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Hoppit – The Search Engine For Restaurant Ambiance

By Brendan Lynch, Special to the Boston Business Journal
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BOSTON (CBS) – A growing number of tech startups in the Boston area work in the realm of connecting restaurants and diners, with the goal of proving that dinner out (or ordered in) can be a little bit nicer with tech.

They include Tasted Menu (dish recommendations), FoodieBytes (dish reviews paired with deals) and TotalTab (mobile app for paying a restaurant bill).

But one of the latest innovations hitting the Boston restaurant scene — a site that lets diners search for a restaurant based on its ambiance — hasn’t come from a local startup.

The service has come from New York startup Hoppit, and it launched in 25 cities, including Boston, earlier this month.

Steven Dziedzic, 27, founder and CEO of Hoppit, called his startup “Pandora for restaurants.”

“For New Yorkers, and people in other big cities like Boston, San Francisco, or Chicago, there are a thousand Italian restaurants,” he said. “So the only thing that differentiates them is the ambiance.”

The service has attracted more than 10,000 unique users in three weeks of availability, the company says.

Boston has about 1,000 restaurants on the site, and has been No. 4 in Hoppit traffic so far, behind New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

Similar to how music site Pandora assigns “genes” to songs, each restaurant on Hoppit has from 10 to 100 genes, such as fireplaces, exposed brick or kid-friendliness. The site uses 250 attributes as genes so far.

Dziedzic said the problem with sites like Yelp is that they have huge amounts of content. “The name of the game is relevance and personalization,” he said. “We try to make sense of all the chaos.”

Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal can be seen weekdays at 6 a.m. on WBZ-TV.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @lvanderpool.

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