Zubuchon has been on Trip Advisor for three years. During our first year, we consistently ranked in the Top 10 restaurants in Cebu and received a Trip Advisor Award for that. In our second year we slipped to the teens, and in our third year we are in the high-20’s. The rating system of Trip Advisor is weighted according to number of reviews, presumably the credibility of their reviewers somehow (number of reviews they did, geographic breadth, etc.), frequency of reviews, weighted ratings, etc. However, there seems to be some bias towards newer listings as 5 good ratings in a row can catapult you to the top, while older “properties” wallow in the sea of averages.
For the most part, Trip Advisor has been helpful, in that it brings critical data like our location, contact numbers etc. to people searching for us on the web for the first time. But I do have to agree that one must sometimes take some of what is posted on Trip Advisor with a grain of salt. I decided to write this post after reading this amusing Daily Mail article on Trip Advisor readers giving such well-known sites as the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Great Wall of China, Grand Canyon and Taj Mahal a one-star rating. It just highlights the fact that Trip Advisor is a democracy, and you can say anything (within some parameters) you like and give whatever rating you please, whether it really does seem to reflect the truth, reality, the context, etc. Your rating is your opinion, period. Thus one has to pick and choose which opinions to believe.
There is no shortage of criticism of the system, however — see here or here. A guide to decoding Trip Advisor reviews, here. There are many complaints about the system as well. Some folks can intentionally put bad reviews to bring someone’s (say a competitor’s) ratings down. There is no need to prove you actually ate or stayed at the restaurant or hotel. There is no differentiation between a fine dining establishment and a fast-food one or a five-star hotel or motel. And there is sufficient evidence that the system can be scammed. Nevertheless, it’s not something you can opt out of, so you must play the game with some aplomb.
I find that when I use Trip Advisor for hotels and restaurants, I read well into the individual reviews, and see how the writer crafts his opinion, within what context and against other properties of like kind. That helps me decide if he is to be trusted more or less. And I only use this as one of the criteria in my search for something. Why do I say this? Just consider the following, in Zubuchon’s case…
1. We currently rate 4 stars and have done so for most of the past 3 years (starting off at 4.5 for several months in year 1). That puts us ON PAR with Sukiyabayashi Jiro Roppongi Hills (son of original Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza that is rated 4.5 stars), or Les Amis, Singapore, 4-star Trip Advisor rating ranked 86th best restaurant in the world by this list, or the same as Manresa (62nd best restaurant in the world), or St. John, London (55th best in the world) or Coi, San Francisco (49th best in the world) — a list that is drawn up by food professionals with serious taste buds and intense credentials (they actually COOK for a living). But more far-fetched but laughably amusing, that puts us just half a star behind Per Se (which I adore, at 4.5 stars and ranked 30th in the world), Le Bernardin (ranked 21st) and Noma, Copenhagen (ranked 1st in the world). How absurd is that? Yet you will find Jollibee and other fast food chains also in the 3.5-4.0 category for Cebu. Read into that what you will. I definitely DO NOT CONSIDER OUR HUMBLE CHAIN TO BE IN ANYWHERE NEAR THE STRATOSPHERE THAT THOSE PLACES OPERATE IN.
2. It is a known fact that more often that not, people with a gripe or complaint are more likely to write a bad review than folks who had a great meal will write a congratulatory review. The statistics vary, but it might be safe to say the ratio is 5:1. And over the past 3 years, if you assume we served say just 700 customers a day (we are around 900-1,000 for the past year), then that would be a total of 766,500 meals served and 269 reviews on Trip Advisor to this day, or just the opinion of .00035 of our clients! So visiting guests who used Trip advisor are basing their decision on a teeny tiny fraction of customers. I’d like to think the vast majority of new clients of ours come from positive word of mouth and return visits.
3. I used to respond to many reviews personally, but have sort of given up for the past few months, and really should start doing it again. We do appreciate ALL REVIEWS, good and bad, and the bad ones often spur us to action, but I must say I do occasionally get turned off by some outrageous reviews… like the one that insisted our pigs weren’t fresh because the meat wasn’t milky white pork and went on to “expertly” divine that we must not have bled the pigs hence the dark meat — of course I pointed out to Trip Advisor that bleeding and the dark meat were not a factual link (blood is in veins, not meat (that’s water/liquid), and that darker meat was indicative of more muscle, more free movement) OR the one that said we weren’t local (huh? because local or traditional means a cup of MSG?) — they didn’t have MSG when Pigafetta landed and recorded his meal of roast pork in 1521… Nor did they have soy sauce! OR the one that clearly identifies another competitor and why we should eat there instead, yup, I get that one clearly OR the one that found the food to be horrific and not to their taste, yet they said nothing while on the premises, paid their bill, and took their extra food anyway…
In the end it is indeed a double-edged sword. But thankfully, one we have remained on the good side of for the past three years. Honestly, I think a 4-star rating is pretty darned good considering all of the above. If you have been to our restaurants and want to write a review, head on over to Trip Advisor, we appreciate your time and thoughts, both good and not so good. Thank you. :)