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A new app launching today in D.C. presupposes that diners have grown tired of trusting strangers on Yelp and TripAdvisor—and food critics, for that matter—for restaurant rants and raves.
Tidbit offers reviews based on the recommendations of friends and others who users choose to “follow.” A restaurant’s rating will therefore vary from user to user because it’ll be based on the tastes of self-selecting groups.
Tidbit co-founder Dannie Suber says she’s relied on Yelp and glossy magazines to determine which tables to book in the past, but didn’t always fancy the results. “A year and a half ago it was one of my partner’s birthdays,” she explains. “We went to the top four restaurant according to Washingtonian’s 100 restaurant list. We thought the meal was okay, but there’s no way the restaurant should have been top four.”
She doesn’t trust Yelp either, and not just because the reviewers are alien. “Yelp gives restaurants the ability to edit reviews,” Suber continues. “Anything they do not consider to be a reliable review, they’ll delete it.”
Yelp representative Kimberly Van Santos says, “No Yelp review can be edited or removed unless it is by the user that wrote it or if it violates our terms of service.” Content guidelines cite threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, and other displays of bigotry as problems that could impact whether Yelp will remove false or defamatory reviews.
The goal for the Tidbit team is to provide a review platform that’s “based on quality and based on people who you trust because they share your background; they have the same wallet,” according to Suber.
In the app, users rate individual dishes, plus service and ambiance. “You rate the dishes from one to ten and that populates an average based on your restaurant experience,” Suber explains. The hope is friends will know what to order and what to skip when they visit a restaurant. “You don’t have to rely on a waiter who will probably sell you what the kitchen needs to get rid of or the most expensive item,” she says.
Things get a little hazy when it comes to restaurants whose menus change frequently, like Tail Up Goat, Kinship, and countless others. Hyper-seasonal cooking is trending, and tasting menu restaurants like Komi and Little Serow rotate dishes often.
As far as keeping menus updated, Tidbit has partnered with Singleplatform, which provides menus to OpenTable based on information that restaurant owners have certified, according to Suber. Additionally, she says, “We have a team of 20 people that are very organized and know which menus change with frequency. It’s our duty to update the menu and have it be current.”
They’re banking on the fact that at least the signature dishes will remain in place. For tasting menu restaurants, Suber says, diners rate the whole experience.
The app allows users to upload their reviews to other social networks like Twitter and Facebook, plus you can e-mail or text reviews to friends. There are also ways to add restaurants to wish-lists and invite friends to dinner through the app using an integrated chat function.
Today marks the D.C.-based company’s launch in the District, New York, and Miami. But Suber says they hope to expand to California. Several of the founding partners went to school in D.C., but Suber says they ultimately decided to launch it here because of what she calls the recent restaurant boom. The app is available to download here.