Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

So Hot Right Now: Pictures and Ratings of Food

Even the greatest menu in the world has all-star items and dishes that are just blah. Deciding which restaurant to go to is a prerequisite for eating out, but most important is what you decide to put in your stomach. I’m a terrible annoyance when trying a new restaurant, as I pull out my phone to see what Foursquare and Yelp users say I should order. But social media is often right, and I don’t mind sharing a bite of the good stuff.

A bevy of dedicated apps and recently launched features for existing local apps now enable smartphone users to take pictures of memorable dishes and rate them or comment on them. Here’s a sampler of the current offerings:

We’ll get to the familiar names in a moment, but first is a new iPhone app from a Seattle-based start-up called Chewsy that creates a “social menu” (pictured at right) for any restaurant, based on user rankings. Created by Microsoft employees in their spare time, the app is focused on building out ratings and comments for menu items, and does not yet support pictures. Getting critical mass for menu items has got to be even harder than getting critical mass for restaurants, but the company has already launched in 11 markets.

At the beginning of this week, the geo-social crew at Foursquare started giving users the ability to add photos to check-ins, tips and venues. That has rolled out for both the iPhone and Android Foursquare apps, and includes photos from linked accounts on Instagram, Picplz and Foodspotting. The company said in a blog post, “Tips with photos changes everything. See dishes before ordering them, figure out if a venue looks fun, or easily identify a hard-to-find spot. More info = better exploration.”

Social media local reviews leader Yelp put out its first iPad app (pictured at left) on Monday. In a blog post describing the launch, the company said the best part of the app is “our marquee feature: a fancy, schmancy new photo search results.”

The next day, Urbanspoon (the company behind that app where you shake to seredipitously find a place to eat) put out a new release that allows diners to submit a photo and review of a specific menu item directly from the app.

Foodspotting, the leading pretty app for sharing pictures of and locating nearby food, just crossed 500,000 downloads of its iPhone version on Tuesday, and said an Android beta would be out before the end of the year. It raised $750,000 in seed funding last summer and just acquired a small food blogging start-up called

The incredibly addictive Instagram, which is not focused on food but is a leading distributor of the latte still-life, announcedon Tuesday its iPhone app had been downloaded one million times. It is currently raising funding.

Taking this whole concept in a different direction, NTT Communications has said it plans to release a healthy-eating app in Japan next month that will allow diners to take pictures of the food on their plate and report how many calories it contains.

Are food pictures just a feature? Sure, but you could also say food is just a feature of restaurants.

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