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Mar 23, 2012 06:23 PM

Just noticed something odd on latest Kitchen Nightmares episode...

OK, so the restaurant featured is Chiarella's. Italian place, inherited menu from owner's father. Typical episode -- Chef Ramsay shows up, the food is absolutely horrible, chef is depressed and unmotivated...then the restaurant has a makeover, new menu blah blah blah.

But what I noticed is this... when Chef Ramsay has the group over for the makeover reveal (around the 46 minute mark for those who DVRd it), he opens the front door and as it swings open, you see the front door has a number of "Zagat Rated" signs on it, for years including 2007, 2011 and 2012.

I thought being rated by Zagat meant that the food was good? So I don't understand how the food could be crap yet "Zagat Rated". What am I missing here?

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  1. I watched this episode, due to the lack of anything else to provide background noise to cover the racket in my brain. Zagat seems to be a member rated review site , and from what I can see of the reviews(without joining) it would be pretty easy to get yourself rated highly.
    Here's the joint from tonite
    And another review site

    1. Being rated by Zagat means nothing other than that you exist. They make no judgements, only collect survey data. You could get crappy ratings and it would mean nothing either. I'm sure they just put the stickers on the door, hoping people will assume the ratings are high, and will never follow up by actually buying or reading a copy.

      All that being said, I have no idea what their ratings were like. Could have been positive, I suppose.

      Makes me remember the time Tim and Nina Zagat were judges on the old original Iron Chef. Everyone was kowtowing to them as if they were these great restaurant critics, when in fact they have nothing to do with the actual ratings and rarely express an opinion of their own. They just compile data and publish books.

      It's not like getting a Michelin star. It's like saying "Rated on Yelp." Says nothing about whether those ratings were good or bad. And it's important to remember it's not a scientific random sampling, just a self-selecting sample, just like Yelp. Or Chow, for that matter.

      1. Zagat is a reader survey. You can be rated low, or high, or not at all.

        3 Replies
        1. re: tommy

          I guess the disconnect is this: no patrons, terrible food, business in trouble...vs a patron-based survey that says their food is good. How many patrons do you need to get a Zagat rating? If enough people responded then why was no one going to the restaurant? Makes no sense to rate it highly then never return? I guess I just don't understand!

          1. re: freia

            The patron-based survey does not necessarily say the food is good. It may say the food is mediocre or average. The ratings are on a 30 point scale for food, decor, and service, with 0-9 poor to fair, 10-15 fair to good, 16-19 good to very good, 20-25 very good to excellent, and 26-30 extraordinary to perfection. I wouldn't get excited about anything below a 20 for food. If you got a very low score, you might not want to put the sticker in the window, but then again it looks like an accolade to people who don't have the guide.

            1. re: babette feasts

              I was curious, so I dug up my 2011 Zagat Philadelphia Restaurants guide (they sent me one for free in exchange for rating a few restaurants).

              Chiarella's received a 22 for food, 14 for decor and 21 for service. All the comments seem positive. However, it is flagged as an entry that had low response and is therefore less reliable. So either it had a low number of patrons who really liked it, or a large number of family and friends.

        2. Bear in the mind the whole premise behind Kitchen Nightmares (both in the UK format and the US one) is that (a) there's a lot of phoney stuff in it and (b) the places are never so bad that Ramsay can't "succeed" in turning them round.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            A good number seem to close down, however. Not sure if that's really the premise of the US show. Many seem in pretty bad shape from a kitchen perspective, management perspective, FOH perspective, and financial perspective. I've seen no reason to believe that's not really the case.

            1. re: tommy

              Trouble with tracking KN is that so many old and very old shows keep cycling through, so unless you watch for copyright dates or first b'cast year, you never know. The large number of places now closed could have been first shown as far back as 2007. And we know the half life of even competent restaurants.

              1. re: bob96

                I don't track closings from the show. I know from keeping up with them real-time, and from the places around me that have closed. I'm not claiming any scientific study, but I think my point is valid. To your point, the claim "(b) the places are never so bad that Ramsay can't "succeed" in turning them round" is not true if only because so many places close within a few years.

                Of course this has nothing to do with Zagat stickers, but the presence of those has already been explained. Has nothing to do with "good food."

                1. re: bob96

                  Its easy to find out which have closed, both on the US and UK versions if you simply google. You'll find it and see than around 90 percent of them are closed after 3 years. It seems to me that GR is their last chance, so the odds of surviving with or without him are pretty low.

                  1. re: freia

                    Not sure how accurate this data is, but this site seems to have statistics on the future of the restaurants covered on the show:

                    1. re: waldrons

                      It's a poor track record, but most restaurants fail. These are restaurants that have already sullied whatever reputations they once had. They may get a brief boost from the publicity of the show, but the few days and superficial facelift and menu changes are just not enough to pull it out of it's inevitable demise.

                      But Ramsay makes money either way.

                      1. re: chicgail

                        'But Ramsay makes money either way.'

                        You say that as if it's a problem.

                        1. re: tommy

                          No problem for Ramsay. Why do you suppose he does the show?

                          1. re: chicgail

                            I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. You say that as if you take issue with it.

                            1. re: tommy

                              I'm glad Ramsay makes money off it -- more entertainment!

                              A week's worth of consulting and upgrades can't fix stupid.

                              1. re: tommy

                                I don't know why it occurs that way for you.

                                Ramsay makes money by doing the show. He doesn't benefit if the restaurant does well, nor does he lose money if they close. No issue for me.

              2. Zagat reviews are no guarantee of good food. It is a number-driven ratings method.