In the world of eating out, you have your casual diners, your every-now-and-then-food enthusiast, and your hardcore foodie types. But the one thing they all have in common is a way to find and keep up with the eateries that fit their taste and pocketbook.
Way back when - which was really just a few years ago - it was a bit harder to know where the best restaurants and eateries were.Â A person either had to count on word of mouth to find a good place, see some sort of advertisement or review in the newspaper, or run into that ambitious restaurant owner who talks you into entering his establishment when you walk by.
Today it's a lot easier to find out where the hot spots are through a bevy of new smartphone apps that do everything from allowing you to see restaurant deals in real time, to making reservations and inviting friends to come dine with you, like Foursquare for example.
The company, founded by two buddies and based in New York City, gives the user suggestions on where to eat based on their preferences and past restaurant choices.
For example, if you've been frequenting a lot of Chinese restaurants, and you saved each location in the app, it will tell you about that new Szechuan place that just opened up by your house.
Foursquare will also give you deals and discounts for all the different types of eateries you've been visiting, and it will help youÂ coordinate a restaurant dinner party, or simply let your friends know where you're eating and invite them to join you for a bite.
And of course there's a review component to the app, so anybody can be a food critic with a built-in audience whenever they feel like it.
This past June, Foursquare relaunched the app after the company redesigned some of its features and highlighted its social media usage.Â
Although some of its initial user numbers have slightly decreased since the relaunch, it's still one of the more popular freeÂ foodÂ apps for Androids, iPhones and iPads.
The Around Campus app has a very specific area of usefulness, as it gathers all of the restaurant and bar deals from college campus planners and relevant Internet sources.
The app is ideal for the college kid with little to no money, or those people who happen to live in or near a college town.
The company says there are over 300 campuses that currently access the service, and the app almost serves as a personal deal expert that does all of the legwork for you by consolidating coupons and cheap places to eat.
The app also allows you to keep abreast of other businesses in the area that may be frequented and helpful to the average college student.
Around Campus is free to access and available on iOS and Androids, and withÂ new restaurants popping up by the second, these types of apps can only help consumers decide what's bestÂ out ofÂ a sea of choices.
According to research conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the entire restaurant industry will rake in nearly $632 billion before the year is over, which shows people are still eating out in droves, despite the economy, and app makers can barely keep up with the growing consumer interest.
Many of the app makers are competing with each other and trying to separate themselves by creating a unique service niche that has yet to be thought of by other companies.
Thryve is one of those apps that provide a niche service. Its creators made the app to serve as a nutritional coach to help you avoid foods that your body has a low tolerance for.
Users keep track of what they're eating and document how each food item made them feel.
Afterwards,Â the app suggests other foods to both eat and avoid, so if you that particular beverage or vegetable is making your stomach churn, the app will lead you to other options so you can hopefully enjoy your meal instead of feeling discomfort.
AnotherÂ useful electronicÂ assistanntÂ that focuses on health is Nutritionix. It helps users eat a little better by providing useful menu information for popular eating locations. Although it's really a database and not an app, Nutritionix can still be accessed on your mobile device.
So if you would like to check the nutritional information of a particular restaurant you're going to, the app will individually breakdown each item, just in case you wanted to know what's really in that cheese dish at Red Lobster.
Mobilecious is pretty cool too. For those who have immersed themselves in the food-truck craze, this nifty little app could turn into your best friend.
Simply use it to find the particular food truck you crave in real time, and you can also check out what's on each truck's menu. The app also lets you know all of theÂ RV's deals and coupons that are being offered.
Moblilecious canÂ be downloaded for free, and is only available for the iPhone and iPad.
If you're one for an upscale dining experience, and live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, Blackboard Eats may be just rightÂ for you.
The app uses staff members from the food magazine Gourmet to make suggestions, and provides deal offers, reviews and helps usersÂ find certain types of restaurants or cuisines. The app is free and can be accessed on both the Android and iOS.
All of these apps are great for foodies as well as the person who justÂ loves to restaurant-hop. It doesn't matter if your taste-buds crave a laid back meal in a moderately priced restaurant, or a high-end dish that requires dressing up a little.
Either way, it's certainly easier than driving around aimlessly searching for the perfect place to eat.