Sunday, 24 April 2011

A sinister purpose

Inevitably, an article on technology's infiltration of the dining room was going to raise the topic of bloggers and photographers, and, inevitably, that the article was published in the mainstream press suggested to me that it would be hostile to new media in general.

But was this really necessary?
“Going to a restaurant has always been a privilege and a pleasure,” says [David] Coomer, of Pata Negra. “It’d be great for people to realise that.

“Bloggers aren’t really there for a purpose, as they have a more sinister purpose. These days chefs are under a constant review process and, yes, it does shit me.”
 1. These days? Sorry? In a sense, we are always reviewing a restaurant, cafe, chef etc whenever we go out. We may tell friends that the food was ace, or the fish overcooked, or the waiter negligent, that we saw a rat trap near the kitchen door (and worse - says I who had an unspeakable experience in Camberwell many years ago). Blogging just formalises those reviews and makes them available to a wider audience.

2. Sinister purpose? I doubt that many bloggers go to restaurants simply to have some material for rude comments later. Most blog reviews seem to involve the author coughing up their own hard-earned money - unlike restaurant reviewers - and I for one am not going to throw dollars at a meal if I expect or want it to be rubbish.

That's why it's even more irksome if it's not quite up to scratch - and many failings I have seen crop up in reviews (professional and amateur) seem to hinge on simple mistakes, like under/over seasoning or under/over cooking flesh. Professional chefs shouldn't make these errors. That's why they are paid to cook.

3. Mr Coomer's comments do, however, sum up what is wrong with retail and hospitality in general in Australia - the customer is always wrong. Whatever happened to trying to please people, without whom they would be out of a job? If people aren't happy with a meal, rather than childishly throwing insults and whingeing, why not find out whether there is some good reason for the complaint, and use it to improve in the future?


The Razza said...

I will coment on only one thing, your ignorant comment,"Most blog reviews seem to involve the author coughing up their own hard-earned money - unlike restaurant reviewers." Kindly check your facts about restaurant reviewers before generalising about a matter you clearly know nothing about.

With kind thanks.

Michael H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael H said...

The Razza's comments and the article in question are just another demonstration of an industry and their hangers on trying to build up walled gardens.

Your post gets it right on the money. The fact is that all businesses are under constant scrutiny, and the sooner they wake up to this fact and realise the value new media provides them in being a better business the better.

Instead of moaning about new media and their business, they should be engaging. Looking for what is being said about them, finding those who've had good expeirences and thanking them - and identifying those where things might have gone wrong, and making an effort to address the issues and rectify accordingly.

And worse, there is a large body of work out there which shows them how to do it effectively and bring additional value to their business. But do they use it and learn from it? *crickets*.

Sadly, most busines owners have forgot the 1x10x10 rule (One wronged customer tells ten friends, who each tell ten others).

And further, the online audience is discerning and knows how to spot those with an axe to grind. Those reviews with an obvious modus operandi or pre-disposed viewpoint are more often than not disguarded by viewers who seek out real, honest and balanced opinion and information to help form a fair view.

Food bloggers and online reviewers are of value to the wider population, and simply expedite survival of the fittest. Let the weak restaurants die at the hands of honest reviews I say, bring on more food bloggers and reviewers - we need them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the "sinister comment" undermines whatever valid points he was trying to make. Overwhelmingly, the subjects of our reviews in Melbourne's western suburbs are happy to get coverage otherwise denied them by "restaurant critics". We believe our reviews are fair. We do our thing as discreetly as possible. We always pay.

Anonymous said...

Besides, at the places (and prices) we eat and adore, introducing the idea of "intellectual property rights" would no doubt be met with uproarious laughter by both management and punters!

And has anyone noticed that compared to the many varied and excellent blogs - choose your own - the Good Food Guides and Cheap Eats are already of date when they're published?

T.X. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eat to Live said...

The Razza - my understanding is that restaurant reviewers (of the Fairfax/News Limited variety) are: one, employed to review; two, reimbursed, even if not to cover the whole amount; three, can at least claim work-related expenses when doing their tax return.

JP said...

Rather interesting the comment “Going to a restaurant has always been a privilege and a pleasure”, what the chef has forgotten here is who should be privileged, the restaurant or the diner? The diner has the choice of where they go and how much they spend so I think the comment is the wrong way round.
The attitude of owners should always be the next diner could be a "food critic" so should be to delivering to the best standards that a restaurant can offer. When a restaurant is sending out food that is lower than the best they are capable of then they do deserve to be criticised. I don't expect Vue de Monde at the local chinese restaurant, but I don't expect overcooked or undercooked food and if it is not cooked properly i expect both to be apologetic and rectify the situation back to a level of satisfaction. The second a restaurant starts to think they are right and the diner is wrong is when I think they may have been in it too long or don't care.
Blogs and sites like Urbanspoon make it a lot easier to get views of the general public rather than those of the paid establishments that can have some very questionable levels of independence.

K said...

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