Photo courtesy Bo Peabody
Photo courtesy Bo Peabody
Entrepreneur Bo Peabody is a man on a mission: to completely revolutionize the world of rating high-end restaurants. Because as it currently stands, he believes, the system is broken.
“The ratings and reviews ecosystem is antiquated,” the venture capitalist and partner in several Massachusetts restaurants, told us during a recent call. “On the media side, there’s no brand that defines what it is to love luxury restaurants. Architectural Digest is for architecture, but there’s nothing for high-end restaurants. Michelin is grossly subjective, and Zagat ratings are from a lot of unqualified people who don’t have the proper context to critique the restaurant. If you want to critique top-100 restaurants, you need a large set of data for it to be statistically relevant, and the diners need to be qualified to make observations.”
And that’s where Renzell, Peabody’s new app, data-based ratings system, and invite-only club, comes into play. Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: Regulars at handpicked high-end restaurants are invited to take a 75-question survey, ranking aspects of their experience on a 100-point scale (the member base is capped at 1,000, and they can’t be in the food media or restaurant industry). The more surveys these diners take, the more points they earn, which can be redeemed for perks like complimentary private group dinners.
Participating restaurants, in exchange for providing these complimentary group dinners, receive regular reports on the eight topics diners are surveyed on: cocktails, design, food, hospitality, service, value, vibe, and wine/ sake (a service report, for example, can note that “overall service scores are lower on parties of five or more than 59% of Renzell restaurants and 73% of your cohort”). The report can also provide demographic breakdowns and an average diner “snapshot.”
The company is currently delivering its data reports to about a dozen New York restaurants (including Marea, Betony and Hearth) in exchange for events. Overall, Renzell compiles surveys at — and will produce ratings on — fifty-three New York City restaurants. This summer they will expand to Chicago and San Francisco, setting themselves up to compete directly with Michelin in the U.S.
What’s in it for the average diner, the guy who isn’t taking the surveys, but might want to spend a special occasion at one of these restaurants? We’ll find out in September, when Renzell’s first set of official restaurant ratings, cobbled together from all the data gleaned from every survey, is released to the public.
“Critiquing art is a complicated business,” Peabody continued. “At its core, Renzell just wants to make everybody’s restaurant experience better.”