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As restaurants fully reopen, diners are returning to their go-to spots in droves. This is, obviously, good news for restaurateurs. But the not-so-good news? Some patrons are immediately returning to their pre-pandemic expectations. According to Brizo data, the majority of restaurant reviews are a generous 4.5 out of 5. But, could that number fall if diners don’t embrace the “new normal” operators are experiencing due to labor shortages and confusing and often-sudden reopening rules?

restaurant reviews

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

As restaurants fully reopen, diners are returning to their go-to spots in droves. This is, obviously, good news for restaurateurs. But the not-so-good news? Some patrons are immediately returning to their pre-pandemic expectations. According to Brizo data, the majority of restaurant reviews are a generous 4.5 out of 5. But, could that number fall if diners don’t embrace the “new normal” operators are experiencing due to labor shortages and confusing and often-sudden reopening rules?

The New York Times famously paused its restaurant reviews for the first six months of the pandemic, and, as reviews have slowly returned, the trending sentiment has, thankfully, been overwhelmingly positive. Stan Sagner, a restaurant marketing strategist in Manhattan who has reviewed restaurants for The New York Daily News, welcomes their reemergence. “I think it’s important that major publications go back to reviewing, in part because there’s this huge pent-up interest and energy and desire to go out and dine and there are all these restaurants opening,” he says. 

As a former restaurant professional who has cooked at a Michelin-starred establishment, he has faith that professional reviewers are rating restaurants through a post-apocalyptic lens. Sagner says, “The writers have a pretty good understanding of the current environment and when they’re writing, they’re recognizing the reality. I don’t think they’ll slam a restaurant for something that’s out of the management’s control, like being understaffed.”

Whether or not diners will follow suit remains to be seen. Jeffrey Bank, the CEO of Carmine’s and Virgil’s, the wildly popular restaurants with multiple locations across several states and the Bahamas, hopes they do. “I think people need to understand that when they go back to their favorite restaurant, even if it’s at one-hundred percent occupancy, it doesn’t mean everything is a hundred percent back to normal. It’s not a light switch; it’s like going to a new restaurant,” he says. Bank cites equipment troubles and labor shortages as issues that can impact the dining experience. “Getting parts for equipment isn’t so easy at the moment, and a lot of former staffers moved away or into other industries,” he says. “I hope diners will realize that, hey, maybe now isn’t the time to give someone a poor review on Yelp,” he adds.

In Brooklyn, Francie, a new restaurant from owners John Winterman and chef Chris Cipollone, garnered a Michelin star practically out of the gates this year. And while other professional reviews have been stellar and diner reviews have been holding steady at an impressive five stars, there are a couple of outliers who have left less-than-stellar reviews. What does Winterman make of this? He wonders, “Where does a person’s rating system come from? What does three-and-a-half stars even mean? It’s hyper subjectivity.” The team at Francie takes it all in stride. “If the overwhelming majority of people that order a dish love it, and one person doesn’t, that’s its own version of the temperature test. Everybody carries with them their own personal climate of how comfortable they are — is it slightly too cold or slightly too warm? If sixty people are happy with the temperature, you’re not going to change it for one person,” he says.

Aside from the most popular restaurant review sites that allow owners to respond to reviews, Facebook has become another source of reviews — not all of which a restaurateur can see. Kay Ryan Dale of Cleveland, Ohio, runs the group NEO Foodies, which spotlights all things food, including cooking, shopping, and dining out in Northeast Ohio, and boasts more than 13,000 highly engaged members. The content shared often includes restaurant reviews, which are encouraged. But Dale draws the line at what she calls grievances. “Someone posting ‘I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted it so I stormed out’ isn’t a restaurant review. That’s a grievance,” she says. “We ask that people resolve grievances involving a restaurant with its management. There are several sides to every story and the restaurant staff is not here to defend themselves,” Dale notes. When posts like that surface, she removes them and the poster receives a message reminding them of the group’s steadfast guidelines. “I started NEO Foodies in 2008 as a direct response to another forum that had been taken over by trolls. Content like that won’t fly here,” she says.

Sagner is hopeful that diners will grant restaurants some grace during these first months of reopening. “Restaurants are where we meet and gather, socialize, make friends, go on dates. They’re a vital part of our social ecosystem, so when people take a jab at them, they’re taking a jab at New York City or whatever city they’re in. And, remember, it’s almost miraculous that restaurants survived at all,” he says. 

Ryan agrees. “Especially as it pertains to service right now, people need to keep an open mind and an open heart. Let’s not view restaurants through the same lens that we would have eighteen months ago before all of this happened,” she says.

While Banks and his team strive for perfection at all times, mistakes can happen, especially as new staffers ramp up and restaurants operate at full capacity. “There isn’t a successful business model that involves making mistakes or having accidents regularly, but on occasion, in any industry, something can go wrong,” he says. Rather than stewing in silence if a meal is going awry, Banks welcomes feedback in the moment. “If you need something, let us know. We’re restaurant professionals who want to fix whatever is wrong. In fact, we’d love to fix it,” he says.


About Brizo Data, Inc.: Brizo Data helps the foodservice industry by providing the strategic data you need to win in your market. We empower restaurant vendors and restauranteurs with better data for Business Intelligence, Market Research, and Competitive Analysis. Brizo monitors the online footprint of every food serving establishment in the US and Canada – from social media presence, online reviews, menu items, market composition, and even technological choices.

For more information, questions or to set up a free trial contact cheers@brizodata.com or click here ‘Get Started for FREE’ .
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