Rich Winley sets the table—and tablet—for local eating
The inspiration for tech entrepreneur Rich Winley’s latest venture occurred in the Australian Outback. A “foodie” touring the country for seven weeks as part of the Rotary Foundation’s group-study exchange, Winley was excited at the prospect of “eating local.” “I didn’t want to do the touristy stuff,” says Winley. “I wanted that local feel, I wanted to find where the locals go, find the places with no signs.” Back stateside, Winley again found himself in the Outback—Steakhouse.
“We eat at chain restaurants because of convenience,” says Winley. “But when you travel, you don’t want to eat at the Applebee’s or Carrabba’s, you want to eat at what’s local to that city. And once you find that local place, you want to know what’s good on the menu.” Finding that local spot and learning what to order is just what Winley’s “No Chains” Web community hopes to accomplish.
“There are places only locals know about, regardless of how much you Yelp,” says Winley, who, while in Australia, used the only tools at his disposal—“my good looks and charm”—to find the local hot spots. “I was in this chain restaurant and asked the waitress, “Where do you eat?” The answer led Winley on a boat ride to a shack in the middle of a river that served nothing but local game burgers. “They had ostrich burgers and kangaroo burgers. There was no GPS to get to that place. You had to be local to know about it, and the view was amazing.” That experience was the highlight of his trip and thousands of miles better than a Bloomin’ Onion. The desire to share that “food story” and learn about other’s experiences sparked the idea for No Chains, which will focus solely on locally owned establishments.
Winley’s No Chains concept won him a spot in the Iron Yard, a Greenville-based, 13-week startup accelerator program. “Over 400 teams applied to be part of the program,” says Winley, “and only ten of us got in.” The program culminates with each team pitching their business or product to more than 300 different venture capitalists and investors. “The challenge is to get enough money from South Carolina to be able to stay here and grow the company.” Winley hopes to have No Chains up and running this fall.
But even Winley has his local food limits. Back in Australia, a local suggested trying a certain species of insect whose rear-end supposedly tastes like sherbet. Winley politely declined. “I’m not that guy off the Food Channel, I’m not doing that.”