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Once considered a faux pas, snapping photos of our food has become a national pastime.

Once considered a faux pas, snapping photos of our food has become a national pastime. Source: News Corp Australia

ONCE upon a time, obsessively photographing your food while dining out was considered to be bad manners.

These days, it is not only accepted, but expected that our culinary exploits be meticulously documented and shared in carefully curated, square-framed images.

Stylised foodie snaps are cultural currency, a way of flaunting our Sunday brunch lifestyles that has become second nature to many — and a multinational company is poised to profit from it all.

Indian start-up Zomato is shaking up online restaurant reviews, and it wants a slice of Australia’s $12 billion restaurant industry.

After taking over Urbanspoon in a $60 million deal signed earlier this year, Zomato founder and chief executive Deepinder Goyal aims to make $75 million a year in Australia, after an initial four-year investment phase.

With its revamped website and app, Zomato’s point of difference is it the way it taps into a collective need to share personalised dining experiences.

Feast your eyes: Zomato users share pics of their meals with a function that is similar t

Feast your eyes: Zomato users share pics of their meals with a function that is similar to Instagram. Source: NewsComAu

“There’s a lot of incredible photography out there,” said country manager Kate Parker, who is tasked with ramping up Zomato’s Australian presence and has a $10 million budget to do so this year.

“Our focus will always be on generating a user base, and making sure we are delivering the best possible user experience,” she said.

“We want to work with restaurants to help them grow their businesses.”

Integration with social media was “a key pillar” of the company’s strategy, she said.

“It’s that real human element. Authenticity is incredibly important for us; people listen to people that they know and trust. It’s about being part of a community.”

Revenue will come from “hyperlocal” advertising targeted at users who “want to eat in their local area”, with more sophisticated marketing offerings in the pipeline.

“Urbanspoon built an incredibly local following and a large user base, with 100 per cent user generated content,” Ms Parker said.

Zomato aimed to enhance the experience, she said, by curating, updating and checking the information presented with each listing, including images, menus and contact details.

Brunch obsessed: sharing the contents of our meals has become even more important than ea

Brunch obsessed: sharing the contents of our meals has become even more important than eating them. Source:NewsComAu

Globally, Zomato has more than 62 million registered users, including those migrated over from Urbanspoon.

Eventually, revenue streams will evolve as the company delves into more tailored marketing and advertising, online ordering — already available in Melbourne — and digital wallet payments.

This will pit the company against restaurant booking site Dimmi, recently bought out by TripAdvisor for a reported $25 million, as well as rival review sites Yelp and the Australian Good Food Guide.

Eatability is out of the equation, having announced its closure in an email to users in May, less than three years after it was acquired by Optus for $6 million.

Ms Parker said Zomato was expanding its “collections” tab, which groups venues under banners like “sweet tooth”, “kick-ass burgers” and “trending this week”.

Food bloggers were “a really important part” of the equation, she said.

“We work with them very closely, not only to educate them on the platform, but also to get their feedback, the things they like or don’t like. We’re in a constant state of reinventing ourselves.”

The company has embarked on a local hiring spree, with 190 jobs going in sales and business development across Australia.

Instagram users, like Melbourne food stylist @debkaloper, are being watched by Zomato’s t

Instagram users, like Melbourne food stylist @debkaloper, are being watched by Zomato’s trendspotters. Source:Supplied

But much of the work is being done by the fooderati general public, through an app that is integrated with Facebook and Twitter.

Users are invited to upload images of their food, write a caption hashtagging the name of the dish they are eating, then tag friends and the restaurant they are at. It has similar functionality to Instagram, right down to the square image and the filter options.

And, of course, they can find, rate and review restaurants, as well as create their own network of foodies for personalised recommendations.

Over on Instagram proper, followers are invited to tag #Zomatoaus for a re-post.

“Instagram is all about sharing a love of food,” Ms Parker said.

“We watch what’s going on, so we can share it with as many people as possible.”

This article first appeared in news.com.au