New York: Want your restaurant to be a hit? Take note. Researchers have found that just a few negative online restaurant reviews can determine how many of them it gets in a long-term.
The study, published online earlier this month in the journal Papers in Applied Geography, also found that a neighbourhood’s median household income affected whether restaurants were rated at all.
“These online platforms advertise themselves as being unbiased, but we found that that is not the case,” said the study’s lead author Yasuyuki Motoyama from the Ohio State University
“The way these platforms work, popular restaurants get even more popular, and restaurants with some initial low ratings can stagnate”Motoyama added
For the findings, the research team evaluated reviews in Franklin County, Ohio, from the websites Yelp and Tripadvisor of about 3,000 restaurants per site.
Previous research has found that the food industry considers consumer preferences in the area to be a litmus test for the broader US market. The researchers collected reviews for restaurants published in May 2019, then analysed those reviews by rating and geographic location.
They considered demographics for each neighbourhood, and noted the socioeconomics of each area, too, based on household income.
The study found that restaurants with a smaller number of reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor had a higher likelihood of a low rating.
“The more reviews a restaurant received, the higher the average rating of the restaurant,” said the study’s co-author Kareem Usher.
“But this has implications: If one of the first reviews a restaurant receives comes from a dissatisfied customer, and people check that later and think ‘I don’t want to go there’ based on that one review, then there will be fewer reviews of that restaurant”Usher added.
The opposite is exact for restaurants that receive positive reviews or a large number of reviews: More people are likely to review those restaurants, improving the likelihood that a restaurant’s average rating will be higher.
The study found that 17.6 per cent of restaurants with only one to four reviews received a low rating on Yelp. But that decreased to 9.3 per cent for those with between five and ten reviews.
On Tripadvisor, those with one to four reviews had a 5.6 per cent probability of having a poor review, going down to 0.6 per cent for those with five to 10 reviews, the study said.