Food and Technology: A Match Made in Heaven

Technology is a great thing for the modern foodie.
Technology is a great thing for the modern foodie. - Photo by Erik S. Lesser for The NY Times

Do you have any idea how long it would take you to eat at every full-service restaurant in the United States? Imagine it. Every day of your life – breakfast, lunch and dinner – how  long would it take you to eat your way across America? Well, if you were to eat out for three meals a day, your total number of meals out in a one year period would be 1,095. Even at that pace, can you manage a guess of how long it would take you?

Got your guess ready? Well, here is the answer. It would take over 196 years to manage to eat at every full-service restaurant in this country. That is mind-boggling, and to be perfectly honest, that’s based on census numbers from 2006 and does not include limited-service “fast food” restaurants. Today, the total number of all restaurants is closer to 700,000, and again, we’re just talking about the good ole US of A here!

How on earth are you supposed to know where the best places to eat are?

One thing you can do is continue to follow this blog! (Come on, I need to throw in the occasional shameless plug, don’t I?) I know its occasional slow goings here, but what I may lack in quantity I make up for in quality! To that end, here are some awesome (additional) ways to let technology work for you in your search for great food. Trust me, food and technology really are a match made in heaven!

Zagat To Go – mobile.zagat.com

Obviously, all on its own, the Zagat website itself is an excellent resource for finding information on restaurants. Whether you’re just wondering about the price per person of a typical meal, or want actual ratings on food, decor and service, Zagat has you covered. The snarky commentary in some of the reviews definitely adds to the fun!

But, if you’re on the go, Zagat has made it simple to have quick access to their wealth of knowledge. Enter Zagat To Go!

This mobile Zagat guide is available on pretty much every mobile platform out there (iPhone, Android, Palm, Windows, etc.). As is the case with all things Zagat, there is some cost involved. Both the iPhone and Android apps will run you $9.99, while the majority of the other mobile options are $19.99 for an annual subscription. What makes Zagat To Go such a brilliant help to the foodie on the go is that the vast majority of mobile devices are aware of their location, which means these applications are aware as well. What’s the best of the best Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End? Want to find the best sushi place near the Met in NYC? Zagat To Go will get you there!

TripAdvisor – www.tripadvisor.com

TripAdvisor is another excellent site for getting good information on restaurants, more so if you are going on vacation. So often when we are in the planning stages of a vacation, we hit sites like TripAdvisor to find specific information on hotels and resorts that we plan on staying at, or to find out information on activities. For me, personally, food is as important a part of the planning as any other (maybe even MORE SO). TripAdvisor gives you some ideas as to what places to try based on customer reviews. They also have mobile apps available for both the iPhone and Android phones. Definitely worth checking out the next time you’re vacation bound, or even “night-out” bound!

Urbanspoon – www.urbanspoon.com

Urbanspoon is a bit newer to the scene, but still is respectable if you’re looking to find somewhere to eat. Like those above, they also have mobile apps available for download (and at the best price of all… FREE!). They’re a bit more limited to larger cities, hence the name Urbanspoon, but I think over time they’ll flesh out their restaurant listings even more.

And That’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg…

The truth of the matter is that there are tons of resources for finding food, and just as important, sharing your food experiences with others! Each of the above mentioned sites and applications allow YOU to share what you’re thoughts were on a given restaurant.

When all is said and done, I know that I don’t have 196 years to spend on trying to find great restaurants! As it is I already feel miserable for wasting time and money when leaving a bad one! Having access to information like this helps me to avoid that sour feeling, both literally and figuratively.

Pretty much everything in life is about experience. Some of us may choose to blindly walk in to any and every situation ignoring the advice, guidance and help of those wiser than us. Some times, we get lucky. More often than not, though, because of this arrogant way of thinking, we fall flat on our faces and realize too late that we could have avoided it.

Every meal we have can be an experience, and an excellent one at that.  So many before us have walked in to restaurants and done the fork-work, and they’re willing to talk about it. Most of us are here, ready to listen. Technology has made it just that much easier.

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One thought on “Food and Technology: A Match Made in Heaven

  1. One final app I didn’t include above, but is worth mentioning, especially to iPhone users (sorry Android folks, but they haven’t release this app for you just yet [it’s coming though]). Check out http://www.foodspotting.com. It is basically a photo sharing application, but for food! With location services similar to Zagat To Go, this app will show you actual photos taken of food at a restaurant near you. To add to the fun of it, there are “guides” that you can make use of. For example, one of the guides is “ZAGAT: Most Popular Boston Restaurants”. It gives you a full list of different dishes at different restaurants around Boston. Go around and take pictures of five of the dishes mentioned, and you unlock a badge. Silly? Sure, but it’ll get you out to restaurants you otherwise may not have had a chance to visit, and maybe even trying a dish you might have otherwise ignored. It’s like a restaurant scavenger hunt!

    And, let’s face it! Who doesn’t like collecting badges?!

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