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10 San Francisco Startups Shaking Up the World of Food

The following ten startups are all, in one way or another, transforming the way we relate to food here in the city, and beyond. This is not a ranking, but a list, alphabetically by company name:

Treatful, the "Anti-Groupon," Brings Online Gift Certificates to Acclaimed Restaurants into the 21st Century

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), we Americans are in the process of spending around $28 billion on gift cards this holiday season, with 80 percent of us choosing to buy at least one, spending an average of $43.23 per card.

There’s nothing new about gift cards, of course, but what is new in 2011 is the effort by a number of local startups to attack the traditional, impersonal sort of card with a new, much more personalized online approach.

Three small companies poised to disrupt the traditional gift card industry in three separate strategies are Giftly, Giftiki, and Wantful – all of which I’ve profiled earlier this year.

Now there’s a fourth to add to the list – Treatful – co-founded by two Stanford business school grads, Brent Looney and Hoon Kim.

Giftly Set to Disrupt the Traditional Gift Card Market

This city’s entrepreneurs are systematically disrupting virtually every established industry in the country, and next up looks to be the gift card industry, which currently produces some ten billion pieces of non-biodegradable plastic a year.

Meet Giftly, a SoMa-based startup just a few weeks into its public beta. Giftly provides a way to personalize the gifting experience, leveraging social networks and location-based data so you can treat your family members and friends to places near them, like restaurants, shops and clubs.

Based on Yelp’s open API, Giftly allows you to choose among thousands of places all over the country, with all of those ratings and reviews at your fingertips. An email goes out to the recipient with instructions how to use the customized gift certificate, which is as easy as showing up and “paying” with your credit card — Giftly then credits the gift to your credit card bill.

“Think of Giftly as a smarter, more sophisticated version of the traditional gift card,” says CEO and founder Tim Bentley. “You can personalize it to, say, three coffee shops here in San Francisco, and the person you’re gifting can use their smartphone to access the gift, go into any of those shops, without having any new plastic card involved at all.”

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