Singapore-based startup Burpple has graduated from being a mobile-only food-themed photo sharing app to launch on the Web as a food search engine, as it seeks to monetize its services via collaborations with restaurants.

Burpple is making use of the information it has gathered on its platform since launching in May last year to come up with its food search engine called the Social Food Guide. Its concept is simple — aggregating all these separate pieces of information (photos that have been shared by users) into categories and rolling them out on the Web for users to search and browse more than 700,000 dishes and 6,000 restaurants, cafes and hawkers.

What is interesting about this approach is the evolution of something Burpple has called Social Menus. These act just like the starred dishes on a restaurant’s menu — basically, users get to see at a glance the most popular dishes that have been recommended by fellow Burpple users and can make their decisions based on that.

Screen shot 2013 07 15 at PM 02.45.53 730x362 Burpple launches food themed search engine on the Web as it seeks to monetize its services

This is where the monetization kicks in. By allowing merchants to take control of their own pages, a Burpple page can easily replace the homepages of restaurants. As of now, Burpple is working with 120 restaurants, with about 20 percent of them paying for more tools to tweak their pages.

Burpple co-founder Dixon Chan told TNW that Burpple is not profitable yet but he hopes to bring on enough paying restaurants to break even, possibly by the end of this year. The new branch of Burpple’s business is primarily to help social discovery and in the midst of this process, find restaurants willing to pay to make their pages even more detailed.

In other words, Burpple has emerged as a photo-heavy contender to Hungrygowhere — a food search engine that telecommunications group SingTel gobbled up for S$12 million (about $9.4 million) last year. Hungrygowhere tends to focus on written reviews, with photos as a secondary concern.

Chan noted that compared with Hungrygowhere, Burpple has five times the number of “reviews” (a term being used loosely here because a photo might not constitute entirely as a review) — likely because it is much easier to snap a photo compared with writing a blurb on your experience at the restaurant. Chan explained:

For the first time, this is truly word-of-mouth at scale. We believe this will set the benchmark for recommendation engines in the years to come.

Over the past few months, the Singaporean startup has also noticed an uptick in the number of photo reviews in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia — chalking up more than 200,000 in all. Burpple is intending to launch its Social Food Guide in these three countries in the third quarter of 2013.

Burpple hasn’t been resting on its laurels since it started in 2012. In December last year, it added photo filters and shortly after that in January it enabled offline uploads via its iOS app. In February, Burpple finally landed on Android as well.

Headline image via Thinkstock