"Traditional restaurant reviews were a casualty of the pandemic."
-Patricia Cobe | Restaurant Business
I recently came across a story by Patricia Cobe, Senior Editor for Restaurant Business: “The restaurant critic’s job has changed … maybe forever” Traditional restaurant reviews were a casualty of the pandemic, but change was in the air pre-COVID. What happens next? she says before contemplating the futures of highly acclaimed restaurant critics are contemplated.
“Consumers are eager to dine out—and they’ll want some guidance. A knowledgeable, slightly gentler restaurant critic as storyteller can steer them in the right direction while supporting an industry trying to get back on its feet.”
Although Chicago Magazine dining critic Jeff Ruby says that “…after a while, I saw that COVID wasn’t going away and my job would never be the same… I don’t see how publications can go back to one critic reviewing every restaurant.” I’m very much of the opinion that there will always be a market for, and industry benefit from, every kind of influencer.
From #TiktTok restaurant reviewers like "@theviplist" with exceptional video editing skills and popular #FoodNetwork programs like Guy Fieri’s “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” to traditional food critics whose exposure and prose serves to celebrate and honor their favorite hospitality professionals. Each of them, to their own particular audience, serves the same purpose: to give greater exposure to the restaurants that make up the very fabric of our vibrant communities.
I’m not one to necessarily follow the crowd when it comes to food critics, “Best of” lists or the #Yelp s and #TripAdvisor s of the world; however, I am of the opinion that when any one spotlight goes out on the stage, the performers don’t shine as brightly.
That’s why, after 5yrs in development and one year in alpha testing; my team and I are excited to finally be launching our very different approach to restaurant reviews and recommendations later this summer. It’s an app called “Course" (TryCourseApp.com).
Instead of promoting the opinions of one person or a general consensus as to which restaurants are worth visiting, #TheCourseApp uses A.I. and private reviews to build a unique taste profile for each and every one of our subscribers and then determines which restaurants are most compatible with our their own unique tastes and individual preferences.
Patricia Cobe mentions, in her article, that “as more restaurants reopen and new ones launch, consumers will want to hear about them from a trusted source.”
I guess our response to that would be that when it comes to taste, no one's opinions matter more than yours. Since artificial intelligence is way better at analyzing thousands (or even millions) of individual biases than people are; we’ve decided to let machine learning software analyze everyone’s opinions… which means there’s no need to broadcast them anymore.
So now the question remains: "Will enough people be willing to trust our algorithm over the opinions of people they’ve never met?". We're anxious to find out. The one thing we do know for sure is that asking people to keep their opinions to themselves might not be the most popular approach to launching a restaurant recommendation app…nor the most lucrative one either. But profitability is not our goal. We’re simply focused on supporting independent restaurants and encouraging more people to frequent more restaurants than they ever have before.
I can only hope that that Course will garner enough support to fill in some of the guidance gap that seems to be widening by the hiatus many critics are taking right now and in-turn, help expedite the industry’s recovery.
Managing Partner | Hawser LLC.
You can learn more about Hawser and the Course app at: trycourseapp.com