Best Restaurant Apps for Travel that You Will Actually Use

I eat out every day and usually twice a day while travelling, here are the best restaurant apps I use and everything I have learned about dining out.

Best Restaurant Apps for Travel

I don’t usually plan my eating very far in advance. Generally, I’m walking around and get hungry so I start looking for somewhere to eat. I like value for money, not necessarily cheap and I like eating what I can’t get in other places. When I was in Italy I was eating all the pasta, pizza and gelato that I could!

I don’t go to the restaurant on the main square or even the busiest road, I like to go a few blocks away and explore off the beaten path a bit. I don’t go anywhere where they have a guy or girl trying to get you to come in the restaurant, this is the surest sign that it is a tourist trap and should be avoided.

If there is a line out the door of locals I join the queue and order what everyone is getting.

I choose a place based on if there are people there already and if I fancy the food they are eating. I try to pick somewhere that locals are eating and not just tourists.

For when I do plan ahead I like using Hapibelly instead of Yelp.

The Hapibelly app – aggregates reviews of restaurants from Yelp, Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, Foursquare and Zomato.

Best Restaurant Apps for Non-English Menu’s

For me, if they have an English menu or even worse a multiple language menu, it shows that it is a place for tourists.

If you are in a European country and don’t speak the language, use Google Translate to scan the menu and translate the text.

There is also Waygo which translates Japanese, Chinese and Korean text from menus in the same way.

I love this app, it doesn’t need an internet connection to work. I use it every day in Taipei to help me eat.

Restaurant Eating Travel Tips

Best Restaurant Apps for Recommendations

Recommendations from a hotel should be taken with a grain of salt. Especially if they have a business card of the place, or a flyer with an offer. This means that the restaurant has been and made a deal with the hotel to promote themselves, or the restaurant belongs to a friend of the hotel, and the food and service may actually be pretty average.

Not all recommendations are equal, use a less biased system where ordinary people write reviews like Hapibelly.

What to Order?

I met four Australian guys travelling in Peru that couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. They would look at the menu in Spanish and choose by pointing to one item each. Having no idea what they were ordering. They said when the food came out, there was always a clear food winner and a food loser!

Look what people have on their table, are they just ordering drinks and snacks, or did they order a meal. If they ordered a meal did they all order the same type of meal. There is no point going to a pizza place where everyone is eating pizza and ordering something with rice!

Just because a place is busy doesn’t mean it is good. The restaurant on the main square will be busy because tourists go there as it is easy to stop there.

Generally, the larger the menu is the worse the place is. If they can make everything that means they don’t specialise in anything. I go to the place that only makes one or two dishes as they will make those dishes really well.

For a more unique experience, there are also apps for eating at a chef’s home instead of a restaurant. You get to meet up and coming chef’s and have a meal and a chat with them. You might even meet some other cool new people too. One app that does this is EatWith.

Restaurant Service Levels

I appreciate good service, but I am also willing to walk out or complain if the service is bad.
London is fast, I accept that things will be slower while I travel, but there is still a limit!

If the waiter takes ages to bring me a menu when the place isn’t busy, I have no problem getting up and leaving. I would rather give my money to someone who wants it and deserves it.

Don’t encourage bad service by simply going along with it.

We British tend not to complain unless the food is awful. I have learned to speak up for myself and hold people accountable for their mistakes. If you don’t speak up you won’t get what you want in this life.

If there is a bad service attitude in a restaurant it translates to the food as well and means they don’t put as much effort into the cooking.

Best Restaurant Apps for Tipping

I follow the tipping norms of the country I am in. However I tip in cash, so that the waiter is more likely to see some of it. If service is included, the waiters don’t get much tip, it goes to the managers and a small percentage like 15% goes to the waiting staff.

Tipping in the UK is not the norm. When a restaurant adds a service charge to your bill you don’t actually have to pay it. I have had the service charge taken off in London when the food and service was terrible. They can argue but they legally it is discretionary. The service charge in the UK is a cheeky way for the restaurant to increase the prices. Not much if any of the service charge will make it to the waiting staff.

I love Japan for their amazing service levels and they won’t accept any tips. Japanese service levels are the best and really put the UK and even the US to shame.

Read this for more about different cultures around the world and tipping.

Bathroom Reviews

If I were a restaurant reviewer I would check the bathrooms, they tell you a lot about the place. Old bathrooms mean chances are the kitchen is old as well. If they are not well maintained, probably the kitchen is not well maintained either.

McDonald’s love it or hate it, but their bathrooms are the best free toilet around. Toilets are modern like their kitchen and clean like their kitchen. You may not like the food, but if you need the toilet somewhere, McDonald’s is there for you and has free wifi 🙂

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1 Response

  1. Thanks for the HapiBelly rec, Francis! Didn’t know about that one. Could be useful in situations where one service – like Yelp – isn’t present, without having to check each of the individual services in turn.

    Although I’d be remiss if I didn’t [subtly] plug Piper – my travel tipping app for iOS

    (Offline, currently with 75 countries and 400+ individually researched travel tips)

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