The restaurant rating space is pretty crowded — there’s Michelin, Zagat, Yelp, and more — but new company Renzell thinks it has something worthy to add. Launching this fall in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, Renzell is calling itself a Michelin competitor and differentiating itself through a data-driven rating system. The company picks hundreds of locals that do not have media or industry ties to anonymously rate restaurants (on their own dime) through a 60-question survey that takes biases into account.
“Two things plague the existing systems,” founder Bo Peabody told Eater SF. “Either they are too subjective because it’s only a couple of people, in many cases who are known to the restaurants, who are dining only a couple of times and issuing an opinion, which is the Michelin problem. Then there’s the Yelp problem of who knows who these people are, and they don't have the context and experience to do this rating.”
Peabody’s method aims to get around that by picking people with a lot of experience dining out and asking them very specific questions around eight categories: hospitality, service, value, food, design, vibe, cocktails, and wine/sake. Renzell then weighs the answer against the respondent’s preferences to help eliminate bias. “So if you don’t care about cocktails, and then give a restaurant a low score on cocktails, we’re going to weigh that lower,” he explained. “That’s rudimentary data science that hasn't been brought to this space before.”
By doing this, Peabody is seeing sometimes dramatically different results. While no city’s ratings have yet been released, he teased that in New York City (which will be released first), there is a restaurant that does not have a Michelin star that will be in the top five, and there are restaurants with three Michelin stars that will not be in the top ten.
While this is not Peabody’s only source of income (he’s a venture capitalist and owns restaurants in Massachusetts), he eventually hopes to monetize the system by then selling the data to the restaurants and other luxury companies. “One of the hallmarks of Renzell is that we want to be totally transparent with the restaurants,” he said. “My number one goal for the next 12 months is to gain the respect of restaurateurs as a rating system that is more accurate than any other and more transparent that allows them to learn and get better from the data.”
The San Francisco ratings are currently being collected, with the results to be released this fall. See the full list of 54 restaurants being rated — which have to have been open for at least two years — below.
1601 Bar & Kitchen
Flour + Water
Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar
Sons & Daughters
State Bird Provisions
Twenty Five Lusk