I always thought a 1-5 rating system was inadequate . Often something is between those numbers.
Here's my rating system ... five is too few ... ten seems just right ... more than that is confusing or more detailed than I need ... would a 97 out of 100 REALLY be clear?
1- Inedible: Tell everyone to avoid it at all costs
Action: Trash can
Example: Moldy bread ... but not in a good penecilian life-saving way
2. Way below average: Tell people to skip it
Action: Take a few bites. Ask for a take-out container and order something else or leave.
Example: Half-price sale cheap generic supermarket bread which could be fed to the pigeons
3 - Below average. Edible if really hungry or convenient. Not worth mentioning unless asked
Action: Eat enough to kill hunger pangs and take the rest home. Doctor it or feed to pet.
Example: Half-priced supermarket quality bread (i.e. organic Orowheat) that can be toasted
4 - Slightly below average: Edible, but you don't tell your friends about it
Action: Eat but don't order often
Example: Fresh cheap brand name bread (i.e Wonderbread ... sometimes you gotta have it)
5 - Average: Not really worth mentioning unless asked.
Action: Order again if time or money is an issue
Example: Fresh Organic supermarket bread (i.e. Orowheat)
6 - Slightly above average: Recommend for certain situations
Action: Order again maybe if you happen to be there or nearby
Example: Good chain 'artisan' bread
7 - Above average: Recommend when asked about good eats
Action: No special trip for it, but decent, tasty and honest
Example: Old-school bakery bread from a place in business a gazillion years
8 - Way above average: Make a point of telling people about it. Post positive Chowhound report
Action: Order again
Example: Good artisan bread.
9 - Exceptional: Recommend it to everyone you know. Post glowing report on Chowhound
Action: Order again and again. One of the first things to seak out & eat if returning to an area.
Example: Artisan bread by a true master baker
10 - Food of the gods
Action: Mortgage the house to buy this.Get a soap box, stand on it and preach to the masses
Example: Manna from heaven or fill in your own. Everyone has the dish that is food paradise to them.
Inspired (badly ripped-off) by this much better version.
Although the above examples might imply price=taste, it isn't meant that way. A street snack might rate a 10 while that trendy $$$$$ restaurant might rate a 2.
I used bread as an example because almost everyone can relate to it.
And, of course, this is for a specific dish and not the overall restaurant. Often the restaurants serving food 5 and under can make one spectacular dish that justifies their existance.
I tried it out for a few of my reports (to make them more consise) and it seems to say what I want it to say.
What is your rating system?
"I think though ... maybe I'm wrong ... given a brief overview at the top, people would have a feel whether a place is for them."
This, I think is the way to go.
There are three problems with scale. One is individual perceptions - I've had people rave about restaurants and found them mediocre at best, with the fundamental problem being a totally different understanding of what good food is. They loved the overcooked roast beef, mushy vegetables and gluey mashed potatoes, and I was l thinking "Why did I pay money for something I'd regard as a horrible failure if I produced it at home?"
The second problem is the calibration of the scale. Two people can agree on their descriptions and enjoyment and still assign different grades. Your system solves this problem, the only issue is that you would have to print the explanation of the ranking system before the review to explain it to the readers.
The third is the huge variety of price, ambience, food type, food quality and service. I could rank one restaurant as five star for delicious food at a reasonable price in a funky atmosphere, but have it be a one star when compared to high priced fine dining.
What I'd do is come up with a list of stock phrases to describe the restaurant. Like "Expensive, but worth every penny" or "Tasty food at a great price in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere" or "Excellent service and ambience, but disappointing food" or "Don't eat here, even if it's free".
>>> The third is the huge variety of price, ambience, food type, food quality and service. I could rank one restaurant as five star for delicious food at a reasonable price in a funky atmosphere, but have it be a one star when compared to high priced fine dining.
However, I'm not rating the restaurant only the dish.
In that, all restaurants are equal and on a level playing field.
The French Laundry is evaluated exactly the same as the most humble dive.
Not one dish at the French Laundry is memorable to me except the rabbit and the only reason for that was it was the first time I had rabbit and those matchstick ribs must have belonged to an unborn bunny.
I appreciated the technique and quality but the flavor was lacking. The service was one of the best I've had in my life. The restaurant is lovely. But you can't eat furniture and paintings. Taste-wise I was bored. So rating on flavor not one dish for me rose above a 7 rating.
On the other hand, Zaki Kobob House makes an exquisite chicken and it gets a 9 for that particular dish. But other dishes at Zaki only rate 5 - 8) . Not much ambiance and the service can tick me off.
But the rating is about the food and nothing else. It is not an overall rating on everything I ate, but a dish, by dish rating.
Yep Everyone held to the same standards. It boils down to taste
It killed me using the system for a small comedor in Guatemala
I mean, come on, for $3 USD I got a filling beef stew, unlimited hot tortillas and beverage.
So, if I was rating strictly on the class of restaurant, it would have got much higher ratings. It is one of the best of its types.
But these little comedors are the equivalent of the old American diner or coffee shop. You get a nice meal, but nothing will blow you away ... except that green sauce ... that was excellent and that salsa outshines any I've tried ... upscale included. The green salsa in my report of the upscale restaurant barely met average.
So it forces me, in a sense, to be more honest about what I'm reporting and not be blinded by ambiance or something else. Dishes are strictly rated on taste ... folowed by detail about why they receive that rating.
I just figure to use the rating system so that if someone is interested in a joint, they can get a quick idea of if I liked it or not. They don't have to read my blah, blah, blah. That is mainly for me anyway. I eat out a lot and months later it is rare that I remember why it was I liked or disliked a place or dish unless it was memorably good or bad.
It depends on who is doing the rating.
I'm not talking about sites with ratings. Those are just popularity contests.
I'm just talking about using them personally. As I said, I usually like the posts by people who list each dish up front and give a quick rating such as A, B, C, etc ...
Are you saying that service and ambience are not important to you when rating a place, only the quality of the dishes? Even if that is true, might they not be important to other people? If I were looking for a place to have a romantic dinner, I wouldn't want to go somewhere with filthy carpets and rude servers, no matter how exquisite the food.
No. In terms of the specifc dish ... it makes no difference.
I do rate the other aspects though in terms of service and ambiance. Here's the top of my report about the little commedor as an example
Don't even think of going if you are not an adventurous type.
Go if you want a ridiculously inexpensive filling meal served by some very nice people.
The menu changes daily and my friend said some of the best dishes are the carne asada and the beef soup which takes over 5 hours to cook. We got there a little late so they were sold out of a lot.
For about a total of $3 each ... drinks included ... we had (on a scale from 1 - 10)
- Carne guisada with rice ... 6 - A little better than average
- Tortillas ... 6 - A little better than average
- Fresh tamarind refrescos (i.e agua fresca) ... 7 - Above average
- A hot red salsa ... 7 - Above average
- A milder green salsa with thinly sliced onions ... 8 - Way above average
Service: 7 - Above average
Ambiance: 2. Way below average
Color: 8 - Way above average
Then I go into detail about why that is
I think though ... maybe I'm wrong ... given a brief overview at the top, people would have a feel whether a place is for them.
My only concession was throwing in a color rating since it was certainly colorful but as divy as I've ever been. I'm a dive fan and can tolerate more than most .. this joint gave me pause .. .but the food was good and the place was clean despite the bare bones ... to put it mildly .. decor.
I felt bad about giving them a 2 for ambiance so I threw in color to make up for it. But seriously ... ambiance 2. ... hovering near 1.
I've certainly seen other folk adopt similar systems to rworange.
I mention upthread the British Good Food Guide which operates a 10 point scale for its restaurant ratings. It defines what each score is - primarily related to quality of food and cooking. I know a "personal" website where the eater takes broadly the same definition and applies it to each dish.
Our major metro area "guide" website adopts a 20 point scale, comparing similar quality places, divided into 10 for food and 5 each for service and ambiance. Have to say though, I find the reviewer's narrative much more useful than the scores, in deciding if I want to add the place to my "to try" list.
As someone who dealt with scoring, scales and ratings extensively in my former profession, I will say that they can be difficult to interpret. The problem is often not with the scoring system itself, but rather with understanding the assumptions that a rater makes when assigning a score. For example, three people--let's call them A, B and C--have dinner at a Thai restaurant, order the same dish and then rate it. A loves the dish and awards it a high score. B and C give it a low score for opposite reasons. B, who dislikes peppery food, finds the dish much too hot for her taste. C, on the other hand, is someone who complains constantly that Asian restaurants tone down the heat for non-natives, and he downgrades the dish for not being spicy enough. The point is that, without knowing what kinds of things someone values or dislikes in food, it is impossible to say if that person's ratings would help YOU to determine if you would like the dish. That is why I agree with Harters that an accurate and detailed description of food is more useful than a numeric rating.
Bah. Over the years, we've tried all sorts of scoring systems for meals out. We've tried 5 points. We've tried 10 points. Within that, we've tried limiting it to comparisions of broadly similar quality restaurants (so we only rate Michelin starred meals against other Michelin starred meals). We've also tried "absolute" ratings as does the (British) Good Food Guide.
None work well. So we don't bother anymore. I just write up the meal purely descriptively and subjectively.
Yeah, I know it is sort of silliy and I'm still deciding on if it works or not.
The thing is that sometimes I'm out and out lazy. I mean to read a report but when it goes on and on I just add it to my favorites ... and usually never get back to it.
One rating system I;ve seen used effectively ... at least from my perspective is the A through F rating where you can vary that a bit by making a place an A- or A+ without making the meaning too obtuse.
I still have problems with that because if I'm only casually scanning and see an F, is it really fair to write that dish off without reading more?