Can We Bring Back the Restaurant Review?

Restaurant-Reviewer-Job The decline of the restaurant review has been well-documented. As newspapers and magazines have cut back their coverage of restaurants, the professional reviewer has largely been replaced by the digital anarchy of Yelp, Chowhound and countless blogs where anyone can offer an opinion regardless of talent or training. This proliferation has certainly made restaurant reviews more democratic and less elitist. And many people have argued that crowdsourcing—marshaling the collective intelligence of widely distributed information sources—produces more reliable information than the use of an expert.

But I have my doubts. I have found restaurant reviews on Yelp to be utterly unreliable—occasionally useful, but more often misleading.

This article compiling scathing one-star reviews on Yelp of some of the best restaurants in the U.S. provides some good examples of Yelp reviewers who spout opinions without an understanding of the food they’re writing about. Here’s one example:

If you want to go to a restaurant and pay over $300 and come out still hungry this is the place for you. This place Sucks. Don’t trust the good reviews on this place because most these good reviews are written by the owner of the resaturant. Stay away from this place

I doubt the point of Le Bernardin in New York is to fill you up. I’m sure there was a Golden Corral nearby.

Criticism is not a democratic activity and should not consist in hasty, impulsive reactions. It should involve extensive theoretical and historical knowledge of what you are criticizing and taste that has been disciplined by experience.

The “wisdom of crowds” has its virtues on issues where the individuals in the crowd have some expertise. But adding nonsense to nonsense does not produce wisdom.


  1. I think this is a great point. Another problem with online reviews is that only the people who feel strongly write them. If I to a restaurant it’s because I didn’t want to cook it myself, so why would I take the time to write a review? There are exceptions of course, but many people just don’t feel like putting in the effort unless the service was either really good or really bad.

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