Free Food and Reviews, Another Thought

ouchHere is another event that happens from time-to-time around these hallowed halls—a company will deliver cupcakes, food, or products and get a negative mention on SideDish. Then they get all pissy. The same thing has happened with media dinners. I remember sending a writer to a media dinner at We Oui, or however you spell it. Months later when I published a negative review, owner Phil Romano called me and screamed, “But you told me you loved the place when you were at the media dinner.” I wasn’t at the media dinner but because someone from D was there and was polite or actually did like the meal that evening, Mr. Romano thought he’d “bought” a good review. (Romano called my boss and tried to have me fired.)

The same goes for restaurants that call and request a restaurant review or “listing.” I ask them to send a copy of the menu and tell them they will be considered for a review but there are never any guarantees. If I do decide to write about it and the review isn’t glowing, I usually get a phone call, e-mail, or letter complaining that I was unfair. Okay, carry on, just a thought.

7 comments on “Free Food and Reviews, Another Thought

  1. This type of attitude drives me crazy. I’m a business owner – and I deal with lots of vendors I’ve given piles of money to. If I have a complaint or problem with their service, they’d rather jump on my back, become defensive, and try to beat me up… instead of the appropriate response: apologizing for the situation and making it better.

    If I was a restaurant owner who had received a negative review, I would send you flowers, wine, etc. – with a “Thank You” for the review… and an acknowledgment of your experience. Plus, I’d include information that I’d taken your notes to heart, made changes to rectify the situation, and would like to invite you back soon to see the results. Critics are human beings. If any critic goes into a restaurant and has a bad experience, it’s possible that other human beings will, too. So if you get a bad review, fix the problem.

    And as for “buying reviews” with free food, that’s crazy. What value would a review had if readers knew that the review could be bought? If all reviews were glowing and happy? Give free food to announce your restaurant… but expect an honest review.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. Even “bought” reviews provide valuable publicity. If a new cupcake shop opens and sends gift certificates for a dozen free cupcakes to twenty different freelancers and bloggers, it doesn’t matter if a few of them trash the product. Then the next time the cupcake shop tries to get a publicity boost, they will just send the certificates to the freelancers and bloggers who said positive things about the product the first time.

    Restaurateurs and their PR firms aren’t stupid. They know which writers are for sale and which aren’t.

  3. Bravo, Jeff. It’s not like any professional reviewer sets out to be negative. And Nancy, remember this is the same Phil Romano that tried to sue the DMN and Dotty Griffith because he got a mildly critical, FOUR-star review for now-defunct Il Mulino. He needs to get an attitudectomy.

  4. Phil Romano did sue the DMN – and lost! They did dot have to retract the “bad” review but agreed to doing another review which turned out to be the same. That restaurant was very ill advised from the beginning.