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Nov. 2001

eLuna.com In the Press
Here are some of the articles written about eLuna in the press.
The Appetite Comes with the Food, By Talia Hasin (PDF Hebrew) Makor Rishon, November 2005
Casting a Kosher Net, By Gloria Deutsch The Jerusalem Post Good Food Guide, Winter 2003
Eat Well! That's an Order!, By Carol Novis The Jerusalem Post City Lights, September 20, 2002
Best Practices, By Ahron Shapiro www.israel.internet.com, January 25, 2001
Click for kosher food finder, By Charlotte Halle Ha'aretz, Anglo File, February 16, 2001
Spotlight Movers, Noshing on the Net, By Carol Novis The Jerusalem Post City Lights, June 8, 2000
Not Page One, By Sam Orbaum The Jerusalem Post, October 28, 1999


Click for kosher food finder By Charlotte Halle
February 16, 2001, Ha'aretz, Anglo File
 

Anyone who has ever looked for a kosher restaurant in an unfamiliar city knows how frustrating it can be, even in Israel.

But all that changed with eLuna's entree some 18 months ago. The Web site lists over 200 kosher restaurants across Israel, a review of each, and a 10 percent discount voucher. This and its click-on access make it a quick way to ease out-of-town-eatery angst as well as save money.

With 10,000 monthly users, eLuna appears to be just what Israel's English-speaking, kosher dine-out community needed. But it didn't start out that way. CEO and Web sit founder, Debbie Lampert, says eLuna's original goal was to list Israels kosher hotels (whence the name "eLuna"). But she quickly abandoned this when the Web sit just didn't take off.

However, one small part - the site's kosher restaurant listings - proved extremely popular. So Lampert rethought her product and the eatery listing took on a life of its own. Ergo: eLuna.

As a restaurant goer, Lampert confesses she's no great shakes. Hers is a computer, not a culinary, background. Ironically this may just be what freed Lampert, a high-tech documentation expert, to develp eLuna in strict accordance with the data she gains about user preferences, instead of according to her tastes.

This proved the case following feedback from more religiously observant users: She instered a Web site button for selecting Glatt- or Mehadrin-certified establishments. She has even added a kosher sushi column and plans to launch a pizza section soon.

The Web site also covers kosher travel and kosher wines plus offers options on take-out. But its restaurant guide is its primary stock in trade.

Lampert, who moved to Israel from Chicago 23 years ago, recruits help in writing the restaurant reviews. She admits her own writing style - stolid with years of penning "nice, formal sentences" for costly, high-tech software - would make "very boring restaurant reviews". Then she found Arnie Draiman, who now reviews most of the Jerusalem-based restaurants for her, via - where else? - the Internet.

Users of eLuna are also invited to send in their own reviews or comments, which are posted below earlier reviews of a particular eatery. Writes one: "I have eaten Thai food all around the world, including Thailand, and (the restaurant in question) is right up on top." Grouses another: "I feel that it is only fair that people be told that the service (at another eatery) was terrible." Yet another declares: "The review said the portions are not particularly generous. I must disagree…the servings were very ample!"

A potential downside of Web-posting user-reviews is that customers tend to review their favorite eateries, so many of the reviews are veritable paeans. But, shrugs Lampert, this does no real damage, since her goal is "to promote the restaurants."

She says she deliberately steers clear of "blasting restaurants" on the site. Those "not eLuna-worthy" - that leave more than a few patrons dissatisfied or don't honor their voucher agreements - are simply removed from the Web site, she says.

Despite its success, Lampert says she is bothered that eLuna remains the only English-language kosher Web site in Israel. "If you're not being imitated," she says, "you have to ask yourself if you're really worthwhile."

Persuading eateries to come on board is not the snap it might seem. Most restaurants, she says "are not very high-tech, and they don't understand the Internet or the amount of business I can bring" by listing them.

Keeping up-to-date with the latest restaurant news is another challenge. For starters, no one ever tells Lampert when they are closing. And with tourism at such a low since late September, this is no rare occurrence, especially in Jerusalem. Last month, for instance, closures forced Lampert to remove six restaurants from the list.

Thanks to its advertising income, Lampert says the site pretty much pays for itself - no mean feat for a start-up "dot-com" these days. Having few paid staff is the key, she says. But of course, she hopes profit is not too far round the corner.

One day, Lampert says, sites like eLuna - which provide direct access to a very specific niche market, in this case, Israel's kosher English-speaking community - will be more valued by advertisers. Meanwhile, Lampert says, running the Web site is providing her with lots of new contacts. And lots of fun. www.eLuna.com


 


eLuna Fills a Need for Israeli Restaurants and Their Patrons
By Ahron Shapiro Associate Editor israel.internet.com
http://www.israel.internet.com
January 25, 2001, Jerusalem
 

In Israel, the restaurant database Web site eLuna.com makes the short list of bookmarks for residents and tourists. This beauty of this site is in its simplicity. It matches up businesses with consumers in a way that's easy and rewarding for both.

The restaurants have a need to attract and find customers. Perhaps they've tried conventional advertising in local newspapers, with limited success. By joining eLuna, they commit to offering a modest discount - usually 10 percent - to Web visitors in order to be listed with the service. Once listed, they're visible to tourists and Israelis alike, wherever they are.

The customers have a need to find a nice place to eat out in Israel. They also like to find a bargain. By visiting and registering with eLuna, they find the restaurants they want, with discount coupons available for printing. If they've eaten at a restaurant, they can submit a review with the possibility of winning a prize. That review, in turn, enhances the value of the site for the next customer. More prizes are awarded for bringing new members to the site.

It's a win-win proposition. The businesses and their customers get matched together and eLuna gets traffic that attracts site sponsors. Additional opportunity for revenue is found in the site's store, a travel section, and the option of home delivery of catered food in some areas.

Interestingly, eLuna is designed to serve the religious Jewish English speaking resident and tourist community in Israel. For that reason, it only lists kosher restaurants, and its pages are only in English.

Perhaps it is limiting itself, but on the other hand, its specialization may be a key to its success. The site is apparently manageable by a small staff, and by keeping things simple, they avoid the complications a larger site would entail.

Zagat it's not, but in Israeli cyberspace, eLuna has carved a niche for itself through the sound business method of identifying a need and serving it well.


 

Noshing on the Net
By Carol Novis

Appeared in the Jerusalem Post City Lights Magazine, June 8, 2000

For someone who doesn't touch meat, only eats kosher food, and admits that she doesn't even dine out much at all, Debbie Lampert of Ra'anana knows an awful lot about the food scene in Israel.

"Im a computer, not a restaurants person," she says. But as a "virtual" expert on kosher restaurants and wine in Israel, Debbie is the inspiration behind the popular Internet site eLuna.com which lists and offers discounts at some 150 kosher eating places in Israel.

eLuna is certainly an idea whose time has come.

Anyone who's ever searched for a good kosher restaurant outside Jerusalem knows how difficult it is apart from hotels which serve kosher food, or Chinese, steak and humous/tehina restaurants, good, sophisticated, kosher food is hard to find. And even when kosher restaurants exist not everyone knows where they are.
eLuna aims to fill the hole.

Debbie came on aliya with her family from Silver Spring, Md., in 1977 and moved first to Rehovot, then to Beer-Sheva and finally to Ra'anana. She has been involved in high tech industries for the last 18 years, but it is only in the last year that she struck out on her own with eLuna.

How did she get the idea?

It struck her, she explains, that the religious population was looking for reliable information on good, suitable restaurant as well as on other products. That information simply wasn't widely available.

'It seemed to me that observant English-speaking people had certain marketing needs that weren't being met and that provide a business opportunity. Observant Anglo-Saxons are a niche market and a niche market is very attractive to advertisers. Fr example, if you're selling kosher trips to Spain, then you want to reach a particular market that's interested in kosher products. The people who sign on with eLuna are prime member of that market."

For their part, eLuna subscribers are provided with a service they can't get anywhere else.

When Subscribers sign on to eLuna, they are given access to information about 150 kosher restaurants all around Israel. The information is reliable, because it's based on recommendations from people who have actually eaten at each restaurants. It's also free.

"The restaurants on our site are not just compilations, but places people actually like. I could have just gone to the Rabbanut and got a list of kosher restaurants, but I didn't do that because there would be no guarantee of quality."

Restaurants don't advertise, but they all offer discounts (mostly 10% off the bill) to subscribers.

"Here and there I have had to compromise," says Debbie. "For example, one Ra'anana restaurant has limited the hours they offer the discount because of the large number of people asking for it. But by and large, restaurants all do offer the 10% , because they're only listed on the site if they do, and they realize it's worth it. Clients come to listed restaurants and they bring their friends. It brings in a lot of business. Even hole-in-the-wall places get visibility."

If a restaurant fails to offer the discount, then Debbie will check it out and try to ensure the client is recompensed.

"It sometimes happens that a waiter will be new and may not have heard about the discount. In that case, I'll call the restaurant and see that something is done about it.

Clients are often so pleased that they e-mail with enthusiastic comments. One satisfied customer sent information on us to 300 friends!"

The decision not to charge restaurants for a listing on the site was deliberate. "My aim was to provide the best possible content. If you want the best content, then you can't limit the restaurants to advertisers. You need a big client base to attract other kinds of advertising. I estimate that we need a client base of 5,000 to expand our advertising. We haven't reached that yet, but the site has only been up 11 months."

Advertisers don't include listed restaurants, but they do include travel agents publicizing kosher tours and cruises, wine and books. Debbie sees plenty of future potential for advertising geared to the observant market, though she admits that the site still has to make a profit.

"First fame then fortune," she says cheerfully. "We are now hoping to attract other investors."

What she has discovered is that there are a lot of kosher restaurants out there that people haven't heard about.

"How may times have people told me that there are no kosher places in Tel-Aviv. Well there are 25 on my site. There are 12 in Ra'anana alone.

Most popular restaurants? She sites Magdiel Haktana in Hod Hasharon and Brown's in Ra'anana.

As well as providing information on kosher restaurants, Debbie also has another aim: to contribute to Israel.

"If eLuna helps bring people to Israel or boosts business for local restaurants, then I'll be happy."

Name: Debbie Lampert
Business: eLuna.com Internet site
Five years ago: Working in the computer industry.
Five years from now: I hope to expand eLuna, go international and attract investors. I also hope to become a pressure group and improve quality. If people come to Israel because they're enticed by culinary possibilities, then I feel I've done something important with my life.
Philosophy: "You have to make a decision and stick with it. You have to persevere. It is not so much the idea that counts as the tenacity and push to make it succeed that counts."


 

Not Page One
By Sam Orbaum
Columnist of the Jerusalem Post.
You can contact Sam Orbaum through admin@eLuna.com.

This article appeared first in The Jerusalem Post, October 28, 1999


What would it take, I have been asked again and again, to be Haim Shapiro's dinner-date companion?

I asked Haim if perhaps people ask him the same about me. "Never," he said.

I have to assume Haim is so desirable because he is our restaurant reviewer, and not because he is sexy. If I am wrong, I do not want to know.

Apparently there is a gene inborn in everyone that triggers an urge to review restaurants. But Haim is faithful to his regular dinner companion, his wife, and his devoted readers have little hope of replacing her.

However, there is now an alternative.

A growing Internet site, www.eLuna.com, lets all the would-be Haim Shapiros tell how good the soup was. Restaurants are where you go to see and be seen, but eLuna is where you go to read and be read.

From the time she conceived the website, about five months ago, Debbie Lampert "envisioned eLuna as a community site with reviews written by lots of different people. Anything publishable goes right up on the site. This has made for an interesting patchwork of contributions from all over the eating world. It's great fun to read."

Debbie, whose off-line homesite is Ra'anana, already has more than 600 subscribers and 80 participating restaurants. It's free, and at this point non-profit, and non-commercial. The bottom line, she stresses, is F-U-N. That it also happens to be a public service and a boost to the gastronomic industry is eLuna's recipe for success.

Participating restaurants must be kosher, and must provide discounts to eLuna's subscribers. There are contests, tasting tours, coupons and a newsletter. No such thing as a free lunch? Not here!

Debbie posts full-blown reviews as well as pithy "feedback" comments, but with two conditions: they must be well-written, and you can't dump on the place. "What restaurant is going to give a discount to a website that publishes negative stuff about it? If we don't like the restaurant, we don't put them on the site."

Burned out creatively after 18 years in the high-tech industry, Debbie embraced this project with gusto. But, she says, "Everything I write these days looks like a spec for a software product. I figured nobody would be interested in reading my reviews, so I scoured the Internet for someone who could write stuff that people will want to read."

She found her very own Haim Shapiro: "I chanced upon a wonderful guy named Arnie Draiman. His writing style was not spoiled by a million years of writing technical documentation, and he's probably the world's leading expert in Jerusalem restaurants. He can quote menus by heart! "

Arnie and I have a totally different approach to eating. Arnie is willing to eat in a barn, as long as the food is good. I will only go to a place with great ambiance, and I don't care what the food tastes like.

"Between the two of us, we write one great review."

Maps and photos are included in reviews, together with basic information about the restaurants: location, hours, ambience, even prices and recommendations for specific dishes.

"We try to keep the writing light and funny, and we decidedly do not take ourselves all that seriously. The golden rule is to promote the restaurant. We only take restaurants that we are proud to represent."

FORGIVE ME, Haim: I trampled on your eat beat. Unable to push you off these august pages, I caved in to Debbie's offer to write a review for her.

Satisfying both my journalistic curiosity and a whopping hunger, I consented to be fed. I chose my current favorite eatery, Gizmongolia.

Kosher Mongolian may seem like a culinary non sequitur, especially because it's a kashrut-supervised unsupervised pig-out. For reviewing purposes, it's the perfect joint, because it's an all-you-can-eat self-serve stir-fry smorgasbord. (I wouldn't want to say anything beyond that, for fear that this may constitute a review, and heaven help me next time I bump into Mr. Shapiro in the Post cafeteria.)

I tasted absolutely everything (well, except for the tofu), and waddled home where the real satisfaction started: writing about it.

This could become a habit. My companion (I wish to state publicly: she was not Haim's wife) swiftly presented me with a rather long short-list of chiefly unaffordable restaurants.

I'm not so sure I should take a chance, though. I just know what's going to happen. Someday, I'm going to be piling up the empty plates at one table, with You Know Who doing the same at the next.

Have you ever seen two food critics in the same place at the same time?

I don't imagine it would be terribly genteel: "How's the eggroll by you?" "Tasty. Try the dumplings."

No, I fear the worst. A duel with kebab skewers, a loud exchange of sour grapes, an all-out food fight.

If you're willing to risk it, and if your pen is at least as mighty as a butter knife, take a look at www.eLuna.com. (WARNING: This website should not be read on an empty stomach.)

Read more Sam Orbaum at Fun Stuff


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