This past week, Patch published the top 10 restaurants in Libertyville, IL. Being a resident of Libertyville for the last 14 years, the article captured my attention. Patch had gathered this data from Yelp.com on the top 10 restaurants. After some perusing and reviews, I wanted to provide some insight, analysis and perspective on this list and Yelp too. Said differently, the devil is in the details.
According to Wikipedia, Yelp.com is a crowd-sourced local business review and social networking site. Located in mostly urban areas, users can submit reviews on products and services using a five star rating system.
A few random thoughts before I look specifically at some local restaurants and the ranking system.
First, if someone initially reads this article on Patch.com or Yelp.com for that matter, do readers realize the disparity in the amount of reviews for the Top 10 restaurants? Some restaurants in this list have been reviewed 28 times and others over 400 times. Would some readers find this of value?
Second, reading some of these reviews, some feedback is from 2013 and 2014. Granted, there are many reviews from the past year, however, there are also many reviews from the past 3-4 years. If one is evaluating how well a restaurant is doing, shouldn’t we only use a gauge from the last 6-12 months?
Firkin, ranked #3, is a bar and restaurant with many beers on tap with a strong urban feel and is located at 515 N. Milwaukee. Their website states Firkin is “Arguably the best beer bar in America.” It’s ranked high for several reasons but the best beer bar in America? Hyperbole? Moving on, as locals are aware, Firkin has been in operation since the 20th century. Yelp states there are 420 reviews for this restaurant. With so many reviews, the sample size provides the reader plenty of feedback from ’16 and ’17. If I wasn’t familiar with Firkin, I’d still have the option to review many comments from the past 3-6 months, which should help consumers make a more educated decision on the quality of the food and ambience.
Another Top 10 restaurant is Clucker’s Charcoal Chicken rated #8 but with only 44 reviews. If you look closer, there appears to be only a handful of reviews that were made during the last 10 months. That’s worrisome. Look, it could be a good restaurant but if you’re rated #8 in a community with only 3 recent reviews (and 1 being negative), what’s a prospective dining consumer to think?
Interesting that Dos Amigos Mexican restaurant has only 4 reviews. It’s ranked 39th, it appears to be a new restaurant as all 4 reviews are from the last few months. However, all reviews ranked this restaurant with 5 stars. However, with 5 stars, should it not be in the Top 10 if not number 1 with all 5 stars? I’m assuming because it’s new with only several reviews, it would not quality for top billing. Thinking out loud, I’m wondering how many reviews are necessary before a restaurant competes with other restaurant on a level playing field.
Ranked #18 is Viccino’s. There are only 18 reviews listed. However, this restaurant is no longer in operation. If I understand the point behind Yelp and restaurant reviews, the value is reading other people’s dining experience to help determine prospective restaurants a reader may want to frequent. If an eating establishment listed on Yelp’s Libertyville review has closed, what’s the point? Should not more scrutiny and regulation be done to enhance Yelp’s brand? In this example, might an initial reaction be to ‘Yelp’ about this lack of vetting by Yelp?
A very popular breakfast and lunch restaurant is Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. This is ranked #17 although it has 4.5 stars with 435 reviews. Based on the number of reviews, one can conclude it has been operating for more than several years. I live near this restaurant and we frequent there several times a year and let me say, we typically have a 10% chance of being seated immediately after entering this pancake house. It’s regularly busy and sometimes noisy but I must say, I’ve never left hungry or disappointed. If one bases the quality of a restaurant on the demand, there’s no question, this would be in the Top 10. In addition, getting back to the ranking of 4.5 stars, would this not easily qualify for the Top 10?
Another Libertyville restaurant reviewed is Café Pyrenees located on the north end of town with a ranking of #11. Some might find it troubling that this restaurant has only been reviewed 67 times even though the restaurant has been in operation for over 10 years. Many of these reviews are from ’08, ’11, ’12, ’13, and ’15. If someone wants to merely browse their reviews from the 6-8 months, little will be found (2 reviews from the last several months). The next newest review was 8 months ago. If your focus is on the newest reviews from the past 8 months, the average ranking would be 3.3 out of 5. Therefore, instead of being ranked #11, their rank would drop to around 25th. Is that something that could have been included in the article?
To summarize, if I review the Top 10 restaurants in Libertyville on Yelp.com, there are some of the top restaurants with hundreds of comments and others with only several dozen. If a restaurant has a sample size of 25, should they qualify for the top 10? If a reader does a quick skim of these rankings, without peeling the onion, how will they know that many of these reviews are from 2, 3 or 4 years ago? Would this fact make a difference for those searching for a quality restaurant in Libertyville?
Without much scrutiny and just quickly reviewing the list published by Patch.com, do readers also realize there are some restaurants outside the top 10 with a higher rating that those elite 10? Even with additional scrutiny, is it obvious and transparent the criteria Yelp uses to justify this apparent inconsistency?
Moving on to demographics, is there consistency between the reviewers and readers in terms of age, sex, income, diversity, etc.? Are the reviewers a younger demographic than the readers? If so, would that make a difference in terms of how certain a demographic looks at the restaurant review process? Some food for thought on the Libertyville restaurant review published on Patch.com from Yelp.com.
Editor’s Note: At the time of drafting this document several days ago, Viccino’s Restaurant was listed on Yelp.com as one of the top 20 restaurants in Libertyville. During the last few days, it has since been removed from Yelp even though the restaurant has not been in operation for the past few years.