One of my favorite quotes about humanity is from the movie “The Matrix”:
When Agent Smith says to Morpheus, ” Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered. Where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that as a species, human beings define their reality through misery and suffering. “
This is how I feel about restaurant reviews. We just are not happy as people until we “are not” happy.
Certainly, we do not live in a perfect world and we will have occasions when we go to a restaurant and are disappointed. Just going to the restaurant itself. however, is actually where the problem begins.
I am fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to eat out frequently in the last 3 years, and many of those meals were with groups of people who were each ordering a different dish and then sharing it with the group. What better way to try everything? So, the chef cooks food that will be served to our group by the same wait staff at the same time and place. So, of course, we all felt the same way about how the evening went, right? Wrong!
“The food was too spicy”… “it wasn’t spicy enough” , “the meat was dry”…”what do you mean it was dry, it was perfect?” “ The waiter is doing a lousy job checking us”…”geez, if he checks on us any more I am going to scream” “The order took too long to get here”…”Really, I thought it was pretty fast?”
So, this happens to me on at least a weekly basis. When all things are essentially equal, the opinions range wildly. Why does this happen? It happens because every single person has their individual idea of how they would describe a good/bad experience. A restaurant can set a baseline of how they want to perform to best to please as many people as possible, but despite their best efforts, there will always be a segment of the population that just does not like them…and that is fine. It DOES NOT mean that the restaurant did anything wrong, they just are not your cup of tea. Almost none of this rises to the level of making a complaint. Accept it, and find a different restaurant next week! If you are really bent out of shape and can’t help yourself, give the management some courteous input.
What about “real issues?”
Examples of such:
1. A foreign object is in the food (hair, insect, light bulb,glass, piece of plastic, etc)
2. The server was rude (server rolls eyes, seems put out, or is snarky)
3. Hot food arrives cold to the table
People immediately get up in arms when these things happen. “Oh My God, this is the worst thing ever…I am never coming back here again and I am telling all of my friends about how awful it is.”
Does anybody really believe for one moment that the restaurant manager/owner intended for any of these things to occur? Of course not. I think that everybody should start their concern about the given situation from that very basic standpoint. An accident occurred, or additional training needs to be provided to workers.
How can this be corrected? A manager/owner needs to know that there is an issue.
Now, maybe you are adverse to confrontation and are not comfortable talking to a manager at that moment. Fine. Call them or email them after the fact. Most operators want to resolve these issues and are generally eager to talk to you. Not always, but usually.
So, this brings me full circle to my point about reviews being generally worthless.
If you are really trying to make the restaurant a better place, then you need to involve the people who run the place. Nothing will ever change if you do not. If you simply go online to write a bad review, you aren’t doing it for the “greater good”, you simply want to bitch and be heard. Your goal was to harm, not to help. If you think sensibly about it, you can only come to that conclusion.
What about reviews about how bad the food is “I just couldn’t stand the food, it was that awful?” Sometimes this is a matter of poor ingredients but, more often than not, it is a matter of personal taste. What you think is awful, I might think is the best thing that I have ever had.
Our standards will always be different than the person next to us, even on a minute level. This is why reviews have limited value. They are a review by and for one person only, the reviewer. I think that sometimes we fancy ourselves as food critics, when in fact, we just know what we like and how we like it. If I really want to evaluate the food to find out if I like it, I need to try it myself.