The conundrum of rating restaurants as you travel.

One of the things that has started to bother me lately is the question of rating or doing field reports on restaurant, food trucks, and other food venues when traveling. There’s several reasons for this. There are a number of factors that can lead me to rate a place and often they have only one shot at it. With a hotel, I’m staying a couple of days so if something is wrong for, let’s say, a half an hour, they have ample opportunity to make it right. If it’s food, and I’m eating one meal, then they have one shot and that’s it. As I sit here thinking about the reasons that it bothers me, I realize that there are quite a number of factors that can affect me as the traveler/diner, and make what’s already a subjective review even more subjective.

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Granted, I’m no food snob, so I have a fairly wide range of what I eat, and what I consider acceptable, taking into account the venue, the price, and what I’d consider reasonable to expect from a place. However, this is the list of things that I think I’ll have to remember to cross check with myself when thinking about what to say about my food experience:

  • How much is the hype (for example Yelp reviews) affecting my experience? Was it over hyped? Am I feeling let down merely because of the reviews?
  • How tired am I? When traveling, it’s easy to get tired, and after a time, even feel travel fatigue, which may color, or discolor – if you will, my impression of a place.
  • Local customs and attitudes. If I’m in a place where it’s customary to be curt and abrupt, am I allowing ample latitude for it before dismissing it as “poor” service?
  • Local tastes. If I’m in a culture where the food is much milder in flavor and have just left a country where everything was spiced over the top, am I judging from a neutral position or are my taste buds still conditioned from the last place?
  • How’s my mood? If I’m in a tour group or even just in a crowded place, and some 10 year old just ran over my feet and splashed a little soda on me, am I separating that experience from the food?

Oh, I don’t know, I could probably keep going on and on with variables that illustrate the point. The point being, it’s easy to take a shot at a food establishment, but I know it’s my responsibility to make it a fair shot. I try my best, but realize that I really need to be careful with words. In some of my reviews, you’ll see where I try to do these things, but you can see the personal biases, previous experiences, and trying to balance with an understanding of some cultural differences. Here is an example of one of my YELP reviews.

Ultimately I think most people understand that reviews are quite subjective and are relative to the person writing it, at the same time, though, when we blog, we have a responsibility to be fair and to think things out, rather than reacting to things that are not germane to the review. It’s important to consider when writing or proofing our reviews to consider any personal biases that may unfairly color our review.

What do you think?