N&O’s Restaurant Reviews Move to 5-Star Rating System

December 7, 2007

Greg Cox, the News & Observer’s restaurant critic, announced in his “Chew on This!” column today that he’s moving to a 5-star rating system. Was this a case of grade compression making it difficult to distinguish the differences between restaurants? Why not a 30 point system, as with Zagat? Or a 100 point one, just like our schools use?

Seriously, though, I don’t care what numeric system a reviewer uses, as long as he or she is consistent. I don’t always agree with Cox’s assessment, but he does a pretty darned good job, particularly for a city and paper of this size.

Meanwhile, Cox also brags about the N&O’s new restaurant website, which is, quite frankly, not ready for prime time. First, there is a problem with duplicate listings. Frazier’s, South and Fins have more than one listing.

Although the geographic scope of the restaurant database has been expanded, as has the number of cuisine types that can be searched, you no longer can search based on the ratings. Moreover, the search results do not list the ratings of the restaurant; you have to click on each listing to find out what Greg Cox thought of the place. I think this is a nice start, but if you’re going to tell the world about your new 5-star rating system, I would like a fairly simple way to determine what are the top-rated restaurants. And by the way, it appears that Cox’s previous 4-star restaurants have all been elevated to 5-star status. Those being

  • Nana’s
  • Fins
  • Magnolia Grill
  • Four Square
  • Bonne Soiree
  • Bloomsbury Bistro

I may have missed others. For the most part, it appears Cox merely added another star to each previous rating, but that’s not always the case. For example, Enoteca Vin, Jujube, J. Betski’s, Herons and Rue Cler each got a 1 star bump. A place like The Big Easy made only a half-star jump to two stars. I’m thinking that the biggest impact the expanded 5-star rating system will have will be on the lower-rated restaurants. It’ll have to be pretty damn bad to get only one star now.