The traditional ways to search for restaurants — Google and Yelp — aren’t cutting it for local restaurants. That’s why Eat Local Ohio, a wing of Hillcrest Food Services designed to raise awareness for local restaurants, launched a new mobile app that helps diners in Northeast Ohio and beyond navigate the world of independently owned restaurants.
Launched Oct. 15, the app features information, high-quality photography and links to websites and social media accounts for about 650 different restaurants across Ohio. Whether you’re in the mood for Italian or gastropub, location services help you find the closest local spot, while local food personalities and influencers share their favorite picks and dishes. You can even build a bucket list for when you’re stumped on where to go.
It’s all part of Eat Local Ohio’s mission to spread awareness about the importance of eating local and offer free social media marketing support to Ohio’s small food businesses.
"The most important thing for us is this is all free community love,” says Pablo Lopez, vice president of marketing. “We go out and feature these restaurants for free, and the app is ultimately free for consumers as well.”
Most restaurant apps aren’t such an even playing field, says Lopez. National brands and chains often dominate those sites by using their massive marketing budgets to buy better placement.
That’s why the brand is shifting it’s model a bit. Over the past four years, Eat Local Ohio has built an influencer-like social media presence with more than 45,000 followers, while also offering free social media advice and education to small and legacy restaurants. Now, in addition to Eat Local Ohio, it’s expanding its play in the app game by launching a menu software called Gratitude, which will help local restaurants build online menus. And while its focus is currently in Northeast Ohio, the initiative hopes to expand to all corners of the Buckeye State.
“Ultimately, the goal is to get people who eat at restaurants to support 100% local,” says Lopez. “We just kind of created it as a way to showcase local independent restaurants and really to help them win against the chains.”