Foodspotting, a discovery app for deciding where to eat and sharing your favorite dishes, has launched a Holiday Rewards program in San Francisco, offering redeemable points when users take pictures of their food at select restaurants. The program itself is interesting, but actually reveals something much bigger: it’s a pilot for what appears to be a new monetization strategy, aimed at knocking out daily deals by letting merchants “reach foodseekers, not just dealseekers.”

The holiday pilot, which follows Foodspotting’s app relaunch and site redesign, offers rewards that range from Photojojo Lenses to Restaurant Gift Cards and even cash back. Foodspotting details:

While this Holiday Rewards campaign will only target San Francisco users, we see this as the pilot for something much bigger as we turn our attention towards helping merchants reach foodseekers, not just dealseekers.”

Yes, Foodspotting has stumbled upon quite an interesting revenue model — if it can get businesses on board. Luckily, Foodspotting already has experience working with both small businesses and brands.

The company continues: “While For the purposes of this pilot, we’ll be offering the points and rewards out-of-pocket as a “gift” to our restaurants and users, but merchants and brands are excited about offering these points as a way to reach a desirable audience without discounting their image.”

Screen Shot 2012 11 30 at 2.08.19 PM 730x355 Foodspotting launches pilot that rewards you for taking photos, teases new monetization strategy

To be clear, Foodspotting is footing the bill for the holidays, but tells TNW that after months of talking to restaurant owners (and even a hotel chain) about the pain points involved in daily deals, it found that “businesses and brands are interested in *paying* to offer these points.”

Foodspotting explains that “merchants are hungry for a customer acquisition tool beyond the daily deal,” and tells us that it has “a number of ideas up [its] sleeves.” Curiouser and curiouser.

For now, check out Foodspotting’s holiday program via the link below as suspense builds.

➤ Foodspotting Rewards