Refreshingly honest self-reviews

Eight years ago, I had written about how Nokia was called out for publishing a ‘review’ of the Nokia Lumia 620 on their own website.

I’m reasonably sure that such practices won’t even pass muster these days. Many brands publish product-related and service-related content that sounds like ‘reviews’, though they may perhaps not use the ‘review’ tag or word on it.

‘Astroturfing’, the (dictionary definition) “deceptive practice of presenting an orchestrated marketing or public relations campaign in the guise of unsolicited comments from members of the public” continues to be used too, to get paid volunteers to write reviews on e-commerce platforms without disclosure. At least Nokia was honest about who was writing the review and where – it was all perfectly transparent. And yet, they were called out.

But here’s a really unique and incredibly honest attempt at a self-review by an entrepreneur.

Feigang Fei runs a Chinese eating joint called Cuisine AuntDai in Montreal. Two weeks ago, Kim Belair, a writer shared snapshots from AuntDai’s menu that included Fei’s own descriptions that sound less like menu descriptions and more like personal reviews and notes! And they are phenomenally honest, even to the extent of not making some of the dishes desirable!

Take a look!

There’s a whole lot more on their website.

I can never, ever imagine any owner saying things like these in his (or her) own restaurant’s menu!

“Each order has two small rolls and as the owner, I think they are small too but they are so good” (Imperial rolls)

“Comparing to our General Tao Chicken, this one is not THAT good.
Anyway, I am not big fan of North American Chinese food and it’s your call.”
(Orange beef)

“this dish is very well-known and we are not 100% satisfied with the flavor now and it will get better really soon.
PS. I am surprised that some customers still order this plate. In my opinion, our Sichuan Pepper Chicken Salad is better than this one.”
(Mouth-watering chicken)

“This is a very special dish, liked by some and disliked by some more.
You need to like real authentic Chinese food to like this. Some adventurous customers may leave the plate full because of the weird texture”
(Vermicelli salad)

But these are reviews and not merely descriptions. Descriptions generally tend to avoid words that offer a personal viewpoint, even though they aim to influence your perception through fancy language.

Fei uses first-person framing to refer to the food and his own views on many of them. That makes these descriptions almost like having a chat with him as you try to make your choice!

Fei also refers to popular choices with statements like, “More than once, More than twice, our customers told me AuntDai has the best General Tao Chicken in Montreal“, or “I don’t know why but peanut sauce chicken is liked by a lot of customers at AuntDai“, or “True story, one customer got really mad because it’s not so Chinese since he visited Sichuan China before“.

The descriptions are refreshingly unique in a world where menus have flowery language that is intended to be helpful but ends up superficial. The best part, one that makes this exercise so utterly noteworthy, is the refreshing amount of honesty in almost all the notes.

Even when you read, “we are not 100% satisfied with the flavor now”, the addition of “PS. I am surprised that some customers still order this plate” makes you consider it to understand why something that the owner himself is not 100% satisfied with is still so popular!

Fei puts himself in the shoes of his customers and he acts as his own food’s first customer! He also totally understands that his personal views need not be the only views – his customers could disagree with his views and have their own, about his food.

If the level of honesty can be understood and mirrored, I would presume this approach could be used by larger hotels and restaurants too where the lead/master Chef (or more people in charge of the kitchen) could add their personal notes to the menu items.

In fact, more than adding them to the printed menu, they could be part of the online versions of the menu, giving guests an extra reason to either install the restaurant’s/hotel’s mobile app or the online version.

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