Wednesday, January 26, 2022 Jan 26, 2022
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Rehashing the Obvious: DMN’s Restaurant Star Rating System is Still Broken

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The restaurant reviewers at the Dallas Morning News can’t win for losing. Each Wednesday when their reviews hit the web, readers who take the time to comment still seem confused by the number of stars assigned to a review. Sometimes there are more positive statements than negative, yet the restaurant receives only two stars.

It’s a difficult and complicated task to coordinate reviews and stars. But if you have to keep explaining your method, you should know whatever you are doing is not working and you are not serving your readers. Let’s go back.

On June 19, 2009, Leslie Brenner wrote:

“If a restaurant is serving brilliant main courses and charging $50 for them, that’s far less impressive to me than if it’s serving brilliant main courses and charging $22 for them, and I definitely consider than when assigning a rating. If you charge $50 per entree you can afford much more help in the kitchen. It’s a lot of money to charge, and my expectation is that the dish will be stellar. And if you’re asking a diner to pay that kind of money, the whole experience, including service and ambience, had better be stellar too. At the lower end of the financial scale, if I find a restaurant with good, honest cooking, where you pay, say $10 for an amazing chile relleno stuffed with brisket, that’s definitely appreciated and it’ll be rewarded.”

I disagreed and proposed a solution to the impossible task the DMN faces of aligning their stars. Divide restaurants by price points and use a different color star for each. That makes it easy to spot a four-star burger joint over a four-star $50 steak joint. (Dave Faries if you use that I will send you a bill.)

But, noooooooooo. Today, the DMN complicated the situation beyond repair. Now, dear reader, you have to evaluate “evolving stars” and “old stars” to balance when deciding where to spend your $50.

Oh that makes me sad and gives me a five-star headache. Love to hear your suggestions.