By Jeremy Ryland
Where is the best restaurant in the world? Which is
the best restaurant in Australia? Where can I get a great steak/paella/pork
dumpling? It all depends on who you ask – and whether you believe them … whether
you trust them. In practice, we all have different perceptions, different likes
These days, everyone is a critic and there are many sources
of food and dining reviews. In “Confessions of a
Reviewer” (31 January 2019) I suggested that restaurant reviews, and those who
write them, fall into the following categories:
Journalistic: reviews by journalists in newspapers and magazines
that are largely designed for a specific market.
Professional: reviews by groups such as Michelin and
Gault&Millau, where the reviewers are food professionals who are trained,
dine anonymously and pay for the meals in full.
User-generated: reviews provided by restaurant guests on online sites,
such as TripAdvisor, Quandoo, Zomato and The Fork.
And then there are the bloggers
and influencers: reviews by amateurs,
some of whom are knowledgeable and very talented, who write to their followers
on their own online blogs, as well as providing short reviews on social media.
However, there is also a group of bloggers and
influencers who solicit for free meals. Recently, in Brisbane, a blogger asked
a small restaurant to provide three free meals in return for a positive review.
The restaurant politely refused, due to the high cost, and the impact that
would have on turnover given their limited seating capacity. Allegedly, in
return, the blogger wrote a negative review, even though they had not actually visited
the restaurant and, moreover, it was reported they got some colleagues, none of
whom had visited the restaurant either, to also post negative comments. This
kind of negative publicity could well put this restaurant out of business, and
the restaurant is powerless while having done nothing wrong. It is not in the
interests of restaurateurs, restaurant critics or the genuine bloggers to accept
this type of behaviour. It should be reported and removed.
So, if you are a restaurant goer who is looking for
information on where to go for dinner, who do you believe?? Who can you trust?
If you know and trust the journalist’s views in a
newspaper, the reviews can be reliable. But, bear in mind that they may have
been asked by the publisher to do the review and sometimes their personal
preferences, prose and entertainment take over.
Professional reviews are based on a standard score
card and are reliable as they are consistent. The professional restaurant reviewer is
usually qualified – a chef, a sommelier, a food scientist. To understand how
well a dish is made, one must know how to make it.
Do you trust the social media bloggers? Bloggers have a major
part to play in our modern information systems. If you are to believe what they
write and say, they need to be impartial, consistent and honest. While some are talented and knowledgeable, some
provide very little information and are just after a free meal and cannot be
What about the customers on TripAdvisor? The reviews
on these sites are true guest experiences, however, are subjective and can be
biased by the writer’s mood, preferences and dislikes.
In reality, the only
reliable reviews are the professional ones from groups such as Michelin and
Gault&Millau, whose reviewers are anonymous and pay for each and every meal. And also perhaps,
your closest friends with whom you dine and trust.
Trust is a significant
human emotion. Trust is something we do not give easily. Trust is earned. Trust
requires safety, security, integrity and positive emotion. Who can you trust?
You can trust