People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 37: Foodspotting

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What is Foodspotting?

Foodspotting is a crowdsourcing platform that enables people to find and recommend dishes, not just restaurants. Foodspotters can share photos and ratings of their favourite dishes, and foodseekers can discover new foods.


Foodspotting has several elements in common with other social networks: people can upload photos from their phone, add locations and rate dishes. In fact, most people usually refer to Foodspotting as the Instagram / Foursquare / Yelp of food.

Foodspotting can be accessed via the web and mobile, with mobile applications designed for iPhone, Android, Windows and BlackBerry phones.

Changing the way people discover food

Foodspotting was founded with vision of one day replacing restaurant menus, and has already succeeded at becoming a visual and social guide for food discovery.

Foodseeker Romulo shared his experience:

“This app is fantastic to discovery new places and try new food, because you SEE the food so you decide right away if you [want] to try it. I loved it”


With 2.3 million photos uploaded, Foodspotting is now aiming to recommend new foods based on personal preferences and past activity. As Christina Chaey, Associate Editor at Fast Company, wrote:

“Can An App Tell You What You Want To Eat? Foodspotting Is Trying”

Tech Crunch blogger Anthony Ha aptly likened Foodspotting to music recommendation and discovery site Pandora.

Originally for foodies & photographers

Foodspotting stands out from other social networks with its emphasis on food and photography. Originally, the platform catered exclusively to foodies & photographers, giving them a place to share photos and discuss food, as well as professional tips on taking photos in restaurants, and rewards for sharing photos.

As foodspotter Tiff commented:

I admit it: I’m addicted to photographing what I eat. Foodspotting is the best place to output my tasty documentation.”

As foodspotter Mike Templeton commented:

 “Foodspotting is one of my favorite apps, mostly because it addresses a niche cross-section: food and photos. Before I was tweeting what I was eating, using Yelp for reviews, plus checking in on foursquare – Foodspotting has connected all of those and made it fun.”

Useful for travelers


Travelers soon adopted Foodspotting as a tool to find food in new locations, to satisfy cravings for specific food, and to discover new foods in local neighbourhoods.

As Android app user Jake said:

“Great app for my tastebuds. Allows me to find excellent food in small towns as I travel.”

As foodseeker Cheryl noted:

“Pretty good to use. Gives a lot of info about what is close. Identifies small, tucked away places you may not know about.”

Now, for all foodseekers

In Feb 2012, Foodspotting shifted focus from photo-sharing to broaden its appeal. Now, Foodspotting emphasizes features including food discovery, photo menus, recommendations from brands such as the Travel Channel, and ‘specials’ which include discounts.

As Ryan Charles commented:

“To me this redesign sounds like their successful accumulation of photos has them positioned to move from foodie photo app to universal food destination.”

Blogger Harry McCracken commented on the redesign:

 “There’s probably a limit to how many folks there are in the world who want to obsessively photograph food. So the new version of Foodspotting that launched this week is designed to broaden the app’s appeal. The photo sharing’s still there–but it feels more like one feature in an app whose primary purpose is to let large numbers of people find and see the best dishes at local restaurants before they place an order.”

Bloggers and Foodspotting users agreed the redesign is a step in the right direction, but also acknowledged that Foodspotting still has a way to go before it can replace food discovery competitors like Yelp.

As Ishak Kang pointed out:

 “Still like Yelp for the “experience” review. Yes, it’s as important as the food.”

Taking photos of food

Source: missmeng on Flickr

Food photography has become a global trend in the last two years. Foodspotters find themselves taking photos of food for various reasons: to capture and share a beautiful dish, to enhance their blog posts or restaurant reviews, or to document their meals.

As Gary Walker noted:

“Food is one of the reasonably small number of things all people do. People take pictures of food now that digital photography has made this easy, cheap, and universal”

Jennifer Yarbough commented:

“I only do it if I’m reviewing a restaurant on Yelp, but I don’t find myself sharing home-cooked meals. Some of my friends who love to cook and have a collection of cookbooks are much more enthusiastic about taking photographs. I am way more likely to try out a recipe if they include a photo of their finished product.”

Michael Ong commented on this trend becoming the norm:

“I feel that sharing my food pictures is like sharing a meal with my friends. Some people think it’s rude to take pictures, especially at a nice restaurant…

However, some of us take pride in it and are leading the trend to make it a social norm. I think it is more acceptable now than a few years ago. My family and friends seem to know the ‘drill’ now that no one is supposed to touch the food until I shoot the plate.”

Criticism: Taking photos at restaurants


Several people criticize this trend of photographing food, especially at restaurants, finding it rude and distracting.

As Dervid McGurkin commented:

No self respecting “Foodie” is going to pull his gadget (phone, cam, etc.) out at a nice restaurant and snap a pic of it. It’s rude.”

With people spending more time on their mobile phones while dining out, browsing social networks or uploading food photos, they tend to neglect their companions – which some find offensive. As Andrew Lawson pointed out:

“If the future of dining out is going into a restaurant, taking a photo of the drinks menu, taking a photo of the bar, taking a photo of the drink you get…  then dining is going to lose a lot of its appeal.

Combine this with no doubt having to check-in on Foursquare, update your Twitter status, Facebook status, checkin on Facebook, check emails, and man you are going to have some fun people out for dinner.”

Some restaurants have tried to curb this trend with ‘no-phone’ policies. Others, such as The Melting Pot, have embraced the trend and partnered with Foodspotting to reach out to food lovers.

Does Foodspotting have enough users?

While it has a rich database of 2.3 million photos and an enthusiastic community, Foodspotting has received criticism for not having enough users – and thus content – beyond certain hotspots like San Francisco.

As foodspotter Andi commented:

“Love finding new and exciting things to eat! Also love posting pics of my favorite foods! Great ap! Wish more people in my immediate area would use it.”

As blogger Harry McCracken shared:

 “Judging from my experience so far, Foodspotting also doesn’t have a Yelp like critical mass of content practically everywhere. At the moment, I’m in Newton Corner, Massachusetts–not exactly a hotbed of fine dining–and only see a few photos from a few restaurants. Yelp, however, has dozens of nearby establishments that have dozens of reviews apiece. (Back home in food-centric San Francisco, Foodspotting is a much richer resource.)”

 Importance of mobile experience

As mobile users are becoming more sophisticated, the pressure to create a smooth user experience increases. Android app users of Foodspotting have been vocal in their appreciation of the app, and also in their criticism of the user experience.

For some, issues faced while using the app could be a deal breaker. As Android app user Childfree commented:

 “This used to be my fav app! Some people pray before a meal but this app had me snapping pics! Then one day the app had NO PICS!? WTF? So disappointed! I even tried re-installing…still the pics wont load! If this isn’t fixed soon I will be uninstalling this app for good!”

Competition with other social networks?


Foodspotting uses APIs from other social networks to create a richer experience for users, and offers its own API as well. This means users can choose to access other apps from Foodspotting, or to use Foodspotting from other apps.

As GigaOm blogger Erica Ogg noted on Foodspotting’s use of the Yelp API:

 “Foodspotting moves to ensure you don’t need Yelp’s app.”

And as Foursquare user Erick Jcm commented:

 “Love the app, but I’m from Guatemala and here people uses Foursquare a lot, I can find a lot of things using fsq but I would completely love Foodspotting if existed an integration with fsq venues to find and spot dishes, more quickly and with more reliable location using fsq.”

For some, integration is important as they are growing tired of checking too many networks. As Nick Slettengren commented:

 “Why not plug into the various social media API’s like Facebook and twitter instead of trying to make up your own social network?”

While Foodspotting definitely benefits from exposure in more popular apps such as Foursquare, is it losing out on potential users due to this integration?

Is Foodspotting here to stay?


While Foodspotting is popular amongst foodies, and is constantly innovating to deliver more value, most people agree that the future will be tough as more and more competitors emerge in the online food space.

As Pearl Chen pointed out:

 “I do worry about how many foodspotting-esque apps currently exist though. (Nosh being the closest that I know of, and Oink and Stamped (as you mentioned) being variations.)”


(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

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As an example, 50+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the iPad-friendly People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi is Director of Research and Insights at MSLGROUP. She tracks digital consumer trends for People’s Insights and is community manager of MSLGROUP’s insights community SPRINT. Tweet her at @nidhichimnani

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