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NBC Feast Miami: What's With The Cockamamie Numbers?

Numbers. It's the first thing that hits the eye upon opening the home page for NBC Feast Miami. Looks less like a blog than a board game. The clutter, however, is only mildly annoying compared to what they signify: Confusion.

The grading system runs from 0 to 100, which deceives the reader into thinking of grades the way they always have throughout a lifetime of schooling and whatnot -- roughly speaking, 90 and above is excellent, 80-plus is good, the 70s represent the "fair" range, and below 65 is failing. This is how the "Feast Rank" works: If a restaurant scores a 31, it's "not bad". A 51 is "good", 66 "very good", and should a dining establishment reach 76, Feast readers are to consider the place "near epic". "Epic" runs from 90 to 100.

Founder Ben Leventhal explains on the website that the grading system is a means of keeping track of the "staggering amount of content the web produces about restaurants." It gets complicated: "As we speak the Feast Rank team at Feast Labs is looking through hundreds and hundreds of sources and banking them into a single weighted average score--the Feast Rank. And we're updating it in real time." Not to make a big deal about the "real time" thing, but Talula and Pacific Time constitute two of the website's five "Eat Here Now" choices.


More explanation: "Prime-time mentions, such as a big newspaper review can swing Feast Rank significantly. Smaller mentions signal buzz and impact scores temporarily, creating the type of up and down swings that capture the elusive idea of hotness. Our exact formula as well as our full source list are state secrets." The next sentence is about an evolving algorithm, but nothing explains why a 31 isn't considered bad.

Somehow I get the feeling that Mr. Leventhal wasn't a very good student in his younger days, and this is his way of getting back at the system. Now that 33 he took home in mathematics is "not bad", and those "65"'s he received are looking more than respectable. Of course this is just a guess, but I'm going to stick to it until somebody can come up with a better explanation.

While we're looking at the numbers, might as well note that the lowest score I found on the main pages was for Chicago's Steakhouse, which registers a solid 45. Hey, not bad! - especially for a place that's been out of business for about a year. The worst rating, and you have to dig deep to find it, is a 28 for Picnics -- that's "dicey", not "awful". Lucky for us, according to Feast Miami there are no awful restaurants in Miami.

I'm not going to go into grading the grades, but it may surprise some folks that the "epic" Randazzo's Little Italy is now our second highest-ranked restaurant at 93. I haven't eaten at Randazzo's in some time, but something tells me it's time for NBC Feast Miami to adjust its algorithms. Maybe its sources, too. And something should definitely be done about its cockamamie number scale.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein