Whether you like it or not, social media has changed the way we eat. Opening a food directory app, taking a look at the rating, and reading a couple of the reviews before deciding where to eat have become somewhat of a norm. We understand that this process is inevitable, especially considering the massive number of new restaurants and cafes popping around big cities in the past few years. Why would you go to a two-starred spot when there is a four-starred place in the same area?
But please entertain these following thoughts.
1. What if there were certain circumstances that lead to that bad rating, and those reasons were not clearly stated in the review? Take these two reviews for example.
No matter how infuriated one is over a meal, it’s inappropriate to give a one-star rating without giving a proper explanation. Especially when the restaurant’s marketing team has replied your review, apologized, and asked what specifically is wrong. Is there really no redeeming quality at all? Imagine there are only a couple of reviews of this spot and one of them comes in this form. The restaurant can’t improve anything from it, and potential diners get misled.
2. There’s also the case of people giving a bad review over something they don’t truly understand.
I’m no coffee expert, but here’s a basic knowledge: Coffee shops all around the world use imported coffee beans. It’s common practice. There are ways to keep beans as fresh as possible. It would be sad to see a restaurant or cafe losing possible sales over reviews like this one.
3. While on the topic of social media, let’s take a look at these two reviews, written by the same person. Both ratings are given based on Instagram-worthiness as the main point of assessment.
While reviewing a restaurant based on beauty is not a crime, you can’t eat your gorgeous Instagram feed. Misleading reviewer, check. And here’s another similar case:
4. Next is the case of a confusing review. In mathematics, numbers don’t lie. However, when it comes to ratings, apparently they do.
When the food is nice, the service is good, the price is affordable, and the place opens until late at night, which the reviewer appreciates, where does the 2.5 rating come from? There seems to be nothing wrong with the place.
5. I’ve also read a lot of unpleasant reviews about service. Service is indeed one of the most important things in running a restaurant, but it seems people are unwilling to cut some slack even for a restaurant that has just been opened.
These reviews were written within two weeks after the restaurant first opened. No amount of training can 100% overcome the kind of chaos and shock that surely come in the first few weeks of service. Feel free to compare all you want, but each place has a different background. That really nice new restaurant with awesome service might have lucked out on hiring experienced staffs, and this one might have not.
I believe there are a number of ways to improve reviews:
1. Food directories, take the time to educate your viewers.
While it’s impossible to manage every review written on your website or app, you can make an effort to create a better online environment. Create a visual guideline (a short video, perhaps?) on what 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 star rating means. Try your best to ensure everyone is on the same page. For instance, explain that a 3.5 rating means a good, solid dining experience. Above that number means the reviewer is really happy with everything, while lower than that means there are things that can be refined. If possible, make the reviewers rate food, service, and ambience separately. Show those individual scores alongside the average score. Better reviews and reviewers mean more credibility.
2. Also for food directories, always strive to better your rating system.
Always evaluate and look for ways to make your rating system unambiguous and as neutral as possible. An example of a food directory stepping up to fix its rating system is Zomato. They recently changed its rating system for new restaurants. It’s a nice gesture considering how many things can go wrong in the first few weeks of service.
3. Readers, be smart.
The next time you turn to food reviews to choose a place to dine, please remember that taste is personal. Keep in mind that there are a lot of things that can affect an experience: a person’s overall mood that day, the traffic, the weather, and so on. We can’t do anything about the bad reviews, but what we can is be a smarter reader. Take every review with a grain of salt, be critical, and don’t take everything at a face value. There are always two sides of the story.
4. Reviewers, be kind.
As for you who like to write reviews, at the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, be kind. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the restaurant management before writing a review, because a person’s job could rely on your comments. Kudos to those of you who have managed to write a comprehensive review by stating both the positives and negatives, or at the very least, state clearly why you are unhappy about something. Internet needs more people like you!
At the end of the day, opinions are just opinions. Everyone is entitled to one, but not everyone can back it up. It’s totally possible to have a good dining experience at a low-rated restaurant, or in the contrary, to have a bad dining experience at a high-rated restaurant. If you are interested with a specific place, do come despite of the ratings.
Finally, let me leave you with this strange review to ponder on. Just another proof that every review is not created equal.