Restaurant discovery platform Zomato launches in Manchester

zomatoI say tom-a-to, they say zom-a-to!

This newcomer on the Manchester food scene is a tech start-up bringing a hyperlocal restaurant finder for web and mobile to the city.

Already making moves in Dubai and India, the young company has set its sights on the UK and this week quietly launched in Manchester.

As they explained to me, the launch was deliberately low key as they build up the contacts and knowledge locally to understand the city’s particular needs and habits.

The team is busy securing an office in the city (possibly in the Northern Quarter) as well as meeting with food bloggers to forge links into the online community.

Of course they’ll be jostling for attention among both big media players such as the MEN’s City Life listings pages as well as the smaller players like ManchesterConfidential.

So what does Zomato Manchester, with an existing 14m global users per month for the main site, have to offer that’s different?

A screengrab from the app
A screengrab from the app
The service’s USP is a full menu service. Every single restaurant, cafe and food outlet has been contacted and the menus extracted to be displayed to users searching for a style of food, the price they’re willing to pay or the location.

And they don’t just display that as a one-off – the menus are checked and updated as necessary every three months – quite an undertaking considering they are featuring Manchester’s 1,800 outlets.

I’ve been trying out the iPhone app and there’s a few interesting features. Firstly it’s location-aware so search results can relate to the users actual position.

For those of us that like to review the places we eat in, there’s an interesting badging system for contributors which rewards them based upon followers and the number of reviews in order to establish super users who are trusted voices.

The search also allows users to create circles of people to follow for recommendations so building a social network within the specialised genre of food for a particular location. I think that’s pretty neat.

It will be fascinating to see how it evolves. In London, where they launched just seven months ago, The Daily Mirror’s Martin Newman wrote in the Huffington Post of how they were blitzing London’s ultra competitive restaurant listings.

Zomato’s breadth of coverage now exceeds all their existing London competitors with their main selling point the scanned copies of menus for every one of their listings. They’ve signed up several thousand members and their website is attracting hundreds of thousands of hits a month – all without having spent a penny on advertising the London arm!

One to watch.

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