Why We Shouldn’t Review Restaurants During Their Soft OpeningJuly 3, 2017
The online review has revolutionized the way we approach products and services. In the US, Yelp has significantly impacted how restaurateurs and customers engage. In many ways, online review platforms like Yelp can improve the dining experience for customers by giving them an idea of what to expect based on a “layman” experience, and for restaurants by letting them know how they can improve on that experience. Of course, not all reviewers are fair, and all reviews (regardless where published, where Yelp, Zomato, a newspaper, or here on Pepper.PH) are subjective, and can even be harmful. But that does not mean they do not serve a purpose and improve the restaurant landscape when they are done right.
In the Manila restaurant scene these days, fresh concepts are sprouting around every corner, and every week you can try a new place for dinner with your friends. And in the Manila restaurant scene these days, there are a growing number of restaurant reviewers. Whether you have the habit of sharing your food thoughts on Zomato, Instagram or Snapchat stories, many people like to give their 2 cents on their dining experience in a new place (if you didn’t ‘gram it, did you even really eat it?)—which is a public service this writer adores, and looks forward to since I would probably ask you how it was anyway so thanks for saving me the time, so we’re not knocking it. But with the instantaneousness of social media, and with many click-happy independent reviewers wanting to be up-to-date on the latest restaurant, empathy can end up neglected.
When a restaurant is new and they still have “soft opening” printed on a piece of paper and taped to the front door, it is oft implied that their service may be slower than they’d like, their credit card terminal has yet to be connected, and the food inconsistent—those things that restaurant-goers love to hate, and some take it online, not realizing how it can affect a business that is still wiping birth-gunk off itself.
It is often the more homegrown concepts that suffer these problems than international chains or local restaurant groups, who already know the ins-and-outs to be prepared in advance. While it is admirable in these larger companies, and one of the reasons their businesses thrive, why not give the little guy a break. At risk of sounding like a self-help book, being a part of someone else’s process is mutually beneficial (Yes, I definitely sound like a self-help book).
Besides the positive psychological benefits that are oft touted for helping others (we’ll leave that to the yoga blogs), giving constructive feedback is valuable for a better dining experience—for yourself or for the next person who visits the restaurant. Independent restaurant reviewers help democratize restaurant rankings when done right, and though the past year has proven there are obvious flaws in what we call “democracy” (read: tyranny of the majority), we can still be the change we wish to see in the, uh, restaurant scene.