A cheesy app
Hoboken man invents new way to count your pies
by Carlo Davis
Reporter staff writer
Aug 03, 2014 | 903 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAY CHEESE -- Rick Mendes, the inventor of the Pizza Counter iPhone app, enjoys a slice at Napoli’s on Washington Street.
SAY CHEESE -- Rick Mendes, the inventor of the Pizza Counter iPhone app, enjoys a slice at Napoli’s on Washington Street.
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When Rick Mendes of Hoboken sat down with a reporter at Napoli’s on Washington Street on a recent Tuesday, the choice was clear: the Italian restaurant’s specialty is margherita pizza, and one 14-inch pie would easily satisfy both parties.

But for those who need to order pizza for birthday parties, offices, and other large groups, knowing how many pies to get can be a serious headache.

That’s where Mendes’ free new iPhone app comes in, built around a special ratio. The Pizza Counter, which debuted on the App Store in January, will calculate how many pizzas you should order, minus the math and guesswork.

The app also provides a list of pizza places nearby, and makes it easy to order.
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“The best [pizza] place is always just around the corner in Hoboken.” – Rick Mendes
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Users input how many people are eating, how hungry they are, and the maximum size of pizza available at the restaurant they are ordering from and the app suggests how many pies to buy.

Ordering for the team

Mendes and his wife Molly run The Elixir Haus, a boutique agency specializing in interactive web design and corporate branding, out of their apartment in Hoboken. The idea for The Pizza Counter arose from their two decades of experience in the hectic world of graphic design.

On numerous late nights in the office, ordering pizza for the team was a source of frustration and bewilderment.

In “trying to solve [his] own pain,” Rick Mendes set out to calculate the golden ratio of slices per person, via an Excel spreadsheet that served as the basis for the forerunner to the Pizza Counter.

Years of trial and error led Mendes to his ideal equation: two and a half slices are enough to satisfy the average person, he says.

Based on that ratio, the Pizza Counter suggests that 16 18-inch pizzas would be enough for 50 people. If they are especially hungry, 22 18-inch pizzas should suffice. The app can give estimated pizza orders for up to 100 people. Those who enjoy cold leftover pizza are out of luck.

Mendes released his app for free, and hopes it can serve as “convenient little utility” for teachers, coaches, parents, and office managers who regularly order pizza for many.

User feedback

At least some have already benefited from the invention. On the iPhone App Store, a user named Jollyfella1966 wrote, “App is great. Makes a normally painful task a snap. I order pizza a lot for my office and always order too much or not enough.”

Mendes said the app took two weeks to get approved by Apple. He has not made it available for Android but said he could easily do so if there is a demand, because the app is written in JavaScript, a multi-platform programming language.

Best slice in Hoboken

As for the best places to get pies in Hoboken, Mendes swears by Napoli’s, Johnny Pepperoni, and Basile’s. He says Mario’s on Garden Street is a good family friendly option when eating out with his 1- and 3-year-old children.

“The best place is always just around the corner in Hoboken,” says Mendes.

With over 30 restaurants offering pizza in such a compact city, Mendes calls Hoboken the “unofficial capital of pizza” in the United States.

The Pizza Counter app can even help you find your new favorite place in Hoboken. It uses the application programming interface (API) of the review site Yelp to display nearby restaurants serving pizza. Users can then place a phone call to any restaurant through the app.

Though he admits that it might “seem like a silly app,” Mendes says The Pizza Counter is emblematic of the design solutions The Elixir Haus provides for clients as diverse as digital publishing company Mag+ and Kim Kardashian.

“We help clients succeed by first helping them think about and solve fundamental design problems--ones that weren't initially apparent,” wrote Mendes in an email. “I like to think of the app as an example of that approach applied to everyday life.”

The Pizza Counter app can be downloaded for free at the iPhone App Store. More information about The Elixir Haus can be found at theelixirhaus.com.

Carlo Davis may be reached at cdavis@hudsonreporter.com.

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