Should a 'hound fill out the Zagat survey? [moved from General Topics]
Just got a notification for the SF Bay Area survey. What do you think:
(A) Responding en masse will improve the state of chow by skewing the ratings toward chowish criteria.
(B) Responding is like selling our your "secret spot" to people who only care about following the crowd, and can only lead the restaurant away from the true path.
(C) Responding is futile!
d. you'll get a free copy even if you just write one review. whether they're reliable or not you'll get a free book worth $14.
AGREED AGREED AGREED... plus as others have mentioned, the free book (I need to make sure I do it again for next year, I've been lazy the last couple of years to do it!) which although if you don't take the rating seriously is a good reference guide for location, hours, taking credit cards, parking situation...
(A) Absolutely the right thing to do (plus, the $14 free books is a good motivator too).
(B) Why hide what you love? Share your knowledge with others!
I gave this some thought since I never look at a Zagat, never ever. That is not a boast, it is a simple fact. I had never seen one until a NYC collegue started bragging about traveling and the Zagat rewiew. Since I was suspect as to what she(they) found to be exceptional dining and was underwhelmed. It is just a collection of opinions of diners who my or may not be educated or sophistcated on what truly good food is. Do not chalk me up as a food snob, I am very happy to go to the Marathon Food and Fuel (gas station) in Gnaw Bone, In.) for their tenderloin sandwich, as long as i can bring along my own mayo since they only offer miraclewhip
It's funny, I just read this book "The Wisdom of Crowds" which says that a mix of people who all make their own decision tend to reach a better result than you would get from randomly choosing the most expert people in the group. So survey scores should be an excellent guide. The problem with restaurants, though, especially at the high end, is the part about making an independent judgment. Many people rely on others to tell them what's good, and follow trends rather than trusting their own senses. Like the last stock market bubble, when most people just follow blindly, the crowd is not so wise any more.
Yes, but the other thing with Zagat is that a restaurant can skew the results by stuffing the ballot box. I'd have no problem with Zagat if it was the "wisdom of the crowds".
Maybe the trouble with high end restaurants is zagat. The crowds read the book, all order the same things and as a result too many restaurants make the same crowd-pleasing dishes. While I have my times that I really enjoy the top of the heap, there's just a sameness.
Although, you can't blame people being cautious on the high-end. When throwing beaucoup bucks at a restaurant, you don't want to make the wrong choice. It is easier to write off a miserable pupusa than a $50 steak.
Anyway, I say answer the survey. It will somewhat dilute any skewing done on the part of ambitious restaurants, give your favorites hopefully a little more business ... who cares why the crowds step in the door if it keeps the place open for you ... and you can always sell the free book on ebay or Amazon and buy a burger.
I don't think the 'Wisdom of Crowds' phenomenon applies to aesthetic choices like food preferences, as there ultimately is no such thing as a right or wrong choice, just a range of different options.
I'm always conflicted about Zagat, because I like it in theory, but in practice, it does have a normalizing effect that can be a bad thing.
I'd go for a limited version of option (A), choosing to write about restaurants that are least likely to alter their food based on Zagat, and leaving out the secret spots that might be a little more subject to mass influence.
Free book? Why not. Anything really out of the norm and/or "secret" (and not high end) takes years to filter through to Zagats. About 20 years for Suiza to get a Zagat decal. :D