ChekPlate (Product review)

Imagine entering a restaurant and not knowing what to order. If only your foodie friends were with you – after all, you trust and would love their opinion! Sure, you could contact each of them individually and ask them what they’d recommend, but if you were all part of ChekPlate the task would be so much easier.

ChekPlate is a new free app that allows users to quickly review restaurants from their phone. How it differs from Urbanspoon or Yelp is you can limit your search to reviews from “Friends”, “Friend’s of Friends” or “All Users”. So, nagging doubts about the validity of the opinions of strangers can be filtered out leaving you with only the opinions of those you trust and value most.

It was easy to sign up and start using, the entire process took less than five minutes to find it on the App Store, download, sign up and start. Since I used it during its launch phase, ChekPlate didn’t automatically find my friends, but there are options to search through you phone, Facebook or Twitter contacts to add them quickly.  So, though the app I sent out an invite to several of my friends and once they were registered ChekPlate instantly recognized them and allowed me to connect with them.

The user interface is simplistic with a similar layout to the tiles on an iPhone making it intuitive to use. In the end, if you have any technologically challenged friends or family members this may be an easier system for them to figure out.

Personally, I found the app worked best when you were at the restaurant and found the establishment using the “Nearby” option. The system would list restaurants in the area usually with the one I was visiting found first given its closest. Whereas, trying to review a restaurant by “Name” was sometimes unsuccessful especially when visiting a newer establishment – I guess it’s similar to other rating sites where you are relying on individuals to update the search results.  Moreover, even if the restaurant doesn’t show up in the list when using the “Nearby” search, the app allows you to add a restaurant and it will prefill the address portion of the listing on your behalf.

Adding an opinion at the restaurant didn’t take much time given you really just need to choose a rating out of 5 for food, service and price.  Then, if you want you can include comments (I found this was useful for listing dishes that were good or horrible) or a picture - the amount of time to spend depends on you. All in all, I’d say the average review took about three minutes so I normally did it while waiting for the bill.

ChekPlate does have limitations. Firstly, since it can’t be accessed through a computer (unless I couldn’t figure out how) the post relies on your phone to type up entries; so, it’s not conducive to long detailed reviews.  Similar to other sites, you can add photos but can’t put the photos directly into the review itself. Consequently, when a restaurant has multiple reviews it gets hard to decipher which photo goes with which post. Lastly, as with most social media, it relies on the network effect where individuals will want to use it as more of their friends join. At this point, given only a few of my friends have downloaded the app (but aren't active users) ChekPlate's benefit of getting their opinions is limited. But, if you join and want to follow someone please feel free to add to your contacts and we can connect!

In the end, ChekPlate appears to be better suited for quick reviews that are short and sweet (well maybe not sweet if it’s a bad one). Think of it as the Twitter of the review world, where you do a short blast to your friends and family. I used ChekPlate to simply tell my followers what my favourite dishes were and what to avoid but the rationale to my choices were left out. Who knows, maybe sometimes people don’t even care about the painstaking details I write about. With so many articles reporting on how attention spans get shorter with every new generation, perhaps ChekPlate will become the next phase on how we rate restaurants? 

Disclaimer: The product was complimentary basis and this is a sponsored post. However, the opinions expressed, as always, are honest and my own. 

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