What’s for dinner? Sometimes it is hard to decide what to make, especially when you want something different than the same old same old.
Searching the internet for meal ideas can often lead an individual on a hunt to find ingredients they don’t have and for recipes they can’t really understand how to make.
Those were the same problems that spurred local entrepreneur Andy Theimer and his partner, Bill Brennan to develop Recipe Bridge (www.recipebridge.com), an online search engine designed specifically to collect recipes.
“We came up with the idea out of the frustration we were having with typical cooking sites, and also because we are guys and for the most part have four things in our refrigerator,” Theimer said.
The website allows users to search for recipes using key words including holidays, meals, and special occasions or by typing in key ingredients, he said.
“The spider system we developed allows you to search for pretty much anything. The system can retrieve all types of recipes with those key words from hundreds of recipe specific websites, blogs and posts,” he said.
A vertical search engine narrows the search down to a specific topic like travel, jobs or in this case recipes, Theimer said. The spiders in the system go through the web, know what recipes look like, and can aggregate them into one collection.
Theimer and Brennan, who both have a background in spidering and data aggregation, launched a beta version of the site in September 2008. Initially, the two relied heavily on word of mouth and friends to drive traffic, but have since managed to obtain 20,000 unique visitors per month.
“Our main interest is to build up a base following of food and cooking lovers so that it will ramp up the usage over the holidays,” he said.
According to Theimer, the summer months are the slow season for most cooking sites.
Operating without a budget, the two invited over 100 food blogs to submit their recipe files to the search engine, and have begun to offer a monthly food feature which features a blog or recipe so sites can get more exposure that way, Theimer said.
So far the two haven’t tried to sell ad space on the site, but plan to do so in the future.
“Right now we want to build a really good user experience,” Theimer said. “We want to perfect our consumer satisfaction and worry about revenue later.”
So far, the majority of the sites feedback has been positive, Theimer said.
“One of the biggest criticisms we received was that there wasn’t a comment board for specific recipes,” Theimer said. “We realize that some individuals who like to cook like to leave comments or feedback but our target audience really are the people who just want something new and exciting to cook, they typically aren’t the ones to comment or leave feedback on a recipe page.”
Both Theimer and Brennan have full time jobs, aside from their work on Recipe Bridge. To date, the site collects more than 1.5 million recipes from more than 200 sites on the web, Theimer said.
“It’s really a great tool and it’s fun for us to work on. Right now we are doing everything ourselves on little to no budget,” Theimer said. “It is nice to hear the feedback we get from users though, and can definitely see it getting bigger in the future.”