Disclosure: This where should I eat shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #SummerIsForSavings #CollectiveBias #WFM1
Follow these five simple rules to answer the question “Where should I eat?” Use my system, and you’ll never pick a bad restaurant again.
Where Should I Eat? How to Pick a Restaurant the Right Way
When I’m dining out in my hometown, I’m usually familiar enough with the local restaurants to make the selection process easy.
When I’m on the road, it’s a different situation. This summer, my family will be on a road trip stretching across 5 states and 5 days. I decided that it would be a good idea to codify my restaurant selection process to make picking restaurants foolproof.
Throughout my travels, I’ll be using my $49.88 PLUS Plan Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data (which includes up to 15GB of 4G LTE† then 2G*) from Walmart Family Mobile, powered by T-Mobile, to get all the restaurant info I need to make a decision on where to eat. With no contract, no activation fees, and no late fees, it was a snap to get it going in time for all the summer activities I have planned.
Everyone has a restaurant fantasy. It’s a dream restaurant where the food is cooked perfectly, the service is efficient, and you’re pleasantly surprised by the affordability of the bill. Unfortunately, we live in reality, and very few restaurants provide all three. As the old saying goes, “Good, cheap, fast—pick any two.”
Since online reviews became a thing, I’ve made an obsessively detailed study of them. I’ve compared hundreds of real-life experiences in restaurants to their online reviews to determine what, exactly, is the key to picking a good restaurant out of the lineup.
Over the years, I’ve asked myself “Where should I eat?” so many times that I’ve turned the answer into a set of five simple rules. Follow them, and you’ll be able to pick a good restaurant with uncanny accuracy, whether you’re on the road this summer or kicking back at home.
The “Where Should I Eat?” Rules
Rule #1: Ratings Matter
Sometimes, ratings don’t tell the whole story. But they tell most of it, especially if the reviews have been accumulating for at least a few months. Glance at two or three review aggregator sites (sites that collect lots of reviews from regular people), and if the restaurant in question doesn’t have at least 3 stars, eliminate it. Sound harsh? Most people will go out of their way to say something nice, so if anything, most reviews are slightly inflated.
It’s a snap to use my Walmart Family Mobile LG L-59 Grace smartphone for this step. With coverage on T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G LTE† network, I can look up ratings using my data plan as needed.
And since there are so many restaurants in most areas, if you simply eliminate everything with an average rating less than three stars, you’ll immediate limit your pool to good possibilities.
Rule #2: Dealbreakers Are Dealbreakers
I don’t care how many great ratings a restaurant has. If it has any of my dealbreakers, it’s a “No.” What exactly are the dealbreakers when picking a restaurant? That’s easy.
The first dealbreaker is an unacceptable health department score. Every restaurant has minor violations, but if a restaurant has any big ones (critters, rampant food storage issues, etc.), I’ll move on.
The second dealbreaker is the bathrooms. As one famous chef said, “They let you see the bathrooms.” In other words, you can’t see the kitchen—but if the bathroom is that bad, imagine what they’re doing in the kitchen. Watch for reviewers taking time out to talk about their visit to the ladies’ or gents’ room. You may learn something important.
Continue to play detective by using your device to browse user-submitted pictures of restaurants. If you have a good data plan, like my Walmart Family Mobile $49.88 PLUS plan, you can entertain yourself by discovering how many people actually like to document the state of the restrooms in the restaurant they’re visiting.
Rule #3: The Customer Is Mostly Right
If you have a dietary restriction, or an allergy, this could very well be a dealbreaker. My favorite strategy is to search within a review listing for a particular special request, such as “gluten” or “peanut” or “well done,” and see how those requests have been handled in the past. Did the server roll their eyes or get snippy? Next!
The customer may not always be right, but as long as the customer is polite, they deserve to be treated politely in return. If you’re paying for your meal, you should be able to scorch your steak into carbon in peace, if that floats your boat.
Personally, I cry when my steak goes over medium, so I like to use my Walmart Family Mobile data plan to double check that steakhouses actually accomplish their patrons’ preferred doneness. I mean, sure, if things go awry I could console myself later with the free VUDU◊ movie rental credit valued at $7 that I get every time I renew my service, but why not go for both a good dinner and a good movie?
Rule #4: The Happy Medium of the Crowd
There’s nothing I like less than having a reservation but having to wait 45 minutes or more for a table, unless it’s walking into a empty restaurant and having to think about how long the guacamole might have been sitting in the refrigerator. When you look at reviews, you must read between the lines to find the sweet spot between insanely crowded and deserted.
Empty restaurants mean slower food turnover. How long has that fish been sitting untouched? It’s anyone’s guess. Why is the shrimp special of the day covered in a vinegar-based sauce? Could it be because vinegar covers its slightly funky “aged shrimp” smell? Don’t be the person who finds out the answer to these questions the hard way.
On the other hand, some restaurants are in very high demand, and that can be a good thing. Overbooking, however, is not a good thing. It not only increases the wait time, but it also encourages the staff to turn over the tables faster (in other words, to rush you through your meal so the next party can be seated sooner). Rushed meals can translate to poor service and careless food prep.
With my larger data bucket of 15GB of 4G LTE† from Walmart Family Mobile, I get to stay connected and get all this information on the fly, no matter where I am. If I’m going to be picky when I ask “Where should I eat?,” at least I can be efficiently picky.
Rule #5: The Tiebreakers
So you’ve found two or three restaurants that follow rules one through four. It’s time to use tiebreakers! Ideally, once you’ve reached this stage, any restaurant you choose from your shortlist should be a good one. These last few criteria will give you the final, gentle nudge to your ultimate destination.
The first tiebreaker is mood. What are you most in the mood for? This tiebreaker works well when your final contenders serve different cuisines, such as Italian or Mexican, or have different service styles, such as fast casual or table service.
The second tiebreaker is price. This tiebreaker works well when there is a large price difference. And hey, since I’m saving so much with my Walmart Family Mobile $49.88 PLUS Plan, I can afford to be more flexible.
The third tiebreaker is distance. When you’re hungry, proximity is a major selling point.
The fourth tiebreaker is a personal recommendation. This one depends upon the taste-oriented reliability of the person giving the recommendation. Ask yourself, “Have the other restaurants this person has recommended to me been good experiences?” If so, go for it. If not… run.
Now that you know the answer to the question, “Where should I eat?,” tell me your restaurant-picking tips in the comments.
Be sure to get Walmart’s Best Pricing in no contract Wireless plans to enhance all your summer fun. Just pick a phone, pick a plan, activate, and go! Look for the $49.88 PLUS Plan in your local Walmart.
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