After eating at Penelope NYC earlier this year, I wrote a piece about the flaws in on-line reviews at site like Yelp.

And those flaws in most review systems are real; over time, almost every restaurant ends up with three or three-and-a-half stars on a scale of one to five, rendering the information useless. Or worse, fake reviews get posted, either very low by competitors or people with some other ax to grind, or very high by friends helping restaurants and other businesses game the system.

Whether you seek out and read on-line reviews when deciding what restaurants to eat at, which Doctors to use, or pretty much anything else, you need to keep that in mind. In other words, Perception is Reality.

This weekend I acquired a new perception point. My Reality may never be the same.

After reading one glowing review after another, I visited The Little Owl. The Little Owl has a four or four-and-a-half star rating amassed over nearly six hundred reviews at Yelp and MenuPages, and with my girlfriend and I on a continuing quest for the perfect brunch, we hustled to The Little Owl to be at the very small and very precious eatery when they opened the doors.

Long story short: The Little Owl was … only OK. Nothing bad happened, the food was decent, the service was acceptable, and The Little Owl is as cute as a bug and located in a place that helped make the rest of our morning fun, but there’s no way The Little Owl deserves the kind of aggregate outstanding reputation attributed to it by the on-line community.

Until you alter perception to fit reality.

What if instead of looking at The Little Owl as a destination brunch spot I change my perception to match the reality that “as a neighborhood place The Little Owl is perfectly fine … maybe better”?

Even Penelope would fare better under those circumstances. In fact, we talked about that as we ate at The Little Owl. Viewed as a neighborhood place, Penelope is a perfectly acceptable middle-of-the-road brunch spot. But viewed from my unique perception, reality becomes that neither The Little Owl nor Penelope is worth getting excited about and traveling to.

Business change is sometimes as simple as changing perception to create a new reality. My position about the value of Service Level Agreements is a great example. Even this story about tipping fits into the discussion.

And it all begins with Trust.

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