Last Update: Mar 8th, 2016
Fake reviews

You can't trust OpenTable reviews

Did you ever wonder why every restaurant, even ones that you know are terrible, all seem to have 4 to 5 stars on OpenTable? Places that are simply no good have multiple "Diner's Choice" awards? Doesn't it seem fishy that a place that every local knows has bad food and terrible service has so many "reviews" claiming that the place is a "foodie paradise" and "world class" service?

The reason is that OpenTable is structured in a way to allow restaurants to have substantial control over the message; and there's no way for potential diners to scrutinize the reviews.

The Fallacy of their Claim

OpenTable makes their money from the restaurants using their reservation systems, so they have a vested interest in creating an environment that is favorable to restaurants. Their system "helps" restaurants in 2 ways; First, all of the reviews are posted anonymously. While there might be a first name and last initial; there no profile. No avatar. You can't cliick on a user to view their profile or see what other restaurants they've reviewed. And there's no way to contact other users.

The second way that they "help" restaurants is the claim that only actual diners who make a reservation and who show up at the restaurant can post a review. This is false.

Think about it. A restaurant that wants to post a positive review for themselves can simply create an account (any employee or manager can create an account) then make a reservation for their own restaurant. Then they can mark it as fulfilled. This costs them $1 or something; then they can yse tge account they created to anonymously plant a review. They can post as many as they want, since they control the reservation system. You can create unlimited email accounts, so a restaurant can post an unlimited number of fake reviews.

The combination of anonymous reviews and the false claim that only people who actually dine at the restaurant can post reviews create the perfect storm for restaurants to plant positive reviews about their establishments.

You can probably trust the negative reviews. But there's really no way of knowing if the positive reviews are real or planted shills by the restaurants themselves.

There's been way too many pea-brained comments from people who just don't seem to get it, so I'll lay out how it can work.

1) Restaurant creates a fake reservation on
2) Restaurant marks the reservation as fulfilled, even though it's not even a real reservation
3) The restaurant can now post a review for their own restaurant using the bogus diner's opentable login.

Another issue with OpenTable reviews is that the restaurant knows who has reserved with OpenTable. Imagine if they know you were a big cheese on Yelp, or if they knew you were a Restaurant Critic? I can promise that you get better service when they know you might be writing about it. If you eat at the bar, or walk in without a reservation, you are excluded from OpenTable no matter how bad the experience.

A new development is that OpenTable just acquired, which I think is kind of strange. I get that OpenTable doesn't have a lot of pictures. So now when you look at a TGI Friday's Caesar Salad on Foodspotting you're going to be able to make a reservation with OpenTable? Do restaurants really want bad cell phone pictures representing the food at their restaurants?

Comment Policy Add Comment
I have an encountered a condition recently where I could not submit a poor (2 star) review on Open Table - the submit link was greyed out.
I suspect this is a simple way for Open Table to block out poor reviews.
So... I am no longer bothering to post any reviews on Open Table and of course I am ignoring any.
I am posting all of them, 5 star and 1 star and anything in between, on Trip Advisor.
I also use Trip Advisor and not Open Table to make all my dining decisions.
Shady operation.
I wouldn't recommend Tripadvisor for anything; virtually all of the top rated Fort Lauderdale restaurants are not places I'd recommend to anyone even in a pinch. Why would anyone take dining advice from people who spend 2 or 3 days in a city rather than people who live there? Tourists are the worst possible source of information about restaurants.
M Thompson
OpenTable is not interested in what the consumer has to say as their industry is built upon the restaurants they serve. Best piece of advise is to ignore their reviews completely and to tell everyone you know to do the same. Good old fashion marketing strategy, you tell two people who will tell two people and so on - only this is the age of Social Media and that makes the playing field a whole lot easier.

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