Yelp Ratings Unfairly Discriminate Against Table Service Restaurants

By: Keith Bennett

When you are looking to YELP to help you select a “sit down” lunch or dinner restaurant THAT IS BURDENED with hostesses, wait staff, dishwashers, place settings, water glasses, and stainless steel utensils, I want make a case for you to consider RE-THINKING the Yelp 5 Star Ratings that are often inadvertently over-critical of sit-down, table service restaurants.

Yelp 5 Star Ratings - Punish Sit-Down Restaurants

I Regularly IGNORE any Restaurant that Missed Reaching 4.0 STARS – My Bad!

I have fallen into the TRAP of shopping YELP for only 4.0 STAR Restaurants and “to hell with posers..” In my case, I love to frequent restaurants for lunch more often than dinner, and I veered into a truth: that restaurants that do mostly lunch have way more 4 STARS Overall Ratings than similar-quality-food restaurants that do mostly sit-down, wait-staff-served dinner.

I realized that I have passed over many restaurants (hidden jewels) because of the human tenancy to GET BACK at people and businesses that we feel have “slighted us.” Do a test. Look at the 1-STAR reviews for any business. A common thread is that someone went home after getting offended, set up a brand new Yelp Account and let some business have it: BOTH BARRELS. Then, after Yelp buried that review they Goggled a bit and learned that new accounts and extreme reviews (1 or 5) for a new Yelp Account often get buried because of Yelp’s algorithm and do a second review with 2-STARS.

Offended Sit-Down Diners Lash Out – Two Hour wait to be seated. Dirty Silverware. Rude or Inattentive Waiter. Missing side dish. Error on the tab. All of these issues that are found more often at a sit-down dinner place will DRAG DOWN an otherwise 4.0-STAR restaurant into the sub 3.0-STAR abyss. Often it is because of 1 or 2 employees. Often the restaurant learns from Yelp and fires these people; but it can take a year or MORE for good reviews to offset the 1 and 2-STAR RANTS.

In the OLD DAYS – I would never consider ANY restaurant that was 3.0 STARS or less because I would draw a mental line at 3.0-STARS. That said, 3.5-STARS would get my attention because there were so few 4.0+ for dinner places.

When Searching YELP for a Sit-Down Restaurant I ADD a FULL 1.0 STAR to Overall Ratings

I want to make a case why a sit-down restaurant that has 3.0-STARS should be looked at as a 4.0-STARS mostly-lunch restaurant — as to their quality of FOOD. If you, like me (in the past), are one to “mentally discount” 3.0-STAR restaurants when you look for a new dinner place to try I want you to consider ADJUSTING your MENTAL Yelp Star Meter! I propose you can do this by simply ADDING 1 FULL Yelp STAR to all Restaurant’s in the group you are researching.

Yelp 4 star lunch food as good as Yelp 3 star dinner food.

Discrepancies Noted Between: Lunch-Restaurants vs. Dinner-Restaurants

On we have a Yelp Feed on each and EVERY restaurant’s profile — if they have one. Because we write a lot of restaurant reviews, and because we have a directory of virtually every restaurant on the Laughlin Strip with connected Yelp reviews that we closely track to inform our readers, we’ve noticed some interesting discrepancies you probably have never considered.

San Francisco Yelp Examples

When I search for a restaurant for lunch in a new city I am visiting I am looking for a GREAT EXPERIENCE and GREAT FOOD.

RECENT EXAMPLE: My lunch searches, differ from my sit-down dining searches in that I will search YELP for “Sandwiches San Francisco, CA” My top choices for a lunch destination include mostly restaurants that are like “fast food” and even gourmet Foodie Trucks in the following ways:

  • No Hostess – to screw up in getting me seated in a timely fashion.
  • No Wait Staff – that might be having a bad day, be inexperienced, inattentive, have an attitude, or ignore our table.
  • No Tip – to consider leaving – (the whole tipping process means a critical review of the visit)
  • No Place Settings – no flatware with prior food encrusted, no stainless steel utensils with food or water spots, no glasses or cups with lipstick stains.
  • No Bad Seating – next to restroom, next to kitchen entrance, next to obnoxious party – as in many Lunch Places you select your OWN seats, you eat outside, you return to your car, or do take-out.

Ike’s Place – Castro District SF: 4.5-STARS – 6,000+ Reviews! – 1,500 Pictures!

Ike’s Place Yelp Review – Ike’s Place Website

Ike's Place - 6,000 Yelp Reviews

NO Host to get mad at, NO waitstaff to get pissed about, NO dirty place settings or glasses to rant over, ALL food served on All New Paper.

Ike’s Place

Yelp Ratings for Many Lunch Places are SIGNIFICANTLY better that Dinner Venues

Since most restaurants you search YELP for lunch options serve their food in baskets lined with NEW paper, or wrapped in paper, served on a paper liner on a plastic tray, food is often “will-called” my the patron at the ‘Pick-Up’ counter (no wait staff), silverware is rarely involved or new plastic, drinks are served in NEW paper cups, the restaurant’s OVERALL YELP RATING is not dragged down by the 1-STAR and 2-STAR rants of those unlucky patrons who become “offended” by common frustrations that go with the territory of a sit-down restaurant.

Food Trucks get BETTER OVERALL YELP RATINGS that Brick & Mortar Restaurants

Take a look in any major metropolitan area that has Gourmet Food Trucks. They too get a 1.0-STAR benefit over competing sit-down restaurants as they skirt all the possible FUBAR issues that will cause sit-down patrons to rush home to RANT on their Yelp account about how they are mentally traumatized by the lipstick on their coke glass that they saw after drinking half their drink!

Roli Roti – Gourmet Food Truck – 4.5-STARS – 900+ Reviews! – 700+ Pictures!

Roli Roti Yelp Review – Roli Roti Website


Roli Roti Gourmet Food Truck

I now add ONE FULL STAR to any sit-down Restaurant’s Overall Yelp Rating

When looking over the Yelp Universe for a new restaurant to “try out” I am going to include 3.0-STAR restaurants into my consideration. Sit-down restaurants are NEGATIVELY IMPACTED by uncaring or bad employees and “offended” patrons’ striking back with 1-STAR Yelp rants to get even. Restaurant owners may be working on improving the hostesses’ attitude, fire sassy waiters, have staff double check flatware and utensils as a check over their dishwasher and you could miss-out on finding a cool new restaurant with terrific food!

“Crowd Sourced Reviews” – like YELP – can Make or Break a Restaurant!

Two UC Berkeley economists have published the first study measuring how Yelp star ratings impact restaurants. The study found that a restaurant with a half-star rating increase – on a scale from 1 to 5 – is 19 percent more likely to fill their 7 PM bookings, independent of food prices and service quality. source

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