This week, EatOut will be launching its new Social Platform. We spoke to Rishan de Silva, the current General Manager at EatOut to find out more about the changes, and what this means for users.
Q: To begin with, why is EatOut changing its existing platform?
There are two major reasons why we found a need to change our platform. Firstly, being in the tech space or any space for that matter requires constant innovation in order to keep up with the changing users who are becoming savvier by the day.
Secondly, EatOut has been looking to expand into the rest of Africa, and while we had a platform that worked very well in Kenya, it could not really be transplanted into other countries where we have relatively little media presence and would not be offering reservations, at least initially. Though the new site looks like the previous EatOut, on the front-end, it’s increased functionality means more for the users in Kenya and enables us to expand into other markets.
Q: So what makes this platform work in other countries?
I think the biggest change is that the platform is now Social. People can now log into the site and write reviews about their previous and current experiences at restaurants. This means that wherever we go, people can log into our different country pages and write reviews.
It also creates an online community for foodies, whereby you could follow other foodies, interact with restaurants, and be social about restaurant experiences.
Q: How did reviews work previously?
Previously, only if users made bookings for restaurants could they write reviews. This was problematic for two reasons, the first being that we would have to set up reservations in other countries, which would be a significant capital investment for countries where we have relatively little local knowledge; so that model was not scalable.
Secondly, with our previous reviews we weren’t getting reviews about some of the popular local gems, for whom we don’t do bookings, we want that information!
Q: So now anyone can post about any restaurant?
Yes, anyone can post a review on any restaurant, as we are now going with a User Generated Content (UGC) model. Our platform will aggregate the rankings and award restaurants a ranking out of 5. Additionally, we are incentivizing customers to link their Facebook Accounts with the Platform, in order to get truthful reviews.
Q: So what happens to all the previous reviews?
All previous reviews have been migrated to our new platform, and if users use the same email address which they used to write those reviews, the reviews can actually be claimed by them! We can also decide if we want to assign points to those existing reviews, but we can decide that at a later date.
Q: You mentioned incentives? What are these?
Yes, our new platform is social with incentives. So we want our social platform to actually mean something tangible offline. While there are tangible rewards to all social media platforms in people can gaining social clout, creating a reputation, being seen as an influencer in a social context, and creating online relationships which translate into offline relationships; we wanted to go a few steps further:
Not only can customers now interact with managers and owners of restaurants, which can translate into actually knowing the manager when you visit the restaurant (which can sometimes mean benefits)
The biggest offline incentives, we feel, are the POINTS. For each social interaction such as registering with your Facebook, writing reviews, commenting, sharing onto other platforms, having followers etc., people earn points. These points can be translated into different offers at restaurants, for example in Kenya, the points can used to redeem vouchers of up to 50% off which will be released in the next few of weeks.
Q: These are some big changes, is there anything else that the site does?
Of course, the new site also has geo-location functionality which shows the user exactly where they are and all the restaurants within a 2 kilometer radius of their location. This means that if you don’t know your local restaurants, or if you are in a particular area looking for a restaurant you can go online to our site and find all the restaurants in your neighborhood.
Additionally, there is increased functionality for the restaurants, whereby owners can go in and update their respective restaurant information, which will also work really well for our expansion.
In all, EatOut is constantly innovating and adapting to give users the best dining experiences in food and drinks. We’ll be releasing a few additions and new concepts in the next few weeks and months, but till then keep using the site, it will definitely mean something!