Monday, July 22, 2013

Should bloggers write bad reviews?

Bloggers and chefs/restaurant owners can sometimes have a dicey relationship.  Most of the time we enjoy a harmonious partnership, chefs go about their business cooking up great food and bloggers exercise their passion for writing by blogging about quality eating experiences before sharing their recommendations with their readers.  Not only that but Twitter gives both parties a chance to converse which is a pleasure for all, bloggers get to talk to their esteemed food heroes while restaurateurs get some clear feedback on what works in their establishments.  The world is a wonderful place.  That world though is occasionally rocked when a blogger has less than kind words to publish about the cherished work of the chef.  At this point a familiar story can play out, blogger posts review, chef/owner is outraged and attacks blogger, other bloggers wade in to protect their comrade adding additional criticism to the chef/owner's restaurant as well as their conduct on Twitter, chef/owner states all bloggers are arseholes and have no clue what they are talking about, more bloggers get involved and tempers flare, fellow chefs wade in confirming that all bloggers are arseholes, chefs and bloggers issue short sharp arguments in less than 144 characters that barely make sense before every one gives up and goes to bed.  As an ageing nerd I can confirm that this kind of unpleasant situation is called a flame war.  In these instances I always try and stay away from emotive language and just ask questions to try and get to the root of the unhappiness, sadly this never gets past a few well seasoned arguments about why bloggers shouldn't write bad reviews.  As I've never got the detail from the horse's mouth I thought it might be good to write a post on the subject and give my thoughts (for what they are worth!) on the matter as a starting point for discussion.  I would love it if people could comment on this post at the bottom of the page with some full, clear responses to the points raised both for and against hopefully without anybody dropping the c-bomb.  I will understand if owners/chefs would prefer to remain anonymous and I would prefer anonymous feedback rather than no feedback.  With that said let's have a look at those arguments against...

Bloggers are not experienced/knowledgeable enough to give public opinions
Let's take us first.  When it comes to food we are learning every day, we are still seeking out new experiences in all areas of food.  We don't have an encyclopaedic knowledge of spices, we're not particularly clever when it comes to exotic produce and I can tell you we are still, despite all our best efforts, complete ignoramuses when it comes to wine and I think we have always been very honest about this.  That said we've both worked in the industry at all levels in different positions in varying establishments plus we certainly cook and eat out more than anyone I know with the exception of other bloggers.  So what gives us the right to hold an opinion on a restaurant?  In my opinion it comes down to the fact that we are customers and that gives us an undeniable right to criticise the food we eat. If an owner/chef doesn't think we are qualified then neither are the guests that come in every day as we will know as much or more than 99% of their clientèle.  This argument, and my defence, both hinge on the idea that you should be an expert to express an opinion on food.  I find this notion quite uncomfortable as I'm completely against elitism in any facet of my life.  The general opinion from unhappy chefs in this position are that the only people that should be allowed to criticise are those people who have owned a restaurant or worked as a chef.  I'm afraid I just can't accept that, telling people that have eaten in your restaurant that they don't know enough to give you feedback is a terrible example of food snobbery.  A clever person actually managed to get this argument summarised in a single tweet - "I've never owned a car manufacturer but I know there's a problem when the wheels fall off".

Now there is a further question that is not quite as clear cut and that is what gives us the right to publish those opinions?  Free speech is an easy get out, yeah sure everybody should be able to say whatever they want on the internet about whatever subject comes to mind.  Within reason I would stand by that and that alone justifies our online ramblings but there is a plumper, fleshier reason than that.  We should be able to publish our opinions because customers and potential customers want to hear our opinions, I believe that some people value our opinion for that very reason that some chefs say we shouldn't be allowed to blog: we aren't experts, we don't know everything, we are on the same level as the reader which makes our writings accessible for many, more so than the articles of some incredibly talented food writers.  If people want to hear our opinions we should publish them, what right have chefs/owners to stop that communication between foodies?  As a blog reader I would also say that I don't value blogs that don't write critical reviews, it devalues everything else they write and as a result I don't follow them.  I would go as far as to say that bloggers have a responsibility to publish a negative review if they have a negative experience.  At the same time in the chefs' defence I understand it must be incredibly frustrating when a blogger doesn't "get" something, misses the point of a dish and criticises it as 'wrong' when undeniably the chef knows the best way to prepare that plate of food.  I do feel a little weird criticising the food of Simon Rogan or Ferran Adria because I'm pretty sure they know what they are doing.

Bloggers damage restaurants/livelihoods with their negative reviews

Negative blogger reviews are commonly referred to as 'harmful', it is frequently said that negative reviews can ruin a business overnight and therefore destroy the livelihood of all those employed at the restaurant.  I'm willing to be proven wrong on this but I'm not aware of any restaurants been closed due to one bad review.  I've really tried to find out as well, expending a significant portion of my Sunday leisure time rooting through restaurant reviews and news, but I'm yet to find a clear cut case.  Negative reviews will have varying effects depending on who wrote them, how established the restaurant is and what the current mood around the restaurant is.  Let's look at a couple of examples and my (non-expert) estimations of the impact...
  • A restaurant run by a well respected and established chef has been open for 6 months, receiving universal praise from bloggers and food critics.  It receives a negative review - Sod all effect, no one cares about one review in a sea of positivity especially when the chef already has a great reputation.  This would in no way stop me visiting a restaurant and I don't know anyone who would be deterred.
  • A new restaurant has been open one week, there have been no reviews or feedback and the owner/chef has no history in the area.  It receives a negative review - This will probably knock a few potential guests and could knock a bit of wind out of the sails of the launch.  As long as it is followed by positive reviews there will be no significant impact on the restaurant.
  • A restaurant that has been well established for many years has been on a slide of public perception over the last year, negative comments from guests are easily found on Twitter, there have been a string of poor reviews from bloggers all reinforcing the same issues and nothing is being done to correct them.  It receives a negative review from a well established blogger with a decent local readership - This could be the final nail in the coffin for a restaurant causing a significant loss of guests, unless something drastic is done to counter this review and the prevailing negative mood caused by poor food and bad service the restaurant will not last forever.
In summary I believe that a good restaurant will be unaffected by a single blogger's review.  Restaurants that are not performing on the other hand will have issues that are compounded by bad blogger reviews.  I don't believe that is the fault of the blogger, like I said before in these circumstances I feel it is a blogger's duty to point these establishments out.  These days money is tight and I have felt that pain of spending money in a restaurant only to realise that it was a waste of cash because the owner, the chef and the staff couldn't give a toss about providing good service or food.  I wish somebody had told me so I could have spent my wages in a good restaurant where people were passionate about delivering a great experience.

Let's also not forget that bloggers really don't have a huge audience, even the biggest bloggers will only have readers in the thousands unlike critics who will have readers in the hundreds of thousands.  The maximum impact of a blogger is severely limited by this.  I do believe that in London town the previously mentioned talented food writers probably do have the power to make a dent in somebody's business but not bloggers, we're talking about comparing giants with ants.

When I asked for examples of businesses damaged by reviews on Twitter I actually got a couple of examples where a bad review had turned a restaurant around.  The owners sat down and addressed the issues that had been pointed out, worked hard to reverse popular opinion and are now sitting pretty as well regarded restaurants.  One in particular is easily one of my favourite restaurants in Manchester, so hey it's not all bad news.

There is one slightly different scenario that we should consider...
  • An established restaurant receives a negative review, the 'flame war' I described in the first paragraph plays out, all the bloggers who witness the comments from the chef/owner swear that they won't visit the restaurant and retweet any nasty comments they can get their hands on, all their followers have a negative view of the restaurant and it is less likely that the negative review will be followed quickly by a positive review as less bloggers will be paying a visit - Out of all the examples this is the worst outcome as the heat caused by the spat increases the readership and attention of the original review disseminating the negative message much further than it should have been, as a secondary impact word of mouth is overwhelmingly negative amongst those people who witnessed the fallout.  This still won't have a huge impact but will reduce the number of visitors over a short period of time.  This restaurant is not going out of business as we are still talking about a limited number of people involved.
When it comes to negative reviews from bloggers some chefs are their own worst enemies but I must say the majority of chefs/owners will take comments on board graciously or at worst not respond and I do understand that in some cases they have put their entire life (financially and otherwise) in to the establishment which is being criticised therefore it is understandable that they feel their security is being threatened.

Bloggers only write negative reviews to boost their own egos/they are jealous of chefs

Again I'll tell you about us as a starting point.  The reason we blog is for our own amusement, we treat our blog as our personal diary and probably read it more than anybody else.  At the same time it's a challenge, we are trying to become better writers and I'm not sure what we would do without this creative element in our life.  One final unexpected benefit that we love is that through writing about food in Manchester we have met so many people that share our passion.  For us ego has never really come in to it, we don't have millions of readers and we never write anything with the intention of increasing that readership, the only selfish reason we publish our posts is so that we can discuss them with other people, be they food consumers or food producers.  Essentially I've got nothing to gain from a negative review.

I can't speak for other bloggers but I believe those that we have spoken with share a similar motivation to us.  Negative reviews are a common discussion topic when bloggers get together but I am yet to meet a blogger who enjoys writing negative reviews, it's actually pretty torturous especially when you know a restaurant is trying but failing.  I don't know a blogger that I would describe as negatively biased, I have read blogs that I find positively biased but they are not for me.

Sincere apologies to critics but I would doubt the motivations of critics more than bloggers and that's because their motivation is very different.  Critics have deadlines, they have word counts, they have regular submissions and most importantly they have to write entertaining pieces every bloody time.  Logically this means they are going to edge towards a polarised opinion rather than a middle of the road judgement.  Nobody wants to read a 'meh' review from a great writer, popular critics are much more inclined to either love or hate a restaurant with a strong message attached to it.  We have no such pressures.

If bloggers have an issue with a meal they should give details of this to the restaurant before they leave to allow them to make amends

I think it's a pretty well accepted fact that most people don't complain in restaurants, instead they walk out of the door unhappy, never return and tell their friends all about it.  I'm one of those people, I've probably only ever complained in a restaurant a handful of times when I experienced the most extreme examples of bad service or crappy food.  I'll tell you why I don't complain, it's because it's not a pleasurable experience.  The best case scenario is that you are going to have a difficult conversation with a restaurant manager who will be  apologetic and might give you some money off your bill, not a good experience.  The worst case scenario is that you are going to have a difficult conversation with a waiter who doesn't want to fetch a manager, followed by a difficult conversation with a manager who doesn't give a shit and the quality of service and food will actually go down, a horrible, night ruining experience.

It isn't quite as simple when you are blogging a meal though.  In regards to poor service, it's absolutely unacceptable and if a member of floor staff is consistently bad I'm going to put that in my review without complaining to a manager.  The general manager is responsible for employing that person and the floor manager is responsible for managing that person, that's three people in a row that don't care about service or made a mistake.  At that point it isn't my job to provide feedback.  Of course I do draw attention to late food/drinks/bill and my unhappiness over poor service is written all over my face which should be picked up by any good waiter or waitress.  In regards to poor food if there is a an obvious mishap like I get the wrong item I will of course send that back but if it's visibly poor food then again it's been cooked by a chef, sent by another chef and brought to the table by the waitress.  This has passed by at least three people who didn't care whether or not I enjoy my food.  Not my job to fix that.  Why should I go to the trouble of giving you feedback on the day and making my experience even worse?  At the end of the day I am still a customer who has paid to enjoy their meal and will not be financially benefited from writing a review, unlike a critic who I do think has more of a responsibility in this area.

So I'm only replicating what people do every day but of course instead of telling my friends I go on the internet and tell anyone who will read about it.  I do understand the frustration this might cause chefs and owners but like I said it's not my job, sorry.  That said on the flip side chefs get more feedback now than they ever have done as it's not only me who is more comfortable sharing their thoughts after the event.  Everybody does it, as soon as they are out of reach of the perceived wrath of the restaurant floor staff they are straight on Twitter tweeting "disappointing meal @restaurant", instant feedback from someone who previously would have disappeared never to return and if handled properly can not only win that customer back but stop that negative feeling from going any further.  Absolutely the same with blog posts, the restaurant gets its right to reply even if it is a little bit later than they would prefer.  Again if handled properly they can win new customers instead of lose them.

So that's it for me.  I think I've said enough regarding what I think about some chef's arguments.  As you can see I'm pretty overwhelmingly in favour of bloggers posting negative reviews but it does come with quite a big caveat.  Those reviews should be written in a responsible manner, now this is entirely subjective (and I am not talking about any particular reviews!) but for me this is what makes a responsible review...
  • It's all true - it may sound silly but if any part of the review is made up or exaggerated then it isn't responsible, I don't think I've ever heard of this happening but its still worth pointing out.
  • Criticism should be constructive where possible - A review shouldn't just be 50 different words for shit, there should be some justification as to the criticism.
  • Serious complaints shouldn't be trivialised - This is one I'm probably guilty of and is a symptom of not liking to write negative reviews.  We are talking about somebody's work that they might be very proud of, jokes are sometimes not the best way to deliver measured criticism.
  • A blogger should be prepared to expand on their comments - It should be a dialogue and if a chef/owner has some specific questions about the experience the blogger had then they should be answered.
So are all bloggers perfect?  Nope, sometimes we make mistakes but I think generally we're a good bunch who love food.  Are all chefs aggressive monsters?  Nope, I don't believe any of them are monsters, they are very passionate people but I have to say anybody who bullies or threatens a blogger and directs abusive language towards an individual for posting a review is never ever going to see me in their restaurant.  There are ways to deal with people and that isn't it no matter how passionate you are.

As I said at the beginning I'd love to hear other peoples' opinions on this, I realise that I'm not speaking for all bloggers here and at the same time I'm open to changing my opinion so please put your comments below and lets see if we can't spread a little bit of empathy and understanding.


  1. Hi all, I've asked people to comment here but I should just point out if we could keep our comments about the general points rather than individual incidents that would be great!

  2. To argue that you can’t criticise a restaurant/meal if you haven’t been a chef is to argue that you can’t say a movie was bad unless you’re a film director. That said, if I’m having brain surgery, I want someone with surgical qualifications, not just someone who has an opinion on brain surgery. But even that argument brings to mind that there is no formal qualification necessary to call yourself ‘chef’.

    To argue ‘leave me alone, I’m just pursuing my livelihood’ (not ‘lively hood’ which is presumably a neighbourhood where there are lots of parties) is to argue that no one in paid employment should be criticised. That of course is simply naïve. Football managers whose team fails to win games, CEOs whose company’s stock price fails to rise, pot washers who break one too many plates, all are subject to dismissal. We live in a market economy, when people hand over their money, customers to restaurants, employer to employees, they want something in return and will hold the recipient of money to account.

    Finally, we remain convinced that blogs have next to no lasting influence anyhow. There are parents out there who can’t even remember the birthdays of their own children, why it is thought that these same people should have an encyclopedic knowledge of an obscure amateur food blog is beyond me. I’ve asked many people over the past 6 months to recall two restaurants negatively reviewed by Giles Coren in 2012; no one I’ve asked has yet been able to do so.

    It was Northrop Frye that said censorship is to criticism what lynching is to justice. An ill judged negative review of a good restaurant will simply never have an impact. The time when a bad review stings most is when you know it to be true.

  3. What it all boils down to, in my humble opinion, is just one, very simple thing: [good] customer service.

    First let's state the obvious:

    Whoever that customer may be, a food-blogger, a critic, a student etc. they have come to your restaurant for an 'experience' worth parting with their hard-earned gold.

    As a restaurateur, if you would like to see your business grow, your service will extend to all aspects of your business, both online and in person and when dealing with customers and potential customers alike.

    As a chef, if you would like to see the full potential of your growth and abilities, you will not compromise on quality but you will take on board any constructive criticism, accept any mistakes that you may have made on occasion (or, for some, simply accept that mistakes can be made in the first place) and adjust where you and your experience tells you is necessary.

    And now for the issue:

    Ask any [ego-tistical] chef who, in their opinion, is able to make a valid complaint against their food, the answer you would invariably receive will be either: 'only themselves' (they are, of course, their greatest critics); or a fellow restaurateur or chef.

    "Critics will have an agenda, bloggers lack any credibility or experience and don't even get me started on students or TripAdvisors!"

    But take away the ego, pride and passion and what they're really saying is "How dare you air my dirty laundry in public!"

    In any case, they're wrong.

    Whether you like it or not, everyone is entitled to an opinion and [sadly] everyone is entitled to share that opinion, whether online or verbally.

    Obviously, you would rather that they tell you in person, but failing that (we are British afterall), whether it be on websites such as TripAdvisor or via their blog, surely it’s better for you to know just why they were dissatisfied, or what they felt went wrong (even if you disagree) than if they leave quietly, tell all of their friends, never return and go to your competitors instead?


  4. It’s almost better then, if they do express their opinions online.

    Unreasonable and irrational complaints tend to be disregarded by anyone with any intelligence and online forums usually provide the owner/chef with an opportunity to respond. And when that opinion seems to portray your restaurant or your food negatively, how you react to or deal with it makes all the difference.

    Someone's tweet following yesterday's spiralling fiasco summed it up nicely:

    "Was really looking forward to a trip to [RESTAURANT]. [BLOGGER]'s blog made me want to go more.. however, after the disgraceful manner in which the chef responded, it's left a sour taste in my mouth. What a shame... A dignified response would have generated so much more respect and would have made people go more.. deary me".

    Speaking as a restaurateur, I have a certain appreciation for food-bloggers.

    I enjoy a great relationship with many of them. Without generalising too much here - bloggers tend to be much more 'rounded', they explain their dissatisfaction in a more balanced way. They also tend to be more adventurous and appreciate the minor details - minor details which many others sometimes don't appreciate or sometimes oversee. Most importantly though, it's because they usually convey a reasonable opinion which is usually only based on their personal tastes, admittedly, but referenced by comparisons with other experiences in similar establishments elsewhere.

    And don't think I'm saying this only because bloggers all provide us with glowing reviews all of the time. Quite the opposite in fact:

    Years ago a certain popular website sent along their food-writers/critics/bloggers to one of our restaurants and it was possibly the most damning review we had ever received. In the comments below, some would express their disappointment, others would defend our cause but it lingered on the interest like a foul smell. We sat down with the chef and management, discussed the review at length and made changes where necessary. The restaurant is now currently ranked the number one restaurant (of that cuisine) in that area.

    Another, relatively new, food-blogger posted a review some years ago which provided a glowing review of the food and the restaurant but had been posted under an almost slanderous title. No amount of reasoning with the blogger could convince them to change their title. It still stings a little today. But they don’t enjoy the following or respect of certain other bloggers online and I consider that karma.

    A rather outspoken and controversial food-critic also once commented that the menu at our restaurant was ‘too predictable’ which was ‘a shame given the diversity and delicacy of the cuisine’. It was an otherwise good review but we couldn’t focus on anything else! We visited the home-land for inspiration and returned with a new menu which has received glowing reviews from bloggers, TripAdvisors and critics alike.

    The point is this.

    Unlike some TripAdvisors who, if you click on their previous history, brings up only a spate of other similar, polarised, negative reviews, or those customers who say thank you but leave unhappy and never return (and even the regular customers who, like your mum, will never have a bad word to say about you) the blogger will tell you what is good and bad about your business and if you have any sense, you will use that information in a constructive way to make your business that much more successful!

    And they all lived happily ever after.

  5. Wow, that is some post!

    I had contemplated writing something similar but I don't need to now as it wouldn't have come close to this in size or quality.

    I think thecriticalcouple has pretty much summed up my thoughts on the subject.

    Personally, I write for my own amusement. I'm genuinely staggered by how popular my blog & Twitter account have become and it was certainly never intended. I'm not a writer by any means, never had the slightest interesting in writing before and only do it because I love food and want to share my experiences. I didn't care when nobody read my blog now I'm glad I do have an audience and it's nice to know my writing is being read and people seem to appreciate if but I'd still do it anyway.

    I agree with you that we have some sort of duty to write negative reviews after negative experiences. Although I don't enjoy writing negative reviews because I'm generally positive I do believe in being totally honest. I always try to be as constructive as possible too.

    I also completely agree with your points about the damage negative reviews could potentially do. I would expand and say that the damage can be increased or decreased depending on how the review is dealt with by the restaurant. Much the same as good customer service can turn around a customer complaint. They could either ignore it which might be the best option, particularly if it's a one off as it will simply be lost amongst other more positive reviews. Or they could be proactive and try to fix it by apologising or inviting the person back etc..

    Or they could go on the defensive, get aggressive and abusive etc.. I can totally understand chefs being annoyed by bad reviews, especially good ones who care about their food. I can even just about see their point of view when they think we're not qualified to write about food, although I disagree because if we pay for it I believe we're entitled an opinion on it.

    What I really can't understand though is how they think being negative/abusive could possibly help in anyway, it clearly makes everything far worse.

  6. as a new blogger, and recent follower of many newly discovered food blogs, i watched yesterday's events with interest, and horror! I also have posted about it, though not quite so eloquently as you, but thought you may (or may not!) find it of interest.

    Your well written, and considered post made very interesting reading. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  7. I know this was Bailey's post but thought I'd also share my two pence... Whenever these 'flame wars' break out and the same argument comes out of "what do bloggers know anyway, tell them to come back when they've run a restaurant", I can't help but compare the situation to my own profession which I like to think I DO know a little bit about!!

    When a parent calls me up with a complaint / query about how I'm teaching their child, do I tell them "F off and come back to me when you've taught a class of 30 kids"? No, of course I don't. That would be ridiculous. I take on board what they are saying and yes, sometimes I might have to explain why I disagree with their point of view or why what they're suggesting wouldn't work. But at the end of the day those parents pay their taxes which pays my wages and if they're not satisfied that their kid is getting an education, then I better do something about it sharpish.

    Similarly, earlier this year I had the worst lesson observation feedback I've had from a senior colleague. I was gutted, but instead of burying my head in the sand and blaming the person who gave me the feedback, I made changes and came up with some of the best teaching ideas I've ever had. Some of the ideas I got from that feedback have made me more confident about my teaching and also gave me the confidence to go out and get a new job (in fact the ideas were commented on positively at interview). While it hurt at the time, getting the feedback was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my career.

    If I'd just brushed it off and refused to accept it I wouldn't be as good / happy / confident a teacher, simple as that.

    I can't see how a chef getting feedback, whoever it may be from, is any different. If anything, it's the bloggers' / customers' feedback they should want the most - they're the ones the bloody food is for!!!

  8. Good piece J&B.

    To throw my tuppence in. Manners cost nothing - no matter what side of this or any other argument people choose to have. As someone once said (no idea who - might've been my dad) "honourable men can differ". There really is never a need to make it a personal attack.

    If something is bad, then forget rights, freedom of speech and any other such politically correct reasons. If something is truly bad, in fact, if something falls anywhere on the scale from utterly shite to the best experience I've ever had, then I as the writer of my blog will write it honestly. As you've pointed out - it is a diary. It is my diary. If others choose to read it - that is entirely their choice. Just as it would be if they chose to pay any attention to what I had written. Moreover, it is one person's opinion. What I love others may hate and vice versa.

    I will, and have, happily discussed anything in my blog with anyone in person. If I didn't believe what I wrote at the time of writing it wouldn't have been written.

    Finally, in my day job I make a point of asking both customers and peers about how I am doing. There are, obviously, some occasions when I hear something that I do not like. This is not a personal attack. This is someone offering an opinion as to how I may do things differently in the future to make the experience better for them. Is this not how I continue to improve? And while I may never reach the goal of pleasing ALL of the people ALL of the time - should that stop me trying?

    Anyway - I'll leave it there. I've gone on almost as long as you ;-)

  9. Great post. I was going to add something similar to Jules in that, in my career, if my customers/clients criticise the service I'm delivering then it's my job to fix that.

    I might not always agree with them. I may indeed go home, drink a large glass of wine and call them all the wankers under the sun. But to their faces I have at all times to remain professional and address their concerns to the best of my ability (or make it clear why I can't).

    Social media brings as may negatives as it does benefits to businesses and it's not surprising that people f**k up every now and again, particularly when they are so passionate about what they do. But manners as thehungrymanc says cost nothing and it's hard to forget bad ones - whether of a blogger or a chef/owner.

    When I go to a restaurant I go first and foremost as a customer, not a blogger. If I've heard the chef make personal attacks on other customers, whether in the restaurant or on social media then that leaves a bad taste, no matter how great the food may be.

  10. I totally agree with what you've written and pretty much what everyone here has said!

    But there is another point that I don't think has been considered, and I'm not even sure that it's one considered by chefs to fuel their anger. I thought about it when I read the Critical Couple post on a similar topic and they discussed bloggers' relatively low readership in comparison to national newspapers' food critics.

    Whilst this is undoubtable, us bloggers do have a little more influence in the realm of the internet. I tested this with a popular Manchester restaurant earlier and this is what I found: if you are to type in "x restaurant reviews" chances are the first thing that pops up is Trip Advisor. After that there's a mixture of blog reviews, yelp, urbanspoon, the restaurant's own site and a couple of professional critics reviews. Whilst the readership of a critic in a national printed newspaper may have a huge audience reach, their opinion of said restaurant may be totally irrelevant to the majority of that readership.

    When searching for "x restaurant reviews" and said reviews appear - including those of paid critics (unless they work for the Times!) - the blog posts, press articles etc. become very relevant. I suppose my point is that even though a blog's readership might be tiny in comparison to a newspaper's, high authority blogs will appear in organic searches, thus becoming influential to those considering visiting a restaurant - in some cases more influential than a reviewer for print media (although this really only applies to instances when the article is only available in print).

    Criticism can be hard to take when it applies to something you are passionate about and believe you have done a good job on. Dealing with criticism in a face to face situation is even harder: it can be difficult to put on a smiling face, but we can give thanks to the internet for avoiding this! Even if we don't agree with criticism we can quite easily graciously accept it online whilst holding a voodoo doll in the other hand. Top tip!

  11. Thanks everyone for commenting and participating in what must be a Guinness World Record breaking long post. I've really enjoyed reading what everybody else had to say but my only regret is that we only really got one opinion on here, I would have very much liked it if we got the other side of the story from a chef or owner who didn't agree with the post even if they did it anonymously. Sadly that doesn't look like it's going to happen and I'm not sure why. I hope that they have read this post and maybe they have rethought their relationship with bloggers as well as seeing that we aren't really out to 'get' anybody. Here's hoping.

  12. For a long post i'm going to stick to a pretty short comment to mostly reiterate what I said on twitter which is from the perspective of a chef - I think this is a really good, balanced and well thought out blog. I do think both bloggers and chefs could at times strive to have more empathy and, whilst criticism is fine, the tone in which it is provided needs to thought about sometimes, as does the way some chefs can respond to negative feedback.

    In general it's worth remembering that most of the time as a foodie community people are very supportive of each other and bloggers and restaurants are symbiotic to a degree.

    I choose to generally think about this stuff coloured by my experiences of how positive and supportive an online foodie community mixxed of chefs and bloggers can be. So I'd think that is something to keep in mind and try to promote.

    1. Great point - especially what you say about the tone. As soon as you write something you have to think about how it could be perceived as things sound different when you can't see the person's facial expression / body language etc!

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