For me, an ideal Vancouver evening includes surfing the web for great local restaurant reviews and finding information about things that are going on in Vancouver, partly so I can plan my weekend ahead and ensure that it’ll involve delicious food and wine, and partly because it’s also my job as a freelance writer to know what’s happening in the city. Well lately, I’ve been turning to my favourite waiter-turned-publisher and once Urban Diner, Andrew Morrison’s Scout Magazine, an online independent food, culture, life and style magazine for this information. The site aims to offer an insight into all that Vancouver has to offer in terms of restaurant fare, albeit, I don’t agree with some of the reviews. Sorry Andrew!
According to Compete, the start-up already has impressive monthly views since launching in November of 2008. I think this model of providing super-niche content works, because it acts almost as a filter, filtering even itself. To use a food analogy, the image I have is some goopy-and-creamy substance, which in this case is Urban Diner’s content being pressed through a cheese cloth–I don’t know–to produce a smoother-and-non-lumpy version that is Scout Magazine.
As for the site itself, I really like the sleek design and user-friendly features. It’s just simple–black, red and white. For example, you can click on “Hood” to find spots to visit close to where you live. I think Andrew’s visual concept is appealing to the eye and it works when it comes to putting food experiences online. It looks like there is an online advertising model that they’ll use to make money, very appealing to local businesses because it’s a tenth of what it would cost to place an ad in a local paper. The Scout model will also work in any city, if the execution is there, so the brand will attract investors and expansion is inevitable.
I’m missing something a bit more mobile in terms of features. Let your imagination run wild, but it’d be great to know if a certain restaurant offered happy hour (and then get an alert that they are offering it) or if you could get a notification when a celeb was dining in a particular restaurant. If you’re into that. There are also many free wine and food sampling events that aren’t mentioned on the site, usually on days when businesses are slow, so a component or feature that can provide that informtaion would be useful. A bug for me? The recommended restaurants are all part of the Scout Community, aka they’ve paid for advertising on the site. Once again, how do I know that these restaurants are as great as I’m being told that they are? Lastly, I don’t get the links to Huffington Post and Gawker.
What do you think? What would an ideal marriage of a food and technology look like to you?