Technology Used to Find Dinner, Hunger Averted


A recent brush with hunger left a North Bend, Virginia, man shaken, yet thankful for the support of his wide network of digital acquaintances. Local field correspondent Noilly Prat sat down with John Davis to recount the events leading up to his stomach rumbling near-miss.

Davis recounts, “You shouldn’t settle on where you’re going to eat dinner lightly, so I tweeted ‘NEbody know wings joint with HH deals between Woodby street and 6th ave?’ as well as updating my Facebook status to ‘going out to eat tonight, any suggestions?’ ¬†After 45 minutes passed without a response I knew I’d have to dig deeper to find my evening meal.

Social networking isn't always on time.

“First, I tried to think of all the places I might like to eat, but nothing seemed quite right. I wanted something light but savory, but not too greasy, with wings on the menu but no cracked peanuts on the floor, and of course a screaming deal on happy hour,” he explained. “That’s not too much to ask, is it?”

John briefly considered making a home cooked meal, but remembered he was out of extra virgin olive oil, which might require a trip to the store in the event he decided on Italian. While a plethora of recipe websites were available to provide suggestions and even shopping lists, the mere thought of searching through the various options for dinner deterred him.

“I decided the next logical step was to read some reviews to narrow down my choices,” he explains. After logging onto Yelp and filtering by neighborhood, rating, and price range, 4,290 search results awaited consideration. “At this point I started to get a bit anxious. What if I never found a place to eat dinner? I just wanted someone to provide me one option that met all of my requirements and was a good deal as well. I switched tactics and started flipping through my iPhone apps. I had downloaded about 60 food-related apps after my last near miss with dinner, and remember one called Eating Roulette that is like a slot machine for choosing restaurants. I finally found it, seventeen screens in. But time after time it kept suggesting an establishment that I wasn’t quite satisfied with.”

This “indecision panic” behavior is nothing new to researchers. Studies at Houston University show that white mice, when presented with the options of steak tartar, aged gorgonzola, and game hen on pilaf were unable to make a definitive decision on which entree to eat. However, when a single slice of cheddar cheese was placed in front of them, the mice were able to eat until full without regrets.

Getty image #71919535
It's a classic tale...

This same phenomena occurs for homo sapiens in their struggle to find food appealing enough to consume, comments mammalian dining expert Sidney L’Couve. “It can be overwhelming to constantly be hunting for your next meal, not knowing if its going to be hot or cold, fusion Peruvian or southern gumbo. Frankly, I’m surprised most people find the motivation to sustain themselves well into their 80s, but then again nature never ceases to amaze me.”

So how did John Davis finally succeed over the debilitating array of options to successfully eat dinner?

“Well, luckily I got a last minute foursquare update that my kickball buddy just checked in at the local pub, Burger Works ‘N More” Davis recalls. Still, he acknowledges that it was a close call and didn’t think he could have done it alone. “Sure, I ate a square meal tonight,” he continues, “but where am I going to eat breakfast? It’s a constant worry.”

Although successful in finding dinner, finding it satisfactory is another matter, it turns out. “The lamb burger was good” he reports, “but the fries were a bit soggy and the service was C+ at best. And definitely not worthy of bringing leftovers home. It’s too bad, really.”