Ever hear of Restaurantica?
6/3/2008 Sponsored Post:
I was asked by the owners of Restaurantica.com to “review” their site, which consists of over 100,000 restaurant reviews nationwide. Hopefully they’ll find my advice and observations useful.
The premise is to provide a directory of places to eat, and allows a forum for “Restauranticians” to share their views (“the good, the bad and the ugly”). Their site indicates it’s run by 10 people, and has been in business for five years. Listings are arranged by city, and can be sorted alphabetically or by rank. They currently have a dedicated listing for the city of Hoboken, but it only has one ranked restaurant: 10th & Willow.
After using it briefly, I’ll sum it up:
- The site is well designed and simple to use. The color choices and open space make it easy on the eyes.
- The technology behind writing a review is slick. Fancy gliders for the three categories add a bit of fun to the review process.
While the site is an ambitious effort to get the whole country to review restaurants on the same website, I feel this is where it might fall short.
For starters, there are already many “global” sites trying to go “local,” such as Citysearch, Google, Yahoo and more. There is just something missing when a cookie-cutter website conglomerate tries to have that local flair. Just doesn’t feel right to me. So their competition already has a huge head start on them, and it’ll be tough to build up a giant depository of reliable reviews. How many websites do you check before deciding where to eat? You could sit there all night trying to find a perfect place, and end up going hungry.
Secondly, leaving the reviews entirely up to anonymous posters will probably leave many folks confused. Why not incorporate some Zagat-style into the site? An editorial review, along with photos of the food and the restaurant seriously can help.
Furthermore, I believe a forum-style discussion about a restaurant also helps give you a “feel” for what a place is like, what kind of clientèle it attracts, updates other than just reviews, and more. To have just good, good, bad, bad, ok, good, bad reviews in succession might just leave you scratching your head.
If I owned Restaurantica, I’d suggest hiring dedicated restaurant reviewers for each city they cover, to provide their own viewpoint on an establishment. Additionally, I’m not sure how their ranking system works. For instance, with the 10th & Willow review, the one person reviewing it gave stellar 9’s across the board, but the overall rank was 6.9. What gives?
One other thing that might help, is to get menus, so folks can see what their choices are, cost, etc.
Overall, I was surprised that being in business for so long, that most places even in their most popular cities, all had single-digit reviews. Perhaps if they improved the features and added more visuals the site it might become a valuable resource in some communities. But trying to break into all markets, where there already may be a really crowded web community might be tough.
Good luck to them anyway! Give it a shot, and share your thoughts in the comments section below.