This week the Golden Gate Restaurant Association held their 3rd annual Industry Conference, a two-day event including hot-button issues such as diversity and immigration; labor laws unique to the Bay Area; strategies to grow a business, and more.
OpenTable hosted a panel in which we brought together industry leaders to discuss ratings and reviews, and how both affect their restaurants’ performance. Chris Seidell, our Director of Analysis & Growth moderated a discussion with four esteemed San Francisco restaurateurs: Jay Bordeleau, owner of Maven and Mr.Tipple’s; Aaron London, owner of AL’s Place; Richie Nakano, partner of IDK Restaurant Group; and Scott Rodrick, Owner of M.Y. China. We learned a few things about the state of reviews today and took their pulse on how much those stars really do matter — more below.
Diners are choosing their restaurants based on peer-to-peer (not critic) reviews.
It’s no surprise that these days, diners look to their peers for restaurant recommendations. With so many channels for diners to discover restaurants, feedback (both the good and the bad) has never been easier to come by. Though still influential, publications’ critical reviews are no longer the main source of restaurant discovery for diners.
Before Bon Appetit named AL’s Place the Best New Restaurant in the country in 2015, Chef London was able to work on cultivating one-on-one relationships with his diners and take his time building those connections. After the announcement, the crowds started flocking:
“Overnight we became very busy, and and things were moving nonstop. We were so grateful for the rave reviews, but logistically, it was tough. It made it hard to focus on the food. It was great to be so busy, and it was also encouraging for the staff, but there was definitely a lot of pressure to keep up with the demand.” And sometimes big reviews come with big expectations: “Some people were expecting to come in and see angels flying on the ceiling, sprinkling amuse dust down on them.”