Chef Seattle Restaurant Rating Guide

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For non-scoring related questions, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Chef Seattle uses a point based scoring system that rates restaurants on a scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best). These scores are used to rank restaurants according to four primary factors:

  • Food: How well the food tastes
  • Service: The level of treatment we receive
  • Ambiance: Environmental extras that add to the experience
  • Value: Overall value of meal, which takes into account all of the above factors, plus price paid.

At 10 possible points each, these four factors add up to a total of 50 points for each reviewer (food scores are weighted double). A restaurant's total score then, is the sum of all the points from it's reviewers divided by the total number of reviewers.

At the bottom of this page, the official Chef Seattle scoring system is available for further study, but here is the summarized version for easy reading:

  • 10 - Excellent: Masterful and/or unique delights
  • 9 - Great: Impressive dishes and execution
  • 8 - Good: Tasty and worth a repeat visit
  • 7 - Fair: Reasonable meal with no complaints
  • 6 - Poor: Substandard quality and taste
  • 5 and below - Bad: Serious lack of care or skill

Why do scores here seem low compared to other sites?

Our scores may appear low compared to other review sites, because our average scores are generally from 7 to 8, while other review sites have rating systems that are often inflated. Studies have shown that most reviewers leave either the best possible score or lowest possible score. Restaurants on those type of sites rank extremely well or extremely bad.

In addition, due to our four factors in scoring, it is actually difficult for a restaurant to score high in each category. For instance: high end restaurants generally score high in service, but often achieve average results in value. On the other hand, budget restaurants which score high in value often score poorly in ambiance or service.

What is the average rating for most restaurants?

Most restaurants average somewhere between 7 and 8 as their overall score. Restaurants that score over a 7.0 overall should be considered decent, while those over an 8.0 are considered good.

Official Scoring Guide for Chef Seattle Reviewers:

Food Rating:

10 Excellent - delightful visit, displaying superior chef skill and mastery of classic or exotic dishes. Would enjoy being a regular and go out of way to recommend.
9 Great - above average meal that displays good attention to preparation and authentic ingredients. Could eat here regularly and recommend to others.
8 Good - flavorful meal and resonable culinary skill. Could come back time to time. Would give decent recommendation if asked.
7 Average - does the job but doesn’t stand out in any particular way. Probably wouldn’t come back unless convenient. Luke warm on recommendation.
6 Bland - food is edible, but not much more than that. Wouldn’t come back and would shake head at recommending.
5 Poor - meal is not very palatable and shows lack of chef skill. Under or overdone flavors, sauces, etc. Definitely avoid and would make recommendation against.
4 Bad - food is hard to eat and generally left unfinished due to taste. Would actually go out of the way to not recommend restaurant.
3 Awful - extremely poor flavor, nothing good about meal.
2 Suspect - possible health reasons to avoid food.
1 Unused - Ran for the hills?

As a guideline, most restaurants will receive a rating of 6 or 7, simply due to the fact that most chefs are competent at cooking (or so we always hope).

Ratings should be taken in context of restaurants of a similar cuisine: i.e., a teriyaki restaurant should be rated against other teriyaki restaurants as opposed to a chic upscale restaurant. This means that a teriyaki restaurant can rate a “9? while not necessarily being completely equal to an upscale steak house that rates a “9? as well. This said, a teriyaki restaurant that rates a 9 should likely be some of the best teriyaki you’ve ever had.

The reason this scale is not an absolute measure of taste, is because most people make recommendations to others based on similar restaurants and do not expect an absolute scale (people don’t compare teriyaki to steak houses).

Service Rating:

10 Perfect - embodiment of the classic 5-star treatment. Expert knowledge of menu and specials with recommendations and pairings. Very friendly and close attention to detail such as crumbing, plate/silverware changes and etc.
9 Excellent - above and beyond service. Very helpful staff, with solid knowledge of menu and recommendations. Timing is spot on for drinks, ordering and bill.
8 Enjoyable - friendly demeanor from staff, helpful recommendations are made if asked, attention to timing and no problems with service.
7 Standard - there are no problems with the service, food is ordered and brought out in a timely fashion. Drinks are refilled, check-ups are made, no errors or cleanliness issues.
6 Few issues - a single or few minor errors with the service. Problems with cooking time, lacking a check-up, no refills on water/drinks, late bill, brisk service. Errors on bill, order. Perhaps minor film on utensils or plates.
5 Many issues - a number of minor or a few major issues. Major delay in seating, ordering or cook time. Poor staff attitude or possibly suspect cleanliness.
4 Bad - major / serious service problems. Rude staff, unreasonable wait times for food/seating order. Visibly unclean items.
3 Terrible - just like it says, very rude or incompetent staff simply and bad treatment overall. Aversion to food/seating due to cleanliness.
2 Hostile - extremely bad or demeaning staff, possible health issues for food.
1 Objectionable - Walked out due to service / health issues with food.

Service scores should average as a 7 for most restaurants, given that they don’t do anything wrong. If your service is unremarkable and simply blends in, then it should be considered standard service. Above and beyond the call of duty is when service scores go up beyond 7. Noticeable errors or issues and it goes below a 7.

Service also rates cleanliness issues as well, which may or may not overlap the quality of staff service you receive. IE- cups may be dirty whereas server may be very friendly. It’s up to you to make judgment call on where the rating should fall under. Also, other factors often overlap as well, with a very friendly server who forgets about your bill for example - again, a judgment call should be made, but more often than not, something in between the two is reasonable.

Ambiance Rating:

10 Stunning - Amazing city/scenic view, very fine interior decorations, expert lighting and/or possible sound system, unique architecture and layout.
9 Remarkable - good view, intimate atmosphere, professionally designed interior and exterior of restaurant. Lots of custom design furniture, bar area, etc. Attention to details, real hardwoods/granite/marble/leather high end materials.
8 Stylish - good layout and décor, track/ambient/mood lighting, customizations, nice silverware / serving dishes, artwork or painted walls, decent views.
7 Themed - general cohesion to restaurant style. Neat chairs and tables, attention to lighting, possibly candles, some or limited view, art or designs on wall.
6 Effort - some wall decorations, some theme to restaurant design, above average quality furniture, possibly track/designer lighting.
5 Plain - nothing very remarkable, standard tables, chairs, booths. Usually fluorescent ceiling lighting, basic decorations.
4 Dilapidated- showing signs of aging, could use maintenance for interior or exterior, via new paint job, repairing furniture, new silverware/plates, etc.
3 Ugly - doesn’t look good, bad design or color scheme, poor quality furniture.
2 Seedy - dingy lighting, broken ventilation, dirty floor/windows, serious maintenance issues.
1 Repulsive - dirty, health issues, etc.

Unlike the other keys, ambiance is much more subjective and also has a much wider ability to differentiate one restaurant from another. That said, ambiance should average around a 6 or 7 for most restaurants.

Value Rating:

10 Superb - fantastic amount of food or quality of food for price paid. Definitely recommend to others and come back regularly.
9 Great - dollar goes a long way with portion or quality. Would recommend to others.
8 Good - a good value, large or quality portions for less than you would pay elsewhere.
7 Reasonable - for the price paid, you got a decent meal that you are ok with paying.
6 Borderline - for the food that you get in terms of quality and portion, you would expect a bit more.
5 Lacking - you’re paying more for what you get elsewhere for both quality and portions.
4 Minimal - low quality food and/or very small portion size that causes raised eyebrows.
3 Rip off - overblown prices for the quality/quantity of food.
2 Ridiculous - absolutely can’t belive the price for what you get.
1 MIA - you saw the menu, you saw the price, you saw your way out.

Value is a combination of both price, service, ambiance and portions in relation to price. The best way to think of value is as an equalizer rating to balance the hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve lots of great, cheap food in a no-frills environment against to high end restaurant that features great food and great ambiance.

Though most often used when accounting for portion size, value should take the quality of food taken into consideration as well. Thus, while a two pound burrito for $7 from Gorditos may evoke a ‘10’ rating for value, a very nice restaurant that prices at average restaurant cost ($12 to $15 per plate) should be rated high as well, even if portion sizes are not nearly close to Gorditos. An example is Maneki, which charges very reasonable prices for very high quality food.

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