Are TripAdvisor Restaurant Reviews Relevant

McCaysville GA – December 25, 2013 (by: Eric Hertha via Hospitalitybusinessnews.com) Being in the hospitality business ones hotel or restaurant ranking on TripAdvisor comes up in the conversation from time to time. Especially, though, at this time of the year. The end of the year. People want to set goals for the coming year and need to be able to quantify their results – “I am going to get our restaurant to number 10 or above on TripAdvisor”, for example.

But the question is whether the restaurant rankings on TripAdvisor are relevant. I was looking at restaurant rankings today for Atlanta and I noticed that the #6 restaurant has changed and it is now “King of Pops”, a popsicle retailer.  The fact that it is not an “out of this world” overly expensive, need to make a reservation 5 years in advance restaurant does not matter. What got my interest was that this establishment is now number 6 out of 3,388 restaurants in Atlanta and this ranking is based on 14 reviews. Good reviews. Well actually, very good reviews. But 14 of them.

I think that I understand the hotel rankings on TripAdvisor and I would suspect that the restaurants are similar.There are basic things that people want. In a hotel, for example, a clean room, a safe environment, a friendly staff and a good location. So if the hotel beats these expectations then it will rank better. This is why a 2 star hotel can rank ahead of a 5 star hotel. You might be able to sum it up as a combination of the guests’ expectations and the perceived value received.

But I could not get over the 14 reviews and how that propelled King of Pops to #6 out of 3,388 restaurants. So, I decided to look into the matter.

I took 15 cities in my sample:

City

# of Restaurants

Reviews for #1 Restaurant

New York City

11,252

749

Chicago

8,170

419

Los Angeles

8,436

153

Denver

2,438

292

Atlanta

3,388

564

Dallas

2,966

301

Toronto

6,384

90

Montreal

4,278

207

London

16,025

81

Paris

11,317

399

Berlin

5,319

291

Tokyo

38,997

27

Sao Paulo

21,626

570

Shanghai

13,330

51

Moscow

5,312

82

 

These 15 cities have 159,000 restaurants and the top restaurants have a total of 4,276 reviews or 285 each, on average. Not one has over 1,000 reviews. Only 3 (20%) out of 15 cities have a top restaurant with more than 500 reviews. While 5 (33%) have top restaurants with less than 100 reviews. Tokyo’s top restaurant only has 27 reviews.

For our 15 cities we looked at the top 30 restaurants in each. For these top 450 restaurants they had an average of 210 reviews each. Not very many. New York City had the most “over 1000” reviews with a total of 5 out of 30. Chicago had 3 Restaurants, London 2, Sao Paulo 1, and Moscow 1. The rest did not have a single restaurant in the top 30 with more than 1,000 reviews.

The table below shows the average number of reviews per restaurant based 3 brackets

City Top 10 Ave # Reviews 11-20 Ave # Reviews 21-30 Ave # Reviews
New York

637

319

514

Chicago

392

557

261

Los Angeles

104

160

146

Denver

278

104

161

Dallas

190

97

83

Atlanta

270

178

239

Toronto

157

75

112

Montreal

217

197

205

London

592

132

171

Paris

352

340

239

Berlin

148

181

112

Tokyo

42

52

58

Sao Paulo

354

207

189

Shanghai

177

123

69

Moscow

161

58

36

 

So why does all of this make a difference? First off manipulation. The fewer the number of restaurant reviews there are the easier it is to manipulate the standings. The prime example has to be Tokyo. The number 1 and 2 restaurants only have 27 reviews. It does not take too much work to put together some bogus reviews to beat that.

The second point is reliability. The more reviews the more trust you can put into what people are saying. One excellent review or one terrible one does not change the rating that much. But together the reviews give a good indication of what to expect. With only a few reviews the chances of a “surprise” is much greater.

One final thought. TripAdvisor should continue to post reviews as they are now, however there should be a minimum number of reviews required in order for a restaurant to be ranked. Lets say 100?

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