During the pandemic, College seniors Myriam Harrouche and Lulu Fanjul launched Flirty For Food, an Instagram food blog that aims to help its readers discover new restaurants and learn about the people and stories behind the food.
When they became friends in their sophomore year at Penn, Harrouche and Fanjul said that they bonded over their shared passion for food, adding that their families both instilled this love in them from a young age. They decided to start an Instagram page — @flirtyforfood — amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to share this passion with their friends and help support small businesses in the process. The account now has almost 3,000 followers, and the pair now hopes to launch a larger lifestyle brand called Flirty.
When the pandemic hit, many local restaurants struggled as a result of new restrictions and quarantine requirements, inspiring Fanjul and Harrouche to give them a platform.
“We really wanted to support local restaurants, and get the word out that they were open,” Fanjul said.
Fanjul and Harrouche said that they began the blog by covering Philadelphia restaurants. The page, Harrouche said, has since expanded to cover the food scene in New York City, Miami, and the West Coast.
“Philly is an amazing food city,” Fanjul says. “Before coming to Penn, I had no idea that Philly was a foodie city, but the restaurants are incredible.”
From the beginning, Fanjul and Harrouche said, Flirty For Food aimed to be more than just “food porn” pictures. Fanjul added that she hopes by featuring in-depth, honest reviews of the food and overall dining experience, followers are motivated to go visit the restaurants themselves. A personal touch and authenticity make the blog stand out, Harrouche said.
The name Flirty is an ode to the fact that “food always brought out a fun, flirty side of us,” Fanjul said. The idea of “flirting with restaurants” inspired Flirty For Food’s restaurant ranking criteria — ranging from "Wedding Bells," representing “a restaurant that feels like meeting the love of your life,” to "Ghost Them," a rating for a restaurant you would never go back to, Harrouche said.
Both Harrouche and Fanjul emphasized that the rating criteria and brand name convey the playfulness and authenticity of the blog — and a unique voice that brings “the human quality” of the restaurant industry to light.
The blog's "Faces Behind the Food" segment spotlights chefs and servers, who Fanjul said make the dining experience special.
“I think my favorite thing about being involved with Flirty has really been meeting the people behind the restaurants. Hearing their stories is really fascinating,” she added.
When Harrouche and Fanjul graduate this spring, they plan to move to New York and live together, both starting jobs in corporate America while continuing to build Flirty as a “lifestyle experience," Harrouche said. The brand, she added, would simplify travel and leisure, informing followers about where to stay, what to see, and where to eat.
Before their graduation in May, Harrouche hopes they will be able to create a website that will make Flirty’s reviews and upcoming curated guides accessible for their followers. Right now, she added, they are working on creating a trademark and logos, formalizing the brand — as well as increasing their follower base as much as possible.
Fanjul and Harrouche added that they hope to explore more restaurants and more cities — from Chicago to London — through Flirty. In the long term, they aim to add a networking component to their platform.
“What I love most about food is how it brings people together. We hope that we can help bring people together through food,” Fanjul said.
Both Harrouche and Fanjul said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive from family and friends, who have followed Flirty For Food’s rise from the beginning. Fanjul said that her dad is a fellow foodie, who she has seen “go up to the chef and learn their story” throughout her childhood.
Now, she said, he supports her own journey to learn about the people behind the food, encouraging her to go speak to chefs and proudly introducing her as a food blogger.
“Our parents are our biggest backbone,” Harrouche said. “We are both extremely lucky and grateful to have their support as they believe in our vision.”
Both seniors said that Flirty For Food’s followers are active and loyal, helping them find new restaurants to review through direct messages and continuously engaging with their content. Fanjul said that students will reach out to the page suggesting new restaurants to try — and will sometimes accompany the pair to try them out.
Harrouche said that she hopes the passion project will become a career.
“When you love what you do every single day, you will never feel like you are working. That’s the dream,” she said, adding that she hopes their journey will inspire people at Penn and beyond to “take a risk” beyond the traditional path.