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Member Star Ratings for Restaurants


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Do you want to rate restaurants, in the same fashion that you rate hotels?

These would be in the exact same form at our hotel star ratings.

It is not something I've been thinking of - the idea just now literally popped into my head while creating a separate sub-forum for our Member-Influenced Awards. I'm a restaurant expert, but so are you, and there's no reason you shouldn't have some impact over what a restaurant is rated, just as I do. It can be clearly delineated, but I would trust your rating just as much as I trust my own.

Let me know what you think - this topic will remain open for probably several weeks before I decided what to do, because this is a fundamental change in the way we do things.

Important: It may look like we're quite busy, and we are - we are now quite possibly the #2 most-active restaurant website in the world behind Yelp, and it's all because we've been so selective in obtaining the best-of-the-best when it comes to screening our members for nearly twelve years. However, it is become very difficult to get *new* members, and I want that to change - something like this would be a pretty big incentive to join, although members would still need to establish themselves in order to have a vote.

Speak freely, but be respectful. Nothing will change except the existence of a star rating for each restaurant's thread. It will have absolutely no effect on The Dining Guide, which is my own opinion (that said, I have *always* used our members' opinions as influencing factors). If nothing else, I hope this shows just how much respect I have for all of you.

One non-negotiable rule is that you must have been to the restaurant in order to rate it. Yes, this will be on the honor system, but I don't see it as a problem.

In terms of how I feel, I could go either way. If it increases the clout our membership has in the restaurant world, I view it as a good thing, because you all are the best bunch of restaurant experts that there is (even you do not realize the extent of your expertise).

Very Important: For the time being, I think it's very important that I, personally, do not assign star ratings or numerical values to restaurants. I have too much individual power, and it would be wrong for me to do so. I am a consumer advocate, and the best way that I can advocate on the consumer's behalf would for me to *step back*, report things as I see them, and *do not* issue some sort of "final decree" as to a restaurants merit. It isn't correct, it isn't fair, and all it does is give the critic power. It does *nothing* for the consumers - nothing whatsoever. It leads to bribery, abuse of power, and all sorts of negative things. However, when an elite group of critics - *as a group* - comes up with an *average* score, that has been decided on by many of them, it is just like the results of a vote, and *that* star rating means something. Our star ratings would not be like Yelp's star ratings because our critics are not like Yelp's critics: 1) We screen all our members, and every single review is open to scrutiny and debate 2) it would take a minimum of ten postings to even have a vote, so only our most-experienced members would have the chance. There would be no individual glory for the voters, and thus no potential bribes and misuse of power (even one five-star rating simply won't make *that* much of a difference). These reasons are exactly why you should avoid any type of knee-jerk reaction against this system. My problem with star ratings is when they're issued by an individual: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" is absolutely true, and around the country, in various disciplines, bribery has taken place, and undeserving businesses have received inflated scores in exchange for money. This is by no means an accusation of any one individual; it's merely stating the obvious problem which exists when one critic wields too much power - you can no longer trust the person, or the restaurants being reviewed. Criticism must be done entirely objectively with no pay-for-play, and without the perception of malfeasance. When a group of anonymous voters casts their ballots, not even knowing who the other judges are, there is almost no chance of this, and given the quality and expertise of our high-level members, I think that only good can come of it. Readers will have two rating systems to choose from: my own, and the members', and let me tell you, there is *no way* that any one person can get around a city as much as a group of hundreds, or even thousands of experienced diners. And these ratings can *always* be changed over time, so nobody is locked in. Please re-read this paragraph, and let it sink in - this is why I am so excited about Hotel sub-forums: Our members travel a lot, and you can count on their rankings. Finally, no decision on my part has been made - I'm going to carefully read everything everyone has to say before making my move, but my opinion is that only good can come of it, and since the votes are completely anonymous, they will be honest. Yes, a chef with a lot of posts can vote for her own restaurant, but that one vote will be drowned out by the many - it take only a couple of seconds to issue the star rating, so it's no extra work for people, and I will compile an annual member's star-ranking system, allowing our readers to see which restaurant our members think are the best.

As for criteria, I believe they should the same as my own, and there's only ONE criterion that I use:

* If someone was taking me out, and paying for my meal, what would I rate this restaurant? In other words, money is NOT a factor in the star rating. I use this *especially* when it comes to ranking restaurants within neighborhoods (would I rather have a free meal at Fiola Mare, or Bourbon Steak? Would I rather have a free meal at 2 Amys or La Piquette?) Would I rather have a free meal at Rose's Luxury or Sushi Capitol? It's not so easy, is it?) But this is the criterion I use. In terms of 1) plain text 2) Italic or 3) Bold, that is simple for me: About 25% of all independent restaurants are rated in Italic, which translates to "DCDining Recommended," i.e., would I send someone there on their own dime? To be ranked in Bold, you need to be just drop-dead awesome, and it's not really something you can "aim for" - it just happens when a restaurant is so good that it's worth a trip down here from, say, New York City, to experience. There aren't very many of them. I have to walk a fine line here, and have much, *much* more of an ethical burden on my shoulders than our members will have on theirs, since I wield a disproportionate amount of power with my reviews, as opposed to being part of a (forgive the term) "hive mind." 

I, personally, would like to try this system, and we can always scrap it if it doesn't work out, but I think it will over the long term. I will not be allowed to participate in the star-ranking system. Let's give it a start on Jan 1, 2017 - what do you say? I reiterate: This will not have any effect on my Dining Guide whatsoever - that guide is mine, and mine alone, and the responsibility for its contents is exclusively mine. With regards to the dining guide, the buck stops here, with me.

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