Eating the Internet: Why foodies need to log in

Social media has an increasingly prominent role in the development of the food industry. Its time to keep up!

Hala Syed July 17, 2011
The difference between an industry and random entrepreneurs with small businesses is connections. Being involved in the fashion world, I have witnessed this evolution.  Say what you will about the numerous fashion weeks we have every year, it has provided a platform for members of said industry (designers, journalists, store owners, makeup artists, photographers, stylists, models etcetera) to meet and collaborate, understand each other and grow. The ultimate winner in such an endeavor is the consumer who now has more choices than ever.

It is surprising that a nation obsessed with food and dining has a relatively underdeveloped food industry. The link between suppliers, restaurants, advertisers and customers is missing. On a recent trip overseas, I visited the Good Food and Wine Show and a local farmers market and became convinced of the potential of the food industry, if those involved banded together.

Social media has an increasingly prominent role in the development of the food industry in Pakistan. One of the most interesting things to emerge in the last couple of years is the surfacing of home based businesses. Although many have been operating for years they really came into the limelight when customized cupcakes became an overnight craze. Now there is a plethora of home based bakeries to choose from all conducting their business through Facebook.

Popular home-based bakeries on Facebook

  1. Cupcakes by cookie- 24,677

  2. The Cakery- 18,987 likes

  3. Cuppy cakes by Zehra Khan- 5,105

  4. Cakeoholic- 4,967

  5. Mav Made- 3,906 likes

PCI Pakistan, a culinary institute aiming to create confident chefs has created a huge following mainly through Facebook and its own blog. Students post pictures of what they learn and describe their methods inspiring food novices to join the school, when they see how easy and fun cooking can be.

A recent attempt to form a network between consumers and entrepreneurs is Food Connection Pakistan. The site,which claims to introduce the ultimate food guide, finally launched last week.

While the site itself is promising, the social media build-up before the launch must be praised.

For three months FC Pakistan has been teasing Facebook users with the assurance of a great website. I was itching for it to get started.

The Facebook page has over 7,000 likes, and is very interactive with contests, giveaways, surveys and general discussion. Keeping the excitement up for long will encourage people to visit and contribute to the site, making it more dynamic and interesting.

  • As a directory of eateries, it is comparable with KarachiSnob. Each restaurant entry is comprehensive and helpful.

  • Along with a brief description, there is a multimedia panel which consists of a slideshow and links to the eatery’s website and/or Facebook page and a map.

  • A viewable menu card makes the experience complete - you can find out everything about a place before ever setting foot through the door.

  • The best part is the special deals and coupons available for a variety of different restaurants.

  • Where it differs and surpasses other sites of its kind is that it aims to be interactive. User reviews and ratings are encouraged and easily accessible. The blog section provides an opportunity for people with similar interests to share their views.

It is a revelation to know that there are actually quite a few Pakistani food bloggers. In fact Toronto based Pakistani-Afghan Shayma Saadat's blog The Spice Spoon recently made it to the Independent's top 50 food websites of the world.

Food blogs to check out:

1. The Spice Spoon

2. PCI Pakistan 

3. Roti Takkar 

4. The Crazy Chef  

5. Anam’s Foodlog 

If I have one criticism of Food Connection, it would be that you can’t easily browse the list of eateries. They boast of having over 1,000 eateries in their database, which is great, but if I haven’t heard of it, how will I find it?

The search feature works only when you know exactly what you were looking for.  While the content is extensive, it would be more user-friendly and graspable if this content was organised by cuisine, area, cost, or other criteria.

If it continues to expand and improve this site may eventually become an essential navigational and rating accomplice for patrons as well as an advertising platform for businesses.

Food Connection Pakistan is a great addition to the social media which is indespensible for the food industry to prosper. If more such initiatives are taken, missed food connections will be a thing of the past and the food industry will be a thriving entity.

This post was originally published here.
Hala Syed A designer for a multi-brand retail store in Karachi.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.