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Tripadvisor's Weird MCR Top Twenty Restaurants

The anarchy of the unqualified reviewer or a cracking consumer tool?

Written by . Published on February 26th 2013.


Tripadvisor's Weird MCR Top Twenty Restaurants
 

THIS is a list of the top twenty restaurants in Manchester. From Tripadvisor.

"With any restaurant," says Davenport, "you never know if the staff are posting the comments and the ratings, or friends and family. Tripadvisor does have checks in place and they do from time alert businesses to suspicious activity but it can all be easily bypassed."

Yes, Tripadvisor: that rowdy clarion call of uncontrolled consumer bile or love; that equivalent of Manchester Confidential's rants being rated and assessed and given equal value whatever the merits of the words, and the objectivity, and even intelligence of the writer.

As Kira Cochrane writes in The Guardian, there is something 'simultaneously brilliant and annoying about TripAdvisor: its celebration of consumer power, of the right for everyone's opinion to be heard and accorded equal weight – and the bewildering contradictions in its reviews'.

For the restaurants themselves Tripadvisor can be a double-edged sword. Or more like a double-edged chainsaw in a foodie version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 

Damien Davenport, proprietor of 1847 Bistro, found this out very graphically when he launched his vegetarian restaurant a couple of years ago. 

"To start with Tripadvisor worked for us. It gave us profile and boosted visits as we initially had very favourable comments. But it can quickly turn sour.

"For instance a group of 18 wanted to take advantage of a Confidential deal but we told them it didn't apply to groups. So they individually printed off 18 forms and came anyway and obviously wanted to sit together. They said they only wanted two of the three courses on the deal and asked if instead of the third course they could have free drinks. I said no.

"After a lot of distress on the evening they left. But later members of the group began to post negative comments on Tripadvisor and our position in the rankings dropped. Tripadvisor refused to remove any of the comments even though the person who'd arranged the clandestine group visit was disciplined by her organisation for the manner in which they'd conducted themselves. Tripadvisor did however remove some of the very reasonable responses I made to the complainants.

"It's so hard to combat Tripadvisor unfairnesses but now that we're a more mature business, I really don't care about the site. Most of customers are regulars or come via the usual media or by word of mouth anyway."

A problem with Tripadvisor rankings is that you only have to have a few good reviews to put you right on top of the pile. Thus the lowest number of comments, 23, in the Tripadvisor Manchester top twenty restaurants is for Umezushi and yet it holds the number one spot.

We love Umezushi at Confidential but its high ranking shows the limitations of the ranking system.

We're sure those boys at the Japanese place under the Victoria Station arches aren't guilty of any shenanigans, but a top spot for a recent arrival can be easily engineered.

Umezushi grub, here and at the topUmezushi grub, here and at the top

"With any restaurant," says Davenport, "you never know if the staff are posting the comments and the ratings, or friends and family. Tripadvisor does have checks in place and they do from time alert businesses to suspicious activity but it can all be easily bypassed."

Thus if the computer IP addresses of comment makers on Tripadvisor are different from each other then the site has no way of knowing if it's being manipulated - unless restaurants are stupid enough to post identical comments. 

Despite all the caveats, the Tripadvisor top twenty restaurants is weirdly interesting.

It's top heavy in Japanese and other Eastern cuisines which haven't always been a strength of Manchester dining aside from Cantonese cooking.

Where the whole Tripadvisor notion falls down is as a guide to the city. The top twenty list is rubbish for a general visitor, taking them out to a Greek restaurant in Northenden amongst a parade of shuttered shops. It's laughable in a way, and a real argument for the list to be ignored. 

A truly representative selection for Manchester visitors would have to include places such as Cicchetti, Australasia, Solita, Room, Red Chili, Zouk, Damson (MediaCityUK), Podium, the restaurants at Abode and others. 

Most of these places are of course a price bracket above the places listed in the Tripadvisor selection which may reveal something about the profile of the Trip ranters - that's not meant as a criticism by the way, just an observation. 

You also wonder whether there's diner inertia going on here. Some of these places are so local as to suggest lots of people in the neighbourhood keep going back and maybe don't go anywhere else. Also many of the top twenty are very small and thus, again, likely to attract a passionate and loyal following (and more able to manipulate the stats perhaps).

Mind you at Confidential we have over the last couple of years praised in the list Umezushi, I am Pho, Kyotoya, 63 Degrees and The Rose Garden.

It's also given Confidential a couple of ideas, having never reviewed Habesha and Desi, but generally it's a maverick clumping at best. Most of these restaurants, particularly Annies and Olive Press, are a mile off being anywhere near a Manchester top twenty restaurant list. 

Maybe at Confidential we need to do our own top twenty for Manchester.

Or even a top 100 for the North West.

Watch this space. 

1) Umezushi (Japanese-Victoria Station area) Our review here.

2) Alexandros Greek Restaurant (Northenden)

3) Pacifica Cantonese (Eccles)

4) Saray (Turkish- Chorlton)

5) I Am Pho (Vietnamese – Chinatown) Our review here.

6) Sapporo Teppanyaki (Japanese – Castlefield)

7) Arian (Persian – Chorlton)

8) Sugar Junction (Teashop – Northern Quarter) Our review here.

9) Rice Bowl (Cantonese – City)

10) Kyotoya (Japanese – Withington) Our review here.

11) 63 Degrees (French - Northern Quarter) Our review here.

12) Habesha (Ethiopian – Village)

13) Evuna (Spanish – City)

14) The Rose Garden (British – West Didsbury) Our review here.

15) Try Thai (Thai – Chinatown) Our review here.

16) Desi Lounge (Indian – Failsworth)

17) Kabana (Indian – Northern Quarter)

18) Jack Spratt (British Eclectic – City) Our review here.

19) Annie’s (British – City)

20) Olive Press (Italian – City)

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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48 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AVoFebruary 26th 2013.

That list is bullshit.

CharlieFebruary 26th 2013.

It's a self-fufilling prophecy too: people go on Trip Advisor, go to one of the first few restaurants, write a positive review and the top 10 gets entrenched.

Conversely, a new restaurant could get a handful of reviews - maybe three favourable, two neutral and one negative - and find itself in the bottom half of the 896 "Restaurants in Manchester" on TripAdvisor.

More generally, how can a website like TripAdvisor meaningfully compare Sugar Junction (tea and cupcakes gaff), 63 Degrees (upmarket French restaurant) and Habesha (cheaper ethnic food) in the same list?

1 Response: Reply To This...
tbboy87February 27th 2013.

you can filter it to specify the type of cuisine you want. That's just an overall review taking into account all of its categories.

paulFebruary 26th 2013.

Non of my favorites are in the top 20.

Wall-EFebruary 26th 2013.

A top 20 would be great. Would it be city or borough based? Rose Garden would be in my top 20 and I like kyotoya and 63 degrees. The rest of the list and it doesnt inform people of our best restaurants. People don't read the good food guide but that generally sums a region up well.

DigsterFebruary 27th 2013.

It's exactly the same with the hotels - not many people post reviews for 5* hotels and those that do tend to be very picky about spending that amount of money and mark a place down for the smallest detail. However, as far as I can see, practically everybody who stays at a Premier Inn posts up a review and loves it - hence the fact that you have 2/3* budget hotels ranked better places to stay than top 5* establishments.
All I ever do is look at the comments - not the rankings. If people continually say service is bad/place is dirty etc. then obviously I wouldn't go. If they are just being stupid (I did see one hotel in Scotland marked down to a 1 just because the concierge was wearing a kilt and he wasn't scottish), then I take no notice.

1 Response: Reply To This...
MancAdam85March 2nd 2013.

Sometimes the things people rate hotels down on is hilarious..

tbboy87February 27th 2013.

It's the same with most things, we have the internet to thanks for that. But the way we use trip advisor is if it is a restaurant we've never heard of and is up there in the rankings, we'll try it. If it's shit we'll never go again.

We use it mainly when out of the country and has always come up trumps for us though so it does have its advantages!

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

Hmm the list is pretty random. People should just eat where ManCon tell them to. Definitely no "shenanigans" involved in their recommendations...

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 27th 2013.

You're so right Anon. Just follow our recommendations. Good idea. Also maybe don't hide behind cowardly, creepy Anon comments such as this. Honestly man, embolden yourself. Anyway all our marked and scored reviews are the very measure of impartiality and the bills are paid for by ourselves. It strikes me that your snipey comment here is exactly what's wrong with many of the comments on Tripadviser.

SimonFebruary 27th 2013.

Bit touchy there, Jonathan. This particular member of the Anon family might be making a genuine point. Certainly, we trust your opinion and so DO go where Man Con says is good and don't go to the places you say are not. Very rarely disagree with you too!

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

My earlier post seems to have touched a nerve so I thought I would follow up and explain myself a little bit. I felt compelled to comment as I felt the article was overly and unfairly critical of Tripadvisor, it’s users and contributors.

IMO Tripadvisor is a great consumer tool. Their reviewers may be “unqualified” but my experiences have generally been positive – I’ve had some great meals in fairly random places that I would never have known about otherwise. By and large I think it is a decent site with honest reviews by normal people – disgruntled vegetarians excepted.

I agree that the list of the Tripadvisor top 20 restaurants in Manchester makes no apparent sense – but there are fairly simple ways to filter the list so you can compare like with like. If ManCon reviewed all 800+ restaurants in Greater Manchester using their very sensible marks out of 20 but “rated against the best of it’s kind” system - and then put them all in a single top 800 - you would end up with a pretty weird list – much like the Tripadvisor one.

Finally, I’m not sure why you’ve had to resort to personal insults – describing me as “cowardly” and “creepy” for posting anonymously. As far as I can see no one else on this thread has given their full name – are they all cowardly and creepy as well…? Why haven’t you told them so? If you don’t want people to post anonymously take the facility away rather than making it the default option – it’s your website.

Anyway, see you on Saturday at Alexandros – it’ll be the (second) greatest night of our lives.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

My earlier post seems to have touched a nerve so I thought I would follow up and explain myself a little bit. I felt compelled to comment as I felt the article was overly and unfairly critical of Tripadvisor, it’s users and contributors.

In my opinion Tripadvisor is a great consumer tool. Their reviewers may be “unqualified” but my experiences have generally been positive – I’ve had some great meals in fairly random places that I would never have known about otherwise. By and large I think it is a decent site with honest reviews by normal people – disgruntled vegetarians excepted.

I agree that the list of the Tripadvisor top 20 restaurants in Manchester makes no apparent sense – but there are ways to filter the list so you can compare like with like. If ManCon reviewed all 800+ restaurants in Greater Manchester using their very sensible “rated against the best of it’s kind” system and then put them all in a single top 800 list you would end up with a pretty weird list – much like the Tripadvisor one.

Finally, I’m not sure why you’ve had to resort to personal insults – describing me as “cowardly” and “creepy” for posting anonymously. As far as I can see no one else on this thread has given their full name – are they all cowardly and creepy as well…? Why haven’t you told them so? If you don’t want people to post anonymously take the facility away – it’s your website.

Anyway, see you on Saturday at Alexandros – it’ll be the (second) greatest night of our lives

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

Try Thai is fucking mint!

EmFebruary 27th 2013.

Kyotoya is in Withington, not Chinatown. And is superb...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 27th 2013.

Thanks. Changed. Silly of us we've even reviewed it.

EmFebruary 27th 2013.

You have indeed, I think I first went there on the back of your review!

BenFebruary 27th 2013.

What a crock of horse shit. Pacifica in Eccles is nice, shame it's in Eccles though. The place is full of reprobates, retards and thieving little turds......Oh, has a nice church.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

h dear pretend hate mail again

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

Damien Davenport sounds a bit whiny to me and does go on with himself. Boo hoo sad face restaurant owner :(

Seriously through, careful on your branding. No one wants a bitter sounding host.

But perhaps this is not entirely his fault. A couple of other contributors could have mellowed out and added more weight to the message..?

The list is total nonsense on the other hand!

EU inspectorFebruary 27th 2013.

Ben has that horse shit been mixed with cow shit?

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

I have visited Pacifica Cantonese in Eccles many times and have yet to have a bad experience. Yes the down side is that is in Eccles. But if the restaurant serves good food and has good service,should it really matter that it is not situated in city centre or at the "new cool" destination Media City UK.

BenFebruary 27th 2013.

Has indeed Mr EU Inspector!!

BenFebruary 27th 2013.

It is nice, and the surrounding area should not matter a jot. I only mention as I'm from Eccles, so therefore feel I'm allowed to vent my frustration at being born in the arsehole of humanity. Montons a nice area much more suited to a lovely restaurant such as Pacifica, not had a bad experience either.

Prince_HarmingFebruary 27th 2013.

This list is definitely a unrepresentative pile of crap, but I can echo Em's comment about Kyotoya in Withington. I ordered from there about a week after it opened and have been a regular customer ever since - they never fail to impress.

I have eaten the sushi at Australasia and for size, freshness, variety and flavour, Kyotoya knocked them out of the park. If you being the frankly breathtaking difference in price between the two in to play, the comparison becomes even more stark.

bellel7February 27th 2013.

Well the list is random HQ – of that there is no doubt. How can Cicchetti/Piccolinos/Gaucho/Restaurant Bar&Grill/et al(!!) NOT even feature in the top ten?! Annie’s is nice an all, but for that to be the only showing for restaurants in the city centre is farcial and not at all indictive of the best resturamnts we have.
I'm a regular tripadvisor contributor and also use it religiously for reviews on hotels before I settle on and pay for my accomodation. But in terms of restaurant reviews... I use it less frequently and certainly take all the reviews with a pinch of salt (which in turn exposes that the rankings on the list are almost inconsequential) beacuse opinions on food for me tend to be quite subjective.

1 Response: Reply To This...
anonMarch 2nd 2013.

No mention of Cicchetti probably because it's up it's own backside. Order a cooked veggie breakfast and get the 'full English' without the dead body parts but no substitute, no increase in the other items, no sod else then charge full price....oh and the service is abysmal.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

This is a list.... people should visit TA to find out about individual places and comments. Undoubtedly that's what visitors do and what I do when I am researching a place for other purposes.

There are very few eateries in Manchester which I think are worth going to at any price. But then I am rather good at cooking my own.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

Reading the comments on the Stockport list of restaurants is on TA shows what it is about. Damson heads the list but I doubt if the people who praise the next six would ever consider going there, but they would find the comments on those lower down the list would guide them to what they were looking for and be comfortable with. And I would certainly, if hungry, try the chippy opposite Stepping Hill Hospital for a quick nosh if the queue wasn't too long.

www.tripadvisor.co.uk/r_Manchester_England.html…

It's not a list of best restaurants but a list of what people like sorted by number of comments X ratings.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

Reading the comments on the Stockport list of restaurants is on TA shows what it is about. Damson heads the list but I doubt if the people who praise the next six would ever consider going there, but they would find the comments on those lower down the list would guide them to what they were looking for and be comfortable with. And I would certainly, if hungry, try the chippy opposite Stepping Hill Hospital for a quick nosh if the queue wasn't too long.

www.tripadvisor.co.uk/r_Manchester_England.html…

It's not a list of best restaurants but a list of what people like sorted by number of comments X ratings.

SimonFebruary 27th 2013.

Of course the TA ranking is nonsense. Anyone who has used TA would know that.

I have a few simple guidelines which I follow to help me use TA. For hotels, I ignore the whole of any review which says the place is 'very clean'. I ignore any negative review of the standard of service if it's written by an American. I ignore any review which is written in bad English by someone who is English. I ignore all reviews that consist of lavish praise only and distrust all those which are simply damning.

On the whole, TA is worth using but you it must be read with intelligence. (That might make me sound pompous but.....).

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

A quick search says you have reviewed Evuna three times, Olive Press at least once, and Ruth and Kev have been to Kabana..but no review..(too salty) but Annies, not yet under the new management.

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialFebruary 27th 2013.

Oh but we forget....thanks. Will add the latest reviews from those places as well. We're so very human aren't we?

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

Isnt the good food guide complied of the public's recomendations and votes? its lists tend to be pretty accurate. Trip advisor just seems to be abused.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Wall-EFebruary 27th 2013.

They have inspections after recommendations to judge cooking score.

Mark GarnerFebruary 28th 2013.

You beat me to it Wall-E. Simon above has got it spot on with Trip advisor, it's pretty easy to spot staff/owners/competitors which is the same as on here; with us and the Good Food Guide, all,scored reviews are visited by us unannounced and paid for. I douse trip advisor for Hotels abroad, find it very useful as it happens, after a little sifting.

Hero
RevaulxFebruary 27th 2013.

By Tripadvisor's normal standards this list is positively rational. At least there's no Rosso or Jamie's Italian.

And don't be so snobbish about Northenden Jonathan. There are loads of restaurants there now, several of which are pretty decent (not been to the one on the list though). TheLounge About may have an annoying name, but it's an excellent bar.

NorthernGeezerFebruary 27th 2013.

The key to using Trip Advisor is to base your selections not on the good reviews, but on the bad ones.
Some are just whinges about insignificant things, but generally, you get a better idea of the establishment i find.

Poster BoyFebruary 28th 2013.

The premise of the 'unqualified' reviewer is intellectually dishonest...

SmittyMarch 1st 2013.

Have you guys not reviewed Annie's yet? My review: it's great.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialMarch 1st 2013.

Tell us more Smitty

SmittyMarch 1st 2013.

It's really lovely. They do a great starter of black pudding spring roll with rocket and sweet chilli sauce which is an inspired flavour combo. If the gravy that comes with the lamb shank was a man I would run away with it to the Bahamas and spend the rest of my life with it.

Really welcoming, particularly on a Friday when they do a nice bit of live music. It ain't the cheapest, buts yous gets whats yous pays fors.

Steve5839March 1st 2013.

What an interesting load of comments, Tripadviser is what it is “adviser” and as such any “advice” needs to be balanced against other “advice” and an informed rational conclusion reached.

I use Tripadviser all the time for both hotels and restaurants and all in all they are not normally wrong. Yes you can get staff posting comments, but when there are 20 negative ones and one / two good ones then on balance the place is not very good and obviously the converse is true. You also get the odd village idiot that posts a negative comment because the ketchup is not the one he / she use at home etc.

As to its relevance – high, at least there is a vice for the average guy. As to the list, I have eaten at most of them and tend to agree in the whole with the comments posted. So guys rather than have an intellectual debate on what is a very simple premise use it as a tool and don’t set your life to it.

AnonymousMarch 1st 2013.

And if it's a very negative review by someone who hasn't written any other reviews on TA, and the other reviews are mostly positive, take the negative review with a pinch of salt.

AnonymousMarch 1st 2013.

While I can see how TA can be more trouble than it’s worth for some restaurants I think most people who use it do so with a pinch or two of salt. Incidentally,
Damien Davenport's replies on Trip Advisor were removed because they were insulting toward the group members; “reasonable responses“ they were not.

Would be interesting if you could find out if the list was compiled from locals or tourists.

JimMarch 1st 2013.

The list is better than it used to be. Last time I looked the number one restaurant in manchester was nandos.

I'm surprised kabana made the list. It's the worst of the 4 northern quarter Indian cafe places

Andy FeastMarch 3rd 2013.

I'd put Etrop Grange, The Rose Garden and Damson (HM) in the top 5 easily and Sapporo Teppanyaki? Way over rated

AnonymousFebruary 24th 2014.

Try Thai is terrific!!!

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