Hi, please

Can you influence NBC’s Feast Rank, and do restaurants care about their ranking?

So, I have registered on nbcnewyork.com/feast in hopes of influencing the rating of a restaurant in my neighborhood, but Feast doesn’t actually allow you do to that on their site.  Since their “exact formula as well as our full source list are state secrets” I will have to find other ways to try and game the system.  I would like to ask the class for help with my little experiment.  Right now, The Hungarian Pastry Shop has no ranking on Feast.  It is a little neighborhood hole in the wall type place that is across from the cathedral of St. John the Divine.  It’s filled with Columbia students studying or writing papers, mostly.  The pastry is delicious and they let you stay all day if you want.  I’d like to try and positively influence their ranking.  Here are the stats on the most common sites as of now:

NY Mag: 8/10 “recommended”

Yelp: 3.5/5 stars, 107 reviews

CitySearch: 5/5 stars, 16 reviews

Zagat: “When this restaurant receives enough member reviews, our editors will consider it for a Zagat Rating & Review” (8 reviews)

I’d like to propose we all write a positive review and rank it either 4 or 5 stars over the next week.  (If you feel that you need to visit to make your review authentic, maybe we could have a class trip for some delicious pastries!) If you feel like ranking it positively on another of the sites I mentioned above, so much the better.  I will also chat with the owners and wait staff to get their opinion on whether they want to be rated or if they think it will influence their customer-base.  Let’s see if we can get a ranking up for the Hungarian Pastry Shop!

Update: Assumptions and Norms

Woops, I realized that I didn’t write about my assumptions or norms as Mushon included in his note for this week’s post.


  1. Originally, I thought that I would be able to influence in some way the ranking of a restaurant directly on the Feast site.  But I discovered that I can’t do that.  The ranking aggregates from a number of different, unnamed sources.  So I can only influence indirectly by posting a review on Yelp or another similar site.
  2. Feast claims that the site updates rankings in real time.
  3. “Foodies” (people who are interested in cooking, eating, eating out, restaurant reviews and culture, etc) will be all over the new site but it may take awhile for it to catch on with the general population.


  1. There are those eaters who live and die by restaurant reviews and rankings and will only eat at places that are well-reviewed.  These people also tend to leave reviews and comments more frequently.  For this group, I’m guessing that they will actively check Feast Rank before they go out to eat, if nothing else than to see if they agree with the rankings.  Unfortunately, it is kind of a one-way street.  There isn’t a great way that I’ve found to say you disagree with a ranking.
  2. Other food blogs like Eater, Grub Street and Diner’s Journal will probably start integrating Feast into their coverage since the food blogs tend to have a sort of incestuous relationship.
  3. Some chefs have been known to vent on twitter when they are unhappy about a particular provider or have other restaurant-related grievances.  I wouldn’t be surprised if those who are already using twitter as their megaphone will complain (or celebrate) their Feast rank as it becomes more well-known.

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  1. ElzbthMllr 11:49, Mar 1st, 10

    I’m totally interested to see if us writing reviews has any effect. I’m going to go over and post a positive review right now!

  2. Jimena 12:04, Mar 1st, 10

    me too. I love the place, so even better. I’ll do it now & let you know.

  3. Leslie 15:18, Mar 1st, 10

    Cool idea! It will be fun to see if we can move the needle at all. I haven’t eaten here, but for the sake of education, 5 stars it is!

  4. Jimena 17:43, Mar 1st, 10

    In the light of this week’s readings, Feast is one of the “Consensus Web Filters” that Lanier condemns in Digital Maoism. The sites that use an algorithm to aggregate information from other sites become “more Meta than the sites they aggregate”.
    I think that’s interesting that Feast has three or four actual collaborators per city (experts) but the actual ratings are result of information that can’t be tracked back.Is there an actual person taking responsibility for the information that they offer? It wasn’t clear for me if these experts do some kind of facilitation or interpreting of the information that is gathered from all those other sites and ratings?
    I think Lanier has a point when he says that the collective mind is very good for some tasks but Average is fine for some things, but bad when taste matters. But maybe Feast is combining both collective and individual thought… either way, I guess transparency is not high on their list.
    Looking forward to see if we could alter the Pastry Shop’s ratings :)

  5. HoniehLayla 20:33, Mar 1st, 10

    Love your idea. Let’s see if we can play the system. As for your assumptions and norms – I would have perceived the site in the same way forgetting that there is an algorithm involved.

    I will definitely go put in a positive review for them. Let us know if their rating changes!

  6. nadine 09:49, Mar 2nd, 10

    Mission accomplished!! Could you bring me a Sacher Torte? I hope it’s really as good as I claimed!

  7. Harris 10:41, Mar 2nd, 10

    Spread the word on Twitter too, that helps, although temporarily

  8. DanJee 14:03, Mar 2nd, 10

    While I am definitely interested in founding out if we can influence and trick the system, I wonder how vulnerable their system might be. Do we know what sites are actually covered by the system? They won’t be able to reveal all sites they look into, but they might be able to reveal some sites. 107 reviews on Yelp seems like an awful lot to be ignored. Could it be that Feast is a looping system to reinforce any NBC media channels? For example, any review sites related or owned by NBC (or GE, or Comcast) are perhaps weighted more to intentionally loop the system?

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