Reviewing Reviewers

I’ve got criticism on the brain this Foodie Friday, not because I’ve been the subject of any but I read a restaurant review and it got me to thinking.

Workers in the kitchen at Delmonico's Restaura...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are certain elements to a restaurant review that are certainly objective.  The silverware either was or was not clean, the water glasses were or were not refilled on a regular basis.  Much of what one would talk about, however, is very much subjective.  What is good to the reviewer might not be very good to you at all.

At least with a professional reviewer, one can hope that in addition to a palate that’s been educated a bit they would demonstrate fairness and honesty and not just try to write a clever rip job for the sake of doing so.  The good ones have an appreciation that they are not in an objective field but they know that the critic’s job is to educate and illuminate and to give you a comprehensive view of the dining experience, hopefully making multiple visits to the eatery to form an opinion.  Today, of course, everyone is a critic – just spend 5 minutes on Yelp.  The standards I just mentioned don’t apply.

This would drive me crazy if I were a chef.  Then again, I think there’s a business point in it which can be helpful to all of us.  The smart cooks just go to work and present the best possible quality food every day and enjoy themselves while doing it.  They acknowledge that they’re being evaluated each time they present their product but they don’t let the criticism overwhelm them.  It’s a tool to help them measure themselves and improve and some is more accurate and valuable than others.  They review the reviewers in the context of their own skills and standards.

We forget that in business sometimes.  Satisfying 99.9% of 1,000 customers means someone is unhappy.  If they’re a loyal, long-term buyer then that review is based on multiple visits and is an informed opinion.  Listen and learn.   More importantly, ask if you put out your best product.  Have you set your standards high enough and commiserate with your abilities or are you slacking?  When your year-end review isn’t as good as you expect, is it an objective, fact-based listing of where you’ve come up short or is it a subjective rant?  Review the reviewer but don’t dismiss a bad one out of hand if it’s accurate.

We’re all evaluated each time we produce a product.  Listen and learn and present your best product.  When you do so with high standards, the reviews will be fine.  So will your sanity.

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