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Facebook page posting 'positive' Edmonton restaurant reviews gaining popularity

Keri Doyle knows, and knew in 2016 when she and a friend created a Facebook page dedicated to eating out in Edmonton, that there are at least "a million food pages and restaurant pages out there."

In order to stand out and attract an audience, she figured they had to do something different to shape the page — called Edmonton, YOU'VE GOT TO EAT HERE!!, a handle inspired by a TV show — and decided they needed to keep the tone of posts positive.

"It's not your average rant-and-rave page. I don't allow any negative posts," Doyle told CTV News Edmonton of the local Facebook foodie destination that has close to 58,000 members and currently attracts about 1,000 new ones a week. "This is where you've got to eat, not where you don't want to eat ... there are other sites for that. You can disagree with the poster. However, you don't have to say 'Yes, I love that, too,' when you don't. You just can't make your initial post a negative post."

Now, what started as two friends who would hit up a couple of different Edmonton-area restaurants per week, posting photos and writing about the new dishes that wowed them, has mushroomed into an army of reviewers who contribute multiple local restaurant reviews per day that are reflective of a variety of tastes.

A few restaurants have noticed an increase in the number of customers thanks to exposure on Doyle's Facebook page, including Sal's Famous on 82 Street just north of the Yellowhead.

"They just, like, pull out their phones and show me the pictures of the calzone that was featured on that page in particular," said Hadia Halabi of Sal's Famous, which has other family-owned and operated locations in Edmonton, Morinville, Barrhead and Athabasca.

"I'm here all the time, and I can tell when new faces come in, and I ask my customers all the time, 'What brings you in today? How have you heard about us?' ... Every time we get featured (on the Facebook page) we get a rush from those new faces trying us, so it benefits us a lot."

Although the initial intent of the page wasn't to drum up business for local restaurants, rather to "share a love for food," Doyle says it's "definitely a positive" that some places have seen an increase in customers.

"You want everybody to try all our little local gems," she said. "You want to shine a spotlight. You want them to stick around because we enjoy them, so I feel like it is helping support our community."

Doyle says what seems to draw people to the page is excitement to try something new and good, their choices aided by posts generated by members.

"It's a new experience, a new taste. It's something to talk about with your friends," said Doyle. "Everybody brings their friends in on the page, as well, and they have conversations back and forth about where they're going to meet up next week, or what they have to try, what's on the list. Everybody's talking about their list."

As for what happens next for the page and how it may evolve, Doyle said she doesn't yet "know where it's going to go."

"I love doing it," she said. "It's a hobby. Definitely as we get more members, it's a little more work. I've brought on a co-administrator, so she helps me when she can. Ideally, I'd like to figure out some way to monetize the site so that I can spend more of my time just on the site."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

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