I caught up with BooRah, a four-person Mountain View company, at the recent Search Engine Strategies Conference (SES) in San Jose. BooRah provides its own restaurant Web site (www.boorah.com) and a searching service which can be seen at the foot of the Voice's own Web site, www.mountainviewonline.com. (The Voice shares revenue with BooRah when a restaurant pays commission for a reservation from the site.)
Type anything about the kind of restaurant you're searching for in the "Restaurant name or cuisine" field. For example, you can search for "Italian," "romantic" and/or "vegetarian" restaurants, in any city. Then hit "Search," and watch the desired restaurants pop up in a list, along with links to online reviews about those restaurants.
Nagaraju Bandaru, CTO, co-founded BooRah to summarize restaurant reviews for cell phones. BooRah then found it easier to launch its service on regular Web sites. The software automatically reads over 100,000 blogs and 2 million reviews. It assigns a "Boo" for each unfavorable review and a "Rah" for each favorable review for food, service and ambience. A restaurant's total Boos and Rahs give diners a quick impression of the restaurant. (On the Voice's site, this takes the form of a five-star rating system.)
BooRah is passionate about leveraging partners. Booking Angel and Open Table send reservation requests to restaurants. Booking Angel, founded in Australia, makes an automatic phone call to the restaurant, so restaurants only need a phone, not a special computer system. Open Table uses their own software to make a reservation. Diners with Open Table accounts gain dining points.
BooRah encourages restaurants to provide incentives to frequent diners. Dining at Zucca three times can get you a free bottle of wine. Save $15 at Mediterranean Grill House if you spend over $50, by buying a $25 gift certificate for $10 on BooRah's Web site. Print out vouchers to get two meals for the price of one, up to $12 at La Fiesta, up to $7 at El Calderon and up to $6 at Taqueria Los Charros.
BooRah is funded by Storm Ventures. I'd like to see an option to report restaurants that are closed down or under new ownership. Nagaraju sees opportunities to use BooRah's technology for other local businesses using search, data analysis, data retrieval and reservations.
Yahoo!'s Yelp (www.yelp.com) and Wanderspot's Urbanspoon (www.urbanspoon.com), both with conventional restaurant Web sites, talked about their iPhone restaurant searching applications at SES. Yelp allows you to read, but not post, reviews with its iPhone application. You can post reviews using the iPhone's Safari Web browser. Urbanspoon's iPhone implementation looks like a casino slot machine and makes it fun to find a restaurant by shaking the iPhone. For its part, BooRah is working with a partner on an iPhone application.
If you prefer take-out food or delivery to your office, then GetQuik (www.getquik.com) has signed up Mountain View companies Loopt, Coupons.com, Ooyala and Kazeon. They can order from Chapala Mexican Restaurant, Dancy Sushi, Hunan Chili, Neto Cafe & Bakery, Pizzeria Venti, Samovar European Food, Southwest Grill, Tina's Kusina and Uncle Frank's BBQ. GetQuik was founded in 2006, and launched commercially in 2008 with seven employees. It currently supports 250 restaurants. Based in Santa Clara, GetQuik is funded by angel investors and has brought in $2 million in transaction revenues to date.
Don't count Google out yet. Use a Google Map of Mountain View to search for "Indian restaurant" and you'll quickly see where to go. Go to Google Directory (directory.google.com) and select "Food" then "Dining Guides" and you'll find guides to all kinds of restaurants. Finally, Google Mobile lets you write reviews of businesses from non-iPhone mobile phones. Look for smarter applications to come from Google for the iPhone and its partners' Android phones later this year.