In my hours of procrastination, trapped in the online vortex, I’ve stumbled across a few Taiwanese startups in the food and dining world, so I thought I’d round them up all in a post for a short introduction. Let’s go by alphabetical order.
Launched in 2008, EZ Table 易訂網 is the OpenTable of Taiwan, an online restaurant reservation service covering all major cities on the island and now also present in Shanghai. EZ Table is financially backed by AppWorks (among other investors), and has been successfully growing until now, and I’ll leave you to Wikipedia for a summary of their short history.
The website is pretty easy to navigate, available in Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and partially in English which makes it a bit cumbersome for the anglophone only users. For some surprisingly odd reasons, no “Forgot my password” feature is available, instead, the matter seems to be handled via email, yikes!
Users gain dining awards for reserving through the website, which can later be redeemed for gifts or EZ Table shopping purchases. In addition to online reservation, promotional vouchers are sold through the website, and some pretty decent discounts can be enjoyed via their hot deals.
A good chunk of the restaurants subscribed to the service belong to five-star hotels, while the rest is a mix of fine dining restaurants, bistrot-like establishments, and high-end all-you-can eat buffet.
I’ve used the service once, the booking process went smoothly, the waitress had my reservation when I arrived at the restaurant, I was sent an email to fill-out a feedback form later that day which I did, and now I forgot my password. Since the 100 points per reservation will only get me so far, and the fact that I don’t often frequent the restaurants listed, it will certainly take a greater incentive in the form of a worthy hot deal or promotional voucher to motivate me to write an email to retrieve my password and use the service again… which I’ll likely do at some point since I’ve come across some pretty good deals at places I’d like to eat, haha.
EZ Table is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Moving on to my favorite of the list, iCook 愛料理! Established in 2011, the startup provides Taiwanese home cooks with a place to share their culinary creations, hence, the website is in Chinese only. If you want to know what happens in a Taiwanese home kitchen, this is definitely the place.
I really like the design of the website as it is right now, it’s kept simple, no blatant ads plastered all over, instead, they have dedicated pages for their commercial partnerships.The recipe pages are laid out in a convenient way to follow step-by-step cooking instructions, and users can add pictures to illustrate each steps as well.
Recipes can be found by ingredients, types of dishes, or through some peculiar themes like the five colors vegetarian 五辛素料理, Halloween 萬聖節料理, Creative & Cute bento boxes 可愛便當, and my favorite of all, Shinya Shokudō 深夜食堂 where users reproduced dishes from the food inspired manga. Going beyond recipes, users can also now exchange in a forum, to trade cooking tips or seek advice for anything food related.
All in all, I’m a big fan of iCook, the site feels less convoluted than other major recipes website I’ve known, recipes are easy to find, and instructions are for the most part well documented. The food pictures are real, just a maybe a touch of amateur food styling here and there, but in the end, all the dishes still look approachable for anyone to reproduce in the kitchen.
iCook 愛料理 is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Fon Food 瘋美食, here’s another website shining for its simplicity and the absence of flashing ads. Sure, the design could be slicker, but Fon Food feels a lot like a pet project built by a gourmet geek in his/her spare time with no plans to make a business out of it, so I don’t really mind the simplistic design as long as the website is functional.
The idea behind Fon Food is simple. Provide a way for users to search for restaurants geographically by cities, subway/MRT stations, train stations or other points of attractions. Supply basic information and diner reviews for each food establishment, the location on GMap, and a feature I have not seen elsewhere, addresses for other branches of the restaurant. This latter feature is a real plus since on many occasions, I have found myself eating at new place that I end up liking, and wish a shop was closer to where I live, now, I can easily look that up.
Diner reviews come in the form of aggregated articles from food bloggers who have chosen to share their articles on Fon Food. Only the beginning of the articles is displayed on Fon Food, and users are redirected to the author’s blog to access the full article. Pictures of the blog articles are also gathered to the website , in the dedicated restaurant’s photos section making it convenient for readers to quickly glance at the dishes or the dining environment.
Restaurant owners can also contribute to the website by posting their establishments’ information to Fon Food.
In short, food bloggers game enough to share their articles is key to the success of Fon Food, after all, it’s a win-win situation for both parties.
Fon Food 瘋美食is web-based, no mobile applications, and is only in Chinese.
Take Fon Food 瘋美食, turn it into a location based iPhone app, and you have Fooru 美食俘虜, a startup which has benefited from the AppWorks Accelerator program. Fooru is contraction of the two words Food and Guru. Food bloggers are considered as the Food Gurus, here to advise users through blog reviews.
For a peak at the app, an animation is available on their main page, and you can check out some of the areas covered by the app on their map.
Little background information about Fon Food 瘋美食 and Fooru 美食俘虜 is available, so I can’t help but wonder whether the masterminds behind those two services are actually the same person… who knows. Fooru’s last update on the App Store dates back to September 11, 2012, no news updates on the website, which leaves me wondering about the development status of the startup.
According to the the Fooru’s app description, English is also available.
Digging further in the App Store to look up other releases from the same developer, I discovered Old Store 老店風華, an app dedicated to help users find old eateries, the ones who have been in business for over 30 years, all over Taiwan.
This looks like a fun app, or rather checking out all the recommended places would be, so it’s a pity I don’t own an iPhone to try it out, oh well.
Similar to Fooru, Old Store is exclusively on iOS.
Next, let’s take a look at iPeen 愛評網 which has been around since 2006. The Chinese name means Love to Critique, which is what the website is all about, a place for consumers to review any type of products, hair dressers, eletronics, hotels, etc… and of course, restaurants!
If you have been looking for a Yelp equivalent in Taiwan, then this is as close as it gets.
User ratings of the restaurants are debatable, the layout of the website has a tad too much going on so I seldom linger on to read user reviews, but it’s a great place to discover new restaurants.
For deal hunters, iPeen has the KoKo rebate program, where users can earn 5% of their bill back in KoKo money, and later redeem the accumulated money at the iPeen KoKo online store. I’m always up for a good deal, but the KoKo rebate process requires filling a small paper form or get some proof through an app to certify that I’ve dined at said places, which sounds like more effort than I care to invest, but some diners apparently do take advantage of it.
iPeen is available on iOS and Android, Chinese only.
Headquartered in Germany and affiliated to the Hellofood brand, so technically not a Taiwanese startup per se, Foodpanda, in Chinese 空腹熊貓, launched in Taiwan in 2012. Ironically, Foodpanda does not operate in Germany but is present in 25+ countries, and continuously striving to conquer the world of online restaurant food ordering and delivery.
Currently Foodpanda caters to the Taipei, New Taipei and Taichung areas, and with a facebook fan base of 650k+, they either have really good PR or the business must be doing really well. To get the word out, they also directly approach local bloggers like Stephanie from Good Day Taipei who raves about the service.
The website is in Chinese and English, everything looks pretty straightforward for the user to find a restaurant, and a live chat support is also available.
Foodpanda is available on iOS and Android.
Well, this will be it for now, what I thought would be a short post turned into this long article! I wanted to introduce another startup but for the life of me, I cannot remember the name, and anyway I’m sure other cool startups are missing , so will update this post as I discover new ones, or write up a sequel.
If you know of some other cool websites, or have a favorite food app that you’re using, feel free to share it in the comments!
And if you made it until here, whoever you are, thanks for reading! 🙂