How to Find the Best Local Restaurants

Finding a local restaurant is easy as long as you know where to go to find recommendations. Depending on the city and the access you have to technology, you’ll be surprised at how many great restaurants there are just waiting for you to find them.

One main go-to is Yelp offers regular reviews from everyday patrons like yourself. There are reviews from people from all around the world who stop by the restaurant, so you’ll have candid reviews from locals and out-of-towners alike. The other great thing about Yelp is the star-rating system. You’ll have easy access to reviews just by seeing the star rating. If a restaurant has one or two stars, why go there if there’s another restaurant nearby with four to five stars? But do consider the full review to get the whole picture. The downside to these regular patron reviews is that a single bad experience might be an anomaly compared to other experiences. If a restaurant has only one bad review and it doesn’t seem to reasonable, consider other factors like location, ambience, menu and pricing.

Frontdesk Recommendations

If you’re staying at a hotel or hostel, always stop by the front desk and ask if there are recommendations for places to eat nearby. There’s nothing more reliable than a local’s tastes. The front desk might also have menus, pamphlets and phonebooks that have a list of restaurants and deals nearby. These will all be useful as long as you take advantage of them!

Recommendations from Friends

The gift of social media is that you can access tips and advice from friends from all over the place. A simple posting on Facebook with a question could lead to great crowdsourcing of information from friends who’ve visited the city you’re in. They’ll have great tips.

Google Maps

The excellent thing about Google Maps on your mobile device is its ability to locate where you are through its network and finding restaurants with online ratings immediately. If you have a mobile or tablet, consider downloading the Google Maps app to find restaurants with online star-ratings immediately.

Having a Goal

If you have a goal in mind as to what you want to eat, it’ll narrow down your options a great deal. For instance, if you want Mexican, you can focus spending your time on finding Mexican restaurants in your area. If you want French, Korean, Chinese, Turkish or Ethiopian, you can narrow down your search to those options just as easily.

Lookup What Your Town is Known For

Every city boasts its must-have foods. For instance, if you’re in New York, a pizza is a must. So is a falafel, bagel and hotdog. But since you know the main food items it boasts, consider having one of those as options. Given the close association of food and tourism, you can easily lookup what your local city is known for and go for those items during your next dining trip.

Talk to Locals

Locals will always be around no matter where you go. If you’re a tourist in a new city, don’t be afraid to chat it up the next time you go to a cash register for a transaction, or when you’re standing in line at a bus stop. People are more willing to chat than you’d expect. Ask if they recommend anything.

Professional Food Reviews

Magazines like TimeOut and newspapers like the New York Times have food reviews regularly. Keeping up with reading material on sources like these might give you an idea the next time you go through a certain location. Reading professionally written reviews would also give you an inkling as to what you should go for when you get there and what you might avoid. If you come across a restaurant review that you like, make note of it, and do a little online research so that the next time you visit that city, you know exactly where to go!

Be Spontaneous

No matter where you go, there will always be a spot open to eat. People have to eat, right? The next restaurant you see just around the corner just might have the best meal ever. You never know. So if you step in, ask them what they’re famous for and consider having that as your meal. You might really enjoy it!

How to Hire the Best Local Service Company

Winters can be brutal. When spring finally arrives, and you need to make repairs to your home, you will have a decision to make. Which local service company should you hire? Depending on where you live, a search can reveal hundreds of choices. Randomly choosing a service company could have disastrous or expensive results. Below are three things you can do to narrow down the choices and help you decide which company will be best for you.

Check Credentials

When you hire a service company, make sure that the individual they send to work on your home is licensed. Each trade has its own kind of educational and licensing process to verify and ensure that members of that trade have the skills, expertise, and experience to do the job correctly. Before hiring any kind of service tradesman, be sure to check his credentials. Do more than ask for his trade license number. Once you have that number, call the trade association or guild associated with that license to make sure that the license is current and that it is actually a bona fide license. (One local church in Albuquerque found out, after it was too late, that the person they hired had furnished them with someone else’s contractor’s number!)

Make sure that the tradesman is bonded and insured, either individually or through the service company. Ask to see documents that prove that he and his company are bonded and insured for an amount that covers the cost of your project and any subcontractors and suppliers that may be brought on for the project. This protects you from being responsible for unpaid suppliers or subcontractors. It also protects you in the event that a contractor’s negligence causes damage to your home. Additionally, an uninsured contractor may be able to hold the homeowner responsible for injuries that he incurs while working on your house.

Check references

References are an important part of your decision to hire a service company, but it isn’t enough to simply ask for references. You must also check them to make sure that this company’s references are actual customers, not just best friends and family members. When you call the references, be prepared to ask some tough questions. Was the job completed as scheduled and on budget? Did the contractor and his company respect your property or did they leave a mess that had to be cleaned up later? Call your local cleaning company! Ask the people listed as references if you can come see the work that was performed by the service company. If a company hasn’t provided references that are willing to let you see the work that was done, this may be an indicator that you should look for a different company.

Check Reviewing Agencies

Checking the company’s credentials and references is only part of your pre-hire homework. There are many agencies geared toward helping you decide which service company is right for you. You can check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against a certain company. Additionally, you can use websites like Home Advisor and Angie’s List to help you choose a service company, check its credentials, look at photos and examples of previous work done, and read reviews from other people who have hired that particular company or individual.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, hiring a local service company to do work on your home can be an intimidating task. There are a lot of things to factor into your decision, and no one wants to risk becoming another good example of home improvement “gone bad,” not to mention the exorbitant costs that are often associated with botched jobs that must be redone. Who can afford to pay to have work done twice? However, by following these simple steps, you can take the guesswork out of the process and choose the best company to get the job done professionally, correctly, and at a reasonable price.

7 Tips for Setting up an Event in Your Downtown Area

Whether your goal is to call attention to a product, service or cause, holding an event in your downtown area is going to require excellent timing and planning if you hope to make it a success. Of course, your downtown area is unique, but no matter the size or commercial makeup of the businesses in the area, universal event rules apply. Allow plenty of time to make your plans so nothing falls through the cracks. By the way, it’s okay to pat yourself on the back after the fact when you pull off your successful event!

1. Set a date far in advance of your event. It’s never too early to pick a date since you’ll have more options and choices if you book in advance as well as opportunities to change the date(s) if it turns out the downtown area has already been heavily booked for other local events. Factor in the weather based on your area’s history and strike off dates already nabbed by entities like your municipal government and visitors and tourist bureaus. Once you choose your date, it’s wise to pick a back-up date, just in case.

2. Select a venue. Creative event planners know that the more unusual the venue, the more likely a big crowd will show up, so don’t look exclusively at banquet halls, hotels, theaters and churches. Event planners have staged events at zoos, museums, costume factories, airport hangars, rooftops, formal gardens and historical buildings open to public bookings. Grab a phone book, gather together helpers and brainstorm. Let everyone know that all ideas are fair game.

3. Pick a theme. If your downtown event is a recurring one, you may not need a new theme, so bypass this tip. On the other hand, if you’re responsible for coming up with one, don’t pick a theme that’s incompatible with the venue or location you booked. Consider a theme based on your downtown’s history, the season, an homage to one or more local heroes or borrow from a popular media idea, like holding an American Idol contest, running an auction or staging an interactive program like a murder mystery based on the history of your downtown area.

4. Generate start-up money. You can’t get an event off the ground without seed money. If you’ve already earmarked funds, good for you. If you haven’t, there are myriad options for underwriting your pre-event expenses. Ask for contributions from the community-at-large. Apply for a loan if you’ve equity to put up as collateral, or apply for a grant if you’re throwing an event associated with a cause or charity. Open a separate bank account in the name of the event and only write checks and deposit funds related to the event itself from that account so you don’t get into IRS hot water.

5. Obtain permits. If your downtown event is to be held on public property, you might need one or more permits. Some towns and cities require event organizers to “pitch” their ideas to a board or commission granting such permissions, so be prepared to put on a dog and pony show–after all municipal officials want to know exactly what you have in mind and whether it is both legal and kosher! Even if you don’t need permits, talk to a broker or agent about event insurance, since any time crowds gather, event organizers could find themselves, their business or their organization at risk if there’s no liability coverage.

6. Book vendors. Even planners who have launched their efforts early will have plenty of opportunity to comparison shop caterers, decorators, food and beverage vendors, event security, janitorial and wait staff or any of the auxiliary people and services you may need to stage your particular event. Expect to sign contracts and when you do, always ask to have a specific back-out date built into the documentation. If your event does not meet your projected attendance numbers or something catastrophic happens that requires canceling, that back-out date allows you to can cancel vendors but not incur cancellation fees. Make sure everything is in writing!

7. Prepare a PR plan. Every downtown media event requires a PR plan so you can get out the word both before and after. You can develop a paper or digital media kit that consists of a backgrounder, press release(s), Q&A sheet, personality profiles (important if a celebrity is a focal point) and incentives for press to show up, like a private meet-and-greet, open only to journalists. Sometimes, all that’s left behind after an event is a big clean-up job and post-event analysis, so if you can also add great press clips to your files, you can declare your downtown event a success!