When it’s time to enjoy a celebratory dinner or casual outing, who do you turn to for advice on the best local restaurants? More than half of Americans consult their family members and close friends for recommendations, says SevenRooms, a hospitality and reservation service. But around 35 percent of diners gave a restaurant a chance simply after seeing it on social media.
Thanks to restaurant influencers, there’s no shortage of eatery suggestions online. These influencers make it their job to hunt down tasty local treasures and report their findings on social media platforms or blogs.
Once a nail art blogger, Jenn Thai now focuses on the Tampa Bay, Florida, food scene. Visit her blog, This Jenn Girl, to find reviews of restaurants in the local area. Her posts include titles like “Housemade Pasta and Delicious Italian at Tampa’s Olivia” and “Big Ray’s Fish Camp Opens at the Sail Plaza.” Each review comes with mouth-watering pictures of each dish Thai has tried.
Thai has multiple social media accounts, so you can find updates from her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Her Instagram account is her most popular, with more than 12K followers and a regularly updated collection of pictures.
In 2012, Daymon Patterson created an over-the-top review of Five Guys’ burger and fries while sitting in his car. The hilarious video went viral, accumulating millions of views. Years later, Patterson continues to offer up comedic food reviews under the name Daym Drops. Some of his most popular YouTube videos include “McPizza at the World’s Largest McDonalds” and “Eating At The WORST Reviewed Gourmet Burger Restaurant.” As the titles imply, he often reviews offerings from fast food restaurants.
This Connecticut influencer has also appeared on television. He was the star of “Best Daym Takeout” on Travel Channel and worked as a food correspondent for the Rachael Ray Show. He also has large followings on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. He’s most popular on YouTube though, where his channel has more than 1M subscribers.
Chrissie Nelson Rotko
Chrissie Nelson Rotko may be a public defender, but she also has a passion for food that has helped her become a successful restaurant influencer. She started her blog, Off the Eaten Park, several months after moving to Charlotte, North Carolina. The blog gave her a reason to explore the local foodie scene and get to know the city. Now the blog houses a number of reviews of local restaurants. For example, in posts like “The Best Pizza In Charlotte, NC” she shares her opinions and encourages locals to vote for their favorite eateries.
In addition to reviewing restaurants, Rotko also likes to share her own recipes on her blog and social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Her cookbook, “Stunning Spreads: Easy Entertaining with Cheese, Charcuterie, Fondue & Other Shared Fare,” is scheduled for a 2020 release.
Philadelphia-native Tina Liu shares her Philly and NYC restaurant adventures on Instagram. Her account, @tinaeats_, has more than 29K followers. She’s an ice cream enthusiast, so her photo collection includes all sorts of flavor swirls, cones and sprinkles. Dessert isn’t the only thing on the menu, though. You can find plenty pizza, and occasionally other dishes, on her Instagram as well.
Liu says she started using Instagram after her younger siblings made fun of her for not having an account. Now she’s an influencer with an impressive audience. Zagat, a national restaurant review platform, even listed her on its list of top 101 food Instagrammers in 2017.
While, so far, most of the people we’ve covered are on the East Coast, it’s important to note that restaurant influencers pop up everywhere. For example, Chloe Rekow uses her Instagram account, @milehighandhungry, to explore the dining scene in Denver, Colorado. The account covers a wide variety of dining experiences, ranging from burgers and seafood to pancakes and dessert options.
Rekow, who started using the Instagram handle in 2014, says that she keeps authenticity and honest in mind as she’s sharing suggestions on Instagram. This approach, along with her social media skills (she’s the head of brand social media for a travel company), has earned her 32K followers.
A long-form blog review or even a quick shout-out on Instagram from a restaurant influencer could help your business reach a wider audience. With that benefit in mind, look for an influencer who shares your passion and taste for cuisine and begin to form a mutually beneficial partnership.
During your search, be sure to distinguish restaurant influencers from food influencers. Although they all love trying out new dishes, food influencers tend to focus on creating their own recipes, rather than writing restaurant reviews. Of course, you’re likely to find some influencers who enjoy doing both.
One more tip: location matters. Keep your eyes open for influencers who are familiar with eateries near you.