiative, this too had a few challenges. One could be the quality of conversation taking place within the group. At one point, the group had about 15,000 members and to make sure the quality of input was in check, I had to remove over 10,000 people which I think was a harsh move, but it was certainly necessary. Another challenge that I had to face was the lack of diversity in terms of age. I felt the majority of the members belonged to a middle-aged demography; this was a problem, as this age group sometimes reviewed restaurants based on other amenities rather than the actual food they served -- this is only an example. Moreover, I wanted input from a variety of customer bases of different age groups and backgrounds. So, I made sure to maintain a proper balance, and encouraged younger food enthusiasts to join the group.
Any new plans with The Food Talk, for the future?
Yes, I want to make the community a little bigger. Say, to bring more restaurant owners along with more food lovers, to ensure the reviews are not biased, and the constructive criticism eventually helps restaurants to improve their services. At the end of the day, that’s all we want. I am also, thinking of creating a sub-brand, called Treat. With this, I want to provide organic ingredients, which I’ll be sourcing directly from the roots. Ingredients such as different spices or dairy products, for example. Apart from that, someday I want to make sure we have a more organized restaurant rating with experienced judges; this would help consumers know what to expect and, at the same time, it would push restaurants to improve their quality of service.