SinglePlatform's Bold Agenda, Starting With Free Restaurant Menus

Boasting 400,000 restaurant menus spanning over 13,000 cities, the SinglePlatform API is filled with valuable content. And it's giving it away to developers for free. The company has big publishing partners signed on, including the New York Times and Foursquare. And restaurant menus are only its first act.

Restaurants pay to gain access to the SinglePlatform tools to update their menu. The restaurants can then use that menu, via a customizable, embedded iframe, on their own site. The menu, with its detailed section and item information, also becomes part of SinglePlatform's publisher network. Sites that contain, say, restaurant reviews, may also want to show the menu.

SinglePlatform used famed New York restaurant Nobu as an example. You can see the menu for Nobu on the New York Times and the same for Nobu on Foursquare. Each is styled for its own site. New York Times uses the embedded iframe, while Foursquare gets at the raw data via API. The location sharing network then also distributes the menus in the Foursquare API.

SinglePlatform's Kenny Herman said restaurants are just the beginning. Already the company has added other businesses with menus, such as salons and spas. But even menus is too narrow for a company claiming to have the single Platform, as StreetFight explains:

But ascribing SinglePlatform’s success to a niche play in the restaurant space would seem to miss the point, especially since they’ve started to move beyond the world of restaurants and are beginning to offer services to businesses in other verticals who are selling other products. So they’re not all about restaurant menus. In fact a better way to think about SinglePlatform might be as the distribution point for a business’s digital storefront — “distribution” being the key term.

Herman suggested any merchant could benefit, including hardware stores. When the snow storm hits, you should know whether there's a shovel in stock and how much it costs, Herman said.

RetailigenceOnce you get to that broad opportunity, SinglePlatform starts to sound like the Retailigence API, which connects to local businesses to make it easy to shop locally from your mobile.

Retailigence hooks into software that many retailers are already running. By contrast, SinglePlatform provides its own software, at least so far. Most likely, that's a symptom of the markets: SinglePlatform has chosen service businesses that tend not to have inventory management software.

This "online to offline" space is heating up, fueled in part by APIs that act as a lubricant for the connection between the real and Internet worlds. As others identify the opportunities in connecting mobile consumers to physical purchases, expect more players in the API side of this trend.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: From the Ashes of Gowalla Rises New Location Game