Deciding When to Review

25 Sep

There are so many factors influencing food blog content. I write to share recipes, restaurants, and products that I love with the hope that readers might try something themselves. I won’t blindly turn my blog into a giant ad space just because someone will give me free stuff (remember the complimentary meal at Tossed a few months ago?).

We’re obviously in difficult financial times (and the restaurant business is always tumultuous), so I’m hesitant to write something mostly negative for EatingPlaces. I think about people who spend every waking minute, and sometimes all of their savings, building a restaurant. Do I want to contribute to destroying their dreams because my two or three visits (and sometimes one) were disappointing?

On the other hand, I also feel a responsibility to my readers, people who have limited funds and/or time. Do they deserve to sit through a meal with horrendous service and poor-quality food?

Such is the case of a restaurant I reviewed. I’ve been a bunch of times and recommend it to everyone. I’ve been planning to try their brunch and, when I made it over this weekend, was shocked by how it had declined.

We entered and asked a server for a table for two. A second server came by and, while there were three empty tables in the small dining room, sat us at the bar overlooking the street on uncomfortable stools. We sat looking at the five items on the brunch menu for ten minutes without service or water.

The quality of the food went down, including simple items that were delicious before. The servers were neither cool (as they had been every time before), nor friendly. My plate hadn’t been cleaned well and there were smudges all around the circumference. I ordered smoked salmon fish cakes which turned out to be tiny flakes of white fish in potato patties. We ordered three items and our bill was calculated incorrectly.

In short, the charm was definitely gone, as were even the basics of a good meal. I won’t go back.

Sorry for the downer. How do you feel about negative reviews of small, family-owned restaurants? I’m curious to know, bloggers and eaters, if you think writers should publicize these experiences.

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6 Responses to “Deciding When to Review”

  1. Amy October 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    This is a great question and one definitely worth debate. I look at my blog as a place for people looking for awesome things to do and places to go; especially restaurants.

    I don’t think I would put up a bad review, unless like Bianca says it was REALLY bad. If I just had a so-so meal or felt maybe the place was having an off night I would more likely choose to omit blogging about it, or maybe mention my experience and express my hope in a better experience in future.

    Of course were any reader ever to ask me about a place I wouldn’t recommend I definitely wouldn’t hold out on them. It is true there is definitely a sense of responsibility to both parties but I think being honest and respectful will go a long way with both reader and restaurateur.

  2. Renee {Eat.Live.Blog.} October 13, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    I agree with everyone above, which makes it hard. My family owns a small restaurant, and one bad review puts a daggar in my dad’s heart more than 20 good reviews lift him up. I think a good practice is to email the restaurant about your experience and give them the chance to explain or make it right.

    The few bad reviews my dad has gotten, he can pin point exactly the night and why the experience was bad. When things go wrong he knows it, and he is always happy for feedback and ways to make the experience better.

  3. Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic September 28, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    I think about this too but I end up only write negative reviews if the experience was pretty horrible…

  4. Deanna September 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    I work for a corporate restaurant right now, and I would give a negative review of a family-owned or corporate chain restaurant after the second visit (if funds allow). In my experience there are just bad shifts (for the kitchen, servers, bartender, manager, host, bussers). This is not an excuse for poor service, but a bad experience is dependent on the circumstances of the restaurant of a whole.

    However, sitting at the bar after having asked for a table is absurd. I think that was just laziness on the part of the waitstaff. If there was not a server designated for that section, waitstaff should have gone out there way to make guests comfortable.

    In the end, though, I would give the restaurant a second try before writing a negative review.

    • Liz September 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      Hi Deanna,

      Thanks for your comments. Having two negative experiences (as opposed to one) is a good idea, even if it’s a painful thought to set myself up for a second disappointing meal. Maybe they’ll surprise me?

      Liz

  5. Dan Edelstein (@danielthelouis) September 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Restaurants should have exceptionally high standards and should be held accountable for their products and services. We go to restaurants, trusting that we may leave, perhaps not having had a spiritual experience, though those are nice, but certainly healthy and satisfied; restaurants have an obligation to serve food that won’t harm. Moreover, precisely because we are in tough economic times, restaurants should be held to even higher standards, because it’s not so much about the money they are spending to serve us, but the money they WON’T make if they serve us bad, unhealthy food, with poor service. Generally speaking, why do I want to go out to eat at a restaurant where I might get sick and have a negative experience when I can just cook something I know will be better, and probably cheaper, at home?

    As far as I know and can tell about your blog, it is like critical journalism, and seeks to provide an objective analysis and personal, critical conclusion of food and restaurants for the benefit of your readers. Thus, in my mind, it is your obligation to review restaurants and foods as honestly as possible so that we know when to eat out and where to go, or when to cook for ourselves. So, maybe it comes down to questioning what the purpose of your blog is. If you’d prefer to have more of an intentional perspective (like promoting family-owned restaurants), then, yes, you should pick and choose what you review and how. So, I don’t know how your other readers feel, but I’d like to know your thoughts on where and where not to eat…

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