Since few years ago being a laowai unable to speak Chinese and a foodie in Shanghai is no problem anymore because there are a couple of applications essential to help you get your belly full: BonApp! and SmartShanghai (a.k.a. SmSh).
Planning for a romantic dinner or a place to go for a nice cocktail? Maybe somewhere to get a brunch for hangover recovery? Don’t worry because the solution is in your phone, just need to download the BonApp! or SmartShanghai applications and after register yourself in and start to search the place to hit. Simple as it seems.
SmartShanghai opened their website 15 years ago to make the expat life easier. It’s an online magazine that contains everything that a laowai needs to survive in the city: A housing platform, a second-hand market, a ticket handling service, and even an online dating community, and last but most important a huge list of the best bars and restaurants in town. In that list there are all the information you might need to help you decide to go or not to a restaurant. One brilliant thing that SmSh did very well was sharing the venue location using both Google Maps and Baidu Maps in order to help expats without access to a VPN.
Shanghai is a city with tons of restaurants, but is honest to say that mostly all the expats after having tried a bunch they always go back to their favourites. To be included in those selected lists, and obviously increase their revenues, during the weekdays almost all the restaurants offer some deals. As you can guess, to find out today’s promotion you just need to open one of these foodie apps and chose the venue it fancies you the most because all the deals are perfectly described.
BonApp! is more recent than SmSh and covers more or less the same stuff. All the restaurants and bars are well described and organized by kind of cuisine. The deals are listed and like SmSh app allows your smart phone GPS to let you know the hottest venues closer to you. However the main difference is that the platform strengthen a deep social interaction between their users. All registered users can post a review (positive or negative) and these are kept in their profile. If someone is very active and publish a lot of reviews other users can follow him or her and therefore he or she become a foodie influencer.
Last but not least, both applications offer a booking service for restaurants and bars provided by the Singaporean firm Chope. Once you already decided where to go and knowing that in a crowded city like Shanghai is easy to find yourself with no seat available, this third-party enables you to book a table without having to call.
In conclusion, thanks to these applications there is nothing to stop a real foodie to try the best bites in the city.