Validating the idea
Now we had the idea. But could it gain traction? Before putting pen to paper on designing the platform, we spent a significant amount of time validating the idea with friends and people in the F&B industry. We ran the idea past friends over dinner, we spoke to influencers, and we discussed with the chefs and marketing people who were behind the scenes – or “behind the dish” – running restaurants.
Feedback – from everyone we spoke to – was universally positive, with one person exclaiming, “Dishtag?, tagging a dish, is that a thing?”. What gave us the most confidence that Dishtag could work, and convinced us that we should move forward on making it a reality, was that during these conversations people would quickly start referring to Dishtag as something that already existed. And our friends would get excited explaining the concept to other people – often better than we could ourselves! This was a clear sign that Dishtag was a concept that could be passed on through word of mouth, and could potentially go viral.
Now the idea was validated, our next step was to do the research to see if something similar existed. Did we have something unique or was this just another idea for the app graveyard?
Doing the desk research – did something similar to Dishtag exist?
One of the comments we heard most frequently during our validation conversations was a variant of “Doesn’t something like this already exist?” Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
There are the obvious restaurant review apps such as Yelp!, TripAdvisor and in Hong Kong, Open Rice, but these all prioritised the user experience – reviews, rating and user generated photos. A low star rating, a bad review, an awful photo – these could all make or break a restaurant, regardless of how representative they were of the actual quality of the food. It’s no surprise many restaurants don’t like these platforms.
We found chefs and restaurants would curse about these platforms, and resented their revenue model of “pay to remove poor ratings” or “pay to be featured” as they clearly were not putting the restaurant “in control” of their digital footprint.
So what did the chefs say?
We consistently heard from people in the industry that what was needed was a new platform combining the discovery of new restaurants and dishes, but would help them to control the social element of an online platform. Particular focus was given to the standards of food photography. For every one person who supported the trend, many more were vocal in their disdain for people “publishing content without your consent” and that they as chefs wanted “the photos to represent the standards of the restaurant”.
Time and time again we heard that the industry had been thinking of a way to send people photos of every dish on the menu to the guests when they come in the restaurant. We listened, and we went to work on developing a platform that could be embraced by chefs, restaurant managers, marketing teams, and restaurant owners and shareholders.
Finalising the vision: a hybrid between traditional search platform and social media
We created Dishtag with the chef and the F&B industry top of mind – and we want to foster a positive sharing culture on Dishtag. We like the Instagram model, where the photos tend to be of a special moment, or a great photo to share – it’s very rare to see a post on Instagram about a bad time or terrible experience. We want the same for Dishtag – don’t post if you have a bad dish or a bad experience, there are plenty of other platforms you for that. Only post on Dishtag if you’re proud of the photo, and you want to share and extend the experience you had by saving your dish on your Dishtag profile.
So after months of discussions, we decided Dishtag would allow a restaurant to create a quality controlled visual menu by uploading official photos and descriptions, categorisation and pricing of the dishes on the menu, and allow this menu to be discoverable to users.
We also made sure there is no functionality to “rate” or “review” the dish or the restaurant and the app is designed to be focussed on searching & sharing rather than reviewing. You can like and comment, but like on Twitter, your character count is limited to 140 characters! Dishtag is not the place for budding food reviewers but rather for those who want to share their experiences and interact with fellow foodies in a visual medium.