Hong Kong-based startup dewPT has launched its GPS-enabled social menu app dubbed dishi for the iPhone, aiming to target restaurants that aren't run by chains in Hong Kong.

The firm -- before joining an incubation program of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks this year -- started to build dishi in 2011 and continuously add data for use by consumers, said the company's co-founder Sabsen Chen.

Users of the app--whose Android version will be available at end-November--can search their favorite dishes and see comments on them by people they know or follow.

Chen said Social Menu is different from OpenRice because its app focuses on dishes rather than restaurants. "You're able to view food comments--among various types of comments on restaurant on OpenRice, but our interface allows you to view only food-rated comments and ratings which are what you want to know before you make your order," he noted.

The firm has collected menus from 20,000 restaurants and provides data about 800,000 dishes available from eateries in Hong Kong.

dewPT collected menus manually in the past two years. "We sent about 15-18 people to take photos of menus, upload to our server, and manually entered data," Chen noted. "We tried to scan from online sources, but as menus formats differ widely that didn't seem to work," he said.

Business model

The firm's now recruiting eateries to provide take-away service through the app. According to Chen, the firm will take 5% of commission of each order.

In addition, when there are more consumers using the app, the firm will launch a recommendation engine--with the use of analytics--to help eateries promote their dishes. "Say you're in TST and look for spicy Sichuan dishes, the app will recommend related dishes to you available in the area," he said. "Restaurants can up their search ranking--just like what you see in Google--by paying for the number of clicks."

While the company is building the recommendation, it expects to recruit 20,000-30,000 people to use the app a year after the launch.

On the restaurant front, Chen said the company needs to sign up several hundred of them to break even.