The latest of several sites focused on food
ordering and discovery in Dubai, Food-zilla launches
today to focus on offering a personal experience.
Offering a choice of over 180 restaurants in Dubai, the site allows users to search by food type and location via a simple, photo-filled interface.
To take on competitor FoodOnClick, the Dubai-based version of Turkish juggernaut Yemeksepeti, founder Yvette Romero plans to make the experience of ordering on Food-zilla exceptionally tailored.
“Everything from the login, to the selection, to the thank you email will be personal,” she says. Having experienced inadequate customer service in her career, getting it right on Food-zilla is of utmost importance.
Yemeksepeti recently secured $44 million in investment from General Atlantic, and is poised to expand in the Middle East, says founder Melih Odemis.
Yet Romero also hopes to add one element that FoodOnClick and others lack- a recommendations engine. While the site won’t offer extensive ratings or reviews, as regional place review platform Jeeran does, it will offer “recommendations based on what kind of cuisine you like to eat, how spicy you like your food, and even restaurants that cater specifically to your allergies,” says Romero.
This aspect will also differentiate the site from call centers that offer delivery from several restaurants. “If you phone up a call center and say, ‘I don't know what to eat, can you suggest something’, you will be met with a long hum followed by a guess,” she says.
Despite the fact that only 10% of orders are placed directly online today, she says, Food-zilla will help change the landscape by helping its users discover new restaurants that they truly enjoy. Other elements designed to entice users include a hashtag on Instagram, which will ostensibly increase sharing of favorite dishes, and an upcoming Google Map localization feature to allow users to browse restaurants easily by location.
The site will not offer promotions directly, as RoundMenu does, nor will it offer daily coupons in the manner of daily deals sites; Romero claims hat these methods do not drive repeat business as much as traditional ordering does. It will however, offer restaurants the option of placing promotions on their own pages.
Romero’s biggest challenge to date is one that many startups face: a lack of developers in the founding team. “The reality is that equity does not attract enough talented developers (that can lead an entire system). This left me short on the development side, so I just decided to put less emphasis on the other activities at first and build the thing myself,” she recalls.
Yet after taking the initiative to build the site herself, she successfully received angel funding and began sourcing restaurants. To monetize, it will take a small commission on orders.
Whether the site can take on FoodOnClick and others like 24h.ae and Room Service remains to be seen, but none seem to be a clear market winner. If Food-zilla can deliver both a superior search interface (using map localization) and tailored recommendations, it may win over Dubai’s endlessly restaurant-curious crowd.
Reporting for this article was contributed by Humza Hayat.