Zomato is closing: What’s next for restaurant discovery?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2020 05:10 AM | Updated as of Nov 21 2020 08:44 AM

With the country’s COVID-19 restrictions easing in the past months, restaurants have seen a steady trickle of returning customers looking to dine-in again at their favorite spots and search for new restaurants to try.

In a time when much of the food & beverage industry is struggling, online restaurant discovery platforms like Zomato offer businesses an easy way to constantly reach both old and new customers alike. 

Yet recent developments have forced Zomato Pro to close down in the Philippines. In a statement released by the company, Zomato explained that members can still avail of the program’s benefits up until November 30. Pro members will also be offered a “prorated refund” to be calculated on the Zomato app itself, and we've been told by restaurant operators that Zomato's advertising and reservation services will also be terminated.

With Zomato seemingly withdrawing from the country, this leaves the question of where food discovery will go next and what else they could have to offer.

Other food discovery platforms in the Philippines

With Zomato’s absence, it leaves the Mandaluyong-headquartered Booky as the sole remaining restaurant discovery platform that can help the food & beverage industry grow and help Filipinos save money through exclusive discounts through a Booky Prime membership.

Founded by Ben Wintle after recognizing the need for a convenient way to discover new places to eat, Booky is a proudly Filipino-made innovation that holds over 14,000 restaurants and food spots on its app. These range from well-known burger chains to smaller, one-off establishments. The fact that they’re based in the Philippines allows them to keep an eye on local trends and quickly innovate for the local market.

According to data from Booky, the company’s traffic and transactions have been growing since early September as a sign that consumers are starting to venture back outside. Additionally, the introduction of Booky's new digital ordering and payment system is also seen as crucial infrastructure in powering delivery demand for major F&B brands on the platform. 

Overall, food discovery platforms are not new to the Philippines. Even food delivery services such as Grab and Foodpanda incorporate certain features that mirror what food discovery platforms do, albeit only for the delivery space. Their presence will prove handy tools not only for consumers but for businesses as well. 

The business benefits of food discovery platforms

Typically, food discovery platforms come in the form of mobile apps easily accessible on a user’s smartphone. This makes it much easier to search for restaurants based on extensive criteria. Aside from the business name, food discovery platforms also take into account a user’s location, the types of cuisine/dishes served, visitor ratings, and so much more. 

With health protocols complicating what it means to eat out, food discovery platforms are taking on a more proactive role in helping businesses thrive in the “new normal.” 

Though helping businesses gain more publicity is one way to help, the data that these platforms gather will also be crucial. Abroad, startups such as Galley Solutions are helping restaurants gain a deeper understanding of their business costs and make their operations more efficient. Booky's white label digital ordering system also serves to capture more data and reduce costs for restaurants taking delivery into their own hands.

Though stiff competition already existed in the food & beverage industry prior to COVID-19, the spread of the virus has only taken things to an extreme. In the future, restaurant discovery platforms will have to be seen as a strategic business partner that play an ever more important role in the digital transformation and rebuilding of our beloved restaurant industry.