Although some may argue that it is an overused phrase, I am not shy about prescribing myself the label of “foodie”. As a part-time food blogger in my spare time and an avid adventurer in the Boston restaurant scene, I have begun to utilize social media more and more as I ask myself the question “Where Should I Eat Tonight?” But to be completely honest as I am so obsessed with food, I usually plan my meals out in the city a week in advance but the phrase “where should I eat tonight?” just rolls off the tongue much better than “where should I eat in a week?”
While a restaurant’s website is always my first place to look when considering where to eat, I have come to notice that certain parts of restaurants’ websites are often outdated, particularly the menu. It is much easier for a restaurant to upload a picture of their daily specials onto Twitter or Facebook than it is to contact whoever manages their website to update their menu page. Just a few days ago Myers + Chang, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston, uploaded a picture of a daily lunch special that does not appear on their traditional website onto their Twitter feed. As things in the food industry are often changing so quickly, using social media allows restaurants to keep their loyal customer bases informed and involved in their evolving menu.
Although we might like to say that food is all about the taste, most people will actually tell you that we eat with our eyes first. Instagram has become a powerful tool in the food world and almost any restaurant that is hip and frankly worth trying will have an Instagram account. Instagram serves not only as a way to share food directly with a restaurants followers/customers, but it also allows customers to tag a restaurant in their Instagram posts, which functions as unsolicited advertising. Deep Ellum, just right here in Allston, has some incredible food pictures for a bar. While their website, which probably doesn’t get updated very frequently tells you one story (that of a dark potentially grimy place for a bunch of guys to grab a beer and watch the game), their Instagram account shows a different side (that of a bar who’s food just might be better than their beer).
While pictures might look pretty and daily specials might sound delicious, when it comes to picking what restaurant I am going to eat at, it always comes down to the reviews. Traditional review services like Yelp and Urbanspoon certainly do provide useful information in sorting out the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I feel like there is sometimes something disingenuous about these reviews. Everything seems to be really good or really bad. I even wonder with some of these smaller restaurants if the owners are telling all of their family and friends to write a good post. While I am sure some people write a Yelp review straight from their phone after visiting a restaurant, it is definitely much easier and often more reflexive of the immediate dining experience if you Tweet a picture or tweet about your service directly to a restaurant’s Twitter account. I often times go to a hashtag related to a restaurant to see what people are saying and what the food looks like.
As a big effect of social media seems to be accountability, restaurants must now not only be aware of what their Yelp status is, but also what is being thrown around about them on Twitter or Instagram. While these are just my initial reactions regarding how I use social media to decide what’s for dinner tonight, I am curious of how others see social media fitting into the restaurant industry.