A Comprehensive Food Rating System

A Little Rant on Current Food Rating Apps

One problem I encounter frequently — more often than I’d like to admit — is on deciding where to eat. Although food review apps like Yelp store vast amounts of information about each restaurant, they ultimately reduce a restaurant into a single number out of 5, as if it’s the sole indicator of how good a restaurant is.

Yelp’s Display Star Bins
Each Point Here Represents a Restaurant; Cutoff at 3.75 Represented by Dotted Line

The Rating System

The 80–20 Rule

Ok, this is a pun, sort of. Essentially, the idea is that the overall rating score is divided into 2 sections: the basics section (out of 80), and the extras section (out of 20). Together, they sum to 100, which is the theoretical maximum score a restaurant can attain.

The Categories

With the big picture framed, let’s go over the rating categories.

What a -3 Looks Like: It Could Only Get Worse if the AC Broke in the Humid Shanghai Heat

Score Correspondence

After you’ve given a score for each category, sum them up to get the final score. Generally, I’ve found that scores roughly correspond to the following:

  • 80+ Worth at least 1–2 hour lines. I will actively come back. These are the places I’ll evangelize nonstop to my friends.
  • 70+ Very tasty food; I can have this for 2 meals in a row. I will come back if in the area, and I’ll recommend you to try it out too if you’re in the area.
  • 60+ Good food. I don’t regret coming here.
  • 50+ Decent. Not incentivized to come back
  • 40+ Not bad. Will not come back.
  • 30+ Could be worse, but I’ll probably tell you to avoid.
  • 30> Worse than my own cooking; not worth the time and money to come again.


I know that my focuses and consequent weightings for each category only reflect my personal preferences. Feel free to adjust the weightings, or even add or remove categories from my system. My goal is to at least encourage you to think about what aspects make a good dining experience? Only with a more comprehensive and consistent scale can we compare, apples to apples, our own dining experiences.



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