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At this day and age, everything seems to be at the touch of our fingertips. Movies, music, even food. Everything you need is most likely available online or through our smartphones.

If you're someone who's made it a personal mission to try out different restaurants every time you're eating out or looking for healthy options because you're quitting fast food (ehem, like me), you must be familiar with food guide/restaurant guide websites and smartphone apps like Spot.ph, Munchpunch, ClickTheCity and looloo.

Last year, I found about Zomato through some Google ads and decided to download the app and join. I thought I could do more of on-the-go food reviews here but after posting 3 reviews, I stopped using Zomato just because I don't feel like it anymore. I felt like it's the same big food bloggers that are posting reviews, just a different outlet. Also, the interface of their app before was not that appealing.

I got an e-mail from my friend, CJ, last week asking me if I want to tag along with him for a meeting with Zomato's Sarah Buendia. Of course I was interested. It's been a while since I've used my Zomato app and it would be nice to hear something new about them.

Here's a list I compiled of the things I like about the new Zomato website and app, and some suggestions:

WHAT I LIKE

1. It's no longer a walled garden.

Walled garden is the Internet term when a website needs you to sign up or log in first before you can explore it. Even though I already have an account with them because I have their app, it's nice to know that the desktop website of Zomato is no longer a closed platform. Now, everybody can do quick searches.

2. More users.
There's a significant increase in the number of users of Zomato since the last time I checked. At least it's not dominated anymore solely by the already famous food bloggers in the Philippines. Reviews are more diverse, I can even find reviews of some relatively unknown hole-in-the-wall spots!

3. Improved Zomato widget

The new widget definitely looks exponentially better than the old one though this still needs some improvement. I like that they turned the white, rectangular awkward looking widget into this, a sleeker one but I think they should replace the background with just a solid color as opposed to a blown-up blurred version of the user's default photo.

4. A more 'social' layer

When you open the app, there's 4 tabs that will show: Search, Nearby, Feed and Profile.

For the Search tab, you can input whatever you want be it a specific dish, a restaurant, a cuisine. If you're feeling random, you can just tap the preset filters and suggestions will be given to you according to your location.

Same goes for the Nearby tab. It will automatically give you all  the nearest restaurants via geolocation. Zomato currently has listings of Metro Manila and Tagaytay restaurants. I am in Bacoor, Cavite as of writing, so the app is showing its nearest known restaurants which are in Talon Dos in Las Pinas.

The Feed tab, pretty much like Facebook's News Feed, shows the recent activity of the other people you follow. Photos (yes, they now allow photo uploads!), reviews or other recommendations. Mine's empty as of the moment since I haven't been active in Zomato and haven't followed anyone yet.

Lastly, the Profile tab which showcases your information, recent activity and statistics. They also have this 'Foodie Levels' and network rank that increases everytime you post a review, gain a certain number of followers or post a food photo. I think this has always been a feature of Zomato and it's great to keep foodies interested and active.

You can now also set a Zomato handle or username so your Zomato URL can be easily remembered or searching for your profile in the app is hassle-free.


5. Speed dial

When exploring the website or the app, you will see this lightning bolt sign, which is the Speed Dial. When you tap on the Speed Dial button of a specific restaurant's page, its contact number will be added to your Speed Dial page. You can access the numbers and even call the numbers even when you're not connected to the Internet. This is especially helpful when you frequently order from a restaurant, you don't have to search everytime you need their number and just directly call them using Zomato's Speed Dial feature.

6. The Verified Profiles

Very much like Twitter's Verified User feature, Zomato added the Verified Profiles feature to recognize great, unbiased reviews from passionate foodies who contribute regularly. I think it's an awesome initiative! Interested in getting the star? Read more about Verified Profiles here.

SUGGESTIONS

1. I read somewhere that there used to be an Events/Festivals Section in Zomato that was discontinued. I wish they would bring this back. It certainly would make the app a more complete and go-to software when trying to search for local food festivals, food fairs or other events.

2. Incorporating promotions. Not necessarily the groupons kind but at least the latest promos of the restaurants in their data base. So for example, on a Wednesday night, while looking for restaurants to have dinner, people can also check out which restaurants with bars are offering PhP 20 mojitos or unlimited margaritas because it's Ladies' Night, or say, when the Twister Fries are back in Mickey Ds. Something like that.

3. Adding social media links to restaurant pages. I think it's nice also to put the restaurants' Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to their respective profiles so people could easily follow them on their social media accounts. I haven't tried if Zomato allows cross-posting/cross-linking too.

***

Indeed, Zomato has drastically improved the interface of both their website and mobile app. It's now cleaner, more user-friendly, smooth and interactive. It definitely changed the way I think about Zomato and made me want to be active again.

I love that this will certainly pave way to advocate the food culture even more. Restaurant and food searches made faster and easier by the brand new Zomato.

For more information about Zomato, please visit their website.
The Zomato app is available for download for Windows, Blackberry, Apple and Android phones.
Have a Zomato account? Let's follow each other! Click here for my Zomato profile.

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