Recently, there was an interesting study online that examined how people make decisions psychologically about booking trips and vacations. The study found that people are actually motivated by a fear of making the wrong choice, as opposed to being inspired by the possibility of making the right choice. This is symptomatic of a broader theme in the world today: people have a lot information, and we don’t always know what to do with it.

Finding a good steakhouse is another choice people have to make – that is, if they want to enjoy a proper steakhouse experience. But there are a lot of statehouses out there today, and anybody can tell you that’s a quality varies significantly. And since the average cost of the steak dinner is more in the average cost of many other cuisines, it stands to reason that people want to find the best possible steak for the money. This is even more true if you’re trying to make an impression with business colleagues, friends, visiting family members, or even a date.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to research the options in your area and quickly see what’s out there. Unfortunately, you can quickly get lost in a sea of information and begin to fear making the wrong choice instead of focusing on the best possible choice.

But there is one element of your research that should stand out above the rest, and that is reviews from the real customers. Why?

These are unbranded, objective thoughts from people who have actually patronized the steakhouse in question. Obviously the steakhouse itself is going to engage in a certain amount of branding and marketing. It’s going to tell you all about the amazing steaks and services it delivers. It’s going to give you promotions and extra reasons to walk in the door. It might even provide you with certain reviews or comments from customers.

All you have to realize here is the difference between information provided by the steakhouse itself and information provided objectively by people who have tried it out for themselves. Reviews are so important because they gave us that clear, objective window into the actual customer experience. Many people who take the time to write reviews about steakhouses are also somewhat knowledgeable and have visited any number of steakhouses in different locations. So if you see a particular steakhouse with ratings that are consistently in the four or five star range (out of five), it’s reasonable to assume that your experience as a patron will be on par with most of those who have been there and written about it.

Fortunately, you have that same opportunity after your meal. If anything was lacking in the food or service, your thoughts and impressions can really make a difference – both in holding steak houses accountable for the quality food and service they provide, and in helping other customers maximize their own experiences by focusing on steak houses who back up their claims with impeccable cuisine, atmosphere and waitstaff.