Michelin Stars, James Beard Awards, AAA Diamond ratings. Restaurants get rated and awarded by multiple services and organizations. How are these recognitions given and do they matter? Should a diner care about certain ratings when making their dining decisions?
There are two important factors that should be noted when giving credence to awards and ratings - who is doing the judging and are all restaurants in consideration?
The two most revered awards for restaurants around the world are the Michelin Star and the James Beard Award. These two are given to restaurants exhibiting excellent service, food, and overall experience. While definitely the most important and prestigious awards to always make note of, probably 99% of average Americans will never dine at these awarded restaurants. These two awards are on a level all their own.
For those restaurants that the Average Joe/Joanne does dine at, there are plenty of awards that get posted on restaurant websites as bragging rights.
Which restaurants are getting reviewed? There are many websites and apps that let the public rate and review any and every restaurant. Therefore, an award from these sites signifies the most popular of all restaurants in a city or region.
There are some sites that only rate and award their own clients and not all restaurants in a city. A restaurant might get #1 in Topeka, for instance, but it really only represents #1 of the restaurants that are a client and not really #1 of all restaurants in Topeka. If the site only has 20 clients in the city, then #1 of 20 is not such a big deal compared to #1 of the 1000 restaurants in the city. This confuses the public if they are unaware of the exclusivity of the award system to begin with.
And who is doing the judging? It's either experts or it's the general public. Experts have their own rating systems and guidelines that they must adhere to. Experts are professionals in the field in some fashion as critic, chef, restaurateur, etc. If you are looking for quality in all areas, then you'll have a high regard for rating systems judged by experts.
That's not to downplay the general public. After all, the votes of the masses have to count for a general appeal. The difference from expert judging is that the public often only judges on whether they liked it or not with less value on quality. After all, there is a huge disparity of expertise within the general public. That said, many people take stock in a high rating by a majority of people.
Choosing which awards to assist your decision making is all based on personal preference, of course. Whether you hold more value in expertise or the consensus of the masses is important, but also realize that some awards are judged based on only a small sample of restaurants instead of all of them. When using a site or an app to search for a restaurant, you may be better off using one that doesn't limit your options to only a small number of clients.
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