Amateur Restaurant Reviews Still Raising Some Restaurateurs' Hackles

from the you-burnt-my-toast dept

Restaurateurs are faced with a swelling number of amateur critics, thanks to a proliferation of sites giving users a forum to write reviews. As we've noted before, the response to this isn't to try and clamp down on the reviews, but to make sure all customers are treated well, not just "real" critics from newspapers and other outlets. Sadly, that message doesn't seem to be getting all the way through, with some restaurant owners frustrated that user reviews aren't edited or filtered. The implication here is that everyday people can't see over their own biases and deliver objective reviews -- but there's no assurance that professional reviewers can, either, while in many cases, people don't particularly care about objectivity in reviews. For instance, people like particular movie reviewers not necessarily because they're "objective", but rather because a reviewer's tastes generally match their own. In the same vein, a restaurant review from the New York Times' critic may not mean a great deal to many people, either because of the choice of restaurant, or because of how that reviewer's background and preferences differ from their own. One freelance restaurant writer says that Yelp could or should "broaden its credibility" by expanding its pool of reviewers beyond its current and generally young-and-single crowd. But if Yelp's audience is mostly young and single, and finds contributors' reviews resonate with their point of view, what's the problem? While none of this is to say that online reviews shouldn't be taken without a grain of salt, the desire of some restaurateurs (and "professional" reviewers, apparently) for some sort of filters and controls on them smacks of little more than a reluctance to compete.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    kuronoir, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 4:00am

    wow

    I had to read this ppost twice before I realized this has to be the most poorly written entry I have read here. I'm not sure what the point is and background info (like what Yelp is) is just missed all together.

    I think what your trying to say is professional critics are good because we can align our tastes to theirs and ignore the ones we don't like, but with open reviews we can't? If that is the case, what about the concept of the wisdom of crowds (but I'm not sure you didn't cover that too in the last few sentances.. I couldn't tell)

     

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  2.  
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    kurt, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 4:31am

    restaurant reviews

    although I do not like reading a poor review of my restaurant, I get the chance to address the 'problem' in my restaurant and move forward in improving the experience at my restaurant. I have tried to contact some posters of reviews to no avail to get to the 'meat' of the problem and remedy their concerns, because I beleive some may not be real and maybe from other restaurants' employees and others trying to hurt my business--- not legitimate---just as some glowing reviews may not be. they can hide under false names, etc. this is rampant on the internet.

     

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  3.  
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    Gary, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 4:37am

    I gotta agree with the poorly-written part of the first comment.

    After reading the note twice, this is the picture I get:

    This article was written because the author read some comments by some restaurateurs about Yelp (what's Yelp? Where's the link? Who bitched? Where's the link to the bitching?)

    I suspect the author wanted to use the example to preach about the wisdom of crowds, but he forgot to include the moral of his story.

     

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  4.  
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    Mike F.M, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 4:37am

    Re: wow

    I also had to re-read some of this article.

    People should know to take these reviews as they are intended. People don't necessairly like the same things within such establishments. What may be acceptible for one may not be for another.

    The way I see these being of most use is if, after reading a selection of reviews, trends start to appear in people's opinions.

     

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  5.  
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    Bill, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 5:04am

    It's not just restaurants. I wrote a review of a liquor store near my house using Google Maps. I pretty much said the truth - the place was overpriced and if they notice someone buying the same bottle of wine over and over again, they'll start jacking the price up dollar by dollar.

    Within a week of posting my review, I got met at the store with a frosty glare. Moving to my fave bottle of reisling, I noticed she had doubled the price from the day before!

     

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  6.  
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    Gary, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 5:10am

    Thre is a legitimate problem with all these user reviews, whether of restaurants or of appliance dealers or of whatever: the pissed-off are much more likely to write a review than the delighted.

    I'd like to know how economists deal with that, and how readers can assess the real likelihood of a bad experience from reviews.

     

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  7.  
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    jeff, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 5:42am

    Re:

    Are you saying the entry by Carlos was poorly written or the nytimes article?

     

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  8.  
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    VoicesInMyHead, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 5:54am

    Now... Where did I put that F7 Key...

    Starting out with the "Where's That Old 286 Machine When You Need It?" story, and then reading this one, I think I'll take a break from these articles. I mean come on, running the entire 286 story into 3 sentences, and now this mess? If the author can't even handle professionalism in a paragraph length group of words, why should I think he/she can handle the thought process of an opinion worth considering? "--but there's no assurance that professional reviewers can, either, while in many cases, people don't particularly about objectivity in reviews." Huh?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:02am

    Re: Now... Where did I put that F7 Key...

    Honestly, your last point is an ad hominem attack.

    You're basically saying:
    He can't write professionally, therefore his opinion isn't worth considering.

    Nowhere did you offer reasoning to imply his opinion isn't worth considering. His opinion on how to write may be called into question, but his other opinions shouldn't be.

     

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  10.  
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    bullsEye, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:08am

    amateur critics

    I believe the term is CUSTOMERS. If the customers don't like the food, service etc. does it really matter what the critics think?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:09am

    Re:

    The problem isn't that "delighted" people aren't writing reviews. Its that people reading the reviews don't understand how to interpret bad reviews.

    When I was looking for a camera, I read the reviews that were around the average rating. Then I read one or two of the highest rated reviews and then I also read some of the lowest ones. Sometimes the lowest ones do that because they screwed up something they like, not necessarily because the product is terrible overall. But then you know, ok, this particular feature isn't good, but nothing else was said about it. If you don't care about the feature, then fine, but if you do, then just make sure that you can find more people talking well about that feature as opposed to badly.

    The problem lies in how people interpret reviews, not necessarily the people posting reviews.

     

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  12.  
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    Overcast, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:44am

    See what freedom to communicate gives the world?

    Businesses, Teachers, Politicians --- that all can't stand what people have to say about them.

    Get a clue, it's what people say to the individuals they know anyway, it's been happening since humans have walked the earth, it's just on a much larger scale now.

    How many times have you commented to a friend or group that a certain thing 'sucks'?

    It's called free speech, live with it.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:50am

    Re: Re:

    Do you really have to ask?

    but there's no assurance that professional reviewers can, either, while in many cases, people don't particularly about objectivity in reviews.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:54am

    Re: Re: Now... Where did I put that F7 Key...

    We all have our opinions and we are all free to express them. However, if you cannot write intelligible sentences maybe you should try talk radio...not writing articles on this site. True, he did take a partial sentence to criticise but even in its entirety it is a poorly written sentence. Some of mine probably are but then I'm just posting comments, not writing "articles".

     

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  15.  
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    daedalus, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:54am

    in defense of the article

    While I agree that this article could have used a good proof-reader, I think the point that is made is extremely valid. The fact of the matter is that restaurant reviews are NOT the same as reviews of appliance stores, etc. Communities like Yelp, Chowhound etc. are filled with foodies- people who LOVE food, and love new and unique restaurants. For them, there is much more pleasure in giving a good review to a small unknown place than a negative review based on a single bad experience. I don't think this aesthetic exists for most other types of retail establishments, as there are not many true connosieurs of appliance stores.
    I think overall the exposure is good for all but the most established restaurants that might indeed be resting on their laurels and not delivering the type of experience their reputation might promise.
    Screw the whiny restaurateurs. If they can't see value in their own customers' criticisms, they need to get OUT of food service.

     

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  16.  
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    Charlie, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 7:30am

    "While none of this is to say that online reviews shouldn't be taken without a grain of salt"

    Huhh?

    ~(~p) = p

     

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  17.  
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    Tass, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 7:59am

    reviews

    Ditto kuronoir.

     

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  18.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    Re: wow

    Yelp is a site for reviews of businesses, (I had to Google it) seems pretty expansive on first look. Seems Carlo assumed that most people know what it is, Like Facebook or Myspace. (I personally have never seen facebook.)

     

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  19.  
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    Paul, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 9:53am

    Amateur Restaurant Reviews

    I do see value in reviews by individuals who are not professionally reviewers. I think it does a couple of things.

    First it puts restaurants on notice that the quality of their service and offerings needs to be consistent at whatever price-point / service level market they target. Too often its apparent to the staff when a restaurant reviewer is in the house and the service level is kicked up a notch or two. As a result you get a "halo" review that is inconsistent with normal day-to-day service and quality.

    Second I think it provides a wider reference base for an individual to read reviews that span the spectrum from poor to outstanding. This gives the reader a better opportunity to decide what things are most important in selecting a restaurant.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 3:19pm

    Re: Re:

    And besides negative reviews generate more "controversy". In today's world if an athlete makes 99 home runs out of a hundred pitches but strikes out on the remaining one then all season long every sports outlet will only talk about that one strike out.

    This is why owners are afraid of customer reviews. By having to deal with a larger pool of reviews there is an increased chance of a few bad reviews swaying the minds of potential customers.

    Now of course the logical thing to do is to just kick up your game to make sure you run a good business. But now that lawyers have laid their tentacles the thing to do now is to sue anything that may threaten you.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 6:06pm

    I disagree with this made up BS about people being more likely to post negative reviews than positive ones, especially when it comes to restaurants.

    I know quite a few very good local restaurants, so do all the other locals and if I check just about any online customer review site those restaurants get very high marks.

    Anyway who supports the nonsense about negative reviews have any proof or is it just so much hot air blowing out of your arseholes?

     

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  22.  
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    Bill, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    Freelance Opportunity

    If anyone is interested in writing about restaurants as a Freelancer, we have an opportunity I'd like to tell you about. This is a national platform with the chance for national celebrity. Email me at fitz@fitzdrakesearch.com and I'll send you some information.
    Let's put all of this talent to use!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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