To Eat or Tweet: How Social Media Has Changed Dining Out

It’s lunch time, you’re looking for a place to eat, you don’t have reservations. What’s the first thing you do? Check Urbanspoon or Yelp on your mobile phone for nearby hot restaurants.

Social media has changed the face of the dining industry, shifting the power of restaurant reputation management from publicists to consumers. That’s the way it should be. After all, if customers are footing the bill for food and ambiance, they should get a say in a restaurant’s reputation.

Phones Over Forks

Not long ago, before the prevalence of social media, your phone was on the dinner table because you were expecting a call. Now, if your phone is on the table, it’s because you’re going to Tweet a picture and pithy comment (under 140 characters!) about your food. Instantly, the restaurant that you’re eating at gets a review, broadcasted to all your followers on multiple social networks.

How does this influence the restaurant? Plating has reached new heights of innovation and beauty, more often than not, restaurants are using their plates as canvases with the food stylistically placed around the plate just for that photo op when the dish hits the table and your phone is posed over the plate before your fork.

The consumer can scream a message to the world in mere seconds, with photo evidence and maybe even video. Nothing is more effective marketing than a juicy photo of a sizzling steak or a fresh, colorful salad.

Restaurant Reputation

Consumers can do so much more than just post photos to Twitter and Facebook to praise (or harm) a restaurant’s reputation with a click of a camera phone. Other social media platforms also include Foursquare, Instagram, Path and the intricate network of bloggers on Urbanspoon and Yelp.

Instagram and Path allow users to post photos to their followers. Both social platforms can also link to Facebook and Twitter as well as Foursquare, indicating the exact restaurant and location where the photo was taken. It’s pretty much a quick, instant restaurant review. This takes the word-of-mouth recommendation to an international scale.

I’m sure I am not the first to admit that I have planned international trips based on other food bloggers’ reviews and photos. In addition to full-blown blog reviews, Foursquare is also a great resource with a special section for consumers to post tips and comments about the places they visit, i.e. favorite dishes.

Food Bloggers

Urbanspoon and Yelp are supported by consumers, most of which are food bloggers. Who isn’t a food blogger these days, or a ‘foodie,’ a term that applies to practically anyone who eats. Foodies consider themselves experts, whether they have formal culinary training or not, and they’re not shy about telling the world about good and bad dining experiences. Urbanspoon even has listings of top bloggers in almost every major English speaking city in the world.

Food blogging has altered the dining experience, built communities of food enthusiasts and created a new breed of diner: the snap happy, social media savvy, food blogger. The food blogger is now armed with the authority to raise a restaurant’s reputation or expose a restaurant’s faults with a few keystrokes and amplified social media messages. The City of Richmond in Canada believes in the concept so much that the city launched a high profile (promoted by social media, of course) job search to find a food blogger to eat and blog for 365 days about the restaurants in Richmond. After many Tweets, a Facebook public voting poll and Skype interviews, the lucky candidate is Lindsay Anderson. I can’t wait to see her blog posts!

If anyone watches the popular Food Network TV show, Eat St., you’ll notice that almost every other customer being interviewed on screen is a food blogger. Food bloggers are taking over the restaurant review scene, with social media as their prime tools of communication.

Now back to the original question, where are we going to eat? Let’s check Urbanspoon.

For more on food according to the Urbanspoon‘s #1 bloggers, check out:

Who’s your favorite food blogger? Let us know in the comments.

 

Author: Angela Leung

Angela Leung has written 11 posts for the HootSource blog..

16 comments
Katana SEO
Katana SEO

Social Media today i a great tool for all businesses. Good and bad services can be used as a topic for Social media sharing. It is also ways to inform our friends and followers.

epiConcierge
epiConcierge

Social media is now a huge part of our lives and the ease in which one can find information about various topics is amazing. Restaurant tips and feedback is important to those looking for a good experience and with social media valuable first hand information is just a few clicks away.

Joe Perrone
Joe Perrone

Angela. Great article. Thank you.

Joe Perrone

Temple University School of Media and Communications

Tamar
Tamar

Yeah, it's so amazing how social media has transformed the going-out experience - social media and technology is really part of it! My friends and I use it before and while we are out and I think you are right that most people out there do the same. You point out the power of Yelp and according to Harvard Business School, a difference of one Yelp can star translates to a 5-9% difference in a business' revenue. This is incredibly problematic because many of those negative reviews result from problems the consumer would have preferred to actually have addressed/solved instead of resorting to ranting online when they get home... and the business would clearly have preferred the opportunity to address the issue then to just end up losing customers.

OwnerListens was created as a solution for this problem. It allows customers to use their smartphone to send a private and anonymous message directly to the owner/manager in real-time instead of posting a negative review online. The owner/manager can then respond and address the issue immediately... and perhaps turn the situation into a positive review.

What I’d like to know is that given that we are all incorporate our smartphones into our dining experience, how do you think OwnerListens, which isn't a public channel and is instead a direct line of communication with the owner/manager, will impact the dining experience for consumers and businesses? I think it could, revolutionize the whole “social media revolution” or something :)

Cory J.
Cory J.

Wow! This is a fascinating story! I've never given a thought that food and social media are so intertwined with each other. I am guilty too of taking pictures of my food and sharing it on Instagram, but I never felt that it has an effect on my "followers".

Aside from being a foodie, I am also a writer for an internet marketing firm (www.digitalmoz.com) and I think that this will be a great resource to ponder on. And who knows, I might just start my food blog! Thanks for the post and inspiration.

DJ Jennings
DJ Jennings

Don't forget that now Google+ Local has interior Street-View style virtual tours of many restaurants. You can check out the restaurant before you even walk in the place.

Vincent Ng
Vincent Ng

That's been an interesting change as well. I don't think many restaurants know that only Google + users are the ones that must review them, and that the users aren't that anonymous anymore.

Here's the video that Google did that help explains a lot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75_O7ZrmorU&feature=player_embedded#!

And that you don't want your photo showing up as a map. That's kind of terrible.

I advise all businesses to get on board ASAP.

Eat, drink and be Kerry
Eat, drink and be Kerry

I've been blogging on food for four years now and I know from the figures on my blog how many people read my reviews - there's definitely an audience and it's rapidly growing. I enjoy sharing food news and it's the good, unusual and consistent that grabs my attention. More power to food love!

Angela Leung
Angela Leung

Hi Kerry,

Yes, agreed! There is definitely an audience for food blogs. Food blogging also creates such a warm, interactive and positive community. We look forward to more of your blog posts.

Angie Holubowich
Angie Holubowich

I've had a blast food blogging in Vancouver as www.thecurvygourmet.com

Meeting a ton of amazing people, finding fabulous eats!

Angela Leung
Angela Leung

Thanks for the link! And thanks for reading. Happy eating and blogging!

Ryan Jennings
Ryan Jennings

Eating and tweeting is what our business is all about at http://tweet2eat.co.nz. We've helped thousands of people find great places to eat through quality content on our website provided by the chefs and business owners.

I like what the City of Richmond proposed, our regional bodies aren't as forward thinking, but we've gone ahead and done it ourselves anyway!

Thanks for the article, great read.

Angela Leung
Angela Leung

Thanks for reading, Ryan! And thanks for the link, sounds like it's a wonderful resource for our fellow foodies.

Vincent Ng
Vincent Ng

I personally like reading a few blogs myself. When I get a chance I like to read Gastrofork's blog because it has a mix of recipes and a variety of places from high end to casual.

www.gastrofork.ca

Mary in Vancity is another one that I enjoy reading. I like the casualness and consider it lifestyle reading.

www.maryinvancity.com

And for detailed reports I'll read Follow Me Foodie when it comes to local eats. I find she's very good with her description and I'm able to learn a few new things from her every month.

www.followmefoodie.com

On a different note, I wanted to add to the discussion from a different perspective.

I believe Yelp has been the big game changer in the way that food has been eaten and in terms of reach. With over 53 million monthly views. In terms of local and looking at the stats of a food blogger, a popular food blogger in Vancouver can garner approximately 5000 views in two years for a restaurant that he or she has reviews. That's upper echelon, while a restaurant in Vancouver that has about 20-30 reviews and has a 4 star rating will garner about 7000-8000 views in the same time period.

What's been interesting is the psychographics of diners who use social media and social search before choosing a restaurant. The majority of diners usually choose at most two different platforms to get their dining information from whether it's from Twitter and Food bloggers, or just from Yelp. But usually they don't check out everything because diners form their own "groupies" towards specif mediums.

For any restaurants that are curious about how to manage your reputation online, here's an article that might be of help.

http://www.mcngmarketing.com/yelp-reviews/#.T9-MFLWvJ8E

Angela Leung
Angela Leung

Thanks for reading, Vincent!

I also love Dee's, Mijune's and Mary's blogs. All three have great content, mouth-watering photos and informative info.

Agreed on social media and social search. Those are some interesting stats you've provided.

Thanks for the MCNG link!