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Negative vs. Positive Reviews


SeanMike
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Interesting post. Thanks for sharing it. I'm wrestling with a "negative" review for my blog about a very disappointing restaurant experience I had recently. My plan is to be fair but also honest, which is the approach I take for all my restaurants posts (which generally tend to be quite positive). There were a few things I liked, and I'll state that, but there were many things that were not up to snuff--too much for it to have been just an "off" night. 

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Interesting post. Thanks for sharing it. I'm wrestling with a "negative" review for my blog about a very disappointing restaurant experience I had recently. My plan is to be fair but also honest, which is the approach I take for all my restaurants posts (which generally tend to be quite positive). There were a few things I liked, and I'll state that, but there were many things that were not up to snuff--too much for it to have been just an "off" night. 

I have the same philosophy.  It's important to be fair.  If I only write positive things, I think it's fairly meaningless.  But I don't want to slam anyone.  I was recently asked to write a review of a local restaurant.  I went in anonymously and the food was pretty poor.  I decided not to write a post.  But if I can write something that shows both sides, I feel as if it has more credibility.  I've actually had some chefs and restaurant employees tell me that they appreciate the honesty.

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http://thebaddeal.com/post/56251879089/negative-reviews-are-fine-as-long-as-theyre

The gist: positive and negative reviews are the same. They should be accurate and fair. That also means not basing them off one visit.

First, let me say that I agree with the main premise of this article.

Now, let me say that there are other things in here that I disagree with.

I would like to debate - NO! have a discussion with - one-on-one, in real time, Ryan Sutton - not for either of us to show the other person up, but to seek common ground - and I strongly suspect based on what I read in this piece that we could very well work towards it, and it would be fascinating for people to see how we get there.

Ryan, please sign up here and let's do it. I can tell you're a very logical person; there are some logical points that I believe you've fallen a bit short on, possibly because you had to rush through part of this piece to get it published. That said, it appears we're on the same page and perhaps even on the same team.

Cheers,

Rocks

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Interesting topic I've thought about much more since joining and contributing some to this website.

I'm not a blogger and not a big website poster except for DR.com.  And, I'm definitely not a professional reviewer or food critic.  I don't even play one on TV. As with any field, I really respect those who are pros and most of all the ones who take their craft most seriously by always improving their knowledge of food and quality in writing and evaluation. I most appreciate reviewers (and fellow posters here) I feel I can trust and from whom I can learn.

I think of what I do here as amateur (sometimes amateurish) reporting rather than reviewing.  I share or report on experiences I've had.  I try to support whatever opinion with specifics and think it very important to be fair and civil. Fair means balanced since virtually no place is all bad or all good.  Fair is also accounting for extenuating circumstances like an "off night" (if I know it to be an outlier) or with a new place still getting its sea legs or a place running understaffed, etc.  Civil is about being constructive, as nice and respectful of others as possible and supporting whatever view with specifics rather than just making sweeping aspersions or rants.

All said, a big reason why I first joined this website years ago was so I could learn about "good" places about which I might not otherwise be aware.  Good is, of course, in the eye of the beholder but, over time here as in real life, you get to know different people and weight opinions appropriately based on that experience. I also joined hoping to increase my own food, beverage and restaurant knowledge and think this website offers that spendidly to those who want to learn.

So, I have always posted both positive and negative reports here. Though I know far from perfect, it's always my intent that the negative be fair and civil as explained above.  And, when it is and there's a receptive chef/owner, such feedback can really help a business, again if they are open to it and really embrace it.

I know some others here don't agree and only post positive writeups.  That's of course totally fine and about individual choice.  Just a bit of explanation here on my own philosophy which can always evolve. FWIW.

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I have the same philosophy.  It's important to be fair.  If I only write positive things, I think it's fairly meaningless.  But I don't want to slam anyone.  I was recently asked to write a review of a local restaurant.  I went in anonymously and the food was pretty poor.  I decided not to write a post.  But if I can write something that shows both sides, I feel as if it has more credibility.  I've actually had some chefs and restaurant employees tell me that they appreciate the honesty.

Very interesting.  If you're willing, how do think about reconciling your view (which I share) about filtering out all negative being "fairly meaningless" with self-censoring on a bad experience you had?  Couldn't you have written about that in a fair and constructive way and thus served your readers more since some might now go to that place and also be disappointed as you were?

Just curious since you're also clearly thoughtful about this.  Thank you!

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First, let me say that I agree with the main premise of this article.

Now, let me say that there are other things in here that I disagree with.

I would like to debate - NO! have a discussion with - one-on-one, in real time, Ryan Sutton - not for either of us to show the other person up, but to seek common ground - and I strongly suspect based on what I read in this piece that we could very well work towards it, and it would be fascinating for people to see how we get there.

Ryan, please sign up here and let's do it. I can tell you're a very logical person; there are some logical points that I believe you've fallen a bit short on, possibly because you had to rush through part of this piece to get it published. That said, it appears we're on the same page and perhaps even on the same team.

Cheers,

Rocks

So, spill.

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I have the same philosophy.  It's important to be fair.  If I only write positive things, I think it's fairly meaningless.  But I don't want to slam anyone.  I was recently asked to write a review of a local restaurant.  I went in anonymously and the food was pretty poor.  I decided not to write a post.  But if I can write something that shows both sides, I feel as if it has more credibility.  I've actually had some chefs and restaurant employees tell me that they appreciate the honesty.

Yes, I definitely don't want to slam anyone. If the restaurant in question were someone's first-time startup, I would probably not bother with it (I've passed on writing about some D.C. restaurants for that reason). But the place I visited is connected with a very well-known food personality--food empire sort of person--so I feel I should say something, since I know they can do better (I've eaten at one of their other places and it's fabulous).

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Very interesting.  If you're willing, how do think about reconciling your view (which I share) about filtering out all negative being "fairly meaningless" with self-censoring on a bad experience you had?  Couldn't you have written about that in a fair and constructive way and thus served your readers more since some might now go to that place and also be disappointed as you were?

Just curious since you're also clearly thoughtful about this.  Thank you!

the place that I chose not to write about is a very niche restaurant.  I don't think they are going to grow beyond their neighborhood/food restricted audience, so there wasn't a point to writing about them.  However, I should write to the owner directly and provide feedback- I just haven't gotten to it yet.

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My own personal experience with reviews is that the effusive, positive feedback is great to hear and makes me feel great, but it's not actually very helpful to me. I send surveys to my clients after my associates and I see their pet in an appointment. The questions range from "was the parking lot clean" to "did the veterinary assistant handle your pet with care" to "was the doctor receptive to your concerns" and "did the doctor seem engaging or was she aloof". Almost invariably, the responses are positive, but I always wonder if that's the case, then why are there some clients who are unhappy, disappointed, frustrated, etc. Why do any clients leave the practice? If we don't hear the what we can improve, how can we? What do we do?

In a restaurant review, why wouldn't it be good for an owner/chef to hear the food was salty or the pasta was overcooked? Why would they not want to hear that a server was poor or inconsiderate or didn't know the menu?

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I'm not a blogger and not a big website poster except for DR.com.  And, I'm definitely not a professional reviewer or food critic.  I don't even play one on TV. As with any field, I really respect those who are pros and most of all the ones who take their craft most seriously by always improving their knowledge of food and quality in writing and evaluation. I most appreciate reviewers (and fellow posters here) I feel I can trust and from whom I can learn.

You're a hell of a lot better than you give yourself credit for being.

So, spill. 

Hell, Charles, I'm so far behind in writing reviews, that I feel it would be a waste of time to go in and nitpick about this article unless people *really* wanted me to. Just as an example, I don't think "out of town reviews" should be held to any less stringent standards as "in town reviews." Personally, I review (when I'm in "reviewing mode") *meals* and not *restaurants* - I don't think 1, or 3 visits (which is the accepted industry standard for writing a review) is enough to draw fair generalizations about a restaurant, especially when it's a "real" restaurant trying hard to do good work. I trust, for example, an intelligent layman who frequents "Joe's Bistro" five times a week much more than I would trust myself after one visit (assuming, of course, that said layman cared something about cuisine in general and wasn't just in there pounding out Bud Lights and downing cheeseburgers). That's just one example I disagree with - I could go in and find several others.

In a restaurant review, why wouldn't it be good for an owner/chef to hear the food was salty or the pasta was overcooked? Why would they not want to hear that a server was poor or inconsiderate or didn't know the menu?

Sometimes - ofttimes - a restaurant is just so fundamentally flawed that it's pointless to say anything to management. In those cases, you're doing people a service by writing a review advising them to steer clear (and indeed, these types of restaurants can often, perhaps usually, be pegged after a single visit). Quite often, these are "business models" that are designed to make money, and not to pay service to the culinary arts. And by "culinary arts," that can easily include a good burger, well-made barbecue, fried fish, a well-dressed salad; it doesn't have to mean "upscale."

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Even a casual remark ("Not as good as it used to be." "Get THIS. It's the only thing that's good at this restaurant. Forget the rest.") or a slip down the rankings on the Dining Guide for a particular neighborhood can absolutely CRUSH my willingness to try some restaurants that I may have perfectly enjoyed. I've got to be better at taking forcefully written reviews by confident sounding posters with more of a critical mind, especially when my own experience tells me something different though I can't write as forcefully or sound as confident!

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Even a casual remark ("Not as good as it used to be." "Get THIS. It's the only thing that's good at this restaurant. Forget the rest.") or a slip down the rankings on the Dining Guide for a particular neighborhood can absolutely CRUSH my willingness to try some restaurants that I may have perfectly enjoyed. I've got to be better at taking forcefully written reviews by confident sounding posters with more of a critical mind, especially when my own experience tells me something different though I can't write as forcefully or sound as confident!

*Everyone* needs to do this, and you sound perfectly confident (and competent) to me.

I cannot stress how badly I want everyone here to think for themselves and rely on their own palates. Yes, I know it's impossible for people to get out as much as restaurant critics, but the vast majority of restaurant critics are people just like you with something of a writing background and an interest in food - nobody went to "restaurant critic school," or took any magic pills to make them omnipotent, including me. If there's only one thing people take away from this website, I'd like for it to be that.

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After many many years of getting whipsawed back and forth by people blowing smoke one way or the other, I have learned that opinions are just that..... and facts are something totally different. "Gold is going to $5000"  "Obama is terrible"  " This restaurant sucks!"   You can get burried in bullshit in a free market if you let yourself take all the blather too seriously....so..... read and enjoy, the more the better...... but...... in the end you've got to decide for yourself what is right and not let the loudest voices do it for you!   Peace!

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