Hotspot Robot, a new restaurant discovery site, launched today in public beta in New York City, along with Philly, DC, LA and San Francisco. The site if for foodies who follow publications like Zagat, NY Magazine, NY Times etc. and seek out Michelin starred restaurants.
The site’s easy user interface asks for the type of food you’re looking for and your location, then allows users to search for the best, most critically-acclaimed foods and restaurants in each city by pulling information from a variety of national sources, including Zagat, Vanity Fair, Serious Eats, Gayot, Food Network Magazine, Epicurious, Michelin Guide, Saveur and regional sources like the LA Weekly, Time Out New York, Philly Hot List and the SF Weekly.
Hotspot Robot helps users pick out the best place by area, food type and to discover more about a particular restaurant. Users can check off places they’ve been to, and have Hotspot Robot track their progress on lists that contain those restaurants. The restaurants are presented in a bare bones fashion (sans yummy photos), accompanied by the lists they appear in alongside a Google Map. The results are easily shareable and included a lot of restaurants in Manhattan that I hadn’t heard of but look delicious. Unfortunately, the results in Brooklyn left me wanting.
Founder Ryan Weber moved to New York one year ago, and was very excited to explore all the culinary wonders that New York has to offer. But given he was new to town, he didn’t know where to begin. He found himself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of places to try, yet underwhelmed by the websites out there that claimed they could help find good places to eat.
I first tried relying on sites like Yelp, but I found that experience very frustrating for several reasons. First, there was the quality of the reviews: many Yelp reviewers are either not great reviewers, or they’re inexperienced, for example, they’ve only tried the places near where they live, or worst of all, they’re biased. Additionally, I was frustrated by the quantity of reviews as well: every single place in NYC seemed to have a ton of reviews, making it very difficult to really identify the most important information while being able to filter out the unimportant places, reviews and info. All I wanted was to see a few top choices to try, but instead I was inundated with the opinions of everybody for everyplace.
-Hotspot Robot Founder Ryan Weber
So instead, Weber turned to the numerous professional reviews from trustworthy publications, and found himself gravitating towards their “best of” lists (e.g. top ten burgers in NYC etc.). However, he found these lists were scattered across numerous websites, often deep within each site. And on top of that, most were without easy searching or filtering capabilities by area and type of restaurant. Out of this need, Hotspot Robot was born.
The site’s functionality reminds me of the early days of Dinevore, a site I recently wrote about which combines the powers at be in foodie media with social functions like Foursquare integration. Picking a restaurant can be a stressful situation (don’t even bother reading Yelp), and if you want to make the right choice, it helps to not just hear your friend’s recommendations but also the aggregated results of professional opinions.
Give Hotspot Robot beta a try and let us know what you think of it in the comments!