The Death of the Star System

Categories: Food News

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"Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air gives the hotel a serious restaurant and the chef an ideal California spot."

How many stars is that?

The Los Angeles Times recently ditched its star rating system. Russ Parsons, the food editor at the Times, says the system is dated, especially considering the rapid evolution of LA's dining scene.

First, star ratings are increasingly difficult to align with the reality of dining in Southern California -- where your dinner choices might include a food truck, a neighborhood ethnic restaurant, a one-time-only pop-up run by a famous chef, and a palace of fine dining. Clearly, you can't fairly assess all these using the same rating system. Furthermore, the stars have never been popular with critics because they reduce a thoughtful and nuanced critique to a simple score.

In place of stars, the Times will now issue a short summary of each review, which I cut and pasted into the start of this story. The short summary, which easily fits into the 140 character limit of a tweet, indicates a restaurant that is serious (is that good?), and also points toward some harmony between the celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and his new location. It does not, however, reduce an evaluation down to the strict binary assessment of good or bad, though. Perhaps emoticons are next? :)

I think the move illuminates the dichotomy between two types of restaurant review readers. The first reader likes digesting reviews for their literary merit. They appreciate the structure and "nuanced critique" contained in a thoughtfully written review. The second just wants to know if they should eat at the damn place. Is it good, or is it not? This latter camp will now have to put a little more thought into their decision.

I find myself mixed on the matter. One of my favorite ways to navigate a new city's cuisine is to page through listings looking for high star ratings and low $ ratings. The strategy has almost always yielded a high percentage of thoughtful and good valued meals. I'll have to come up with a new way of sifting through a city's many restaurants, now -- at least when I'm visiting LA.

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16 comments
Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Seeing a recent  "Dallas's Only Daily" review rated a establishment w/ 0 stars for what sounded like pure spite and vitriol, I think its time to ditch the system and the fossils who use it. Yelp has more credibility than a "traditional" restaurant critic in today's social media-driven world. When certain Dallas restaurant critics call out a restaurant for being "kitschy" or takes a paragraph to trash-talk the way a plate presentation knocked off  two stars, that's just looking for any reason to fail a restaurant to appease their id. 

Missmaei
Missmaei

I agree with twinwillow, she is the main reason the pay wall she's behind should ditch the star rating system. There are more informative ways to rate a place. It's dead.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I'd be fine with a 3-tier guide to restaurants:

--Don't bother--Go if it's not your money--Spend your own money

Done. Says everything you need to know.

Kergo1 Spaceship
Kergo1 Spaceship

Dear Mr. JT Tone,     Any Baseball stories this month?  We love baseball.   Love,       The Kerg's

ps-Please don't run me-sir!  I've kept it down; a bit.

twinwillow
twinwillow

Maybe a certain Dallas restaurant reviewer should also consider ditching HER old fashioned ✭ system.

Coleman
Coleman

 baseball is fucking boring

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

 Is it the star system itself, or its application you're lamenting?

Kergo1 Spaceship
Kergo1 Spaceship

Baseball is the national pastime, both graceful and intergenerational, If you don't get that, that's a "you bad"; AND,-I would feel sorry for you.  My dad's dad took him to The Fens, my dad took me to the Fens, I've taken my kids to the Fens, old Arlington Stadium, BP in Arlington, and Frisco........if you don't get that dude, then you are non kiddo material, or a maniac?  Just sayin'.  

ps-You don't like sittin' in the sun, shirt off,  drinkin' beer with someone you care about.....maybe the New Nazi Party needs members. Or, Poland needs new citizens. 

pss-No, basketball sucks!  

twinwillow
twinwillow

The star system is redundant and only given for shock value. Just give us an honest review of the food, service, ambiance, and overall experience. After all, one restaurant's 3 stars doesn't equal the same 3 stars as anothers restaurant's 3 stars. Right?

Coleman
Coleman

Good to know you guys love sports but can still blubber like chickenshit pussies, too!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

you sir are an idiot.  You dont like baseball, well fine, but to drop a slavery comparison?  I think we just learned all we really need to know about

Kergo1 Spaceship
Kergo1 Spaceship

Hey, lets throw racism into a good old happy party, and watch people cry.  

Coleman
Coleman

 You know what else used to be a national pastime? Slavery.

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