Lunchtime poll – online reviews
August 9th, 2010
12:15 PM ET
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Remember way back to the early to mid '90s, when if you wanted to find out about a restaurant, you had to flip through newspapers, ask friends, shell out for a Zagat Guide or - heaven forfend - just go and see for yourself?

No longer must restaurant patrons fly blindly into the abyss, for sites like Yelp, Open Table, Dine, Citysearch and others exist to allow delighted and disgruntled diners dish about their every opinion from wine service to restroom cleanliness.

Are these sites on the menu for you?

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Filed under: Buzz • Critics • Critiquing Criticism • Lunchtime Poll

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soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Looking for

    I look for reviews that are more than just "Loved it" or "Hated it, crappy service." When a review goes into depth about what they did or didn't like, I'll take that into consideration. If all I see are generic love or hate comments, I'll go and make my own mind up, but if I see that a place I might want to go served someone raw chicken, or had roaches crawling around, I'm not going to waste my time.

    Also I look at the consistancy of the reviews. If there are lots and they are mostly good, or mostly bad it'll sway me a little.

    August 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    It has been my experience, that people tend to always be critical, even when they have no real justification for it.

    I would discount negative comments, unless I had some basis on which to evaluate them.

    August 10, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  3. lucy

    Yes, if they mention spoiled food or dirty restaurant. Then I definitely will not go.

    August 9, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  4. Mary

    Many negative reviews are kind of silly. People will too high standards will take stars/rating away for some ridiculous reason. My favorite one is where someone complains that they were turned away for not complying with the dress code. Or in the case of French Laundry, where you'll find the occasional negative review on Yelp from someone who couldn't get reservations and so therefore felt that they had to punish the restaurant somehow.

    August 9, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  5. Matt R

    I'll take note of any complaints or compliments that are mentioned more than once by different reviewers. Chances are, if one reviewer finds the same flaws in a restaurant as another reviewer, it's probably a real flaw. Same goes for compliments.

    August 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  6. larry wi

    I'm more interested in the clientel the restaurant draws! If the patrons walk in wearing a ball cap, I'm not going o dine there!

    August 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  7. Mark

    Most reviewers rate restaurants based on expectations. I set fewer expectations than warranted by reputation or reviews, so I nearly always have a pleasant dining experience and will usually submit positive reviews. My SO sets unattainable expectations – even for 5-star establishments, is always disappointed, and submits negative reviews. The same restaurant for the same dining experience cannot be both good and bad. So, how do we pick our next restaurant if we believe most reviewers are like us?

    My SO reads only the bad reviews and picks a couple of possibilities with the fewest deal-breaking experiences. She won't be happy with any of them so this in effect culls the list for me. I read only the good reviews to get a sense of the cuisine and atmosphere, and choose. She goes to confirm the bad reviews and to discover new atrocities that the prior reviewers somehow missed, and I go to eat good food in a nice place. We are both satisfied in our own ways, which is why we dined out, but neither of us accepts the other's approach – or reviews.

    August 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  8. Leah (TXanimal)

    Unless multiple people tell me how awful a restaurant is, I'll still try it. Every restaurant has an "off" night now and again.

    Plus, I'm a big-city transplant in a smaller city...people tend to be wary and critical of things that are "different". If the main features on the menu aren't cheeseburgers and a $10 steak, people 'round these parts have a problem with it. That's usually an indication to me that the restaurant is worth a try!

    August 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  9. SnazzyPants

    Some bad reviews can be ridiculous, like "the mashed potatoes had too much potato in them, 1 star!" But I think most bad reviews should be considered. Its the good reviews that are mostly fluff because a lot of people have much lower standards than the "foodies"

    August 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  10. dave

    zagat means nothing these days anyone can get a zagat review, i was in a zagat 4 star that was filthy last night and the food over cooked and cold.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  11. Matt

    "Depends how they're written. Lucid, seemingly intelligent reviewer = Yes. Mean-spirited, petty, stupid expectations = No."

    Exactly. Stories of terrible food or clear incompetence from the management are going to sway me if there aren't also a bunch of positive reviews. Giving a terrible review/rating because of a perceived slight from the waiter or host is not.

    As a few other people have already pointed out, astroturfing (posting fake positive reviews) is also a real problem sometimes. A handful of vague but glowing positive reviews accompanied by many detailed negative reviews is bad news.

    August 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  12. kindra68

    When I review a restaurant I try to be unbiased. I try to list the good and the bad. I do not say something “sucks” but rather what the problem is. I am NOT ever paid to review any place. And I have put my reviews on several sites.

    August 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  13. ashok

    9 out of 10 times these reviews are written by someone assigned to write them (for a price) on behalf of the establishment in question. So yes, I don't trust them 100%

    August 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Waiterdude

      What are you talking about? You can't write a review on OpenTable unless you've made a reservation, showed up, and the restaurant confirmed and sat you.

      At which point, once you've been sat at your table, OpenTable sends you an email later in the day to solicit your opinion of the restaurant.

      I wouldn't know anything about this though, I've only worked in restaurants for 10 years or so.

      August 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • Mary

      I'd like to see where you are getting this "9 out of 10" statistic.

      August 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
  14. Vinod Venugopal

    I trust reviews from my online Zagat subscription as they tend to be the most reliable. I really like the rating system across Food, Decor, Service and Cost.

    I also look at reviews on yelp which tend to be more candid. Yelp's distribution of stars is more useful than individual reviews on yelp. Individual reviews tend to be unreliable unless they are from a well known, objective person. You need to strip out the emotion. I tease my wife that most of her yelp reviews are either five stars or 1 star!

    August 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  15. Jessi-Rene

    Goodrec(dot)com. I've been using this for a while. They have an App for the Pre and it is very helpful for finding new or unlisted restaurants in your area. Its more of a community thing though, in order for it to work people have to use it. But I make sure to rate any place I visit now and add places that aren't listed to help others. Its not some snooty high class restaurant reviewer web page, just normal people in your local area writing a sentence or two about places around town. They also do night clubs, bars, etc...

    August 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  16. Tyler

    I love reading customer reviews, especially the bad ones. Good reviews can be helpful but in many cases it's just the restaurant owner and his/her friends trying to talk it up. Unless there are a 20+ positive reviews read them with a grain of salt. Bad reviews, however, are almost always real! If the only bad reviews are over trivial things like water not being refilled instantly or the room being too loud then the food is probably decent, give it a shot. If all the bad reviews talk of terrible service and bad food it's a definite no go!

    August 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Imagine if many of the bad reviews are all made up by unethical competitors who want to hurt another restaurant. They easily prey on people just like you that stay away from restaurants with bad reviews. do not think it doesn't go both ways. at some point the internet will lose credibility through these games people play. my mom said it best, don't believe everything you read.

      August 9, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  17. cecilia

    Depends how they're written. Lucid, seemingly intelligent reviewer = Yes. Mean-spirited, petty, stupid expectations = No.

    August 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
    • SnazzyPants

      I agree, you have to pay attention to their expectations or how high their standards are. Some people just expect too much.

      But I will say the vast majority of positive reviews are useless, especially with chain restaurants. A lot of people have not experienced what good local food can taste like, so when they go to a trendy chain like Pei Wei they say its the best chinese food theyve ever had and rate it 5 stars. You know something isn't right when Pei Wei is the highest rated asian restaurant in the city.

      I value the negative reviews much more than the positive ones, I usually just skip the fanboy responses and look for people who have had a bad experience. If I find a bad review that concerns me I will compare it with the positive ones to see if its true.

      August 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
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