Restaurant Reviews: a Genre that Rants and Raves
For the past century people have turned to restaurant reviews to guide their culinary experiences. More and more we see this genre becoming apparent in our every day lives. With iPhone apps like Urbanspoon, Yelp, Forkly, Foodspotting, and the New York Times, reading restaurant reviews has become accessible by the touch of a button. However, this new generation of discussion forums and rating systems has made it difficult for the general public to distinguish reliable restaurant reviews from reviews written by nonprofessionals. The study of restaurant reviews is important because these reviews carry information that a rating or a recommendation alone may not have. For instance, food critics talk about the aura of a restaurant, how it is decorated, the type of people that work there, the cost, and more. Exploring this genre and its patterns is valuable for readers of restaurant reviews because it gives them the “low down” on which reviews provide more helpful information. It’s also important for people who want to write them or entrepreneurs looking to enter into the restaurant business. In this study I will compare food critic reviews with blogger-type reviews using the Food and Wine Magazine and websites like Gayot and Urbanspoon. From these reviews I examine, I hope to gain a better understanding of what makes an effective restaurant review by asking questions like: what patterns are present in both types of restaurant reviews? Are there patterns (rhetorical or linguistic) that distinguish between the two types of reviews? If so, what are the implications of these differences?
I gathered a total of eight restaurant reviews; 4 professionally written ones and 4 “foodie” reviews. All of these were easily accessible online from different websites. I used the Food and Wine magazine along with a website called Gayot [the guide to the good life] for the reviews written by professionals and then Urbanspoon for the blogger or diner type reviews. The restaurants that are evaluated in these reviews range from expensive, city favorites to homey sandwich joints. The aim of my comparison was to determine what in the language and tone of a published restaurant review makes it different from a “foodie” review. I contrast these two types using the move-step analysis method. A move is a functional unit in a text used for some identifiable purpose. This concept allowed me to construct a detailed account of the specific linguistic efforts made by reviewers. I also collected an expert review and foodie review both written about the same restaurant. This was extremely effective in noticing the concrete differences. In order to make these patterns apparent, I printed out all of the reviews and with different colored highlighters I underscored any repeated rhetorical markers. This helped a great deal because I was able to physically see what parts of a review, or what language, was the same throughout.
Results and Finding
By marking up my samples with an array of colors, certain patterns were easily distinguished. As a result, I was able to isolate five moves that this genre employs: introducing appearance, naming the chef, mentioning the type of restaurant, rating the service, and describing or recommending food. These moves appear in almost all the professionally written reviews and in some of the “foodie” reviews. No moves were identified unless they were present in at least half of the samples in the corpus. Stylistic Differences between published restaurant reviews and “foodie” reviews:
Observing the reviews closely, it is clear that the ones derived from Gayot and Food and Wine Magazine are more elaborate than those from Urbanspoon. In both types the writers introduce the general appearance of the restaurant (move 1) but they approach it in different ways.
Great building in DT W-S with a cool little bar area and a few...
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