I Will Never Read Another Google Restaurant Review—Here's Why

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Let's Stop Using Google's Restaurant ReviewsAlison Dominguez

When it comes to food-related nightmare fuel, here's my biggest one: I ask friends to pick out a restaurant, and they scroll through Google and Yelp reviews for so long that I turn into a skeleton, then a tumbleweed rolls in the distance.

Has this ever happened to you? You ask a friend to choose a bar/restaurant/coffee shop, and they won’t go to a spot with less than 4.6 stars on Google. Well, it’s happened to me more than a few times, and I’ve had enough. We need to stop relying on online restaurant reviews, full stop.

And I don’t mean you need to turn off your phone and stumble upon an obscure hole-in-the-wall spot run by a grandma who is one TikTok away from virality (I mean, you might). No, there are a few other reasons why the restaurant review system (and living by stars) is broken.

People Have a Lot of Feelings

There's a very high chance that reviewers feel one of two emotions: complete adoration or pure, unadulterated rage. In fact, a study recently found that 1-star reviews are about four times longer than 5-star reviews, meaning our outrage is way louder than our praise.

I see it all the time when I read reviews of recipes, especially the ones left by the delightfully deranged commenters captured on the NYT Cooking Comments Instagram account. Even aside from the incredible written responses, the star rating system on many recipe websites tends to completely flatten almost all the recipes to a rating of 4 stars.

It’s actually become kind of a game for me, finding a recipe on most websites that gets out of the purgatory that is 4 stars. And what does 4 stars even mean, really? With our review-obsessed society, 4 stars used to mean top-tier, but now is just above “mid" when muddled with extreme opinions on either side.

You Likely Don’t Agree with Everyone

When was the last time you really agreed with everyone? For me, maybe never. So why do we think a single restaurant review will lead us to our new favorite restaurant?
Reviews, as open-access and relatively egalitarian as they are to read and write, also have the propensity to become a shouting match in an empty house. They’re a medium that are largely unmonitored, often incentivized by restaurants, or full of review-bombs based on religious/political/public health-related beliefs.

In some cases, whole sites have been considered to be worthless, as is the case for Goodreads and their review-bombers that have “reviewed” books before they were even published, with many users stepping away from the platform. In restaurant terms, a single bad review can cost a restaurant 30 customers. And when those bad reviews can often be made by folks who have not even dined at the bakery/cafe/bar and they just gave it a 1-star review because they disagree with, say, the owner’s politics. This can have catastrophic effects on a business.

You’re Spoiling the Restaurant for Yourself

At the end of the day, reading restaurant reviews feels like skipping to the last page of a book. But worse, because it’s keeping you and your friends from deciding on where to eat—and you’re really hungry. Basically, online restaurant reviews are major spoilers, and while I love perusing a menu before I get to my dinner spot, building on your conviction and bringing a healthy appetite for new experiences has never led me astray, but a suspiciously high review definitely has.

After all, isn’t that the beauty of taste? You get to have an opinion, and just a kind reminder, opinions are not facts (and thus reviews are not facts)! So please, I beg of you, the next time you’re at a new restaurant you’ve wanted to try, just put your phone down and step inside. It just might be your new favorite place.

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