The restaurant industry is without doubt a major user, and indeed beneficiary, of social media. I wrote recently for instance about how restaurants are using social media data to build the menus that they offer customers. Undoubtedly the most influential, and therefore controversial, channel however is online reviews.
Research last year showed that a slight upgrade in the average rating at a restaurant significantly increased the chances of that restaurant selling their tables that evening. All of which would be fine if there wasn’t widespread duplicity in the online review basis. The crowdturfing industry is already worth many millions of dollars, with a UC Berkeley study finding over 30 companies selling various online services in the field, from fake followers to fake reviews.
A new site is aiming to take a slightly different approach in order to reclaim the credibility of reviews. The site, called myfab5, does away with reviews in their traditional 5 star rating way, and instead offers a ranking system that asks diners to choose their favourite 5 restaurants in each category and each location.
Rather than give overly-detailed reasons as to why they like or dislike a particular venue, users are simply given the task of selecting their city’s five top restaurants by food type. Comments are allowed, but limited to 260 characters. The more times a particular restaurant appears in users’ lists, the higher they climb in the overall table for their category. Diners just looking for a place to eat can scan the general rankings or see their friends’ favorite eating spots, as well as get information on opening times and menus.
The app was built by a team of University of Michigan graduates after they struggled to find the best pizza place in Chicago. The reviews they found were for deep dish pizzas, but failed to cater for the thin crust one they desired.
“I got to learn that customers really want an easy-to-understand system instead of the frustration of having to read long reviews or deal with an inaccurate rating system,” they told TechCrunch recently.
“No one turns to a friend and asks for a star rating or review,” they continued. “The conversation always sounds something like ‘what’s a good place to get pizza in this town?’ or ‘this is my favorite place because it has great deep-dish pizza.’”
They believe that this more natural system will leave little room for fake reviews, thus hopefully restoring a bit of faith in the whole process.