What Does This All Mean?
As of 6 October, 2008
Paul S. Felix
As a complement to my
quarterly hotel/casino rating analysis, I’ve decided to do a similar job on the
information on various food establishments in
A few notes are due, however, just to head off most questions, complaints, and/or criticism(s). In no special order of importance or relevance:
1. With the hotel/casino properties, a running update is done every three months and changes to any properties ratings can be tracked and traced over time. With that tool, trends can be seen in a property’s performance, whether those changes are seasonal or whether some internal operation at the property has caused an improvement or decline in their performance.
The numbers here take into account all the changes that have occurred over nearly a five year period and should be considered a solid map of each restaurant’s performance abilities. Here, this restaurant analysis will be a one-time-only action. The work needed to gather and arrange this analysis has proven to be much greater than that involved with the hotel ratings, so the writer begs off doing another one.
2. The list of restaurants included here is not intended to be, nor should it be construed to be, comprehensive. The eateries shown were selected using one primary criterion: did they gather enough rating “votes” to justify giving them mention? If they did not, they didn’t make the list, period. “Best Kept Secrets” may still be very well kept indeed, if they are not on this list. Without ratings, they don’t show in the pool drawn from.
If the reader knows of some restaurant he/she feels should have been included, it is recommended that they go to the website from which these ratings were drawn and leave a rating. For those who wish to do so, data was gathered from the “I Eat Vegas” website (ieatvegas.com). No direct link is provided here for a variety of reasons.
3. Some of the information included in this list may be out of date. A good example is Binion’s Steakhouse. This place has undergone some notable changes in the last few years. The actual relevance of the data to the current operation, as opposed to its previous operation, is difficult to determine as ratings from both periods are included in the information used. Some of the restaurants listed had their last rating entry over a year prior to this report, so it is impossible to tell if their performance in the intervening time has altered for good or ill, or whether they are even still in business.
Also, some of the newest places in town might not be listed, either because the list from which this information is gathered did not yet include them or because they had not yet received enough ratings to qualify for inclusion. If a specific restaurant is in fact no longer operating, treat the information shown as a control factor; if an active establishment cannot perform at least as well as one that went out of business, they have serious problems to address.
4. Very few specific indications are given about where
certain restaurants are located. In limited cases, such as the “Steak House
Circus” (indicating it is the Steak House at Circus Circus), such a name has
been provided for clarification purposes only to avoid possible confusion with
one of several other properties of the same or very similar name located
elsewhere (most of which didn’t qualify for inclusion). Those familiar with
5. The categories provided are not of the writer’s making, but were originated by the webmasters. After reading this analysis, any questions concerning the categories themselves should be directed to them.
6. The information here is gleaned from a very broad demographic base. No effort has been made to divide these restaurants into discrete categories such as buffets only or fast-food only, etc. Whether a restaurant is high end or a lowly hole-in-the-wall makes little difference. If it has been rated enough times to justify inclusion it is listed.
Age and income of visitors, restaurant cuisine and/or theme, décor, location and a host of other potential sub-divisions were not considered; everything has been lumped together into a single melting pot. This can actually have a positive outcome. Should a buffet (sometimes strongly looked down upon) score noticeably better than a true gourmet restaurant, that fact should be noted, not ignored. There are doubtless reasons for this phenomenon of which the customer should be aware.
7. The greenish color at the beginning of a category indicates the category winner. The reddish one indicates the bottom feeder. The bluish one near the middle indicates the first property that meets or beats the average score in the category. This property then becomes the performance benchmark; the rule by which all others are measured.
In Rate and Trust, there are no coloration marks, nor indications of an “average”. This is because these two categories don’t need them. In Rate, the raw average is actually 61. That would position Emeril’s (at #12) as the “average” performer in the category. This makes no sense because the huge number of reviews for the #1 thru #6 properties so hugely skews the average that it becomes meaningless from this perspective. Truth to tell, House of Blues would come closest to the real “average” for the category, but it was felt best to just ignore it here.
In Trust, those numbers are not comparative to each other as are those for the other categories. This area explores how much veracity can be given to the other category scores for that one property, and the impression a reader might get after viewing them. As they are not being compared to anything but themselves, there is no “average”.
For anyone who has not been exposed to my format in the Hotel Analyses, some explanation has been provided at the beginning of each category giving a brief of what information it is supposed to address and how the reader might interpret that information.
RATE This category can be considered a broad-based
indicator of “popularity”.
How popular are they?
WINNERS: This column
shows the top 1/3rd performers of the restaurants listed. Whether or
not visitors thought well of them, is not a factor here, just the fact that
they got votes. Notice that 12 of the 15 top performers are on the Strip and
two of the other three are downtown (Hugo’s Cellar at Four Queens and Carson
St. Café at Golden Nugget). The only true non-Strip restaurant listed is Ports
O’ Call at Gold Coast, next to
By the way, make note of Circus’ position on the chart. At #6, this is the highest score they post in the entire review. In fact, they score at rock-bottom last in seven of the categories. Why they are so popular is a small mystery, unless their other good Family score counts. No other property in these ratings scores that badly, that consistently. That’s kind of scary, if you ask me.
AVERAGE: These are the mid-grade performers; neither hot nor cold. Some of the specific reasons they do not score better or worse might be revealed by examining the specific category ratings. If a restaurant scores well in one category (say, Food) but very poorly in another (say, Value) it might be construed that the fare is good but visitors feel it a bit over-priced. They might or might go back (check Revisit) for that reason. One has to do a little thinking to find possible reasons for this ho-hum outcome.
LOSERS: These properties generally do not rate well for more than one reason. Checking the individual category scores can often show poor performance in several areas, culminating with a very low Revisit score. Some work must be done in determining what the root causes may be. Suffice it to say, anyone patronizing any of these restaurants is flirting with trouble in one form or another. There is some surprise (usually unpleasant) waiting in the wings for the unwary patron. Do your homework before going there.
OVERALL (Scale is 1 to 10): This category represents a restaurant’s at-a-glance performance. It is a composite of all the category information as well as the popularity (Rate) information above. It gives insight into the top performers regardless of specific venue or category performance. Use it as a highlight or quick reference.
Who’s the best of the best?
WINNERS: These properties ended up with the best composite scores of all the restaurants included in this analysis. This “whole picture” can almost be used as a stand-alone measuring stick. If one eats at every one of these places, there is small likelihood of disappointment, at least in one’s general impression. The small fractions of a percentage by which these places are separated are actually more important than they may seem at first blush. Consider that this is a composite score factoring in almost everything raters said about them below. From Ambiance and Food quality to Service and price, even 1/100th of a percentage point can separate the good from the bad and the ugly.
AVERAGE: Again, these are the mid-range joints, the ones that didn’t perform well enough to justify high praise and not badly enough to earn real criticism. In Winners, the high/low difference was 50/100ths of a point. Here it’s only 25/100ths; a much narrower margin. These are the sort of restaurants where one can generally be satisfied with some portion of the experience but dissatisfied with others. The exact combination of pro/con will probably be different for each place. The overall effect, however, will probably be one of lukewarm ambivalence.
LOSERS: These restaurants are where disaster may await. Visitors were roundly and broadly unimpressed (even overtly disappointed). Whether it’s a result of poor food, poor service, price problems, décor fiascos, access hassles, patrons were not happy campers. Again, a careful check of specific category scores can yield enlightening info.
AMBIANCE (Scale is 1 to 10) This category attempts to express the general atmosphere within the restaurant. If the place is “themed”, how does that atmosphere or ambiance support or conflict with that theme? If there is no specific theme, how does its ambiance complement, contrast, or even clash with enjoyment of the meal? It could include anything from lighting, carpets, speaker-broadcast elevator music vs. live musicians, tables and curtains, tiles, art work and even the view out the wind(s) might be involved. It’s a sublimation of the look and the feel of the place, separate from the food, service and price.
Does it feel good to be here?
WINNERS: If atmosphere is an important factor to your dining experience, then this category should get your attention. These properties were selected by other visitors as the best. Whatever their “theme” they’ve done a very good job at making the dining experience consistent, comfortable and even entertaining. One must, however, take the restaurant’s theme/cuisine into account before blindly jumping in. For example: if you don’t like heights then Top of the World and Eiffel Tower might not be places you want to go, no matter how well they do with their décor or atmosphere. Whereas, if you are a classic “Parrot Head” then the Jimmy Buffet inspired Margaritaville at Flamingo might do you well. It is, after all, a matter of taste (in more than one way).
AVERAGE: These are the places that come across as rather blah, in the opinions of visitors. There’s nothing to write home about regarding any of them. Their décor, and atmosphere don’t inspire much of anything; it’s just there, a part of the place.
LOSERS: With these restaurants, something is seriously amiss. Either their décor doesn’t well match a “theme/cuisine” or there are other problems. Perhaps they’re dirty, worn out, smelly, etc. There’s a major problem of some kind. If you are the type whose gastric integrity suffers when a piece of art on the wall clashes with the carpet, think twice about going to these places.
SERVICE (Scale is 1 to 10) This category goes directly to the heart of how one was treated by everyone from the Maître’d’, to the wait staff, bus staff, and onwards. A waiter spilling a glass of water or improperly opening a bottle of wine at another table may or may not be germane to this category, but slow service, incorrect orders, pushy or impolite staff, etc., are.
How were you treated?
WINNERS: Not many people go to a restaurant expecting to be insulted by the waiter. Nor do they go to be treated as if their presence is an imposition on the staff’s valuable time. The properties in this column have been rated as the best in the way they treat you the customer. Notice the dearth of buffets in this column. These are more generally places where people go to be pampered by having someone who actually takes their order and serves them the meal, pours their drinks, and generally cares about whether the patron feels good about coming in. Whether these places are “best kept secret” grills and cafes or true gourmet havens makes little difference. Visitors were impressed with the treatment they got and told us about it.
AVERAGE: This can be viewed as the “no frills zone”. You go, the staff does their thing, you get fed and you’re on your way; no muss or fuss, no fanfare or drama.
LOSERS: These places have a problem. Whether service is slow, snobby, or staff is just overworked, these places just don’t seem to sit well with all the other people who have already gone there and left you a note on their experience. If you go, don’t expect much because you probably won’t get much.
FOOD (Scale is 1 to 10) This category speaks solely to the food itself. Taste is the primary consideration though other information can be included.
Was it right? Was it good?
WINNERS: All other considerations aside, it doesn’t matter how good the wait staff, how comfortable the atmosphere, how well priced the meal; if the food isn’t any good the rest can go hang. These places got the most attention for how well their food is.
AVERAGE: You go in, you sit down, you order, you eat, you pay, you leave; nothing special. It’s generally filling and there are no real overt objections. Like Service, it’s sort of another “no frill zone” where there’s generally nothing notable either direction.
LOSERS: Warning! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Though these places might not truly earn the appellation of Ptomaine Palaces, their fare is not considered very good for one reason or another. Food quality isn’t always the answer; over- or under-cooked food and bad recipes aren’t always the real problem. Sometimes very limited selection can degrade a rating. One would have to read the actual written commentary from some of these places to understand just exactly why their ratings came in so low, but short of that I can only counsel extreme caution before eating at any of them.
VALUE (Scale is 1 to 10) This category addresses whether or not one feels the experience (primarily food, but ambiance and service can be included) were worth the money spent. When viewing this category, one must keep in mind the “quality” of the specific restaurant. A high rating for Hugo’s Cellar should not be construed as unduly comparable to a high rating for ESPN Zone or House of Blues. As indicated earlier, the demographic base addressed must be generally understood before a true picture can manifest. People who are used to dropping $400 to $500 a meal at one place might think that spending half that amount at a different place is a real bargain, whereas someone who thinks $50 a head for a meal is pretty stiff would run screaming from a place that charges that much just for an appetizer. It’s relative.
Was it worth what you paid?
WINNERS: Getting one’s money worth is of vital importance in any business transaction. If you feel ripped off, you certainly won’t feel you had a positive experience. When that feeling is connected with food, you can get really peeved. This one category alone can determine whether or not a customer will ever return for another try. Poor food is tolerable, if it’s cheap. Expensive food can be justifiable if it’s good enough. But bad food at a high price is just not something anyone is willing put up with more than once. Most of the picture for each restaurant can be impacted here. Ambiance, service, popularity, food quality, etc., can have effects of various degrees on whether or not a customer feels they are happy with the bill. But that final decision ultimately comes down to the bill itself. The properties in this column are those that have been determined to provide the best value for what was received.
AVERAGE: These properties sit in the middle of the pack. They seem to charge a reasonable price for what they offer, but to some degree or another they just don’t seem to really get anyone’s attention.
LOSERS: With these places, customers have indicated in droves that they are not happy with what they spent here and don’t appreciate being charged so much for whatever was received, however much or little it was. You can certainly go there, but be prepared to feel like you’ve paid too much.
ACCESS (Scale is 1 to 10) This category relates to how easy the place is to find and get into. Is it inconveniently located? Does it require reservations? Are its hours of operation odd or very limited? If one has to call for reservations 6 months in advance, wait in line for 4 hours, or can only eat during a three hour time period, the Access rating can be very low. If it’s easy to get in over a broad time period with little to no waiting, then the Access rating should be fairly high. An example of this difference can be seen by comparing the Margaritaville at Flamingo vs. Top of the World at Stratosphere. Access is very different, as it should be.
Is it convenient to get to and get in to?
WINNERS: Location isn’t the only aspect of this category. Certainly where a
property is can make a huge difference on how many customers it gets and
whether those people feel the trip worth the effort. For tourists staying on
the Strip, going to
AVERAGE: These are a mixed bag and, unfortunately, we cannot detail how different each might be from the other despite the similar ratings. One must be careful to do some research in advance and plan a trip to them, not trust to spontaneous impulses.
LOSERS: These guys have major trouble. Many of them may suffer from multiple
problems. Let’s look at one example:
FAMILY (Scale is 1 to 100) This category indicates the percentage of visitors who answered “Yes” to whether a property is family or kid friendly. Would parents be comfortable taking their children there, or is there something about the place that might not be appropriate for kids? Two examples come immediately to mind. One is whether there might be some “adult” form of entertainment (like topless waitresses), or whether the place is just so swanky and requires such a high level of “sophistication” by the patrons that children just wouldn’t be able to handle it. If one is looking for a place to take the kids, the list as given works admirably. If one wants to avoid children during a meal, I might suggest you read the chart backwards, from bottom to top to locate the places that are least likely to have children underfoot.
Is the place “kid friendly”?
WINNERS: The “Family Friendly” experiment of the early 90’s was a complete bust
at least as far as the hotel/casino market was concerned. But, with meals
there’s a whole different climate. Without judging whether or not tourists
should bring their own children to
AVERAGE: Various aspects of these places lend them a mixed bag of kid/family friendliness.
LOSERS: Being located in the “Loser” column here actually isn’t a real detriment for any property as it might be in another category. These properties score badly with parents who had kids with them, but score very well, relatively, for those who don’t want to deal with children while they eat. It’s a personal preference and that perspective should be kept firmly in mind when judging whether or not one is considering eating at one or more of these restaurants.
REVISIT (Scale is 1 to 100) This category indicates the percentage of visitors who said “Yes” to going back, if they had a chance. This can be called customer loyalty or satisfaction at one’s own discretion. I suggest that the larger the “popularity” score the more one consider it “loyalty”. After all, those numbers didn’t rack up like that exclusively on one-time customers.
Would you go back?
WINNERS: No business survives long without repeat customers. The restaurants in this column have done the best in building a good foundation of customer loyalty. three of them scored a 100, meaning that literally every person who left a rating said they would go back and eat there again. That’s very impressive.
AVERAGE: Visitors are a little “iffy” with these properties. Though the responses are generally positive (82% to 88% of respondents saying, “Yeah, I’d go back,”) one still has to wonder, at least a little, why they don’t measure up to the performance levels shown above? What is it about that few percentage points between Magnolia’s and Courtyard Café that might make you hesitate to go there, if that decision were to be made simply off of this category?
LOSERS: Again, the numbers really aren’t that bad, all things considered. Fully 3/4ths of most visitors have said they wouldn’t have a problem going back. But that one-in-four who said, “NO!” to that question is what really gets my attention. I want to know why that person said he/she wouldn’t consider going back, thank you very much!
TRUST This category is one of my own inventions and doesn’t really run on a “scale” like the other categories. It is a composite score giving an indication of how much stock a reader should put into the rating information given. A property which has very few reviews is subject to wild swings in the numbers as new reviews come in. Thus a strongly rated review (good or bad) can cause a large shift in a property’s position on the chart. As more reviews come in, this phenomenon decreases. The average point is about where those wild swings should cease altogether. Numbers above the line give a good, solid impression of what a visitor’s experience will be like at a particular property. There is little likelihood that a visit there will depart noticeably from the impression given by the reviews or contain unpleasant surprises. Numbers below the line indicate a high likelihood that a visit will depart, in one or more significant ways, from the impression given by the raw numbers, and that that departure will likely be unpleasant.
How reliable is the information above?
In this category there really are no Winners or Losers. This category simply indicates, as said, how much trust you can put into the other ratings information as given. The trick is to take this as the “grain of salt” to go with all the other information. The lower on the list a property sits, the bigger that grain of salt should be. How much stock do you put into other people’s opinions? Are you the type that cares about what other people say, or do you have a highly developed sense of adventure? Just be aware that this category is merely a “hedge” on the ratings information. Low scoring properties aren’t necessarily bad. Usually their low position here is because they don’t have a lot of reviews and there’s the possibility that the information given is suspect because of the extremity of some of the content. You should do a little of your own research before deciding finally.
Each restaurant is listed on the chart below by the number of times they met or beat the average score in each category. Restaurants listed with the same # are listed by their Overall score, best to worst. The number in the box shows what position they occupy on that particular category list, while a blank shows that they didn’t make at least average. For each blank in a category you find unimportant, raise that restaurant to the next higher number group. For each blank in a category you find very important, lower that restaurant one category group. This should give you a basic list of restaurants that should best meet your initial tastes and needs. Further adjustments can be made at your own discretion, according to your own criteria. I highly recommend that you not visit any restaurant that has a score less than a “5”. I have nothing personally against any of them, mind, it’s just that these restaurants have scored so poorly, in so many areas, that you are flirting with disaster (in one form or another) if you go there; it is likely that you will have an unpleasant experience and somehow regret your decision.
As in the with the Hotel/Casino reviews, I have color coded some of these column. Those columns headed in blue are the ones that I feel are the most critically important. If a property scores badly in one or more of these areas, they might not deserve my business. If several other people tell me that some place has bad Service, Food, or Value, or that they just won’t go back for whatever reason, I’m surely going to reconsider whether or not I might go there.
A Closer Look
In this final section we’re going to examine some selected properties, comparing their performances to see if we can gain some insight not only in how to interpret some of the above data, but to see if we can make some sense out of some of the results.
Winner: Spice Market Buffet located in Planet Hollywood (formerly Aladdin’s – South Strip). Total score = 454, translating to about 3,632,000 visitors over a 5 year period.
For this comparison, the green highlight is the best score, yellow is second, blue is third, and pink is lowest.
Ports O’ Call (Gold Coast) has the best Access and Value. Their Ambiance is considered poor as is their Service but visitors seem to forgive them, scoring them with the best Revisit (customer loyalty) of the batch. Once more the missing puzzle piece isn’t immediately apparent.
what I see as a possible answer: Spice Market is located in Planet Hollywood.
This property is directly south on the Strip of Le Village’s
To my mind, Spice Market’s superior popularity is more a condition of opportunity for parents looking for a convenient nearby eatery and more families coming from the south around MGM, NYNY and Excalibur tend to stop off at Spice Market rather than making their way one more property north to Paris, especially since Le Village has such a dismal Family score. Spice Market is the nearest and most relatively family friendly of the batch, and thus the most popular.
For this comparison, the green highlight will be the lead performer, yellow the middle performer and pink the worst performer.
Truth to tell, Benihana’s Village seems to be a hands-down winner. They score at #1 in tree categories, primarily with Food and Ambiance. They are also a Winner in Service, and though their Value score is only Average, it is still better then the scores of the other two. The vaunted Sterling Brunch at Bally’s, however, may be the more interesting story. Of these three, the Sterling Brunch has the reputation for being the “classiest”. They get good advertising flaunting the food and ambiance, and get a lot of praise at least from the culinary industry. But, according to people who have actually gone there, they fall a bit short of their billing. Fully six of the eight categories put them in the Loser categories not just against these other two restaurants, but against the full field of 45 included in this analysis. They show only as Average and those categories are Food and Popularity against the larger field and as Losers against the two above. To sum what we see for the Brunch we have mediocre, over-priced food served in a relatively uncomfortable environment. It’s difficult to get to, possibly for more than one reason. To top that off, the service isn’t all that hot. As a result a fairly high percentage of patrons (~28%) said they wouldn’t subject themselves to it ever again. Thus word spreads and their popularity suffers. Oh, and by the way, if you have children with you, you really don’t want to take them there either.
It seems the Brunch’s rep is totally a manufactured faced; advertising dollars spent by the hotel/casino property to prop them up. If I could but a bug in management’s ear I would recommend that they address these rating issues before they became terminal.
avoid over-saturation we’ll draw these analyses to a close. Hopefully some
insight has been given into the restaurant picture in and around
remember that the information here is mostly just my opinion of other people’s
opinions. Real live people, recently returned from a visit to
Good Luck, Have Fun and VIVA,
List of Restaurants and their locations:
Steakhouse – Binion’s Le
St. Grille –
Canaletto – Venetian Margaritaville – Flamingo
St. Café – Golden Nugget
Circus Circus Buffet – Circus Monterey Room – Gold Coast
Steakhouse – Circus Circus Nero’s
Courtyard Café – Courtyard Marriott off Strip Ports O’ Call Buffet – Gold Coast
Delmonico – Venetian Postrio – Venetian
Emeril’s – MGM Grand Roxy’s Diner – Stratosphere
ESPN Zone – NYNY Seasons Buffet – Silverton
Buffet – Red Rock SF
Shrimp Bar –
Market Buffet – Tropicana Spice
Market Buffet – Planet
Grand Lux Café – Venetian Stage Deli – MGM Grand
Great Moments – Las Vegas Club Sterling Brunch – Bally’s
of Blues –
Hugo’s Cellar – Four Queens Top of the World – Stratosphere
Victorian Room – Bill’s Gambling Hall/Saloon (formerly