Raising the Bar with Personalized Dining Recommendations

Giving consumers recommendations or directions to a restaurant is no longer enough--personalized recommendations have become the new standard.

Giving consumers recommendations or directions to a restaurant is no longer enough--personalized recommendations have become the new standard. Tech companies from startups to huge enterprises are rolling out personalized recommendations tools in the race to deliver the most relevant content to consumers. A few years ago, location-based services offered limited value by bombarding people who entered a geo-fenced area with generic content. But companies are getting savvier at using location data and other data points to deliver more relevant messages, observes John Vance, senior manager in consulting firm West Monroe Partners' customer experience practice. "Location-based services will continue to grow," Vance notes, "with offers based on marketing analytics and location providing highly personalized and relevant messages."

Companies like Yelp, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor were the pioneers in location-based dining recommendations, but these companies face steep competition from other businesses that are mining user data to make personalized recommendations.

Yesterday, data behemoth Google, for example, unveiled new personalization features in Google Maps. Starting with San Francisco, New York City, and London, Google says users looking for nearby dining options will soon receive "curated recommendations."

"Having the best local guide is great, but what's better: having the best local guide for you," Murali Viswanathan, senior product manager at Google, writes in a blog post. "To do that, you've got to know where you're going, the time of day for your meal, and what vibe you want."

Google Map users select the type of meal they're interested in such as "make it cheap" or "dinner with kids" to receive details about each location. From there, users can swipe through photos and read ratings and reviews from Google and other diners. Google Maps might also recommend places that are popular with other diners who visited a place you've been to in the past.

Google is hardly the first company to offer personalized dining recommendations. Other companies have tried but have struggled to corner the market on personalized dining recommendations. Tasted Menu was an app that recommended specific dishes based on individual preferences, but it shut down in 2012.

And last summer, Foursquare divided its main app into two separate functions: Swarm for social location sharing, and Foursquare for personalized location recommendations. Last month, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley said the company had more than 60 million users, up from 55 million users in October 2014. Foursquare, however, is far behind Twitter's 300 million monthly users and other social platforms.

With its vast trove of consumer data, Google has an advantage in being able to offer highly personalized recommendations, but whether that's enough to capture the attention of hungry users still remains to be seen.