A new study of online restaurant reviews suggests that external factors like weather and time of year have an impact on how a restaurant is reviewed. Georgia Tech and Yahoo Lab researchers studied data from sites including Citysearch, AllMenus, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, and GrubHub. There was not sufficient data to analyze Yelp ("We do not consider Yelp data in this study since the API does not give us sufﬁcient variables for analysis.")
The findings of the study suggest that weather is "significantly associated with ratings": Customers who visit a restaurant on a rainy day are more likely to leave a negative review, while customers who review a restaurant on a warm sunny day are more likely to leave a positive review. Said one researcher to Phys.org: "People love to describe themselves as foodies. But in the end, it looks like we're all weather people."
The time of year a review is made also seems to have a direct impact on the rating. The study finds a "seasonal pattern" to the ratings: There are "lower ratings and higher number of reviews in months of July and August." November produces the highest ratings. Other interesting findings: Areas with a highly educated population produce more reviews and smaller cities tend to be more critical of a restaurant's service pace. Ultimately the study suggests that these external factors create a sort of bias in the online reviews that consumers should keep in mind while dodging the reviews that are just totally fake.
· Demographics, Weather and Online Reviews: A Study of Restaurant Recommendations [Yahoo Labs via New York Times]
· A Rainy Day Can Ruin an Online Restaurant Review [Phys.org]
· All Online Reviews Coverage on Eater [-E-]