The Big Flaws in Restaurant Rankings
Actually, the article cited below is specifically related to hotel restaurants and comes from an article published by The Wall Street Journal entitled, "The Big Flaws in Hotel Rankings."
TripAdvisor, cited in the article, ranks both hotels and restaurants, as well as vacation rentals.
In choosing a hotel, restaurant, computer product, telephone, vacuum cleaner or just about anything else I buy now, I check out the user reviews.
I'm finding that these user reviews are getting less helpful.
For example, I recently purchased an inkjet printer. Prior to choosing my printer, I checked the magazine reviews and read through all the user reviews. Should I get a Dell, HP, Kodak, Epson or other brand printer? I found that reading the reviews were almost useless.
I finally picked out a printer. The printer I chose had a 4 star rating (lower than some of the 5 star ratings of competitors). I actually saw the printer at BestBuy and it seemed to work fine for me. Some of the lower user review rankings talked about bad quality printing photos on standard non-photo paper, slow two-sided printing speeds, and the difficulty in setting up the printer to receive faxes.
The printer that I chose and was reviewed by users didn't have fax capability nor did I want it. Obviously, the reviewer wasn't referring to my chosen printer. I have no use for two-sided printing so I really didn't care about the speed. Actually, after purchasing the printer, I did try two-sided printing and it was amazingly fast. I rarely print photos so the quality on standard non-photo paper didn't matter to me. However, I must say, I was pretty impressed with its photo printing quality on plain paper.
You can no longer trust those user reviews. We don't know who the users are nor do we understand their biases.
That being said, I still do read user reviews. Although I am aware that they can't necessarily be trusted, I do get more insight into the product that I am buying.
Restaurant reviews are no different from printer reviews. Frequently, the negative restaurant review that you are reading may have been posted by a competitive restaurant in the same town. The really positive restaurant review may have been written by the owner's mother.
Hotel reviews are no different. According to The Wall Street Journal article:
While experts say what matters most to shoppers is the hotel's overall score, it pays to read the reviewers' comments, discounting the highs and lows. Consider focusing on those written by people most like yourself. Some sites allow you to highlight reviews from people traveling with children, couples or business travelers, for example.
Of course, trying to influence reviews and ratings is a time-honored tradition in the hotel and restaurant industries. Travel-guidebook legend Arthur Frommer said he began printing reader letters about hotels in the 1960s. After about five years, he realized that hotels were writing him letters about themselves. "I was being gamed," said Mr. Frommer. "Hotels are so dependent on reviews that of course they will generate their own. They would be crazy not to."
So, who do you believe? It's just not easy to find unbiased reviews. When writing about computer products, I have a pretty good idea about the products I am writing about. I can read reviews and read between the lines. With close to 40 years of computer experience, I've gotten pretty good at figuring out what is good and what is bad.
I do a pretty good job at picking out hotels and restaurants. I understand that some of the reviews are "legit" and some are not.
As the owner or manager of a retail store, these reviews can make or break your business.
If you get one single customer that dislikes your restaurant, he can post dozens of negative reviews and destroy your business. It happens. People read the user reviews. If your restaurant has a one star rating out of five, it is likely to fold soon. People do read those reviews.
How do you overcome it?
You can do what many other restaurants and hotels do. Pay your customers to write and post positive reviews or have all your relatives write them for you. This is unethical.
Here's a more ethical idea that many hotels and restaurants use. Encourage your customers to write and post reviews in exchange for a discount coupon. The review should be unbiased. It's likely that most people who receive some sort of discount coupon or other remuneration will probably write a positive review.
Even if your restaurant is perfect, it is likely that you are going to get negative, fake reviews from competitors or angry former employees. It can destroy you. You can search Google for reputation repair and find companies that will help you remove or counter those negative reviews.
(One important note. There is a company that advertises heavily on the radio called reputation.com. They claim that they can repair the online reputation of any business including restaurants, doctors and other businesses. I cannot recommend them nor do I have any first hand knowledge about this company. Prior to using them, you may want to search Google for reputation.com complaints and see what comes up.)
Many hotels and restaurants actually pay companies that add positive reviews to the review sites. When reading reviews, you can sometimes pick out the phony reviews. For example, when you see a Grade A review for a steak dinner in a vegetarian restaurant, it's probably a fake or placed by a company that "seeds the reviews."
To read the Wall Street Journal article about Hotel Rankings go to:
The Big Flaws in Hotel Rankings
Read more about "fake" restaurant reviews at:
With online restaurant review sites, everyone's a critic
To learn more, search Google for fake restaurant reviews.