A “Democratization” of Markets? Online Consumer Reviews in the Restaurant Industry

  • Kevin Mellet Orange Labs—Sense / Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Mines ParisTech, France
  • Thomas Beauvisage Social Sciences Department, Orange Labs (Sense), France
  • Jean-Samuel Beuscart Social Sciences Department, Orange Labs (Sense) / Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, France
  • Marie Trespeuch Social Sciences Department, Orange Labs (Sense) / IDHE, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, France


This article examines the promise of market democratization conveyed by consumer rating and review websites in the restaurant industry. Based on interviews with website administrators and data from the main French platforms, we show that review websites contribute to the democratization of restaurant criticism, which first started in the 1970s, both by including a greater variety of restaurants in the reviews, and by broadening participation, opening restaurant reviewing to all. However, this twofold democratic ambition conflicts with the need to produce fair and helpful recommendations, leading review websites to seek compromises between these two dimensions.


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