The goal of online restaurant reviews is to provide potential diners with valuable feedback so they can make a decision on where to eat. Ideally, you’ll visit the reviews page for a restaurant you’re considering, and somewhere between the star rating and the written testimonials, you’ll be able to make your decision.
But it doesn’t always work out. Have you ever seen a negative review online for a restaurant you’ve enjoyed several times? Or, have you ever been to a highly-rated restaurant and wondered what the hype was about?
If online restaurant reviews have left you wanting more, we’re here to offer a few suggestions to help round out your tool kit for making an accurate dining decision.
Read several reviews for a well-rounded picture
This may go without saying, but to get a complete idea, you’re going to have to read beyond the first rating. Start with recent reviews, and read at least three to ten of them for a general feeling.
Reviews that make only a single statement can be valuable, but focus mostly on qualified reviews. This will help separate opinions from facts.
For example, a diner may say that their wait was too long, but if they don’t mention how long the wait was, we’re counting on their opinion. 10 minutes, for them, may have been too long, but it may be absolutely acceptable for you.
Also consider the likelihood of having the same experience. If someone gave a very positive review because of the ambience and menu variety, those things will probably remain consistent from visit to visit for any guest. On the other hand, a mediocre experience with a server is less likely to repeat because of the sheer size of a restaurant’s wait staff.
Consider whether the things important to the reviewer are important to you
Every good restaurant strives to do a few things extremely well!
Some visitors want a busy, exciting vibe when they visit a restaurant on a Friday night. Others are looking for a relaxing, intimate getaway for conversation and a slow-paced meal after a long week. While there are many experiences in between, it’s impossible for one restaurant to be bustling with activity and absolutely peaceful at the same time. This is where your own perspective comes in!
When reading an online review, consider looking beyond a positive or negative statement and proof. Ask yourself, “Would I feel the same way in this situation?”
You may find yourself taking what the reviewer thought was negative and feeling positive about it, or vice versa. The information is still useful, just in a different way.
Value recent reviews and scores over much older ones
Some reviews and star ratings are helpful longer than others. Plus, remember that the overall average star rating for a restaurant usually reflects older information over new. It’s often helpful to put more weight on recent ratings and reviews.
After all, with enough history, good or bad, the overall restaurant rating eventually becomes somewhat permanent. For example, if a restaurant improves after a difficult patch, they are still stuck with their old star rating. It will take a lot of new scores to change what was there.
On the opposite end, a new restaurant may not have enough star ratings for the weight of them to be significant. A new restaurant might have as high as a perfect score or low as a single star, for example, because of only having a handful of reviews.
Written reviews from two years ago may not even be vaguely accurate anymore, especially if they contradict more recent reviews. Best case scenario, you’ll find a restaurant with a great past and present that matches your preferences, and your decision will be easy.
Trust your own instincts
You’ll never know for sure what a restaurant will be like until you try it yourself. If you have doubts about a restaurant’s reviews, make your own decision. Go if the menu and location sound appealing. Be adventurous. When you’re done, you’ll be able to write your own valuable review and perhaps give a different perspective!