Back in mid-2011, I made a hobby of writing weekly restaurant reviews. It served as both something I enjoyed and to enhance my writing portfolio.

Before starting, I agreed with my co-writer a set criterion to which all restaurants would be graded on.

It is important when assessing the quality of any product or service to ensure that there is a set of essential criteria points to which all similar products or service are measured against. Consistency is key in quality assessment; if you are constantly moving the goal posts, this shows a lack of assessment integrity and it is unfair to the services and products being reviewed.

In this brief piece, I will share the criteria points I use to assess restaurants and show you how you can apply these assessments to any product or service – with a little creative modification, of course!

Standard Assessment Criteria

There were five criteria I used to assess restaurants: Quality of Food, Atmosphere including Décor, Quality of Service, Value for Money, and Overall assessment.

Each of these warrants some explanation:

Quality of food

This criterion was about the product – Was it any good?

Naturally, we would disclose our full order, discussing each part at length, pointing out strengths and weaknesses. We would make practical recommendations for any reader who may wish to follow in our footsteps – “Try the meatballs”, “Avoid the Carrot Cakes”, etc.

If you are reviewing a service, this criterion should be distinguished from “Quality of Service” (later in the list). Quality of Product is about the quality of the service itself, not how well delivered or executed by staff.

Atmosphere including decor

This criterion was about the wider experience.

What we wanted to establish was whether the music, the lighting and décor was right for the venue. In one review, we were particularly dismayed that one famous TV chef’s chain of Italian restaurants serenaded us with such hits as The Final Countdown and Eye of the Tiger. Juxtaposed nicely against warehouse-style walls and rafters, we felt like we were right in the heart of Italy.

I joke – but atmosphere is an important part of selling the whole experience to the end user, and we found it a particularly important point. As I said, consistency is key and one overlooked thing here is that it includes ensuring that an
Italian restaurant doesn’t feel like a distribution warehouse.

Quality of service

This criterion was about the delivery of the product – Could the staff do their job?

My co-writer and I had been working in pubs for many years. We felt that restaurants, pubs, and bars were a people enterprise.

What we were looking to do here was to establish how well the product was delivered by staff. The highest ratings would go to those who we felt made a real effort. It is important in people enterprises to employ people-people – If you’ve got front of house staff, they should be charismatic and helpful. If they’re not, they’re probably not going to enjoy their job, and customers probably will enjoy your product or service less as a result.

Naturally, this criterion can apply to a wide variety of circumstances.

Value for money

This criterion was about comparing the product to the rest of the market in monetary terms – How does it weigh up on my bank balance?

In addition, it was important to balance up the product or service received in contrast with the price. We were never in the habit of comparing fine a la carte dining with a tea room. It is always important to compare products like-for-like.

Ultimately, consumers want to come away feeling that their money was well spent. The reason this came last before overview was because we liked to reflect on other essential parts before we answered the question: Have we invested our money wisely?

Overall assessment

This criterion was a free-for-all.

We would sum up the salient points of our other four criteria, but essentially we would use this section to freely elaborate on other points which need to be made.

We might even redeem a bad review somewhat – stating that we’ve been previously, and it’s good (“must have been a bad day!”).

We felt that our four other criteria was objective; this was where we could exercise some discretion.

I believe you can apply these criteria to determine the success of any product or service.

Naturally, there will need to be some slight modifications – and you will have to decide how you point the system (out of five? Ten? One-hundred!?).

However, thinking as a consumer could be a great way to improve your product or service provision. If you’ve ever seen the TV program “Undercover Boss”, you’ll know that many directors are considering customer perception of their products from start to finish.

Step in to their shoes. How do you rate?


Craig Ineson is a law graduate of the University of Liverpool, current student of international business law at master’s level, a passionate restaurant reviewer, and experienced content writer.
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