Let’s take New York City as an example. In the old, pre-smartphone days, it didn’t matter if you were a Brooklyn hipster or a tourist visiting from St. Paul, London or Johannesburg, finding the hottest, trendiest restaurant was no small feat. It took a Herculean effort to find someone in the know, and an even greater determination to actually get a reservation at that rooftop bistro or Cambodian joint you’d heard so much about. Good restaurants, and dives, have always come with a side dish of tribalism, so good luck finding your way inside (or to that table on the street). However, smart-phones and apps have changed all that.
Today, even if you wanted your Indian restaurant to be the best kept secret in town, information spreads fast and nobody is keeping secrets. In the end, to stay viable, restaurants have embraced this new technology. When potential customers hear about a new restaurant, they turn to their smart-phones for information. Whether you’re a business traveler or a tourist in a foreign city, smart-phones and apps have become the go-to-guides for Michelin Star restaurants and greasy spoons. If you want to generate positive reviews, feedback and fill those tables on a traditionally slow Monday night, your restaurant needs an app connection, and that doesn’t mean potato skins, popcorn shrimp or P.E.I mussels, either. Here is a look at the top five apps restaurants need to be on. Bon Appétit.
- Urbanspoon. Well-designed and user-friendly, Urbanspoon encompasses everything from Best Fine Dining and Talk of the Town lists to a host of different review platforms. On Urbanspoon, food critics and patrons alike can have their say about a particular eating establishment, thus creating a well-rounded opinion of the restaurant. Urbanspoon links to neighborhoods as well as types of cuisine.
- Yelp. As equally as user-friendly as Urbanspoon, Yelp is one of the most popular restaurant apps. It has a huge database and good search filters. Yelp uses a simple five star rating system, and you can search for everything from seaside lobster shacks to upscale farm-to-table restaurants. The ratings of the smaller restaurants are user-generated, while the larger places feature reviews from popular publications. Restaurants can be searched by cost, proximity or availability. Yelp even has an “Open Now” feature, which ensures you don’t trek across town only to find the restaurant closes early on Tuesdays.
- LocalEats. This app works differently than Urbanspoon or Yelp. When you use this app, all it gives you is the Top 100 Restaurants in a given city. These recommendations are critic based and not user generated. This might be a good thing, however, LocalEats does not provide you with any criteria on how these top restaurants were chosen. Was it the ambiance, food or service that made these locations special? LocalEats seems specifically geared towards the business class. If you want to wine and dine a potential partner, you simply take them to one of the top three restaurants on the LocalEats list.
- Zagat To Go. If you’re familiar with dining around the world, then you know that Zagat is a well-respected restaurant guide. The app, like the guide, is geared towards higher-end restaurants. If you’re looking for a cheap place to get a stack of pancakes, you won’t find it here. When rating food, décor and service, Zagat uses a numerical grade. One of the best features on the app is its Neighborhood Section; with this feature you can filter restaurants by their characteristics. For example, you will see phrases like warm welcome, cozy, teen appeal and urban chic.
- Local Picks. TripAdvisor is a travel website that covers everything from hotel reviews to vacation advice, and Local Picks is their foray into the world of restaurant apps. Local Picks is streamlined and easy-to-use; you find a restaurant based on either the price or the type of cuisine. Local Picks uses Google Maps for directions.
The days of finding restaurants in Frommer’s and Lonely Planet guidebooks are over. As a restaurateur, whether you’re opening up an organic bistro or trying to reboot business, if a potential patron can find you on an app, then there is a better chance that they’re going to find their way through the door.
Hannah N. is a 22-year-old food lover, technology writer, and adventure enthusiast, writing for Deals.ServiceBundles.com. Follow her at @hongryhannah Thanks for reading.