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Behind the Review: Sip Wine

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The stars are out (Credit: Wikipedia)

Today Jon Watson and I both come out with one-star reviews — his of Yeah Burger and mine of Sip Wine. I’ve noticed that some of the comments so far are on the seemingly low grades of the new AJC dining review system. Why do we keep handing out ratings that seem so punitive when on sites like Yelp, decent restaurants often get three or four stars?

Well, for starters, our system is different: we want each star to designate a level of quality. We figure that readers need to know more about neighborhood restaurants and less about destination restaurants if they are to glean good, useful information from these reviews. We want to alert you to good places near where you may live and give you some suggestions on how to order and best appreciate the experience, but we’re never going to sugar coat it. Many restaurants are inconsistent.

We also think the wording in our star-rating system focuses attention solely on the user experience and less on the personal tastes and preferences of the reviewer. Restaurants are good alternatives for the neighborhood, or worth knowing about if you live in the area, or merit destination status on their own merits, and the stars should reflect that.

People have asked where are the four and five star restaurants. They surely exist, and you will hear about them in good time. You’ll also hear about places that don’t merit any stars at all.

However, I am always cognizant of our mission to explore the pretty good and sometimes great places that readers are talking about, curious about and can afford. I could thread more revisits of Atlanta greats like Bacchanalia or Sotto Sotto into my weekly reviews — and this may happen from time to time. But I’m guessing that I’m doing more of a reader service by telling people to check out Sip Wine for its great wine program and inconsistent but often tasty small plates.

So if the stars confuse you, just read the reviews. Our belief is that good restaurants are just as interesting and worthy of ink as superior ones.

12 comments Add your comment

KoPP

October 29th, 2010
11:17 am

As long as people remember that it’s subjective, then hopefully there’s no problem. I’ll trust certain reviewers more than others – if I have similar ideas with the restaurant, movie, or whatever, then I’ll rely on their experience if I choose to go.

Y’all are doing great so far.

Pam

October 29th, 2010
12:20 pm

I support the new rating system. I like knowing that a 1-or-2 star restaurant is only a good place to venture to if I’m in the area. Atlanta has so many restaurants, it can be tough to know which ones are the must-sees and which ones are better for the locals. Yelp doesn’t have the same differentiation.

[...] John Kessler wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt Further discussion of the AJC’s new star-rating system. [...]

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October 29th, 2010
2:02 pm

Really good post!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephenie Noah, The Expert Wine Guy, ethan, Wine News Brain , John Kessler and others. John Kessler said: Behind the Review: Sip Wine http://bit.ly/bKZqj7 [...]

Frank

October 29th, 2010
2:44 pm

The new rating system is on par with a real rating system. Not like a bunch of 20 yr olds pretending to know about food and giving some crappy sushi place 5 stars for their authentic California rolls on Yelp. Or a business paying them to get rid of real reviews with low ratings. I rather go to CL for restaurant tips than Yelp.

Kirk

October 29th, 2010
2:50 pm

I’m 100% behind the new ratings. They seem to be rooted in real eating and tasting. Thanks for the new experience.

Lisa

October 29th, 2010
5:43 pm

I read the review, look at the rating and decide. Everything doesn’t have to be fours and fives to be a decent meal at a decent price.

i give up

October 29th, 2010
5:55 pm

i don’t understand why so many people are thrown off by the rating system. you read the key and that explains it. it’s simple. why is it blowing peoples’ minds that you’re giving places one stars, and that means they’re decent? i’m surprised these people can read and make it onto the internet. maybe you need to review some places that are total crap and get no stars so will understand. maybe they’re just insane. i don’t get how offended people get over reviews either. i guess John’s used to it, but to see some of the personal attacks on some of the new reviewers is ridiculous. i guess people need to lighten up and use some common sense – maybe john stewart is on to something with this restoring sanity stuff.

Bhorsoft

October 29th, 2010
6:03 pm

I generally like the new rating system, but I quibble with the work consistency. To me, consistency means the same quality from visit to visit, not that more of the menu items are good (in the reviewer’s tastes) than not.

I have some restaurants I go to where I only like a minority of the dishes, but the ones I do like are the same from visit to visit. I go to other restaurants where I like most of the dishes, but some days the preparation and presentation are poor to indifferent while on other days it’s superb.

I can tell what I may or may not like in the reviewer’s text and how close my tastes match the reviewer’s, but what I really want to know when venturing out of my dining comfort zone is if the restaurant’s dishes will be as good when I visit as when the reviewer visited. I’ll go to a place that may have only one dish I might like, as long as it is good every time I go.

Jed

October 31st, 2010
5:19 pm

Maybe people are complaining about your new star system because WE DON’T LIKE IT. Hmm, ever thought of that? I’m all for a new rating system, but when something is given “stars,” you generally expect a place to be really sub-par to receive one star. I mean, what if a place is bad but not horrible? Give it a 0.5?
I think this is a great way to avoid critiquing harshly. And why?
This is like giving every kid a trophy in gym class, even the really poor athletes.
I like you guys and your food blog, but I refuse to join in the hurrahs here. People will continue to complain about the rating system because it’s bad. Simple.

Cekker

November 1st, 2010
1:02 pm

Totally agree with Jed here. If you have to spend 3 or 4 columns defending your rating system…you have a problem with it. Period.