April 4, 2014
A Nice Day Means A Nice Restaurant Review
A restaurant’s worst enemy isn’t insects, rodents, or even the health inspector; it is actually the weather. That’s the findings from a study of 1.1 million online reviews for 840,000 restaurants in more than 32,000 cities across the country conducted by Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs.
The weather can actually influence the flavor of an online restaurant review. Researchers found that evaluations written on rainy, snowy, very cold or very hot days tend to be more negative than blurbs written on nice days.
“People love to describe themselves as foodies. But in the end, it looks like we’re all weather people, whether we realize it or not,” said Saeideh Bakhshi, a Georgia Tech College of Computing Ph.D. candidate who led the study, in a statement made by the University.
The good news is that there are more restaurant reviews posted during the summer months when the days tend to be nicer. However the spike continues through July and August, “the worst months of the year for ratings,” the researchers said. November, while the weather is getting colder as winter sets in, is actually the best month for reviews.
“The best reviews are written on sunny days between 70 and 100 degrees,” said Bakhshi. “Science has shown that weather impacts our mood, so a nice day can lead to a nice review. A rainy day can mean a miserable one.”
The weather isn’t the only factor in whether a review is positive or negative. Demographic factors such as neighborhood diversity, education levels and population density factor in on just how many stars and positive remarks a reviewer has for the restaurant.
The researchers looked at weather data to match up with the time reviews were posted. There is a possible flaw in that the diners were likely not posting the review from their table, they went home, and possibly didn’t write the review even that evening. But many people do go home and write reviews that evening, so the data is probably not far off.
With any online review, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I try to read between the lines a little when reading online reviews for restaurants, hotels and products, among other categories. Is the person talking specifically about the food? Or is there an ambiance that is being commented on that could be affected by a chilly, overcast day? Is it an isolated event that the reviewer describes? Or is a review accurately portraying the overall quality of service at the restaurant? And sometimes the reviewer takes issue with something I find irrelevant, like how the restaurant sets the table, which I can rule out and move on
If such outside factors can change the tone of a restaurant review and change them from positive to negative without taking the food and service into consideration, then it is necessary to cut through the reviews to interpret those comments and derive some value from them.
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