How To Spot A Self-Written Restaurant Review

Broken English, excessive menu details and spot on restaurant capacity figures. Just some of the many ways to spot a fake restaurant review...
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Broken English, excessive menu details and spot on restaurant capacity figures. Just some of the many ways to spot a fake restaurant review...

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You fear the new restaurant. Sure the new restaurant looks nice from the outside. You stare through the window as casually as possible, checking out the customers and hopefully catch a glimpse of a main course. And the people inside look like they’re having fun; but that’s no indication of anything, people are morons, they would probably eat a plate of horse manure with a Swedish flag sticking out of it if it came with a free glass of wine and a complimentary blini.

Also, even if the food you see looks good, you still fear the new restaurant. What if they whack on strange charges? What if they don’t let you have tap water, even if it is their legal obligation? What if the waiters chat up your girl while pushing their black-trousered ass in your face? What if they bring the wrong dish, and when you complain everything else arrives 40 minutes late, and cold, and then at the end the dish that you didn’t order still shows up on your bill, and you complain but you can’t because they say you ordered it, and they show you the item on the menu, and they indicate their little piece of paper with the code, and you’re looking more and more stupid on your date and, and, oh, and may the ground swallow you whole, as you pay for their crappy service and horrible cold food, inputting your pin number with a pathetic smile.

These awful things that plague so many high street restaurants are things only a series of reviews can tell you. But so many restaurants write fake reviews of themselves.

How can you tell? Here are some tips to help you rat out the culprits.

We will use a real life review that astonishingly captures all 5 of the common signs. Identity withheld for ‘not being sued’-reasons.

9 out of 10 stars *1

I celebrated my birthday in -- -- Vietnamese restaurant a few weeks ago. That was the brilliant time that we'd ever had *2. Everything was perfect: the food, the atmosphere, the staff and the services. We had 16 people and everyone enjoyed the party so much. We had the prawn summer rolls, spring rolls, monkfish curry the prawn toast, duck with orange sauce, caramel ginger chicken, stir fried egg noodles, shaky beef and the vegetables salad.*3 They all were absolutely delicious.The other thing is the price is very reasonable. They also have special deals which are 2 course meal for £9.00 and 3 course meal for £10.50. They are so good deals. Should try it ! *4

I think -- -- Vietnamese is the best restaurant in Camden for about 20 people-parties*5. I definitely come back there!

When you see a 9/10 from a single reviewer. Treat it with suspicion

1. 9/10 is a weird score, so is 8/10 but 9/10 is really weird

Discussion:

Here we are talking about the score an individual customer gives (not an average of all the ratings).

We are also not talking about the scores of a professional review. Professional restaurant critics use the whole scale when scoring, this is because they are charged with offsetting so many factors, the great taste of the dessert, against the Pan-Am smile of the waitress, and balancing that with the cleanliness of the window frames. All these factors morph in their powerful brains in a complex metric which outputs things like 8.888888829329 which they very unwillingly round up to 9/10.

Real people are different; they rate the experience, and experience of a place comes in 3 grades, not 10. Real people either loved their night out, or thought it was nothing to speak about, or they hated it.

Sure, there is a certain type of geeky person who scores a place 9/10. This is the type of person that thinks to themselves: ‘I had such an amazing time there. I want to praise the roof off this place… buuut, I suppose that if the décor was just a liiiittle more vibrant then… No! It cannot be 10/10. It has to be a 9 from me’.

When you see a 9/10 from a single reviewer. Treat it with suspicion and apply the other tests.

2. Foreign restaurant, Foreign English in review

Discussion:

When reading a review, you become suspicious that (say) a Vietnamese restaurant review should be filled with Vietnamese English, the following are extracted from our review:

“That was the brilliant time that we'd ever had”

Everything was perfect: […] and the services”

“They are so good deals. Should try it!”

“I definitely come back there!”

Well, no doubt it’s Vietnamese fitting, but you may object to my test and say: ‘That’s because the reviewer is a real life Vietnamese customer who is rating a Vietnamese restaurant, and they’re the ones that should know, right?’.

Well here’s the thing. They are the people to know. This is why if any person of any nationality rates their native food, they always declare its authenticity against their own experience: ‘the food was really good, and I should know I am from HCMC!’.

Without this assurance, be extra suspicious.

A ‘vegetables [sic.] salad’ is included and we all know that is never ‘absolutely delicious’.

3. Listing the menu in the review

Discussion:

Sure you might remember a good dish or two from a night out at a restaurant, perhaps one good one you had, and one good one that someone else ordered that looked better than yours. That’s it.

From the list in *3 we see a third of the vast menu including all the best sellers, or at least what the restaurant wants to push.

When restaurants list dishes like this, look through the list for suspicious items.

In this case, a ‘vegetables [sic.] salad’ is included. Let’s be realistic, this is at most shredded iceberg lettuce, quartered tomato, an unpeeled cucumber slice, and a lemon wedge), and we all know that is never ‘absolutely delicious’.

4. Too much specific detail of restaurant operations

Discussion:

If you go to a restaurant you will know the deals they had on when you went. Do you know what their lunch time, fixed price menu choices are? No.

Any review from an individual that says that they have been to a place once, does not return home and state things like: “They […] have […] 2 course meal for £9.00 and 3 course meal for £10.50”, as if to follow: ‘though of course our group was ordering from the menu. I just happened to see this information from a low hanging a la carte held as carelessly as my nana’s poker hand, three tables away. I gawped at this brilliant deal, wrote the details on a napkin so I could relay these to you’.

5. Assessment of capacity

Discussion:

This example is not the most egregious in this category. It is not quite: ‘good for groups of 20, or for groups of 2, and can be rented out between Tuesday and Thursday evenings for birthdays and…’, but the idea that a real person, not an events organizer, would have any notion of the comparison between places specifically offering around 20-people groups is highly unlikely.

Also, who is the ordinary customer that can say how many people a restaurant can hold? Sure you could guess, but would you? Would you really? ‘Wasn’t that a nice evening darling’, ‘Yes I really think they are the best place to hold parties for up to 30 people’, ‘that’s just what I was thinking sweety’, ‘it’s like you can read my soul’, ‘KISS ME!’.

With these tips in toe, beware of the new restaurant and good luck!

If you liked this, have a look at these…

The World’s Eight Weirdest Restaurants

The Worst Thing I Ever Ate: A Microwave Kebab

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