Photo: A HungryGoWhere review

Do you remember the one time when you tried a new restaurant because your friend raved about how good it is? At some point in time, most of us would accept a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family.

People know that friends and family will only recommend a restaurant if they are prepared to put their reputation on the line. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

However, in the age of Internet and social media, there is more than just word-of-mouth when it comes to food recommendations. Think about it, when exploring new dining options, apart from asking around, most people would also do a search on the internet for reviews and comments.

According to a MasterCard Survey done in 2014, Singapore consumers tend to firstly depend on word-of-mouth recommendations (49%) from their peers and relatives, followed by online reviews (46%).

In Singapore, the dependence on online blog reviews is quickly catching up to word-of-mouth recommendations due to the emergence of social media influencers. Food blogs and food review websites are playing an increasingly important role in the dining scene of today and tomorrow.

To illustrate the value creation potential of this form of media, Singtel (Singapore’s telecommunications company) acquired the prominent local food portal, Hungrygowhere, in 2012 for a value of SGD 12 million.

Hungrygowhere is a prominent local dining guide where users can gather and provide information on various establishments. Consumers looking for reviews of various dishes or restaurants can head to Hungrygowhere to read about other customers’ experiences.

Although there are plenty of food blogs out there, consumers need to be more alert when it comes to trusting food reviews. Some restaurants are paying to be featured by food bloggers or influencers. Influencers would usually label these sponsored posts or advertorials explicitly but some do not feel the need to make it unequivocal when they attend invited tastings. Some unethical bloggers may rave about the food as they are paid to do it, resulting in phony endorsements.

Savvy consumers review multiple sources, such as food blogs, feedback posted by consumers who have personally eaten at these restaurants via the restaurant’s social media pages as well as print media to help them with the decision making process.