Food… Zomato… Reviews… Ethics

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Suddenly I am part of all these discussions on food even though I know very little. Ok, fine, I do eat out a lot and I do know what I like. But am not well travelled and definitely don’t know how authentic international food tastes like. I am the person who will come back from Italy craving for Dominos/Crusty’s pizzas.

In the last few months, since my levels on Zomato have increased, so has the response to my reviews as well. This has its pros and cons. On the bright side, free food… yaay… on the dark side, ethics… I am a strong believer that if you haven’t paid for something your review will be biased. One of the reasons why I review on Zomato is because people are supposed to mention if the food was free. I avoid reading such reviews and don’t use them for recommendations.

I had given Benihana a good rating on Zomato after the meet up but made it a point to visit again for a meal and check if the experience is just as good when you are regular customer.

A strange thing happened last night- a restaurant from where KC had ordered dinner last week and I had given a terrible rating, called me to apologise and send free food. They wanted me to change my rating if the food was good. I was in the middle of something and told them to send the food (after telling them twice that they didn’t need to but they kept insisting). KC had ordered a veg biryani but last night they sent us starter, sabji, rotis, naans and veg biryani. It was a lot of food for two people and I had already eaten an early dinner but had to atleast taste everything. I was in a big dilemma yesterday- should I change the rating or not? I had to deal with all these thoughts:

  • Reviews of free food are always biased. I have no doubt about it. Am I comfortable changing my rating basis food sent for free? Is this a way of buying ratings or customer service? Where is the line? What I do today sets the precedent for the future and I need to be absolutely sure about the stand I take.
  • The restaurant was courteous enough to call, apologise and offer something for the bad experience. I really appreciate it specially since most outlets don’t care. In fact, I had the worst experience with Dine fest and Fatty Bao (a reputed and hyped) restaurant over the weekend. Am I going to accept the freebie and then not even give a good rating? I have seen a few chefs/restaurant owners/bloggers complaining about people who do this on twitter.
  • The dilemma wouldn’t be so big if they had just sent a biryani against the bad biryani we had. Instead, they sent us an entire meal meant for 4 people. I had to give away most of the food because there is no way both of us could finish even half of it.
  • The food was specially prepared. Obviously, it was going to be better than what we would get as a regular customer. Fair to review it basis that?

After thinking a lot, this is what I did- wrote down everything that happened on Zomato, mentioned that the food was decent but didn’t change the rating. What I am going to do though is order again in a few days and check for myself and then change the rating basis the experience I have because I never order again from places I have a bad experience with.

You may wonder why am taking it so seriously. Who cares what rating is given? Well, restaurants care. They check the ratings, analyse them and use it as feedback.


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