Indore-based Zootout has launched a food and lifestyle recommendation engine, that allows users to discover new restaurants around him. It competes with other players such as Infomedia18’s restaurant guide Burrp and the Info Edge backed Zomato. The company claims to offer services in 11 Indian cities including Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Goa, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Pune and in Singapore.

Homepage: Zootout currently offers listings only in the Food and nightlife segment with a ‘Coming Soon’ tag on other genres such as beauty and fitness, shopping, deals and discount, events and sale. Users can either search for their preferred restaurant/cuisine in a specific place using the search box or browse through place listings across various categories like restaurant, bars, cafe, lounge, pub;  various cuisines like North Indian, chinese, desserts, fast food, continental; or browse places on the basis of service offerings like dine-in, airconditioned, home delivery, take away and others.

What’s Interesting:

Search By Dishes: Apart from the regular search options like restaurants and cuisine, one can also search for places serving a specific dish. For instance, users can search for places which serve “Chocolate Paratha”. The search box has an autocomplete feature, so if one types in a generic dish like ‘Paratha’ or ‘Pizza’, it suggests different variants of the dish being served as well, thus enabling discovery of new dishes. For instance, the keyword Paratha will suggest different variants like Aloo Masala Paratha, Ceylon Paratha, Chilli cheese paratha and, Pizza will pop up variants like Tabasco Pizza and Pizza Margherita. This is quite a different approach as compared to the scanned menus offered by Zomato and Burrp.

Guides: On the homepage, Zootout has curated various guides such as top south Indian restaurants, unique theme restaurants, and best chinese restaurants, which expectedly contain restaurant listings catering to a specific genre or cuisine. What’s interesting though is that these guides work something like lists on Twitter or more appropriately, Foursquare. Users can follow these lists for new restaurant additions, thus enabling discovery.

Currently all the lists are being curated by the in-house staff, but we hope that users will be able to create lists on their own in the future. With branded lists, this could be a good monetization opportunity for the company.

– What’s Special here? Instead of the usual user review approach that is adopted by recommendation engines, every outlet page on Zootout seems to have a dedicated section called “what’s special here” which tells you about the special dishes available in that outlet. Users can mark the existing dishes as “Love it”, “Like it”, “Want To Try” or “Not For Me” or suggest their own dishes and upload pictures of it.

– Recommendation fee: In a bid to incentivize users to add more places to their listings, Zootout seems to be offering a recommendation fee for those who suggest places to their catalog, although there is no information on how significant is the recommendation fee.

What can be changed? 

Search results: While one can search for dishes and outlets using the search box on the homepage, there is no uniformity in the results provided. For instance, searching for pizza will initially prompt to a dish suggestion followed by couple of place suggestions and again dish suggestions. Why not group both dish and place suggestions and present it?

Guides: While the existing functionality seems promising, there is definitely a lot of room for improvement in the guides functionality. For example, there is no dedicated place where we can find all the guides that we have followed. Also,  wewould like to probably have an alert whenever a new restaurant is added to the guides that we follow.

Suggestions:

Mobile Apps: One of the major things which is currently missing is the mobile integration or native mobile apps. While some of Zootout’s features might seem promising, we believe a food recommendation engine can be more effective on a mobile phone when people are travelling, rather than on a desktop version.

Social Suggestions: Since Zootout can tap into a user’s connections on Facebook and Twitter, provided the user opts in, Zootout can probably provide dish, place and restaurant suggestions from his friends.

Partnerships: Zootout can probably partner with deal sites like TimesDeal* or Snapdeal to offer discounts on dishes and restaurants or partner with sites like JustEat and Bookurtable to launch online restaurant bookings and online food orders.

*Disclosure: Indiatimes is an advertiser with MediaNama