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How do you rate a restaurant?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
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?
editor, www.thymusgland.net
A great restaurant is nothing more than a mouth-brothel, there's no point going if you expect to keep your belt buckled. (Frederic Raphael).
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editor, www.thymusgland.net
A great restaurant is nothing more than a mouth-brothel, there's no point going if you expect to keep your belt buckled. (Frederic Raphael).
Reply
post #2 of 10
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
post #3 of 10
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?
post #4 of 10
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?

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #5 of 10
If the food has good quality within a price range, then its a winner IMO.
post #6 of 10
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?
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Suzanne - Absolutely Agree

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?
editor, www.thymusgland.net
A great restaurant is nothing more than a mouth-brothel, there's no point going if you expect to keep your belt buckled. (Frederic Raphael).
Reply
editor, www.thymusgland.net
A great restaurant is nothing more than a mouth-brothel, there's no point going if you expect to keep your belt buckled. (Frederic Raphael).
Reply
post #8 of 10
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.
post #9 of 10

I'm grateful for this thread, as I had been struggling with my own personal evaluation system for restaurants.

 

 

I've established a number of evaluations, outlined as follows:

 

1. X/5 - The value of X represents my own personal position of the place.  For me, food is the pinnacle factor.  As long as all other factors are acceptable/average or better, X will remain solely based on food related metrics.  One could focus on any factor or mix of factors when determining their X-evaluation, and the denominator is negligible.

 

2. RANK - This is a personal/emotional evaluation which determines the hierarchy of best to least best.  RANK is essentially the filtered results of "X/5".  This is where the non-food related metrics come into play, in addition to identifying which place had marginally better food than another.  For me, this is where 'overall experience' has the greatest impact.  The evaluation is more personal/emotional, as opposed to technical/logical as in the following evaluation.

 

3. RATING - This is a technical/logical evaluation, and is the most difficult to conclude.  It attempts to remove bias and provide a comprehensive rating.  Consistency should always be used to balance all metrics, especially in this evaluation.  For me (in order to rate a restaurant) I must have either tried a minimum of five courses, or made more than one visit.  Establish all the categories/metrics that you personally value, and assign weighting to each.  For me those include FLAVOR 45%, CREATIVITY 15%, PLATING 15%, SERVICE 10%, AMBIENCE 10%, and ACCOLADES 5%.  Use your chosen denominator and rate each category/metric, then multiply & divide accordingly to get the rating.  It's fun to compare these results with your personal/emotional ranked hierarchy.

 

I also have a system in place to guide me towards bucket list destinations.  This is mainly associated with fine dining establishments.  I use LaListe (which for those who are unaware, uses an algorithm of all credible sources in order to arrive at the world's greatest 1000 restaurants) and then I re-combine it with Michelin, S.P., and the trained palates of Andy Hayler and the folks at OAD.

 

Another consideration is the theory of relativity, or the law of diminishing returns.  For example, if you're blown away by your first ever gourmet experience and always hold the establishment high on your list, you may want to re-visit after experiencing many other incredible places.  You may find that it relatively less impactful at that point... or in other words, the return will be diminished. 

 

Finally, I personally find it important to establish a benchmark - a benchmark which doesn't care about what a place is trying to achieve; doesn't care about the genre of food; doesn't care about cost...  Ask yourself "what is my definition 100% perfection".  In this situation, you CAN compare apples to oranges to bananas, because the question becomes "which flavor blows me away the most" and "which experience brings me the most pleasure" etc.  In rating a restaurant, one should be perceptive enough to distinguish the relative importance of the gastronomical aspect vs. everything else...

 

YOU ARE THE CRITIC.

post #10 of 10

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. 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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