Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DineOut vs. DineSmart

Ok, to be fair the only reason I even really know about this is because I have been trying to get one of my fav dining establishments more into the social media space and take control of who is saying what, where and why.

When it comes to reviewing restaurants, I have always referred to as it has had the best base audience and reviews (in my opinion).

Ding ding ding. Round One.

So apparently back in October last year the original peeps who started DineOut entered into a joint venture with an Internet publishing firm, and for whatever reason this joint venture was cancelled in August this year. DineOut went back to its OLD design (which I have to say, was a little ugly) but still had all of the content and was still trucking along. All of a sudden however, we have a new player in the market. DineSmart. Looks exactly like the DineOut site early August but with a new name. When I say "looks exactly like" I mean even the reviews are identical.

Ding ding ding. Round Two

September rolls around and DineOut gets a lovely makeover and sends out an email about the new look site. The newsletter touches on 'ventures we shouldn't have [entered into]' but does not go into detail. They didn't need to. For their users the URL remained the same and while they had about a month of the old site, it didn't really disrupt anything. 2 days after the DineOut newsletter arrived in my inbox, I get a DineSmart newsletter. There is no reference in this newsletter about who DineSmart are or why they are emailing me. While there is an opt-out at the bottom of the email, I never opted IN to receive this email communication. I opted in to receive one from DineOut, but not DineSmart. I really do think a number of people need to take another look at the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act as many seem to be ignoring it.

So I have been sitting on all of this for a week or so. DineOut seem to be being very generous to restaurant owners allowing them to claim their restaurants and update information where appropriate without charge (as far as I can tell). I think this is smart, the better the information on the venues, the better it is for the owners as well as the site. Nothing worse than reading that somewhere opens at 7.30am only to find it is now 9am. From what I have been told by a restaurant owner, on DineSmart you do have to pay to claim your venue...

Ding ding ding. Round Three.

Today I get an email from DineOut. Without going into too much detail about what/where/why/who & how they answered a number of questions which must have come from their users, explaining why DineSmart are using their content and what can be done (i.e you can request to have your reviews removed) if you are unhappy with what is going on. To be honest, I have asked that my reviews be removed from the DineSmart site. I am not trying to take anything away from the restaurants which I have reviewed (I am a very nice reviewer) however I think what DineSmart have done is bad Internet etiquette. Its basically poaching content. The email that DineOut sent today was good I thought. They were standing up for themselves without telling tales and obviously addressing specific questions they have received...

Ding ding ding. Round Four.

So I get a response from DineSmart re. my request to have my reviews removed. These guys have got their backs up. I'm assuming they have had more than my request to take down reviews. They state that the situation was out of their control (actually, I think it probably was their decision to load up identical content i.e. my reviews, without asking my permission) and then go into something of a slinging match blaming the original people behind DineOut; "... effectively removing the website URL, database and reviews in the middle of the night." Honestly, that has nothing to do with me, and I am not sure why I have been told it. They go as far to say that they have made no attempt to misrepresent themselves as DineOut...


and "refute any allegation that we have acted in an illegal or improper manner". On the defence much? DineOut have not said anything negative about what happened other than it didn't work out, I find the DineSmart reaction to all of this disappointing, and I know what site I will continue to visit.


Ros said...

Nice post Mon x

Mike said...

I'm happy ID have relaunched as DineSmart, they have a really cleaver mobile site, go to on an iPhone, obviously there is still some questions around database ownership after their failed JV with DineOut. I didn't think much of the DineOut makeover yesterday and the site seems to be down right now. has always been my favorite though, they seem to be ahead of everyone else with Facebook Connect and their iPhone app.

There is also (run by finda/Yellow Pages) and who get a lot of search traffic.

Drew said...

As with the above post im also quite fond of menumania as it seems to link in directly with google maps which is my first port of call for all business directory searches anyway. I am a member of dineout yet never received any email regarding dinesmart and knew nothing about it..

Karen G said...

Oh gee shucks - thanks for the nice things others have said about

As well as last week's launch of our iPhone ap, we bring you Sunday Star-Times Restaurant Month in Oct! Special Offers at 160 top restaurants around NZ. (See MenuMania from this Sunday 20 Sept)
Includes Logan Brown, The French Cafe, Millhouse at Millbrook, A Deco, Prego, Restaurant Schwass, Bacchus . . . the list goes on!

Thanks for your support, we've worked really hard for 3 years to help diners find great eating experiences . . . Lots of love xxoo Karen, The GM of MenuMania.

thewalker said...

nice post, this one is gonna get messy.

Anonymous said...

Actually it seems dineout took a half hearted leap into commercialism then backed out making a mess of the hard work done and leaving many people stranded/confused.

The DineSmart style and look has existed only in the last 12mths - dineout simply went back to its original somewhat manky look.

I know that membership almost doubled during the last 12 mths - but dineout has made only a lax attempt to point out to the 8000+ new members who placed 000s of reviews during that time that dineout is the same in name only and no longer provides the services they originally signed on for.

Instead in recent times it has fostered a forum flurry of 'poor us' support from its VIP reviewers - who have generally bought it hook line and sinker.

DineSmart has simply got on with the job of providing content and savings for th diners like myself.

It's just intellectually dishonest of dineout to claim 'poor me' status... weak-mindedness to blandly repeat those claims

Ettiquette? - is assinine if its effect is assinine.... in this case as in most, information and thought are ten times better for decision making.

Im glad DineSmart hasnt been bullied out of its intent to focus on diners rather than reviewers.

I will remain a member of DineSamrt and visit the other one only when I want read an overly wordy review.