When I had the idea to do the ER survey, it was just a bit of fun. I expected that I’d have to constantly nag for responses, or that nobody would do it (like throwing a party where nobody turns up). So I designed a few questions – maybe not the right ones, with hindsight – and knocked it up and put it up there with no great expectations. And? Well, for want of a better word, wow. The response has been incredible – in terms of supportive comments, Retweets and, most importantly, people filling it out and giving me loads of feedback. It was actually oversubscribed and I had to close it less than 3 days later because I had so many responses.

Originally I was going to leave it there but a few people on Twitter expressed an interest in seeing the results and actually there are some fascinating nuggets in there, so I’ve been persuaded to do a post letting you know what came out of the survey. If you’re not fussed don’t worry, there will be a new review up on Friday just like usual. But if you are, or if you’re nosy, or especially if you’re one of the people whose answers make up this set of results then thank you so much. You all make this worth doing.

How often do you read Edible Reading?

This was an amazing result: 47% of you read it on Friday morning when it comes out. I was astonished by this (and really very flattered). I always wanted it to come out at the same time every week, rain or shine, and this result really justifies that decision. 30% of you read it once a week and 15% of you read it a few times a month. More hardcore still, one of you reads it several times a week to decide where to go (thank you!) My favourite response was from Respondent No. 97, who said “Rarely”. More on her later!

Are the reviews too long?

I put this question in with real trepidation, having had a few snide remarks on Twitter about the reviews being too long. 91% of you think they are just right. Phew. Again, it’s a conscious decision to offer more than you get in the local paper or TripAdvisor and these results endorse that (nobody thought they were too short – me included!) Respondent No. 97 thought they were too long. Fancy.

What would you like to see more or less of?

The bottom line is that you want more of everything! On balance you wanted more or the same of all of the options I gave you – reviews of central restaurants, restaurants outside Reading, cheap eats, high end, round-ups and interviews or features. Since I can’t clone myself, the next step is to look at the most and least popular options. Based on that the thing you want most is more restaurant news and round-ups, followed by reviews of cheap eats, followed by more reviews of central Reading restaurants. That’s great because those are the main things I do, and again that makes me feel a lot happier about sticking mainly to Reading. You were a lot less fussed about high end restaurants (which I can completely understand) and reviews outside Reading – so although I do those from time to time I’ll leave that to others. The interesting one was reviews and features – currently I don’t do those on the blog. What would you like to see? A piece about where to get the best sandwich in Reading? Email interviews with prominent Reading people about their favourite restaurants? Answers in the comments field.

Respondent No. 97 wanted to see less of everything. Bit of a theme here, isn’t there?

Have you ever eaten somewhere because of an ER review? If so, was it accurate?

I hoped some people would say yes, but I don’t think I could have expected so many to say yes. 53% of you have eaten somewhere because of my review. 41% of you haven’t yet but say you plan to. Have a guess how Respondent No. 97 responded.

Of those of you that have gone somewhere because of an ER review, the next question was also a huge source of relief: 52% of you described the review as very accurate, and 46% described it as fairly accurate. 2% said not very accurate, none of you said not at all accurate. Taste is a very subjective thing, so I am delighted with that response.

Where else do you get information about Reading restaurants?

This one really surprised me. Of the people who replied, 81% of you use TripAdvisor. By contrast, only 28% of you use the local newspapers. I think this answer starts to make more sense when you look at what people want from a restaurant review (a few questions down the line). 17% of you said you used blogs, but most of the comments I got suggested that you think the Reading Post’s website is a blog; I bet they’d love that bit of feedback. Respondent 97 was a big fan of the Reading Post, as it happens.

I was a bit surprised that Respondent 97, who reads ER so rarely and dislikes it so much, took the time to fill out my survey. I was even more surprised when Respondent 97 had filled out the survey from a Greek IP address. It must be a coincidence that the Food Editor of the Reading Post was on holiday in Greece that weekend… mustn’t it?

Do you like ER on Facebook?

I think I’ve got some work to do here. 29% of you do, 13% of you plan to and 24% of you didn’t know ER had a Facebook page. I know not everyone likes Facebook, which is fair enough, but the FB page is starting to be a place people go to ask about restaurants or give me the latest gossip on where’s opening/shutting/reopening. It’s worth a look!

What’s important about a restaurant review?

Overwhelmingly, you want them to be honest, independent and informative. Those scored almost universally positively. That makes me proud that Edible Reading publishes honest reviews, good or bad, and isn’t constrained by the fact that somebody else has paid for the meal. It also explains why people are happy with the length of the reviews. I wonder whether the independence factor explains why the people who took the survey rely more on TripAdvisor than they do on the local press. Less important, but still overwhelmingly positive, were that the reviews are entertaining and detailed. The rating at the end polarised people – some people really liked it, some people thought it wasn’t very important, but the net score was still reasonably positive.

The last two results were a huge relief to me personally. Photography generated a surprising amount of indifference (as, I imagine, does my photography), and as for vegetarian options, the balance of opinion was that it wasn’t important. Probably just as well, because much as I can’t resist ordering burrata when it’s on the menu I can’t promise to order vegetarian friendly dishes in a restaurant on even a semi-regular basis.

What’s your favourite ER review?

I know, this question’s fishing for compliments. I’m sorry. But I was amazed that so many of you answered it, nominating a total of twenty-one different reviews! It was nice to see that so many of them had their fans, but the top three emerged quite clearly.

The bronze medal goes to The Eldon Arms – lots of fantastic comments about this, including “most surprising”, “I ended up having the best burger there” and the succinct, if surreal, “PAWK” (I don’t know about you, but I now have an image of someone a bit like the Cookie Monster who really really likes pulled pork).

The silver medal goes to Bhoj. There was a lot of love for this restaurant, and the review, a lot of it from people who would never have gone to it without the review. Examples include “I never knew it existed”, “highlights an otherwise pretty much unknown hidden gem”, “it made me try it – yum yum!” and “refreshing to see a low cost option reviewed favourably”.

But the gold medal – well, it’s about the only accolade the Lobster Room is ever going to receive now that it’s closed. Most of the comments here made me smile but especially “Extremely funny. The Fonz thumbs.”, “The Lobster Room, for bringing to life the awful goings on”, “The Lobster Room, for the sense of righteous indignation” and possibly the unimprovable “The Lobster Room (ouch)”.

So what have we learned? Most of you read the blog every week, you go to restaurants because of the blog and think it’s accurate, apart from the blog you rely on Tripadvisor, you want me to write more of everything, you really value independent honest reviews and you’re prepared to overlook my shoddy photography. But, to copy Springer’s Final Thought, what I’ve really learned is that what you like most of all is a rave review or an absolute hatchet job. I suspected as much! Tune in this Friday at half eleven (and I now know over half of you will) to find out whether this week’s review is either of those things.

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