Restaurant reviews can be a helpful tool for finding a new dining spot, but can you really trust them?
Fake Reviews and Bias
The rise of platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor has made it easier to find restaurant reviews online, but these sites also have their issues. One of the most significant issues is the prevalence of fake reviews which can come from competitors trying to discredit a restaurant, from the restaurant itself trying to boost their rating, or from paid reviewers.
Another problem is the bias towards popular restaurants. Those with more reviews will generally rank higher than lesser-known spots. This can be particularly challenging for newer restaurants trying to build a reputation. One bad review early on can have long-term consequences.
The Ethical Dilemmas of Food Writers
Food writers face their own challenges when it comes to restaurant reviews. Many food writers don’t get paid enough to cover the cost of dining at the restaurant. So usually, they are invited by the restaurant to give a review. However, this creates ethical dilemmas. Can a food writer give an honest review of a restaurant they’ve been invited to with flights and hotels covered?
Some food writers choose to build their following on sarcasm and criticism, but most are more celebratory and enthusiastic. The focus on chefs and their celebrity status has made them more intolerant of criticism, but there are signs that the industry is shifting towards a more well-rounded approach to food writing.
Public Praise and Private Criticism
One approach that many food writers take is to offer private criticism instead of public praise or criticism. This allows food writers to give honest feedback without offending chefs or restaurant owners. However, some argue that this approach is problematic because it perpetuates the cycle of positive reviews.
Criticism of a popular restaurant can be seen as an attack on the chef or restaurant owner. This can lead to backlash on social media, which can damage the reputation of the food writer. This pressure to provide positive reviews can also impact traffic to a writer’s website.
Keep in mind that everyone’s taste is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. For example, my favorite steakhouse is Jean Georges but you may not like it as much as I do. So take restaurant reviews with a grain of salt.
Even Gordon Ramsay’s not happy with fake restaurant reviews. Watch this: