Think Yelp Stinks For Restaurant Recommendations? TopDish Can Help

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If you’re picky about food, you know that crowdsourced recommendation sites like Yelp don’t work very well. TopDish, which is showing in the demo pit at Launch, has the solution: a service that recommends specific dishes at restaurants based on your food preferences.

Yelp has a couple of problems that TopDish is trying to avoid:

  • Search is too blunt: if you search for “tacos,” you’ll get every Mexican place with tacos on the menu, not the kind of taquerias that specialize in the tacos you really like.
  • It’s too easy to for businesses to game the results by encouraging friends and family members to post positive reviews — or to post negative reviews about competitors.
  • Some restaurants don’t have enough reviewers to create a statistically meaningful review — if a place only has two reviewers, one who loves it and one who hates it, that tells you essentially nothing.
  • Star-based ratings tend to cluster in the middle, which isn’t useful. For instance, a restaurant may only get three stars, but your taste may be similar to the 10 people who gave it five stars…or the 10 who gave it one.

With TopDish, you create a flavour profile based on the specific kinds of food you like to eat — not just broad categories like vegan or kosher, but all the way down to specifics like “I love bacon” or “I refuse to eat Thai food that includes American ingredients like baby corn and iceberg lettuce.” Then, the service matches you up with restaurants serving dishes that match your profile.

So far, TopDish has gotten most of its information about restaurants from about 200 beta testers who have been checking out restaurants and entering data about what they ate. The company is also asking restaurants themselves to enter menu data. Some refuse because they’ve had bad experiences with Yelp — cofounder Salil Pandit says “some places just kicked us out.” But by and large, fine dining places and niche restaurants understand the value of the site and have agreed to participate.

TopDish hopes to launch broadly soon, but you can request a beta invite at the site today.

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