I’ve joined the smart phone revolution out of pique at Verizon and the hefty discount I could get on AT&T due to grandparents and parents on their family plan. Thus far I am most impressed by the Yelp application. Earlier this morning, I found myself in Hollywood, needful of a good spot for lunch, and afterward desiring a coffee shop with outdoor seating, free WiFi, sparse crowds and electrical outlets. A month ago I would’ve driven around semi-aimlessly and wound up someplace less than optimal. Today I allowed Yelp to determine my location, scrolled through its restaurant and coffee shop options, and enjoyed the following: three exceptional fish tacos for $4.50, and what may be the perfect coffee shop for writing work, The Lyric Hyperion Theater and Cafe.
What I am hoping — I’m stealing this insight from a conversation, but I don’t remember who I had it with — is that Yelp plus smart phones, and other similar applications, will tip the competitive balance away from chain restaurants and toward exceptional independent eateries, bars and coffee shops. The uncertainty that is a cost of trying these establishments is growing ever lower with crowd-sourced ratings and reviews that are readily accessible even in neighborhoods far from where one lives. There is some lost fun finding hidden gems oneself, but I nevertheless welcome my new Yelp overlords.