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8it Karen promotion
Photograph: Courtesy of 8it

This food app is giving away free food to people named Karen

8it wants to recognize people named Karen who aren't actually #Karens.

Written by
Bao Ong

When Steve Raggiani and Joe Scalo co-founded 8it, they wanted an app that provided an alternative to all the negative reviews (or obvious shills) on Yelp that they felt rarely addressed a restaurant’s food. In essence, they say their competitor’s platform became an arena for people to air complaints

“How do we weed out all the Karens?” asked Raggiani, when 8it launched about a year ago. 

The term Karen—usually a woman, particularly white women, acting entitled to insufferable extents—wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. But 8it wanted to flip things around and reward good Karens with a free meal. While it’s clear the move helps promote Raggiani and Scalo’s app—which features a mix of curated news and reviews all in eight words—they also wanted to show that “not all Karens are bad.”

Here’s the deal: Anyone named Karen can enter or you can nominate anyone named Karen (and variations on the spelling of the name count, such as Caryn). Download @8itapp for free in the App Store, use the password “Karen” and post a screenshot to Instagram of the 8it dish you’d want to order and tag @8itapp (also tag your friend Karen if you’re nominating someone). You get an extra entry if you post it to your IG story. They’ll pick at least 30 Karens at random and plan to keep this going through August 6th.

According to Raggiani, whose day job is in the entertainment and music industry, the app has 5,000 users and currently features just over 1,000 restaurants.

“2020 has been a rollercoaster, and we’ve seen the Karens pop up even more,” Raggiani says. “They’re back stronger than ever. They’re complaining about certain dishes not being available, prices….restaurants are trying to survive a pandemic. Give them a break.”

Madame Vo, a popular Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village, has been highlighted a number of times on 8it.

“We never like to bash our customers. We do have customers who are not understanding of the situation,” says chef and owner Jimmy Ly. “But in the hospitality industry, we just have to turn our cheek and smile even when we deal with it on a weekly basis. It just sucks.”

Raggiani estimates there are 30,000 New Yorkers named Karen when he did his “back of the napkin math” using census data. 

“It must suck to be named Karen,” he says. “Who’s looking out for those people?” 

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