Locu, an app that makes it easy for restaurants to update their menus, will debut its public API at the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco Hackathon tomorrow. The API will provide access to much more the menus of Locu’s existing users — it’s a full blown local search engine.
One of the primary features of the API is the ability to pull menu, pricing and hours of operation info from local restaurants. For example, you could find the average price of a veggie burrito in your city, or all the restaurants open after 10pm. It could be used to power location based recommendation engines with more precision than Yelp.
But the company is expanding into other verticals. The API contains data from businesses such as hair salons, dry cleaners and spas. Co-founder and CEO Rene Reinsberg says that pretty much any business that has a product or service and a list of prices could be indexed.
Keeping data fresh is one of the biggest problems that anyone dealing with local apps has to deal with. Locu is trying to solve the problem with an ambitious web crawler engine that can extract structured data about local businesses from images and even Flash websites. In other words, even if a restaurant has an all Flash site, Locu will try to index its menu and prices.
The drawback is that it depends on businesses keeping their websites up-to-date. Reinsberg says that crowd sourcing data is a future possibility, as that would also enable the company index information that isn’t anywhere online.
Locu is offering the developer at the Hackaton with the most innovative use of the Locu API their choice of a Apple Thunderbolt Display or Dell 30-inch monitor. Second prize is a set of Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones.