When Swiping In SF, Dating Can Seem Dismal—Enter Pina Colada
Swipe right if you’re tired of swiping in a city where everyone is constantly on their phones.
Last fall, Kati Schmidt quit her day job and set out to start her own company. Meet Pina Colada, a modern, localized riff on the group date concept introduced by Grouper a few years ago.
The concept for Pina Colada is straightforward: fill out a survey telling them all about yourself, RSVP and show up to a restaurant where you’ll be dining on a blind group date.
A lot of apps have come and gone, but it looks like swiping is here to stay. Read on to see why Kati believes in starting with offline connections, and how most San Franciscans who’ve used Pina Colada describe themselves. Here’s a hint: it won’t surprise you at all. Let’s just say that even though you don’t need to upload a picture of yourself hiking Half Dome, people often describe themselves as Olympic athletes.
How do you think Piña Colada has the potential to change the dating scene in San Francisco?
Many San Franciscans have currently signed up for multiple dating apps, they swipe a lot, text back and forth and become overwhelmed and tired of it. Only 2/3 of users with online dating profiles actually meet in real life and not all of them are on the same page of what they are looking for. Piña Colada brings dating back into real life. Because of the financial and time commitment, it weeds out people who are just looking for a hookup.
Our users fill out a brief survey but do not have to take selfies, nor create profiles nor engage in the same small talk over and over. Once we find a group of six like-minded singles we invite them to one of our group dinners. All our users have to do is RSVP and show up.
Did the idea for Piña Colada come to you through a natural interest in setting your friends up?
My friend Katharina and I came up with the concept four years ago when we were both single and living in Berlin. We started recruiting our single Facebook friends and invited them to a group dinner in our favorite restaurants. Our dates were so popular that even friends in relationships were curious about joining!
After leaving my full time job last November and listening to the frustrating dating experiences of my single friends, I revisited the idea. Connecting people in real life made even more sense to me in San Francisco and Silicon Valley where people constantly stare at their phones and everything is a click away.
Can you tell us how you came up with the name for your dating app?
I hosted a brainstorming brunch with friends to get their feedback on my idea. One of them remembered Escape, The Piña Colada Song by Rupert Holmes from the 80s. It’s a beautiful song about old school dating via a classifieds ad. Once you listen to it, it’s impossible to get out of your head.
You mentioned that you tested out the Piña Colada concept in Berlin. Have you noticed any differences in the interest there versus the San Francisco market so far?
Our Berlin friends didn’t fill out a survey before their dates, but I do think that the answers people provide here are very typical of San Franciscans.
A lot of local users love food, nature, traveling and live a very healthy lifestyle: they don’t smoke, are morning persons and describe themselves as olympic athletes. 12% want to have dinner with the Obamas or just Michelle Obama and 23% find inspiration in nature. Many don’t shy away from tough topics like politics, gun control etc.
If you could plan a $1000/person Piña Colada deluxe date in the Bay Area, what do you think that would look like?
An outdoorsy weekend getaway with high quality accommodation and food. The day would start with a hike or an outdoor yoga session with a local teacher, followed by a healthy meal by a local private chef. After lunch there is time for a nap in a hammock or a massage by professional therapists. In the afternoon, I’d encourage the group to create something together. It could be a piece of art or something useful for a specific local community in need. Doing good brings people together and is rewarding. The day ends with a reflection by the fire pit and a local singer songwriter who shares their tunes.
// pinacolada-sf.com; photography by Anthony Rogers.