When restaurant review sites are biased

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Dining' started by HiIslands, Feb 17, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. HiIslands
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    HiIslands Silver Member

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    Have any of you noticed that a number of restaurant review sites have become a voice for disgruntled customers and don't really give a fair overall picture of the food and service?

    I made reservations for a Los Angeles restaurant on Valentine's day, and only checked the reviews later (Yelp and Urban Spoon). I was so discouraged with what I read that I almost canceled the reservation. But I decided to go anyway (because they had monkfish on the menu!) and I was delighted by my experience.

    Now I am beginning to wonder if more people are motivated to write a review when they are unhappy with the food or service as a form of revenge, and the guests who are satisfied don't write anything-- making the reviews very negatively skewed.

    Have any of you noticed this? How do you size up a restaurant when they have some very negative reviews? Do you avoid such restaurants or take a calculated risk on them?
     
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  2. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Some of the negative reviews might have been written by competitors.
     
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  3. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    How many times have you sent a complaint to a hotel/airline/business when something went wrong? How often have you send letters praising the airline or employees?

    So yes, I think complaints are much more common.

    I don't pay that much attention to the likes of Yelp. Maybe if there are just tons and tons of negative reviews, I look elsewhere, but otherwise I generally expect a mix of positive and negative.
     
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  4. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    There are very serious issues with all anonymous crowd-sourced review sites. You simply can't know who the contributors are and what their motivations might be. These sites are easily subject to manipulation and, even in the absence of attempts to skew the listings, it's clear that people with extreme reactions (especially bad ones) will be more motivated to write reviews.
     
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  5. N965VJ
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    N965VJ Silver Member

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  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    In many cases, a quick peak into the restaurant gives me a pretty good impression of what to expect. An even better indicator is the state of the men's room.
     
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  7. ducster
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    ducster Gold Member

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    I'm incredibly suspicious of Yelp and sites like it because I have no idea who's behind the reviews. It's like tripadvisor for me; positive reviews can be shills and negative reviews can be either based on a one-off experience, or a competitor trying to badmouth the place, as mentioned above. When researching a restaurant that I haven't been to before, I'll typically ask friends of mine first, then take a look at chowhound to try and gauge what it might be like. I also like to visit the restaurant's website to see what they offer. BTW, HiIslands, do you mind sharing the restaurant's name that you liked?
     
  8. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    I pay very little attention to service issues that seem to be a one-off/ShXt happens, on restaurant sites as well as here.
     
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  9. schnitzel
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    schnitzel Gold Member

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    I'm with ducster - what was the good restaurant?

    Funny enough, in LA anyway, I actually find Yelp reviews to be inflated. If a place has 3.5 stars on Yelp, I'll consider it, but that's generally the lowest for an unknown. 3.5 can go either way, but it's not until you get a solid 4 that you know you've got a good shot at a good place.
     
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  10. schnitzel
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    schnitzel Gold Member

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    I've seen some pretty scary men's rooms in some pretty great restaurants. Granted, they also have terrible atmosphere, but great food. Ever been to Great New York Noodletown? Better off just going in your pants.
     
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  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Sure, the rule might yield some false positives (where does the staff go, by the way?). And certainly I don't generally inspect the bathroom first.
     
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  12. HiIslands
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    HiIslands Silver Member

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    Thanks for your comments-- they are enlightening.

    The restaurant in question (but this issue certainly applies to other restaurants I've been to) is the Bizou Grill in Santa Monica, Ca. http://cafebizou.com/home_sm.php We had a very enjoyable evening there, with good food, excellent service and a pleasant ambiance. But if you read the reviews on Yelp, for example, you'd not want to ever go there: http://www.yelp.com/biz/bizou-grill-santa-monica
     
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  13. schnitzel
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    Thanks - might have to try it out one day.
     
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  14. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    I'm not the best judge as the menu looked very boring and this is just the type of restaurant I steer clear of but I read the first page of the reveiws on Yelp, most seemed not overly bashing and a I noticed a definite theme to most critics (over or not cooking properly of the food or boring food)

    So I agree with the Yelp reviews, I'd never want to go there but I knew that from looking at the menu anyways.
     
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  15. FlyingBear
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    I think there are many issues with making any assumptions based on your experience here:

    - The reviews are from the past 3 years, so you don't actually know what changes have been occurring
    - Santa Monica... the reviewers are a specific group with specific tastes, I suspect that anything outside of that will get shot down. See example below
    - For negative reviews, I typically look for patterns and negatives that actually make sense
    - As mentioned already, negatives are more likely to happen than positives unless the positive is a standout. I think Yelp has a bit less of that simply by the nature of the Yelp community wanting to review everything to death.

    Example of silliness from 1 star review: "I had their Kobe burger with Bleu Cheese. The meat broke while I was eating it. It seems that the meat wasn't packed properly and so it literally "cracked" in half."

    Considering what yelp has been accused of many times, I am not sure how this would be a solution.
     
  16. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    +1 !!
     
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  17. Rejuvenated
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    Wouldn't surprise me if some of the handles used for posting the rants come from the same person or company.
     
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  18. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    The reviews are helpful. Usually I go by quantity and qualilty of the review, relative to the type of resturant.

    I'm returning from key west right now and one of the strongest rated restaurants with the most reviews on the island is some food cart/stand. I felt that I needed to discount that to it might be good, but I seriously doubt almost all the Key's restaurants are sinficantly worst in quality and tastes, that venue just does very well because they are one of the few or only food carts in the area and the food is good.

    Alternatively Yelp sent us to El Sibony due to good reviews and a low price point, the Cuban pork was as described and hot the spot at nice low price point...

    But in Homestead Yelp promoted Toro Taco as the best mexican in the area, and it was BYOB. The reviews seemed valid through our cheese dip (that was very good along with our beer), then it fell apart with non notable Mexican food.

    A bit lower down on the list Mario's in Homestead, that tired out to be much more on the mark taste wise, with a Luke warm Cuban steaks whose marinade made up for the temped meal. We enjoyed it so much we even had cuban steak and egg breakfast there and got a pork sandwich to go for dinner.
     
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  19. Online restaurant reviews offer great insight into the dining experiences of regular people. I feel that writing restaurant reviews can be a fun and challenging way to express your love of quality cuisine.
     
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  20. USAF_Pride
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    I believe that you get 75% complaints and 25% compliments. I usually can ferret out the bad ones. As stated by others, patterns are the most important thing to look for.

    I had read a review on Yelp that the person was comparing their Springhill stay to that of the Renaissance. Needless to say, you will not get Renaissance treatment at a Springhill, nor should you expect it. A lot of these review sites have people with expectations way out of whack. If you go to McDonald's expecting Ruth Chris, it is your own fault.
     
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  21. xchef

    xchef New Member

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    I wish I could put a negative review up on Urbanspoon about a negative experience I had at a restaurant but after many emails to them, I have learnt they will only put up my opinion on the food and service. I can make no mention of a hair in my meal or the abuse our group suffered at the hands of the restaurant manager.
     
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  22. marysmith9990

    marysmith9990 Member

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    i like eat every day in a different restaurant
     
  23. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    did Urbanspoon specifically state this to you & if so, via what communication means?
     
  24. xchef

    xchef New Member

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    This is an email they sent me:

    Thank you for contacting Urbanspoon.

    Incidents like the ones you describe (allegations of health code violations) are impossible for a restaurant to defend (or disprove) and can profoundly affect their reputation, so we don't include them. We certainly allow negative reviews where they're deserved, but this particular subject is really more appropriate for the health department, and we encourage such reporting.


    Negative reviews are perfectly fine, however – so we encourage you to re-post your review, possibly in more general terms. We will also review further if accompanied by a direct link to a corroborating report of your claims, such as the health department investigation of your complaint.


    Ken
    Urbanspoon Operations
     
  25. freebird

    freebird Silver Member

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    BYE BYE! Urbanspoon app
     

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