I spent most of May visiting European cities and sampling their amazing cuisine. It was not all fun and games though. Right out of the gate, I made a rookie dining mistake. At a tourist trap restaurant in Paris, I literally got ill after eating one of the worst meals of life. Not a great way to start a month long trip. I vowed not to repeat that mistake again. If only I had a guide to tell me what to avoid and what to seek out. The Lonely Planet Guide book was awesome but only covered a few places I might eat at.
Enter TripAdvisor. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants For those not familiar, it’s a site with a five step rating review system for restaurants, hotels, and attractions. The reviews and ratings are created by travelers for travelers. I downloaded their mobile app for each city I went to. It showed which restaurants were great and which were horrible tourist traps. I ate fantastically, and more importantly never got sick again. My health thanks you TripAdvisor. (Disclosure: I have no business relationship with TripAdvisor other than I’ve used their website and mobile apps.)
As a restaurateur, why should you care about one person’s travel misadventures?
Because, pardon the pun, it means the tables are turned. Previously, for travelers (the consumers), the balance of power resided with the local restaurants (the producers). For the most glaring example look at the overpriced tourist trap restaurants like the one I got sick at. The fleeced travelers could only tell a few other travelers about their experiences. It was too difficult to warn all potential travelers, so the tourist trap restaurants continued to survive. With Internet based sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, CitySearch, Google Local Reviews, and others, the power of information has shifted from producer to consumer. Now the traveler can be forewarned and forearmed with knowledge. The days of fleecing unsuspecting tourists are drawing to a close or at least a lot tougher.
The biggest take away for restaurateurs is this. Now every sale is a relationship sale. I used the dining experiences of strangers I’ve never met to pick where to eat. Before my knowledge was limited to my circle of friends and acquaintances. Now, not so much. The grape vine that customers can use to tell others about their dining experience just got much larger.
So how do we manage this new medium? Next month we’ll pass on lessons learned from a successful restaurateur in Rome, Italy.