The impact of environmental factors on reviews

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rainydayreviewReviews are hugely important for restaurants, hotels, even doctors.  That much is pretty widely established now, and has contributed to the rapidly growing industry in the provision of fake reviews.

A new study highlights the important role context plays in the submission of reviews.  After all, there are an awful lot of factors that go into each review that may not be replicable when you yourself are visiting a place.  The person might have had a bad day, or the main chef in the restaurant may have been off sick that day.

The study, led by Saeideh Bakhshi from Georgia Tech, focused on the role of something dear to the heart of every Brit – the weather.  The study looked at over 1 million reviews of over 800,000 restaurants in more than 32,000 cities to try and determine the role weather plays in the kind of reviews people leave.

“People love to describe themselves as foodies. But in the end, it looks like we’re all weather people, whether we realize it or not,” said Saeideh Bakhshi.

The study found, for instance, that the number of reviews left for restaurants spiked during the summer months.

“The best reviews are written on sunny days between 70 and 100 degrees,” said Bakhshi. “Science has shown that weather impacts our mood, so a nice day can lead to a nice review. A rainy day can mean a miserable one.”

In addition to the weather, the study found that education levels significantly impacted the number of reviews left.  In areas with a high percentage of college graduates, it was almost three times as likely that a review would be left than in an area with a low frequency of graduates.

The hope has to be that with enough reviews posted, these relative anomolies will be averaged out and you’ll still get a decent picture of what the place is really like.

“Our findings could help consumers better understand online reviews and ratings and help review sites calibrate recommendations,” the researchers said. “Outside factors apparently introduce bias in online ratings of a highly reviewed restaurant in big cities compared to a similar place in a rural area.”

Suffice to say, with any submission of personal opinion there will be a great deal of context involved in that review that may make it difficult to replicate the findings. The hope has to be that with enough reviews posted, these relative anomalies will be averaged out and you’ll still get a decent picture of what the place is really like.

5 thoughts on “The impact of environmental factors on reviews

  1. If bad weather puts restaurant reviewers in a bad mood, it may do the same to restaurant staff. Either way the important lesson is not to eat out when the weather is ugly.

  2. Lower to middle rated reviews are typically the most honest due to the prevalence of bogus inflated reviews by shills. Amazon.com has had that problem with its e books where fake reviews are common.

  3. That's an interesting finding, yet not that surprising after all. I have noticed comments and reviews tend to be harsher when people experienced a week-long weather fiasco in the Caribbean, for example. Yet, it's also when weather is at its most challenging that quality staff can make or break an experience, where humorous waiter or empathetic concierge can bring a ray of sunshine on a rainy day.
    Still, first time I see a study trying to demonstrate this scientifically. Cool stuff.

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