i Fork Utensils and Party Ware

Kyle Donovan created i Fork to solve a simple problem: keeping the business end of a fork off a germ-filled restaurant table. When you place any utensil on a table, the part that goes in your mouth touches the table. This is disturbing when you think about how well or poorly) a restaurant wipes down their tables. On his website, he cites a study that says restaurant tables had as much as 268 bacterial colony forming units per square inch – twice that of a diaper changing table – YUCK!

Donovan thought if his fork (and knife and spoon) could be suspended above the table, the germs wouldn't get on them. What he did was put a little ball in the sweet spot on table utensils, allowing them to balance without the business end touching the table. He sells stainless steel sets of six table settings of utensils for around $125.

He also expanded into plastic, for parties and such. This took i Fork to a whole new level. His patented party combo packs contain 8 sets of plates, cups, forks and knives. They all inter-lock so you can carry your whole meal at an event in one hand. As he says on his website, “table not necessary!” These sell for $20 and come in red or clear.

For the Sharks, who'll evaluate the business in episode 916, i Fork is almost like two businesses in one. While Kyle wants to sell stainless steel to consumers, he thinks the restaurant trade will be his biggest customer. Consumers will buy the combo iFork, iCup/iPlate for casual entertaining. He's hoping a Shark will share his vision, and his disdain for germs, and partner with him so he can “go big.”

My Take on i Fork

I eat out frequently and some of the statistics on the i Fork website made me want to puke. I've only gotten food poisoning from a restaurant twice; once was from bad bacon in an airport restaurant club sandwich and once was from bad oysters. After reading the germ studies Donovan cites, I'm surprised I don't get sick every week!

I'd probably be reassured if a restaurant had iForks, but who's to say they're being cleaned well? The selling point is an illusion of safety, which for most restaurants and patrons is probably enough. I won't be buying new flatware for my home any time soon, but I think restaurants would buy in to the concept when they need to replace their table utensils.

As for the party ware, I find it intriguing. The idea of holding everything with one hand is appealing. Everybody's done the cookout “balancing act” with a plate full of food, utensils and drinks. It can be a precarious exercise. The thing that bugs me is the plastic. Maybe he could team up with Susty Party and make compostable party ware with the i Fork technology. As long as it's responsibly recycled, I'd use it at a gathering, so I guess I'm in.

Will Sharks “i” an Opportunity?

Even though the business is less than a year old, Donovan has his products all over Amazon, so he must have some sales. He also got a lot of good PR on the “morning show news circuit” last spring. The next steps are getting the product into a lot of customers' hands. The restaurant sales require a more direct approach: trade shows, corporate sales calls and such. The combo packs need mass retail at party and home goods type stores.

The Sharks can be more help with the latter sales channel, he'll need to hire a pro for the restaurant sales. That said, the interest from the Sharks will be in direct correlation with his sales growth. Even though there's limited numbers (the company launched in spring 2017), strong growth will attract interest.

Any one of the Sharks could bid here, with the possible exception of Mark. I'm expecting bids from Mr. Wonderful – since it fits into his “something wonderful platform of love” – and from Rohan Oza. Lori and Barbara may bid too, but they could also sit out. I expect a deal with either Oza or O'Leary.

About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob Merlino.com and more.

Comments

  1. So Id really like to see a plate that can hold a soda can too!

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