When you’re out and about, where do you turn to to tell you where to eat? Do you look around and take your chances? Or do you listen to the wisdom of crowds?
There’s a growing trend of relying on social media to find great new products to buy and places to try. We’re no longer just listening to the so-called experts, but we’re seeking out reviews, people who like similar things to us. We’re also paying close attention to the things our friends recommend, which has become easier than ever.
Zomato has been a big player worldwide for a while now, and it has recently moved into the US by acquiring Urbanspoon. It lets you search for the meal you want, the dish you want, the cuisine or the location. And although it covers many major cities and most of the US, my nearest city was Milan, which is sadly too far for dinner.
Yelp was already a huge player in the social restaurant review scene, and after they added the UK-based Qype to their team it’s become even more useful worldwide. Yelp is great for finding reviews from both strangers or people you know, so you can quickly find places worth visiting. The site makes it easy to browse a feed of local reviews or to browse the profiles of your friends.
Yelp is also a great way to build your own collection of reviews. A major bonus over all the other apps is that you can get an RSS feed of your own reviews and share it to other social networks. Very handy!
There are a lot of people who say Yelp can’t be trusted, though, so keep this in mind if you choose to use it.
TripAdvisor – iPhone / Android
TripAdvisor is well known in the travel review scene, but not many people think to use it when they’re searching for local restaurant reviews in their own area. On the website, there is a dedicated section for restaurant reviews to make things easy for you. The mobile app is focused on hotel bookings, but it’s still a great app for finding restaurants.
You will be notified if any of the restaurant reviews in the list come from your own extended social circle on Facebook — if you’ve connected it to your account. It’s an ideal way to mix social and local reviews.
Foursquare – iPhone / Android
Foursquare is the definitive review app for great venues, so it had to be on this list. If you haven’t used it in a while, it’s worth revisiting. Things have changed quite a lot over the years. It’s turned into an ideal way to find a great place to visit nearby, and the bulk of those suggestions are restaurants. You can also filter by what you prefer to eat, which is handy.
You’ll see reviews from your friends automatically if they’ve visited places in the area you’re searching. But you can also get to the profiles of your friends via your own profile. As anyone who used to see a feed full of reviews from the other side of the world can attest, Foursquare are definitely doing things the right way around now.
Restaurant Finder – Android
Restaurant Finder is an up-and-coming Android app with worldwide social reviews built in. What’s fantastic about it is its simplicity: when you open it you see a search field, a “By Current Location” button and a “Saved Places” button. You can also narrow down to takeout, delivery and more.
You can’t connect it to the big social networks just yet, but the social aspect is there — and that definitely helps when making decisions on where to eat.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, knowing where you can find a reputable restaurant that caters to your needs is paramount to having a good time. VegMan is a community of vegetarians who review restaurants worldwide, which you can then browse through the various apps. I even found a few vegan restaurants in France, which is not at all well known for its vegetarianism.
Facebook Restaurant Search
Facebook graph search is a really neat way to get social recommendations for places to eat. The most simple thing you can do is just search for “Restaurant” and click the “Places” tab. This URL will do the trick to get results local to you: https://www.facebook.com/search/str/restaurant/keywords_places
And there are all sorts of cunning searches you can use to get quite specific about the places you find.
- “Restaurants in New York liked by graduates of the Culinary Institute of America”
- “Cafes in Paris, France, visited by people who live in Paris, France”
- “Restaurants in London liked by my friends”
- “Restaurants in Berlin visited by my friends”
- “Cafes in New York, New York visited by people who like The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
- “Restaurants in London, United Kingdom visited by people who like The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
Facebook is also talking about entering the review scene in a more focused fashion. And don’t forget there are dozens of other cool things you can search for with Facebook graph search. Go nuts.
Google Restaurant Search
Don’t forget that Google is in on the social recommendations scene too. All you have to do is search for “Restaurant Near Me” and it will show you the reviews for restaurants in your area. This URL is your new best friend:
Now, if you’re an Android user, you can also use Google Now features to look up the restaurants around you. Just say “Ok Google, find a restaurant near me” and you’ll see all the local restaurants and user reviews.
If you prefer to type, you may even be able to make good use of some advanced Google search operators to find exactly what you’re looking for. And maybe even use Google to find a good movie to see afterwards.
If you’re in the US, OpenTable is also worth a look. I’ve added it above all other non-worldwide apps as it has an extra element of sociability built in. Namely, you can book the restaurant and invite your friends to meet you there all from within the app itself. If this functionality catches on for all social restaurant review apps, life will be great.
Which Social Food Review Apps Do You Use?
Don’t forget that if you’re traveling overseas, you may also get good mileage out of travel review apps that cover more than just restaurants. They can even help you plan your trip.
Which apps do you love for getting social recommendations for restaurants and cafes? Or do you have any useful Facebook graph searches for finding new places to eat? Tell us about them!
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