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Pew Research Says 17% of Adults Use Restaurant Review Sites

I’ve covered tourism and restaurants for a long time. My approach to finding new venues to explore – and in this case, new restaurants to eat – has always been simple. 

I like to ask the locals. 

It goes something like this, “Hi, I’m not from around here. Can you recommend a good place to eat?” This always has led to good fortune and great meals. 

So you would think that I would be OK with checking well-known restaurant sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon for food feedback. The truth is that I’m not great at it.

But what I found is that a great many of you are. 

A Facebook poll of my pals found that many use Yelp either “a lot” or “all the time.” Urbanspoon was lesser known (and also lesser used). Some friends even reported frequently using both sites.

Specialty websites like Yelp and Urbanspoon garners a healthy chunk of visitors – 17 percent of those looking for food options, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project

But beware – even those awesome sites come with snags. At least a couple people (one a restaurateur) informed me that sites like Yelp don’t always publish the best and shiniest reviews. 

“Yelp is considered the whining platform,” said Josh Harcus, director of business development with Say It Social, a social media strategy agency. “Also with the ‘filter,’ Yelp removes positive reviews … at will.”

In December, Pew released the results from a national survey done with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  The survey asked where people get information about restaurants and local businesses. 

When it came to shopping for restaurants and bars, the majority of people (51 percent) went straight to the Internet, especially search engines (38 percent).

Newspapers — both printed copies (26 percent) and newspaper sites (5 percent) — run second behind the Internet as the source for information restaurants and bars. 

Finally word of mouth was also listed as important source of information about local businesses. Almost one-quarter of visitors still relied on this method.

And then there’s my serious foodie friend, Cindy in New York, who takes eating out to an all-new level. 

“I have heard of Urbanspoon, but I haven’t used it. I guess they need to do more marketing,” she said. “I eat out for every meal, every day and use MenuPages about 10 million times per day.”

Now that’s some food for thought. 

Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

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