The Ethics Of Restaurant Reviewing: Lao Beijing & The LTHForum Fallout

While the ethics of restaurant reviewing is a massive issue to which reams have already been devoted, we just wanted to briefly respond to editorkid, who commented on our post earlier today about Lao Beijing. We noted that LBJ has been getting poor reviews in its first few days of existence, which editorkid found problematic:

Well, in fairness, people shouldn’t try restaurants the moment they open for the sake of a review, either. It’s reasonable to expect outages and glitches the first week or two. (I was going to say “bugs,” but thought better of it.) If you’re all but a household name posting reviews on an Internet forum read by tens of thousands, give the poor place a couple of weeks to shake things out, maybe.

Yes, editorkid, we agree with you. Newly opened restaurants should get a chance to get settled before they’re reviewed, and the more influence a reviewer has, the more he or she should abide by this code of conduct. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to put the genie back into the bottle. LTHForum could establish a policy of not allowing reviews for restaurants less than a month old, say, but this is both unlikely to happen and almost beside the point, anyway. The rabid foodies of the Internet cannot be made to follow rules in the quest for information (and to be first).

This is not to say we should abandon our personal scruples! But we think it’s fair to take it as given that restaurants, whether much-hyped new openings, tiny ethnic storefronts and anything in between, will be reviewed vanishingly close to their opening date.

In this reality, two things can be done. Restaurants can take it upon themselves to be as polished as possible on opening day. In Lao Beijing’s case, that means making sure the menu’s signature duck is available. If a restaurant opens prematurely in order to maximize revenue, it must now take into account potential lost revenue from a bad review related to a lack of readiness.

Consumers are also complicit in this process. It is up to us to evaluate the reviews we read for their value, based on criteria like how long the restaurant has been open and the trustworthiness of the reviewer. There will always be bad and unfair information out there, and even if we (MP:Chicago we, not restaurant-going Everyman we) are guilty of perpetuating it, potential patrons need not be blindly deterred.

Will Lao Beijing’s fate be determined by these early reviews? Almost certainly not. For a restaurant of this scale, bad reviews can’t hurt nearly as much as good reviews could help. So all is not lost! As long as we try to keep the consequences of our actions in mind…

Opening: Lao Beijing (Or Is It Lao Peking?) [MP:Chicago]


The Ethics Of Restaurant Reviewing: Lao Beijing & The LTHForum Fallout