Where should we go out for dinner tonight?
This question, although very simple, took hours for my friends and I to answer. It wasn’t because we couldn’t find any viable options while walking around Florence, but because there were hundreds and hundreds of tempting options everywhere we looked. Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook were filled with images of mouthwatering dishes posted by my friends from Morocco to London. More people are crowdsourcing opinions before making dining decisions than ever before, which is expected to inject an extra $6 billion into the restaurant industry. Millennials are the biggest crowdsourcers for this information, so it’s no wonder my friends and I spent what felt like hours scrolling through Instagram posts tagged at various restaurants in Florence.
In addition to scrolling through pages among pages of Instagram posts, we looked at customer ratings on social media sites. First, we turned to Facebook, which housed reviews of almost all the restaurants we had heard to check out. According to Empathica, nearly three out of four customers have used Facebook to make retail or restaurant decisions. Although many restaurant reviews are available on Facebook, it is not my first option to base my dining decisions on. Most restaurants have extremely high ratings on their Facebook page, because business owners are easily able to edit the reviews shown on their page.
Before making our final decision about where to eat, I looked up reviews of “Restaurants in Florence” on Yelp. Yelp is always my go-to for scoping out new cafes and restaurants, especially while traveling abroad. Yelp has over 115 million reviews on their site, along with images taken from customers, and definitive lists by rank of restaurants for towns and cities. Yelp is extremely accessible on mobile devices, making it easy for travelers to quickly search and select restaurants while exploring a new city, and Yelp has a big impact on dining decisions: as little as half a star difference in a restaurant’s Yelp score can swing business up by 27%.
One of the things that distinguishes Yelp from other social media and review sites and makes it my favorite way to search restaurants is the price range feature. Next to every restaurant, Yelp shows how many dollar/euro/etc. signs the restaurant is out of four, allowing users (hello college students on a budget!) to get a feel for how much they’re going to be spending on a meal.
We ended up eating at a restaurant called Osteria Santo Spirito, where I had what was, and probably ever will be, the best gnocchi dish of my life. This amazing first meal in Florence was followed by equally amazing meals of spaghetti, pizza, ravioli, and gelato (yes for dinner – sorry mom). After eating my way through Florence, at restaurants I had both researched and stumbled upon while walking, I realized that restaurant ratings really don’t always matter that much, because some towns are filled with amazing food no matter where you go.