WeChat is testing a new feature allowing users to find nearby restaurants according to Yiou News. This feature locates on the top level menu, in parallel with WeChat Moments, People Nearby, Mini-Programs, etc.
Some WeChat users discovered “Nearby Restaurants” feature in Plugins of Settings (previously WeChat Lab; left picture of the screen capture below) according to Yiou. The testing is currently only limited to Guangzhou.
WeChat has been providing Food feature for a while with Mini-Programs, which is under “Mini-Programs > Nearby Mini-Programs”. However, users can’t get much information about the restaurants as no information such as ratings or reviews is available.
The new “Nearby Restaurants” feature in WeChat looks like a challenge to Meituan Dianping, one of China’s leading e-commerce platform for local lifestyle services that went public in Hong Kong in September 2018. Meituan’s annual transacting users increased by 30.3% to 382.3 million as of September 2018.
With its strong social feature and large user base, this Nearby Restaurants could become an essential part of WeChat ecosystem. It can target and hurt Meituan Dianping if it chooses to do so. But, it’s not clear yet.
Tencent is Meituan Dianping’s largest shareholder holding close to 20% of its shares:
Meituan Dianping has well utilized Tencent’s WeChat ecosystem, especially WeChat Pay and Mini-Programs. And, it owns several ones in the top WeChat Mini-Programs.
Would Tencent create another Meituan Dianping? Theoretically, it’s one possibility. Alternatively, Tencent could also work with it integrating its restaurants’ data while enhancing it with high social engagement and complementing its e-commerce offerings.
WeChat is at least not an immediate threat to Meituan. Its current strong competitors include Alibaba’s Koubei and Ele.me.