Digital

Facebook Graph Search test drive: Can the social networking giant find you a good restaurant?

@denschaal

Jan 16, 2013 10:37 am

Skift Take

Facebook Graph Search is a fun tweak for tracking your friends, but it isn’t a serious restaurant or travel research tool, for now.

— Dennis Schaal

Free Report: The State of Student Travel

Facebook's new Graph Search enables members to view photos of members who've visited area restaurants.


Yesterday, on the day that Facebook announced the closed beta of its Graph Search, which enables you to search Facebook for nearby restaurants and music your friends like, among other options, Yelp’s stock price plunged more than 7% — and it dipped even further today.

There’s the fear that Facebook’s search refinements will be a proverbial Yelp killer, but Yelp investors who are running away from the stock obviously haven’t yet been able to take Graph Search out for a spin.

But, Skift did.

We can say that Facebook Graph, in its earliest incarnation, gives restaurant review site Yelp a few more years of breathing room (assuming that the latter can start making some money).

When it comes to searching for nearby restaurants, Graph Search indeed loads Facebook results for eateries based on your location, but the information about them is relatively lightweight, and more oriented toward your Facebook friends and other Facebook members who have visited the restaurant.

You can refine your search to look for single men or women who have visited the restaurant, or people from your hometown or current city.

Graph Search’s Facebook page for TGI Friday’s in West Orange, New Jersey, provides members’ photos, a map, the number of likes (688), the address, no phone number, the hours of operation, your friends who have visited the place, and posts about the restaurant.

Comments like the one from someone named Erica Cane, “Enjoying my drinks and appetizer @ happy hour baby,” hardly would constitute make-or-break advice in deciding whether or not to head over to the restaurant.

And, in their collective culinary wisdom, Facebook members rate the restaurant 3.5 stars out of 5 while Zagat gives the place a 13 out of 30 score, or its second-lowest ranking of “fair to good.”

Meanwhile, Yelp users rate the restaurant just 2.5 out of 5, and offer 13 reviews, most of which are more meaty (pun intended) than the cryptic Facebook posts.

And, the Yelp listing for the restaurant provides more details, including the price range, credit card information, the ambiance, and noise level, than Facebook currently does.

Still, Facebook’s introduction of its Nearby feature and use of that data to inform Graph Search means the social network is showing heightened interest in restaurants, and that is what is panicking some Yelp investors.

Graph Search currently is focused on restaurants, music, games, and your friends’ photos so it isn’t all-out “social travel” yet.

There is no specific hotel search feature in it, for example, and there is no monetization attempt, either.

These are early days, but so far Graph Search is oriented more toward friend searching and gawking at their photos and videos than being some kind of major threat to Yelp, Zagat, or other startups.

Interested parties will have to see how it develops.

Graph Search is currently in limited preview mode, and on desktop only. Facebook states Graph Search is coming to mobile “later in 2013.”

Actually, if Yelp investors want to face their fears, they might look more heavily at what TripAdvisor is doing with restaurants.

TripAdvisor, known for its hotel reviews, is becoming more of a full-service travel site these days, and is finally putting more focus on restaurants.

For example, Locu announced partnerships yesterday with TripAdvisor — as well as CitySearch — to access Locu’s real-time menu information.

Says Ravi Mehta, TripAdvisor’s senior director of consumer product: “Our users will be able to browse full menus, daily changing specials, and wine lists for their favorite local restaurants.”

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