How do you rate a restaurant?

Discussion in 'Restaurant Reviews' started by marlyn4k, Jul 6, 2004.

  1. marlyn4k

    marlyn4k

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    Presumably restaurant guides and critics the world over face the same dilemma. Is it purely a question of the food? And within that there lies the matter of ingredients, complexity, imagination, style, consistency and so on.

    Many UK web sites that review restaurants place as much emphasis on other factors such as front-of-house, the wine list, the atmosphere, the setting and naturally, the cost.

    So what makes a sensibly weighted review, and in the process something useful to the would-be customer?
     
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    In general, only one thing, and that is whether the restaurant meets its own expectations.

    I give McDonald's five stars because I know what to expect and they almost always deliver. But of course a Filet 'o Fish would not do too well at Alain Ducasse.

    Kuan
     
  3. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you Kuan!!! This is the point of view that I have been trying to get across to people for years. So many restaurant critics tend to confuse cost with quality (aka Charlie Trotter recieves 4 stars while the local diner only recieves one). I have always tried to measure a restaurant by what it is attempting to be. As such, many of the "best" restaurants in Chicago don't score very high, in my book, while some of the lowliest, grungiest diners score very high. It's all a matter of figuring out what a restaurant is trying to be, then evaluating it against itself. There are so many different types of restaurants out there that to do anything other than that is futile. It's like comparing apples to oranges to bananas. How can you compare those things?
     
  4. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Good question. I almost always ground my opinion on the 'experience.' Certainly we go to a restaurant for the food becuase we are hungry. However, some attention must be paid to everything else that makes it a restaurant versus eating at home. And, yes, Mcdonald's rises to their expectation; it's just that their expectation is not set as high as some others.
    And, I agree with Pete as well. Often the 'best' restaurants are the most expensive or, conversely, there are dives ranked with some high-end places. They are not comparable. The true measure is to ask: Do they hit their mark?
     
  5. headless chicken

    headless chicken

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    If the food has good quality within a price range, then its a winner IMO.
     
  6. suzanne

    suzanne

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    Ah, the eternal debate among people who love to eat in restaurants!

    Here's my list:
    • Food, of course -- are the ingredients the best quality the place can get for their appropriate price point? Are those ingredients treated with respect? Does the kitchen know when to "enhance" something and when to leave it alone? Are the portions/plating appropriate to the concept, the abilities of the staff, and the price point?
    • Responsiveness and knowledge of servers -- are they there when I need them and otherwise not intrusive? Can they answer all my questions about the food and drink? And if they can't, do they try to find the answers on a timely basis?
    • Wine list, other beverages (especially coffee and tea) -- are there items in a reasonable price range that I expect to go well with my food? If I need help because I am unfamiliar with what's offered (food, wine, or both), is it offered graciously and fully? Are there other interesting beverages available (I don't ALWAYS want wine)? Is the coffee good (by my standards, of course)? Is there a good selection of tea, REAL tea, available?
    • Noise level -- ambient, as well as from music and/or nearby or not so nearby conversations: Can I concentrate on my food/drink/companion(s) without aural distraction? If we want to talk, can we do so without shouting? Am I forced to listen to other peoples' conversations?
    • Decor and furnishings -- are they distracting, or do they enhance the experience? Am I physically comfortable?
    • Restrooms -- clean? Well-stocked with the necessities? Comfortable?
    • Hello and goodbye -- am I acknowledged at both ends, with a pleasant greeting and a pleasant farewell, in a timely fashion?
    • In general -- If the place is clearly trying to make me say "Wow," should it be, given everything else? And does it succeed, or does it make me say "Why??"
    • If I'm a repeat customer -- is the place as consistent as possible on all of the above?
    • And down at the very end -- Does the place fulfill all of the above as I think it should, all things considered, at an appropriate price point? Do I feel it's all worth what I'm paying, whether a lot, a little, or something in between?
     
  7. marlyn4k

    marlyn4k

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    Suzanne makes the point brilliantly. T

    To guide a would-be customer - and after all that is the role of the reviewer/critic - each of those elements should be addressed.

    If the review is open prose covering those factors then the reader can attach their own weightings. For example, depending upon my mood, I would be prepared to sacrifice some quality in kitchen output for setting and service because that would fit with my criteria for the desired 'experience'.

    However, reading the Guides available in the UK, (Michelin, The Good Food Guide, The AA Guide) they cover only a fraction of these points.

    Instead the Guides prefer to focus on a rating; One Star, 6/10 or Three Rosettes. How should the reader presume these have been derived? What weighting has been given to those important parameters of the dining experience so expertly raised by Suzanne?

    Would it therefore make sense for such publications to present their criteria as strongly as their ratings?
     
  8. pumpkingrl

    pumpkingrl

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    Check out, Eating My Words, by Mimi Sheraton. She used to write for the NY Times as a food critic and many other notable publications. She dedicates practically a whole chapter to this issue. Very interesting read.
     
  9. foodpump

    foodpump

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    For me, one of the most important things is how the critic/reviewer is compensated for his/her work.......

    If the critic is paid by a publisher or website, then I will take the time to read the review.

    If the critic makes no mention of how he/she is compensated, I ignore it.

    For a small operator like me, I get requests frequently from reviewers wanting to write about me.  Why do they e-mail me first?  Because they want to eat for free, that's why.  I always respond back, telling them that the blog/article must have the sentence "this article was partially sponsored by "X" included.  They always decline....

    O.T.O.H. the "legitimate"  reviewers come as they please.  They do a fair job. 
     
    drirene and pete like this.
  10. dustindacook

    dustindacook

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    I will usually hit a place a minimum of three times before I even think about reviewing it. Sometimes, places are just having a bad day, the kitchen is in the weeds or they are short staffed. If I see the same thing every single time though, that is indicative of a trend. That being said, here is what I look for in a good restaurant.

    1. Does the kitchen care? My first time at any place, I always get something simple. Yes, I know you can do an amazing Chicken Speidini or Veal Saltimbocca, but do you pay the same attention to detail with a Fettucini Alfredo or Spaghetti Mariniara? I know that if they can nail the simple dishes, the fancy stuff is going to be amazing.

    2. Does the front of house staff care? I was a host and server for years before I ever moved back behind the line and it really rubs me raw when I have unattentive wait staff. Talk with me and engage. You are the face of the establishment and should be selling the experience to me. Make me feel welcome and don't be stuffy about it.

    3. Cleanliness. Unbussed tables and dirty bathrooms should never be seen at any restaurant, regardless of price or location.

    4. Cost. This is really less of an issue for me than most. If I am sitting down to eat at your place, I have already looked up the menu online and have seen the prices. I know what I'm getting into when I walk in the door. The only time this one comes into play for me is if you try and sell me on, say, a $80 steak and is sucks. You are setting my expectations that this thing is going to be life changing and then you deliver something I could do better at home on my weber kettle.