From Yelp to Urbanspoon, there is no shortage of outlets online for opinionated eaters to share their restaurant experiences. But how can one accurately parse the information, knowing that some variables, such as the waitstaff, can vary on a daily or table-to-table basis?
One tech company may have come up with a solution.
Launched in November, the Grate app seeks to separate superlative servers from the pack. The new platform, currently free on iOS, combines a star rating system with discreet reviews of a waitperson's performance.
While the number of stars received by the restaurant is viewable to all app users, more detailed comments regarding the level of service received, and naming the employee who was responsible for the table, can only be read by the employer, which pays a fee to access the information.
"The whole idea came to us last year when we were dining in an Italian restaurant in Palo Alto," Grate founder Heigo Paartalu told ABC News. "The food was and is absolutely magnificent, but the service that evening was just horrible. In talking about it, we didn't feel comfortable walking up to the manager and saying so face-to-face in front of everyone."
Instead, they turned to technology as go-between. Paartalu said that the main goal of the app is to refer diner experiences to the restaurant manager so the establishment can make adjustments internally, rather than publicly excoriate someone. He went on to add that in the month since launch, the majority of server reviews received are positive.
"We have gotten a lot of people who say this is discriminatory," he said. "But amazingly, over 90 percent of our reviews are positive as of today."
The app is free for customers to download, but restaurants must pay a fee in order to access the staff reviews, ranging from a month-to-month subscription at $75 per month to an annual subscription fee of $825. To date, Paartalu said 28 restaurants have signed on to what he called "the beta version" of Grate, but added that diners have already searched out more than 5,000 businesses during that same period.
None of the restaurants ABC News reached out to regarding public ratings on Grate would offer comment, with most noting that they were unfamiliar with the app. Paartalu declined to share the names of specific restaurants that have subscribed to the platform.
But the founder did say that it was only a matter of time before restaurants and waitstaff would see that the app was designed in their best interest.
"Our goal is to create an environment that recognizes quality service," he said. "In the future [evolutions] servers will be able to apply for a job and submit all of their positive reviews and ratings on Grate to the new company instead of a resume. In the long run, they will realize this is more and more valuable for them."