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Vegans and Restaurant Reviews

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I was browsing Yelp reviews for a bakery and saw an one-star review for the bakery among mostly three and four stars. It was from a vegan, and the summary of her review was "When they first opened, I popped in and asked if they had anything vegan. They smiled and waved me on." This is a bakery with a word "butter" in its name, BTW. So I clicked on the poster's profile and saw she had given a whole bunch of one and two stars that didn't accommodate vegans. Even at places she'd never eaten, such as the aforementioned bakery, "no vegan choices" and she would simply give the business one star. I know it shouldn't have (it's only internet) but it did bother me - I know how influential Yelp can be (most everyone I know checks it before heading somewhere for a meal) and I didn't think it was fair for her to give the business one star, thus bringing down the average (significantly, if the place only has few reviews) simply because the business didn't accommodate vegans. Especially because a lot of people only look at the stars. On the other hand, it *is* her opinion and I can't say it's not valid, obviously.

I brought it here to see what other 'hounds think about it - what do you think?

Edited to add - it could be any special diet, this is not specifically about vegans.

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  1. Yeah, well, people are idiots. Kind of like complaining about a suburban hotel because it's "too far from the city" or a 300 year old hotel because "the bathroom was tiny". That's why I always read the things to see if the reason for a low score is *my* reason for a low score. I guess it's lucky that the person at least explained herself.

    1. I once saw a one star review of a Thai place because the poster never had Thai food before and didn't know it would be spicy. People are idiots.

      1. It's stupid. Unfortunately, every rating system/site has it's pros/cons and not many ways to remedy the cons. In this case, one can hope that others will have more sense (and actually eat the food before submitting a review).

        That said, if a person relies on reviews for a bakery, then I've little respect for the person. It's a bakery. Unless it's specialized (such as wedding cakes), you can get a piece of something(s) for under $5. If you're unwilling to spend that amount to see first hand what a place has to offer, you've no business being on a food site in the first place.

        10 Replies
        1. re: ediblover

          That's a funny thing to lose respect over - one could be reading reviews on a bakery for what other people like, for instance.

          It would make sense for Yelp to ban reviews from people who obviously haven't been to the place, but then again - like I said, it would make sense.

          1. re: uwsister

            We're hounds, aren't we? It comes down to trusting our own noses and sniffing out good places, not following the pack. Places that have many, inexpensive treats, such as a bakery, is almost ideal. Go in, check it out, spend minimal $ and time, taste, judge. And, I don't think I'm alone when I say I enjoy doing stuff like that.

            When something's inexpensive, there's really no reason why you shouldn't try it out first hand. See if you like it or not.

            1. re: ediblover

              For me, the time investment is a bigger factor than the money. Most places I'd check reviews on are 30+ miles from my home (my town and its immediate surroundings do not boast a lot of good food). Price doesn't really enter into the consideration - whether the place is worth a detour does, be it a cheap bakery or an expensive restaurant.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Yeah, time investment is definitely a factor for me as well.

                No matter what the price range, I don't see anything wrong w/ reading reviews about a place I'm about to visit - yeah, I'm gonna follow my own instinct, obviously, but I also like to read if the place has a specialty that I should check out, or since we're talking about bakeries, if people thought their cakes were dry or frosting too sweet or whatever. It works for me. If that makes me less of a 'hound, I couldn't care less.

                1. re: uwsister

                  Frankly, I think it makes an eater more of a lemming than a hound. It's not limited to a bakery, but any place that has an inexpensive bite. On the subject of time, I don't know how "detour" and 30+ miles are the same thing, when the latter is more like a destination.

                  You find yourself close to a place. It may be near your destination, a break during a long trip or just a place that you ran into in your own neighborhood. Stop, go inside, take a look, try a bite. Less than 5 minutes and $5 spent. I don't know how/when "check the reviews" was included in the process, but it really doesn't belong there. Reviews are really for destination worthy places, but there's something of a catch there in that destination places don't really need reviews since they've something interesting about them, a draw that goes beyond the personal tastes in reviews. To me, the only draw of reviews are ones that say, "Here's a place that you may find interesting." It's a hound that's found something - May be good, may be bad - and barking for the others to check it out. It just may be a worthy destination and one just may sniff out other places along the way.

                  1. re: ediblover

                    >I don't know how/when "check the reviews" was included in the process, but it really doesn't belong there.

                    I disagree, and I think we can agree to disagree at this point.

                    1. re: uwsister

                      I thought I was an introvert, but not going somewhere unless I know what others think of it, seems a very limiting way to live.

                      1. re: Cathy

                        It certainly does to me as well - I don't think anyone on this thread has written anything like that though.

            2. re: uwsister

              yelp does ban reviews from people who havent been to a place. but it needs to get reported to them

              1. re: thew

                I have reported them - and those reviews have been deleted. Thanks!

          2. -----------------

            "I know how influential Yelp can be (most everyone I know checks it before heading somewhere for a meal)"

            ----------------------

            Unfortunately, your allowing unreputable and often times uninformed or even total irrevelant comments or reviews enter into your dining decision making.

            Yelp can be helpful as an overall barometer to the general food quality and ambiance of a restaurant or dining facility in many cases, BUT--and a big but it is--- between selective editing by the Yelp site staff, ballot box stuffing or hate mail by those who know nothing of the place or have personal or business ties and plain old foolish or unobtainable/arbitrary standards set forth by an amateur diner, it's the equivalent of trying to "herd cats".

            Local word of mouth or even interaction with local foodies yields a far better realistic review than those who are self-deemed "keyboard foodie warriors."

            Heck, due to food blogs and local reviews, Yelp is the last place I look for any type of culinary guidance when eating out.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jjjrfoodie

              IMO we are going off-topic here, don't wanna go into "Yelp vs. Chowhound" - but there are good reviewers and bad reviewers everywhere. It's usually pretty easy to figure out.

              1. re: jjjrfoodie

                So much of what's posted on Yelp is of the "look at me!" type ("look how clever I am!", "look how negative I can be about a place that the majority of posters love!") that it's hard to take any of it at face value.

              2. Yelp gives the Denny's closest to my house 5 stars.

                I use it to find an address, hours and maybe a link to a website. I use my own common sense the first time I go to any restaurant and order a "basic" item. If they can't do that right, I don't go back.

                1. Thanks for posting uwsister. I think roger ebert would not be famous if he reviewed movies he hadn't seen. Sigh. I know you said this isn't specifically about vegans but I've been trying a raw vegan diet this summer and the diet is nifty but oh my gosh I've been meeting a lot of vegans and they can be really annoying in that special vegan way. To prove my point (although not many have argued with me) I think I will link to your post. :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: givemecarbs

                    Ha! Thanks for your post. Made me chuckle. I know it's very un-PC, but I totally know what you mean when you say "really annoying in that special vegan way."

                  2. "IMO we are going off-topic here, don't wanna go into "Yelp vs. Chowhound" - but there are good reviewers and bad reviewers everywhere. It's usually pretty easy to figure out."

                    ----------------------------------
                    ^^^^

                    Based upon that, then you've pretty much answered you own question. :-)

                    Please understand, my original comment had little to do with food reviewing for only Yelp, but with those that "review" or post comments or "likes" and "dislikes" based upon WHAT a restaurant or food purveyor offers, not the quality of what is served,

                    Thus, my big problem with yelp. At least a Chow review will normally go into great detail as to what they ordered, how it was, how it tasted, how it was presented and the overall experience,

                    Slamming a bakery for no vegan offerings often means no attempt was made to talk to the owners to alert them to the need of said products or there is no interest by the owners to cater to said diet needs,

                    Either way, it doesn't mean the food or establishment is bad , it just means that someone didn't "get their way" .

                    I don't go to my local BMW dealer and ask for parts for my Corvette and then get mad because they don't have them and post everywhere on line as a result.

                    Not every establishment caters to every group of people. Getting all "net warrior" over it is the new digital age "temper tantrum." It amuses me, but it also muddies the water of those that have actual and informative input to food reviews. And for that I mean every food review site. Thus my opine. :)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jjjrfoodie

                      On Amazon I usually look at reviews, and sometimes instead of reviewing the product/book/whatever, the person gives a low review because the item didn't arrive immediately or didn't have a good experience with the seller. So I always look at the comments to see whether or not the review gives the information I am looking for or not.

                      1. re: jjjrfoodie

                        "I don't go to my local BMW dealer and ask for parts for my Corvette and then get mad because they don't have them and post everywhere on line as a result."

                        Precisely.

                        1. re: uwsister

                          +1

                      2. Of course it is ridiculous. My favorite chow story on a subject similar to this was a person new to the Paris board was a vegan, went to a restaurant which was on the other side of a butcher shop and ripped them a new one as they had no appropriate food for them. Come on, do your homework, as JJJR said l don't go to a BMW dealer for Corvette parts. Our world today seems to mean that everybody must be able to do everything.

                        1. Makes me want go on yelp and give lousy reviews to whatever vegan restaurants I can find because I really enjoy seared scallops and a nice cheese plate when I dine out and they won't make them for me. Not that I ever would really do that.

                          Some people have anger to spare and need to share it on yelp, I guess.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: babette feasts

                            So to get revenge for some idiot's review of non-vegan restaurant, you would punish vegan restaurants? I don't think that would achieve the balance you seek.

                            1. re: small h

                              Oh I know, that is why I wouldn't do it. I meant to say that it would be equally as pointless.

                              I find veganism to be unnecessarily extreme. I think it would do more good for animals to support humane dairy and eggs than to completely avoid them. And considering the tenuous fate of the bees that we need to pollinate many of our food crops, you should probably eat as much honey as you possibly can to support the bee industry. I was vegetarian for 10 years so I understand some of the frustration at not being catered to by every single restaurant. But that is what you get when you make the personal choice to limit yourself.

                            2. re: babette feasts

                              its been done. idiocy is not reserved for vegans alone

                            3. I think the vegan reviewer is a non-issue, especially if her main complaint is "no vegan options."

                              Most people will read her review and wonder what she's tripping on. In other words, she has no credibility.

                              1. Well, do I agree with her? Absolutely not. Should I be able to ask them if they serve Chinese noodle soup in a bakery and then give it a one-star review because it does not? That is just childish, stupid and pretty much shameful to say the truth. Yes, shameful. There is no doubt that she is an advocate of vegan diet and she feels the need to punish bakeries and restaurants which do not accommodate her life style. I guess she feels that she is being discriminated which justify her revenge. I don't.

                                That being said, it is her right. It is her free will. So from a democratic angle, I full support her right to do it. I just don’t respect her reason for doing it. Another thing I do applaud her is that she is honest. If she is really nasty, she could fake and write a nasty review about finding a worm in the bread or something really vile. So I am happy that she is honest.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  "Another thing I do applaud her is that she is honest. If she is really nasty, she could fake and write a nasty review about finding a worm in the bread or something really vile. So I am happy that she is honest."

                                  This is true.

                                2. Honestly-is Yelp really influential? To whom? The few times I have trusted Yelp I have been wildly disappointed. Once, I went to a sushi restaurant that had a 4 star Yelp rating. It was awful. Only after I went back and read a few reviews did I realize the 4 stars was for their dirt-cheap happy hour. Other than that it seems to be a bunch of whiny hipsters complaining about, say, a bakery that doesn't offer vegan choices. That review you described is exactly what I expect on that site. Which is why when I need an opinion on a restaurant, I talk to people I actually know, read legitimate food critic reviews, and occasionally ask CHers. Complaining that Yelp is full of idiots who don't know anything about food is like a vegan complaining that a bakery uses butter.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: iambecky

                                    >Once, I went to a sushi restaurant that had a 4 star Yelp rating. It was awful. Only after I went back and read a few reviews did I realize the 4 stars was for their dirt-cheap happy hour.

                                    You made a mistake that I mentioned in the OP ("only look at the stars") - I don't think that's a good enough reason to discredit an entire website. There are reviewers on Yelp that are serious, prolific, and whose opinions I would trust - at least in NYC and L.A. where I have used it - and there are many food critics, bloggers, and 'hounds whose opinions don't influence me at all. Not sure who is saying that Yelp is "full of idiots who don't know anything about food."

                                  2. I don't think it's right to blast a restaurant because they don't serve anything vegan/vegetarian/whatever, but it is a valuable piece of information to include in a review. So many this particular person could post it without adding a star value.

                                    1. I'm a vegetarian, and I follow a few other vegetarians and vegans on Yelp. I appreciate knowing which businesses have vegetarian food, and I READ the reviews to find out more information about places that suit my diet. I appreciate that she is honest about why she gave a one-star rating (as noted above she could have lied and said they were rude to her, or there was hair in her food, etc.). I've seen reviews that gave high marks when the food and service were average (or below), but the staff were very attractive or someone gave them a free drink. It's not a reviewer's fault that some people choose only to look at the star ratings without reading their justification.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Jetgirly

                                        No, it's not the reviewer's fault - but when we read reviews, we also assume reviewers have actually been customers and have tried goods and/or services in question, right? A lot of her one-star reviews were somewhere she'd never patronized, and I think that's what bothered me the most. Like someone else wrote upthread, I wouldn't write a one-star review about a vegan restaurant saying "No carnivore choices."

                                        piccola - I agree. Ideally you would be able to share whether a place is vegan or vegetarian-appropriate without giving it a star value.

                                        1. re: uwsister

                                          I wouldn't assume a reviewer had been a customer of a restaurant, especially if their reviews clearly state they weren't able to be a customer because of dietary restrictions.

                                          1. re: Jetgirly

                                            To me, a review by definition means an evaluation after I have actually used someone's goods or services. YMMV.

                                        2. re: Jetgirly

                                          Are there vegetarian/vegan sites for food reviews? That seems like the best way around it, plus vegetarians/vegans would have an easy source of good restaurants, instead of having to wade through all these restaurants that don't fit their diet.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            Except that lots of (all?) vegetarians go out for meals with other people who aren't vegetarians, so it's best to know information about ALL dietary requirements.

                                        3. This drives me slightly nuts. I just noticed a review of a nice local bar that features a couple of small plates, and someone had angrily given one star because none of them could be made gluten-free. I understand the difficulties people face when they have real food allergies, but come on...The place is a BAR with like 5 snack options for those who want to soak up some of the alcohol.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: gort

                                            Ha! Yes, this is a good example of what I was talking about in the OP. I would be surprised if this person was actually intolerant of gluten - the only person with celiac disease I know is so low-key about it, as opposed to those on gluten-free diet because they are "allergic to gluten."

                                          2. Yelp is garbage, veganchick here does not stand out in the least.