Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ethics for food blogging and reviewing restaurants (yelp, zomato etc.)

I am not known, as a very subtle writer. Well... in fact I am not very well known for a subtle "anything". I am brash, opinionated, at times harsh... but what I am not is unfair!

I do think, that you have to be tight with your top ratings. Overall I do think, that it is substantially wrong of yelp and zomato [and other reviewing sites], to just offer one overall rating. Because people have individual ideas of a restaurants performance... and often it just not make sense to rate a restaurant badly, because you are the princess from the story the "princess and the pea", or you have PMS [yes, also guys can have "emotional" PMS']...

I have read this on Zomato [in the UAE, we don't have - but zomato, which is basically the same]:
SoHo Grill:
Discerning In Dubai: To the incompetent gasbags who manage SoHo Grill -
What is that supposed to mean, "We're disappointed YOU were disappointed?" Are you trying to patronise me? That's the line people who are not actually disappointed use. Basically you're saying - ' Oh, we're sorry that YOU feel bad, but we basically don't think we did anything wrong.'

ARE YOU NOT DISAPPOINTED IN YOURSELF FOR HAVING BAD QUALITY AND SERVICE?! YOU ARE ONLY DISAPPOINTED BECAUSE YOU'RE LOSING CUSTOMERS, YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT QUALITY OF YOUR RESTAURANT. I already wrote the review and explained what you did wrong and what you need to rectify. Do you think I have the time or energy to call you back? Or do you think I'm so cheap that I write bad reviews so you'll recompense me by giving me free meals? I write these reviews because i like good food. I have a Doctorate degree and do not work in the Food/Hospitality industry. Don't you dare pester me again by asking me over and over to call you. It's your job to fix your terrible restaurant, not mine. .
SoHo Grill: Hi Discerning, We were merely trying to contact you to compensate you for your bad experience, and prove that we could do better. We're sorry if we offended you in any way. It was not our intention. Our second post was to update you with our new customer service e-mail that we set up so that we could channel your complaint more efficiently internally.
Foodcriticdxb  they are basically saying zomato reviews are inefficient lol! i had a bite at this place the interior design is attractive but the food is one of the worst ive had. dry, late... read more
Joslyn 'Josie' Ramey
Joslyn 'Josie' Ramey  I thought the comment was trying to say how disappointed they were that you had a bad experience-- so it was a good response on their part, recognizing that they needed to work... read more
So the restaurant made a couple of mistakes. The soft drink didn't had enough carbonation [I am not sure, if a food blogger or commentator has the technical expertise, to judge how easy it is to adjust/maintain/use a soda fountain....], the asparagus was not well peeled. She was especially furious about their response on Zomato and subsequently gave them the minimum rating of 1 out of 5!

I would say, that these are really first world problems.

The difference between professional restaurant reviewers and food bloggers and reviewers is, that the professional writers are visiting a restaurant several times, until they write a proper review.
When I review, I usually go only once - but I give the venue the opportunity, to make mistakes up to me.
Also - your feelings, have nothing to do with the quality of a restaurant!
In our example, a restaurant with 1 out of 5 would barely save to eat, the steak would have been not tasty at all, massively under or overcooked. You name it.

This makes me think, that yelp, zomato and all the other reviewing sites, supposed to take more charge of their services and show more responsibility! Unfortunately these companies are focusing on their "money-making" departments and let the quality of the website suffer!

When I would be them, I would ban this type of user, which obviously went beyond any reasonable and justifiable limits!

Truth has to be told - there is one restaurant in particular, which I rated rather bad - despite the overall good ratings of others. Meet Wingster's:

I guess this is my last update for this restaurant.
I can proudly say that, when it comes to food [and beverages] I am very objective, opinionated but fair. For Wingsters I wasn't at times no more sure - and that's why I revise my 1 point rating. This has nothing to do with the real quality of the restaurant, but their consistency of services - and honestly, I was also a bit cranky with the whole situation.

Hence in this reflection [and also with the reason, that I like a good chicken wing!], I went back - again after work, though this time a bit earlier: 1 am.
The staff did deep cleaning in the restaurant [scrubbing the floor, moving all furniture etc.]. On one hand, I really happy to see, that they take it seriously with the hygiene. On the other hand, you can clean smaller things, if you have a slower business - but you don't want to make a guest unwelcome. Again, quite a service flaw.
Anyway, I wanted to take my order to go, and the cleaning didn't had a big impact on me.

I ordered the normal French fries and spicy chipotle wings - and after about 10 minutes my order was ready and I headed home.
I first of all opened the French fries, The paper bag was closed with several stapler pins - nice to keep it warm... unfortunately the fries could have been crisper, warmer, less greasy. Not the worst fries I tasted.... but by far not the best ones neither. One more thing: I could taste again a strange fat taste, which wasn't as bad as the first time I ate there [or was my palate less sensitive???]. Anyway - overall not that pleasant.
I had higher hopes for the wings. Doused in hot sauce they quite lost their crispiness [still retain some "finger-licking" stickiness]. Also the wings, had a faint taste of the oil. However there was a much bigger flaw of the wings: they were cooked to death! Yes - they kept the wings so long in the fryer, that part of the meat shrunk and became stringy.

Further I have to slightly object to the types of wings they are offering. For a normal restaurant, these type of wings are ok. However at the prices [I bought 8 wings and a portion of French fries for AED 50], but also the expectations, what you have, when you go to a specific chicken wing venue just suggest, that they are sourcing large, meaty chicken wings!

The sauce itself was also somewhat disappointing - on one hand, it tasted not wrong - but it didn't tasted particularly housemade [if - yes IF it was housemade, they just mixed several food industry products together to make the sauce - for sure it isn't from scratch] - and even more importantly, the sauce didn't taste anything but chipotle [smokey, funky, hot].

My final [really final] verdict: there are some flaws or objections I have, with the products they source [the chicken itself, definitely the oil, the sauces etc]; and there are flaws in execution [the overcooked wings and the soggy oily fries] and there are flaws in the service [closing early - or a deep cleaning, hence a guest cannot sit inside]. This all overshadows an otherwise whimsical concept! Maybe, they are just lazing up a bit, when it goes towards closing time - but then there is a lack of consistency, which is equally bad.

As food is priority, I can't really give this place more points than 2.5 - the sauces taste industrial, and the produce is less than average.
The strange thing is, that a bit of tweaking, could make this a killer venue. Overall the concept is really compelling - but they just need to get the operation right.
Now it is the time to say, that I won't come anytime soon back to this place. 3 tries, is really enough. And no, the food doesn't suggest, to get back often. Unfortunately I don't really understand all the great ratings... it seems, that they went in a completely different venue [with the same concept though].
A restaurant like Kimchikn just would kills this place [not with the concept but with flavors!] - and either way buying KFC chicken wings [they are not better, but also not worse - but at least they don't have this strange fat taste] and douse them yourself in sauce [I recommend a mixture of liquid butter and franks hot sauce - or you can use Tabasco Chipotle sauce] will definitely lead to a better wing. Or you are just baking your own wings [ method] and douse them in sauce. Anyway, I am no more interested in excuses.... let's move on!

I was hungry - on my way back to work and thought to go just another time to the German Doner Kebab - but then I have seen this small restaurant: Wingsters.
The concept is intriguing - definitely not for everyone and not for those, who don't understand black humor.
The food is connected to the worst of the worse mobsters mainly from the US.

Well - basically it is a chicken wing restaurant.

I tried sweet potato fries and a portion of the Al Capone [which supposed to be spicy].
Service was a little bit slow [considering that there was just another table].
The fries came first - and they had a pretty bad aftertaste. I was not sure, if it came from the freezer... when the wings arrived I assumed it came from the frying oil, as the aftertaste was absolutely noticeable again.
The salads were fine - and I finished the wings - just because I was hungry and wasted already too much time. I gave feedback - but then, the owner didn't even took of my sweet potatoe fries [I had 2 or 3 fries] from my bill - even after discussing.

This was a couple of months ago - and I didn't considered to come back.
I think, they have to get some things right: e.g. the oil [and aftertaste] - but especially also the wings - for a restaurant which focuses on wings, I am just expecting, that they have better wings [larger wings] - better crisp, better sauces [supposed to taste fresher - I don't say, that they use sauces out of a bag - but the sauces supposed to just taste homemade!
So if I have a craving for chicken wings, I prefer them Korean from Kimchikn...

But that is just me...


Wanted to give it another try.
So I went their - after work... I was quite late at 01h15 but they supposed to be open till 02h00 - so no problem?
Yes it was... I went inside and a waiter told me that their machines are already switched off as they have their last order at 01h10. I was pretty upset, about this blatant lie - I am working in the business, and there would be never a 01h10 last order.
Further the place has pick up and delivery - so to make this type of last order - it makes no sense at all.
I changed my rating to the minimum - sorry but it seems, that their customer service didn't became better - but it became worse... and all what I can read, I am sure, that their food didn't became stellar. A pity!

As you can see, I reviewed the place 3 times [one rating]. There was also a lot of back and forth going on in the comment section. overall I gave the place 2/5 compared to an average score of 4.1.

As you can read, I don't agree with the service, with the taste of the product [it is not a matter of taste, if it has a "chemical" aftertaste],  And even though, I still think, that even 2 points are barely justifiable I did give it a "two".

But let's face it: 4.1/5 is a joke. Yeah - comically bad ratings make no sense - but impossible good ratings as well. How can you rate a place, which makes rather mediocre chicken wings [with questionable creative sauces] better than a place, with outstanding food - like a fine dining restaurant???

These sites, have to get more into it - have to offer better and more precise ratings [e.g. service, after-service, food quality, preparation, inventiveness, value!!!] and also have to bring the market/type of restaurant into perspective. Otherwise you compare apples with oranges, which seems like a stupid thing to do!?