Did you know that Auckland has 3,500 restaurants? Not only that, I’m amazed how many new restaurants seem to pop up each week and or how many restaurants reinvent themselves. It’s impossible to keep up.
As someone who eats out regularly (okay, I eat out a lot), restaurant review sites are my bibles. I read all of them, including newspapers and magazines, plus I canvas my foodie friends. However, I typically find that newspapers and magazines focus on the latest celebrity openings (read “expensive” restaurants), with some more popular eateries scattered among these. I understand these; readers want to know what’s new and trendy in town. Unfortunately, review sites are generally not moderated, which can lead to false and even revenge reviews.
I regularly write reviews on easyfoodhacks which focuses on ethnic, small, family-owned restaurants. These are the ones which are largely ignored by the publications (though Metro does an excellent annual Best 100 Cheap Eats roundup, and the NZ Herald runs the occasional small, ethnic eatery review).
I was contacted by Sahil Ludhani from Zomato back in June when he arrived to scope a potential launch in NZ. He explained the premiss of Zomato, – an online restaurant guide (and app) which has credible reviews on up-to-date restaurant listings. Zomato’s entry into New Zealand would start with Auckland and Wellington.
Zomato has its origins in the massive food scene of Dehli, and hungry IT geeks. From the start as a basic menu compilation site, it has grown exponentially and now, 5 funding rounds later, Zomato has become the top restaurant review site in India. Zomato is on a global expansion path, currently operates in 36 cities and 11 countries, and has plans to be in further 22 countries.
I really like the fresh interface on Zomato; it is easy to maneuver and provides all the information you need about the restaurant. Map, opening hours, average cost for 2, and even the Food Hygiene Grade. They have a team of scouts who checks out restaurants and update listings. Zomato also run regular competitions during the year to encourage the public to update the listings (which are then vetted by the team).
Zomato’s business model of advertising revenue from restaurants works based on being the most credible source of restaurant reviews. They have algorithms to pull out false reviewers, and keep the genuine negative reviews on. Zomato focuses on the user, and has been known to forgo advertising revenue if a restaurant abuses the system. This, for me, is their strongest selling point.
I now regularly write reviews for Zomato (see Easyfoodhacks), including ones which I don’t publish here because they don’t fit my criteria for being small and/or family-run. Zomato encourages food bloggers to come on board, as a family of interested foodies, and holds monthly food bloggers meets. The first one was held just yesterday, and it was a blast meeting people who are just as food obsessed as I am. I have been on board 3 months, and it’s been a pleasure.
Zomato had a stand at Taste of Auckland recently, and I was impressed at how quickly the team has carved out a niche in New Zealand. All my interactions with the Zomato team (either here or in Delhi, – some of the updates are done at their HQ) has been very professional.
Zomato can honestly claim to have the largest and most complete restaurant listing for Auckland. As the reviews (and reviewers) increase on New Zealand’s Zomato site, it will only get better.