How Seriously Should You Take Restaurant Reviews?

For every business, there’s at least one online review published about their services. Restaurants in the modern age can’t escape being talked about on the internet; frankly, no one with a social media page can avoid that fate.

As a savvy customer who understands the complicated ins and outs of web posts, restaurant reviews’ value lies in knowing which ones to take seriously and which ones to pay no heed to.

Why do people leave reviews?

82% of customers read online reviews before they try somewhere new to eat. People trust online reviews as much or even more than suggestions from their friends. Creating a review takes time and, even though it’s only a few minutes out of their day, most customers can’t be bothered to comment on their experiences. That inherently skews any review you read because they had to have a powerful motivator to write their thoughts down in the first place.

Typically only a few kinds of people leave reviews. They might have been referred by online reviews themselves and want to give back, so to speak; leaving honest feedback about their experience helps paint a more accurate picture for others. Similarly, some people leave suggestions for how the business can improve; these reviews are usually more nuanced with some sense of what went right and wrong to expect more accuracy here. Others might write to archive their own experiences or share them for clout online to gain followers.

Often people want to leave a quick review of their experience but don’t have the time, patience, or words to express their opinion. Star ratings might hold more weight than the comments’ net energy, so balance that against the quality and quantity of written reviews before deciding which should hold more water.

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Telling good reviews from bad ones

Before you decide which reviews you should pay attention to, you need to know where to look. Websites like Yelp, Google, Tripadvisor, Facebook, OpenTable, and Zagat are great places to start. Of course, there are just as many trolls where there are honest reviews, and you should know how to tell the two apart.

Take a quick look through their profile and notice if the person has left other reviews, if these are all overwhelmingly positive or negative, or if their comments are relatively generic; all of this might point to a troll, bot, or otherwise fake account. If a profile looks sketchy, focus more on nuanced reviews as these are more likely to reflect an accurate account.

Sometimes businesses will leave comments thanking users for their reflections, asking how they can improve the experience, and even giving out a direct line to customer service or management. This tells you that those reviews likely hit close to home since the restaurant wanted to directly address the concerns. Occasionally a restaurant will respond unprofessionally or even nastily to online reviews, even to trolls who successfully push their buttons. Although one online interaction doesn’t necessarily dictate the rest of the guest experience, you can still avoid unprofessional establishments that can’t keep their cool by scouring online review sites ahead of time.

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Of course, not all bad reviews are bad news, just as not all good reviews have enough detail to paint a useful picture. Examine the content of each review, not just the general tone or star rating, to know which deserves the full weight of your consideration and which complaints are frivolous, fake, or otherwise not worth your time.

As a savvy consumer in the internet age, it’s up to you to identify which reviews to give weight to. They hold great power: You’ll consider visiting or avoiding a business because of them. The importance of your favorite restaurants’ reputation may well rest on your shoulders, so if you have the time, consider leaving them a review to let them know how much you appreciate their services.

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