First, how many menus are we talking about? How many restaurants? Foursquare says it’s getting more than 13 million menu items from nearly 250,000 restuarants “in major U.S. cities.”
I don’t live in a “major” city, but I’m already seeing a couple menus here and there from restaurants in my small town. Bob’s Burgers & Brew is a small chain with about 8-10 locations here in Washington state (but none in Seattle). You can see the menu link on its Foursquare page, and when I click it looks like the full menu.
As best I can see, neither Google nor Yelp nor Urbanspoon have menus integrated into the local search experience like this. Here’s the same Bob’s location on the other sites:
On Urbanspoon, users are encouraged to upload photos of the menu. But that’s nothing compared to the full-text experience that Foursquare offers.
Why This Matters
When I wrote about Foursquare Explore last week, you may remember the point about Foursquare offering full-text search of the tips/reviews that users share on the site.
With text-based menus, Foursquare can offer even deeper search of menu items and descriptions. They’re not doing this yet, but they can — and you have to bet they will.
Look at the menu page for Bob’s. Someone looking for “sliced kielbasa” or “jalapeno poppers” is going to find that menu when Foursquare makes it searchable.
If you’re scoring at home, Foursquare claims to have “tens of millions” of tips; Yelp has somewhere around 22-23 million reviews, as I understand, and Google has somewhere in the neighborhood of 13-15 million reviews and ratings combined.*
And Foursquare now has something that neither Google nor Yelp have: menus for a quarter-of-a-million U.S. restaurants. I’d say that the game is on in local search.
(The 13-15 million number is based on Marissa Mayer’s statement last March that Google Hotpot had 3 million user submissions at the time and was/is getting a million ratings/reviews per month.)