[Executive Edge] The Hot 100: 'Billboard' chart for restaurants in Manila


Booky, a moble app for foodies can be used to look up the contact information and browse through the menus of over 12,000 restaurants in Metro Manila.

The app works even without Internet access, so it has truly been designed for our local context.

Ben Wintle created Booky after he continually ran into the same problem with his girlfriend, the actress Iza Calzado. When they would look up restaurant information on their phones, their 3G connection was either unreliable or the information was hidden somewhere deep in the restaurant's website.

By the traction Booky is getting – active users are growing at a rate of 18% each month – it is clear that many people share their problem and see Booky as a possible solution. The challenge now for Wintle is finding ways to accelerate that growth.

“The distribution and marketing part is the hardest part,” Wintle shared. “Our app's retention is excellent but driving new downloads requires some hustle every day of the week.”

Creating ‘The Booky Hot 100’

Since launching the app back in October, Wintle has found that their blog – The Booky Report – was the most effective tool in driving downloads.

Among the most popular posts on the blog were top 10 restaurant lists. However, Wintle soon realized that a lot of great restaurants in Manila were being left out because of the short cut-off.

Wintle wanted to expand the list, but also make it more authoritative. The Booky Hot 100 – which sounds similar with the Billboard music chart for bestselling singles or albums – was thus born.

“We started The Booky Hot 100 to feature more of these great restaurants and create an evergreen resource for consumers to get dining ideas,” Wintle said, adding that he also hopes that it comes a credible reference for restaurateurs to compare their performance to that of their peers.

Stepping back a little, Wintle explained why content like The Booky Hot 100 is so important for entrepreneurs and consumers.

In a Facebook world where so much content is shared, data driven content cuts through the noise because it's based on the preferences or habits of many,” he said. “Everybody wins when this type of content is shared.”

Data behind The Booky Hot 100

What data drives The Booky Hot 100?

Given that Booky is an app, there were many possible data points that Wintle could have chosen from in determining what restaurants make The Booky Hot 100. These include search volume, bookings made, or the number of people who add restaurants to their must try list.

Wintle decided against using those data points for a very simple reason. “We felt most of these are simply an indicator of activity, not quality,” he said.

As an example, he noted that larger restaurants, which naturally spend more on marketing, will always have a larger volume of interaction on Booky, but this does not mean they are great restaurants.

In the end, Wintle settled on the number of people who “favorite” a restaurant on Booky app as the determining criteria for which restaurants make The Booky Hot 100. The more foodies who favorite your restaurant, the higher you will be ranked on the list. 

In its first iteration, the list is updated manually each month. According to Wintle, if The Booky Hot 100 proves to be a hit, his developers will re-engineer it so that it changes dynamically – that is, it is updated in real time.

Where data can take you

Wintle has two goals for The Booky Hot 100, one for each demographic it serves. On the most obvious level, he wants to help consumers who need to decide where to eat. “Our marketing goal is to create the go-to reference for food lovers to make dining decisions,” he said.

He also wants to help restaurant managers and owners. In particular, he wants to create a wider appreciation for data as a benchmarking tool in the restaurant industry.

Wintle provided a simple illustration for this idea. “When a restaurant has had an 'up' week, eventually we want to be able to tell the manager if other restaurants in their area also had an 'up' week, so they know if their performance is a result of macro factors or their own efforts,” he said.

It’s also an ongoing learning process for the Booky team, as they are trying to better understand how data can help restaurant managers make more informed decisions. “I still want to talk with many more managers and owners about their problems and how Booky can help get more customers through the door.”

He also recommends that other entrepreneurs, particularly those in the tech space, consider the kind of content marketing that The Booky Hot 100 represents. Wintle emphasized the need for simplicity and he offered his own benchmark for determining whether a piece of content is simple enough. 

“I've seen a lot of great data that's probably been overlooked by many people because it's not presented well,” Wintle said. “A 10-year-old should be able to look at material and remember its key points.” – Rappler.com