Google Hotpot is new a social place recommendation engine built on Google’s existing Place pages. Up until now, Places have been rated and reviewed based on outside sources like Yelp, but Hotpot lets users rate local establishments using their Google Profiles. After you’ve entered a few ratings, Hotpot will use your tastes to recommend other places you might like, sort of like a Netflix for restaurants.
You can also add friends on Hotpot (again, via their Google Profiles). Adding friends is easy, as Hotpot can find friends through your Gmail address book. Once you’ve added friends, their ratings will get a little extra weight in recommending places for you.
As for the site itself, Hotpot has a pretty slick grid-based UI, with each place in a box featuring a photo and a star rating. Up top, you’ve got counters tallying your ratings and reviews. You can quickly access your history, your previously rated places, or your friends’ recent ratings from a sidebar. The whole thing is quite user-friendly, and oriented toward browsing versus searching, which makes it ideal for finding somewhere to go out to dinner.
Since it doesn’t require existing Google users to sign up or add a whole new bunch of contacts, Hotpot actually has a decent chance of catching on, and it certainly makes Google’s Place pages more fun and useful.