Remember when your dining experience was not influenced by online posts written by a complete stranger stating how nice the restaurant is and how awesome the service was and fancy pictures of generous portions of food? Remember how you actually had to go there and try for yourself to judge their food as opposed to read endorsements by someone who might probably not share your likes and dislikes in food? Forget about that.
Whenever I hear about a new restaurant in town, I kind of feel skeptical about going there and paying a big amount only to get disappointed. Again.
The food industry here has been blooming and every other day we hear about a new restaurant owned by a couple of young, enthusiastic people. Don’t get me wrong, I fully respect and support that as at least they are trying to achieve something at an early age and they deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts. What I don’t get are the reviews some bloggers write.
I recall once reading about this “awesome” new restaurant on many blogs. All I saw were pictures of food, a walk though and thanks to the manager and team. Some bloggers complained about the service which is what I consider the REAL DEAL. But in general, the reviews were almost 8 out of 10.
Me not being the famous person that I shouldn’t be, I decide to go there and give it a try taking note of the lazy waitress some complained about. I order, I wait forever, my food is shitty. The burger is stale, the buns are soggy, the fries are drenched in oil and my damn coke has no fizz. I pay a large amount for more than a lazy waitress and shitty food. Nothing like what I read online by people who are supposed to just like us.. only with an extra spotlight.
Who do I blame here? The blogger or the restaurant?
Let me tell you how this goes because I’ve been on both sides and I can surely encourage you to blame both.
See, I used to work at a famous restaurant and my job was to interact with some of those bloggers to get them to come and try the food and maybe give us a little shout out. Please do bear in mind that I am TOTALLY AGAINST this practice. See, when you’re “inviting” someone to come and “try” your new menu, you’re actually putting them under pressure. They can’t possibly say anything bad when you’ve obviously been “generous” enough to offer them free food and recognition of their status in the local market. To me, it’s using those bloggers and their readers to get more dine ins.
You prepare your staff accordingly, discuss which menu items to force feed your bloggers and worst case, instruct your staff to prepare any “surprise” order with nothing less than perfection.
They show up, they are greeted warmly, given free access to whatever they want, handed out gifts or free dinner at their own convenience then they leave after it is made clear that they will write about their experience.
One of those events where bloggers were invited was a complete disaster. It was one big occasion and the management thought “why not invite those bloggers to come and enjoy their time and maybe write?”
It was a BAD idea. I, for one, realized the big disaster that was about to unfold when I walked into the place and saw over 300 people running around the place with a buffet less than the restaurant would want to present to stray dogs!
The place was packed, the AC was dying, the drinks were being rushed through the bar and the food was nothing more than a pile of shit. The decoration? Hilarious. Not in a good way. The crew was dressed in ridiculous outfits. Ladies fidgeting in tight dresses with long slits bearing their legs and it was plain insulting to see them suffer with assholes giving remarks that would surely put them in jail for sexual harassment.
I stood there waiting for the bloggers wishing they would NEVER show up to see this carnival.
As the first blogger walked in, I could tell by the look on her face that my predictions were accurate. WE ARE SCREEEEEEEEEEWED.
She was absolutely terrified and she tried her best to conceal it but I could feel her. I tried to make it easy by shifting her to a comfortable, quiet table but it didn’t work. The lady just asked for some water, took a couple of pictures and disappeared. Another couple of bloggers walked in and I did the same. They didn’t seem to be bothered with what was going on as they directly asked for a specific table they’d reserved and they seemed to enjoy the night. The disastrous night passed and I truly wished it would never happen again.
I go online to see what was going on and it was exactly what I expected. The lady blogger was tweeting her shock to fellow bloggers, trying to give them the warning signal. “Do NOT come here” was obviously what she was trying to deliver nicely to the other bloggers.
I read her post about the event later on and she was nice enough to thank the management for the invitation. She posted a couple of pictures and asked her readers to pay the place a visit at their own convenience and that’s it! She tried to point out that it was a bit crowded but believe me, being there and witnessing what she had witnessed was not included in her post. (I’ll get back to this point later)
The other bloggers however came up to me before leaving and complained about the bad service, the bad atmosphere and the management actually asking them not to order food from the menu because “there is a buffet and you’re not allowed to eat here!”.
Needless to say, those bloggers wrote about their experience as they didn’t feel obliged to write anything less than true since they also payed for their food and beverages.
I delivered that to the management and pointed out the incident but got no feedback.
What happened here was that the managers failed to recognize those bloggers and fell in the trap. They treated the bloggers like they would treat any other customer. 🙂
This is why I blame the restaurant’s management for the high expectations we as normal readers have when we walk through their doors and get treated nothing like the bloggers. They know they have to give topnotch food, service and quality to those bloggers to get more people to come and try but they fail to maintain that level of quality when a regular individual decides to walk in. I’ve even had close friends complaining about food and service telling me that they’d never come again and that the main reason they showed up was to say hi. I would flat out say: don’t come to say hi if you believe the place offers bad quality food or service. I don’t own it and if I had a say in all of this, I would be glad to help but I just don’t.
Why I blame bloggers? Well, let’s see. You were invited to an event which you KNEW you were supposed to write about. Does the fact that you were invited obligate you to be extra nice and not write your honest opinion? Only if I invited you to my place. And by place I mean HOME. If i were to invite you to my business, I expect you to treat it as it is: A BUSINESS.
As a blogger, you choose to be in charge of a tool that either educates people or leads them to their doom. This is in general, of course. Having a bad dining experience is not a life or death situation unless you get food poisoning. But how can you guarantee that not happening? When a restaurant decides to give you better treatment just because you have the power to shut down their business in one post -due to the fact that one bad post can tarnish their reputation-, you have to know that you are morally obliged to give your honest opinion regardless of the outcome. What they do to get you to write about their establishment is nothing but a marketing strategy and a way of turning your readers into their future diners. Whenever someone reads your blog and trusts your judgement but have a totally different experience, it’s both your neck and the restaurant’s at stake. I wouldn’t go back to the place for sure and I would also consider you as a blogger an accomplice for fake endorsements whether you mean it or not. I will not even discuss those bloggers who actually own restaurants or know the owners because any recommendation to me is regarded as a cheap attempt to fool the readers even if the restaurant is 10 out of 10. Let the readers go there and decide without you pushing them to it.
If I were that lady blogger, I would have at least wrote the following:
“I would first like to thank the management of (restaurant X) for inviting me to their (event X). However, I have the moral obligation to give my readers the truth about what happened that night with all due respect to the management as what I’ve experienced can’t be considered the level of service I would expect the restaurant to offer to its diners and my readers in specific.
This is what happened that night: the lovely lady walked us through the place which was obviously really packed. She tried her best to make us feel comfortable but she seemed to be in our same situation: complete shock. I totally understand that the occasion necessitates this but come on, people! Don’t you realize that the number of seats in the place cannot accommodate 300+ people?!
The waitresses looked ridiculous! I am sorry but this is not how you dress up a respectable employee. Some of those poor ladies were harassed and I can’t blame the assholes when the management failed to realize that they’re putting their employees in a ridiculous situation where they had to dress up like skanks while serving drinks and hors d’oeuvres smiling and ignoring those sexually abusive remarks and looks.
And what about the food? How can you possibly serve oriental food in an AMERICAN restaurant? The food was lousy, they spilled drinks all over the place and it was too damn hot!
The show was actually cool had they considered setting it up properly. I managed to snap a couple of pictures of this weird yet highly entertaining show and here they are.
If I would rate my experience that night, I would give it 1 out of 10 for the show. Make it 2 for the efforts of that lovely lady.
I would highly advise the management to reconsider future events as this is not what they want their customers to experience on any day. And pay for it! I was lucky enough to get an invitation and again, I thank you for that but for other people to pay for this is totally unacceptable!
Get your act straight!”
Now, this is how I would review a goddamn lousy restaurant.
What the blogger attempted to do was tiptoe around the whole situation, mentioning only the show and the fact that she was invited. She was trying to be courteous and decent and I salute her for that. But lady, this is a business. They pay money to get you to say whatever they want when they should be actually investing that money into giving out better quality of food and service and you are helping them by not saying the whole truth.
I also understand that some restaurants do not accept criticism very lightly (here’s an example). Some even threatened to take legal action against certain bloggers when they had their different say about the restaurant. I understand. Believe me, I wouldn’t want to go to jail for bashing my damn soggy burger but then, I wouldn’t accept invitations to begin with if that was the case.
Lately, I was asked by a friend of mine if I would review a restaurant. The first question I asked was “Are they paying for my visit?”. My friend said “No”. I was like “Cool, I’m in. But bear in mind that if I don’t like the food, they won’t like my review. I paid for it, it better be good.”
My friend hesitated as that would put him in trouble if my review was damn straight to the point. He knows I am always damn straight to the point. Needless to say, someone else did the review and I’m glad because I seriously don’t trust restaurants that revert to bloggers for publicity and I would technically be fishing for mistakes.
If I were to write a review, here’s how I would do it:
I take a shower, get dressed, gather my friends and hit the spot. I order my food, eat it, assess the whole situation and write about what I really think about the place, service and food. I wouldn’t need someone to send me an invitation to check out their place because I don’t need someone to drag me into their establishment while they could actually lure me in by authentic reviews and recommendations of REAL PEOPLE. People who do not get paid to write whatever they think is courteous enough rather than real.
You don’t have to be rude to write something real. You only have to know that your written words can actually be the reason why this crappy restaurant decided to invest more into pleasing its customers rather than just getting anyone to pay for shitty food and service and never walk in again. Your words, fellow more-famous bloggers, can be the reason to make things better or just add confetti to shit. It is still shit.
Use your platform wisely. Be a responsible figure and please, write a real review and do not accept an invitation unless you are willing to write the truth, the whole truth and NOTHING but the truth.