Today let’s review Foody.vn, an app/website that strives to be the ‘Vietnamese Yelp’ and is helping organize this city’s wild and ever-changing mix of food and drink offerings.
First of all, let’s note that I did not use the word ‘restaurant’ above. Holy schmoly, yes, people, this is an app that catalogues food stands! The future is here! And not only street food… as you’ll see, the app lets you delve deep and get specific in describing your particular craving.
I have been using Foody daily for three weeks now and it’s been an interesting, and informative, ride.
The app is packed with functionality, but, in general, it doesn’t get in the way of the main tasks: discovering new places to eat and drink, documenting your visit there, and rating them.
You start out at the home screen, and there are a number of feeds for simply browsing and food-dreaming. They provide a way to see what’s hot among the younger, Foody-using set, as well as what’s new and what’s getting the best reviews. (American chains get reviewed frequently on here, like KFC or Pizza Hut. I’m so curious what their reviews say!)
Also, you can see at the top TP HCM. This is where you can select your current city. I haven’t used this app in other parts of the country, but, unlike many Vietnamese apps, it attempts to extend outside the big three (HCMC, Hanoi, and Da Nang). I look forward to using this as I travel more over the next 18 months.
The search function is pretty good, if not always 100% (Poor Banh Mi Ha Noi… you can’t catch a break in the mapping department!). I’d say it’s accurate to within 3 meters or so most of the time.
To put this image in perspective, all of the above cafes, bakeries, and restaurants are within two blocks of my house (the white dot in the middle), and yet sometimes they’re hard to spot among the riot of activity, people, and signage.
You can also sort by the type of place you’re looking for along the top: all, luxury, restaurants, or street food. All, always. You never know what you’ll find!
But Foody doesn’t just want to tell you where a destination is, it wants to help you separate the wheat from the chaff through recommendations provided by a number of different sources, including metrics collected, keywords, or member-managed collections.
I generally don’t use these functions because, when you dig down, the resulting content is usually in Vietnamese, and Foody doesn’t translate Vietnamese comments into English along with the app framework – a major drawback, and one that makes it significantly less useful for a foreigner like myself (although, to be fair, I doubt I’m in Foody’s target population. This app caters solidly to the people that live day to day in the bizarre and wonderful world of Vietnamese food culture, and I suspect it does so successfully).
Here you can see graphically just how much Foody is really trying to accomplish. What I really think of as the main task, reviews, is only one of many the tasks it tries to execute as well. It could be because of a dearth of other Vietnamese-specific apps that cater to these needs, or it could simply be feature bloat – whatever it is, I tend to use only a narrow piece of the total available functionality. I wish it was a little cleaner and simpler, but it’s hard to hate on an app that’s taking on such an impossible job and doing a pretty good job of it.
But wait! There’s more!
Foody also wants to be your loyalty and member-discount card. It offers a pretty decent collection of restaurants that run revolving e-card specials, usually 10-15% off (not shabby), and clicking them brings up this:
This is the card screen. Upon rating and reviewing enough, for which you receive points, you get a code which lets Foody pick up a certain amount of your next tab. They can be redeemed any time. It’s a system that apparently works – Foody boasts 24+ million users on their website. Hit the link to check out their rather interesting perk system and an explanation of benefits.
There’s another feed of specials, discounts, promotions, and news, but, again, all in Vietnamese, even in the English version of the app. I dislike notification feeds anyway (I’m always missing something – Twitter makes me insane), but now it’s really useless to me.
Here’s my favorite part of the whole app: the absurd amounts of detail you can get into with search.
However, I personally think a name like Foody means you have a really solid pool of places that are appropriate to review – places that primarily sell food and beverages. As you can see from above, Foody has silently extended its reach to rate event centers, spas, attractions, hotels, cinemas, billiards and a lot of other non-food related places. I don’t even know what ‘Luxury’ means. Do they really sell diamonds? Why rate these things in a food app? You’re just cluttering up my maps and getting in the way of my hungry tum-tum.
Plus side: FOOD TRUCK/STREET FOOD. That’s not always reliable, but it comes (and goes, and maybe comes back the next morning) with the territory.
Top Users? Yawn. Do not care. But that’s a super cute hedgehog. These devs need a narrower vision. And more hedgehogs.
Not encyclopedic, but a fair representation of what is available in Saigon.
Ok guys, this screen? This screen is how I knew that the project manager and I are twinsies. Being able to sort food this specific? FANTASTIC. We have the same brain (which, incidentally, probably explains the urge to stuff all the extra features into this app… we just don’t know when to stop sometimes). I love it.
No idea what ‘chour’ means (sour?). Also, what does Office Lunch taste like? My Office Lunch usually tasted like Lipton Sides in a tupperware.
All in all, a slightly bloated but still useful app that fulfills a great need: cataloguing and describing the food scenes across Vietnam. A big thumbs up to the developers on a relatively useable attempt at such a gargantuan task!
They also run an accompanying website, which I have used exactly twice (although Google translates the comments when I visit on my laptop, so maybe I’ll be using it more frequently in the future) at Foody.vn.
Got any more hints about how better to use Foody? Any places I need to look up right this minute? Please comment away!