OpenTable buys food photo app

OpenTable, one of the biggest online restaurant reservation sites, will pay $10 million for Foodspotting and its hordes of amateur photographers.

A lot of people are taking pictures of their meals when they go out to eat and posting them online. There's an app for that: Foodspotting. And, there's money in those amateur photos, too. The reservations website OpenTable said it's going buy Foodspotting for $10 million. 

Radio doesn’t let listeners see pictures, and they're okay without them. But OpenTable must feel differently. Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy says the $10 million the company is paying for Foodspotting “does seem like a stretch.”

Hottovy notes that Foodspotting was just funded with $3 million a couple of years ago, and now OpenTable is paying three times that. So what is the company hoping to get? To start, Foodspotting’s three million users. Hottovy says if OpenTable can turn those food photographers into reservation-makers it could be a valuable source of income.
 
Then there are the pictures, themselves. David Bell, a marketing professor at Wharton, says even though we think of them as random photos, OpenTable sees them as a new source of market data. It’s better to capture "consumers in the wild," says Bell, than to quiz them later with a survey.

Diners get something too. Anindya Ghose, who teaches social media and digital marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, says there are two pluses to food pictures.

“Part of it is that it’s more information from a source that I’m more likely to trust: another user like me,” he says.

As consumers, we trust photos from each other more than those from restaurants. And Ghose says as we get bombarded with more and more media, like when we’re just trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, a photo can let us skip a thousand words.  

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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