The Facebook of Food? Foodily Makes Meal Planning Social

2/2/11Follow @wroush

Eating is usually a social experience. But choosing what to eat—that’s the more solitary pursuit. In most families, the meal planning, not to mention the shopping and the cooking, falls to one person, usually a busy mom who’s toiling alone until the food is on the table.

There’s a startup in San Mateo, CA, that wants to change that. It’s called Foodily, and last year its founders, a group of former Yahoo executives, raised $5 million in venture support from Index Ventures to introduce a slick recipe-search site drawing on hundreds of sources around the Web, including both commercial sites like AllRecipes.com and Epicurious and popular food blogs like Closet Cooking (which specializes in recipes that can be prepared in a tiny, closet-sized kitchen). Foodily presents search results in a unique side-by-side format that makes it easy to compare photos, ratings, and ingredient lists for different recipes.

But that was only the spadework for the real service Foodily’s founders envisioned, which was more like a social network for meal planners. And today the startup has turned on new features that bring that vision to life, by allowing Foodily users to share favorite recipes and whole menus and food-related events with friends.

“There couldn’t be a more frequently asked question than ‘What do you want to eat today,’” says Andrea Cutright, Foodily’s co-founder and CEO. “But it’s a category where the online experience is still rather dated. You go to Google, you enter ‘cauliflower gratin,’ you get 80 million results, and none of them are connected to what people will really eat or what your friends like.” The answer, Cutright says, is social search—one of the rare slices of the Web search market where Google isn’t yet dominant.

Most of Foodily’s new features tap into users’ existing social networks via Facebook Connect. That means you’ll need an account at Facebook, and a network of friends, to take advantage of them. The first order of business is to assemble individual recipes that you find via Foodily into a menu. As a Super Bowl meal for a big group of friends, for example, you might serve spinach stuffed mushrooms, Thai chicken wings, beef stew, and blondies. (The examples are from Foodily design director Phillip Bensaid, not me—I’m neither a carnivore nor much of a football fan.) If you mark the stuffed mushrooms recipe as a favorite in Foodily, it will appear in your Facebook news feed, where your friends will have the opportunity to “like” or comment on your choice.

From within Foodily, you can also set up your Super Bowl party by creating a private event listing on Facebook and inviting selected friends, who can … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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