Do restaurant critics still matter?

Is every person with an internet connection a potential food critic?

by: Cathrine Shone | 29 Oct 2010
woman phone restaurant

 Restaurants should be more concerned about a customer with an iPhone or a Blackberry than a strange freeloader with the words ‘Food Critic’ tattooed on their forehead…

@food24 was tweeted an article a while back (via @mike_said_what) which included the above quote and I read it with interest as I am somewhat in agreement.

As the restaurant editor of Food24, I have read a truckload of restaurant reviews.

Many of them by the food writers I follow, your one who visits the “Top 20” and other new and trendy restaurants, who uses “fluffy verbs” to describe the food and who is sometimes disparaging about the décor (but mostly wildly enthusiastic about it).  Restaurants invite food writers/bloggers to experience the best of what they have to offer in order to get the word out there. “Hey we’ve opened up a restaurant. Here we are, come and try us out.”

The bulk of the reviews I read, however, are posted on Food24 from regular people who visit their local with no agenda other than to have a nice meal away from home.  I’m much more interested in these "real" accounts from restaurant goers because they represent a much larger audience, and personal attacks and hate speech aside, they certainly have no compunction relating the authentic experience. Warts and all.

I’m not saying that food critics don’t have a place in society any more, because of course they do. They deliver an interesting recount of their own experience (as per recommendation from the restaurant owner/chef/manager) and there is always handy information included in their write-ups. They generally write about new and "happening" places, they have a real passion for food, and their culinary knowledge extends beyond knowing the difference between fior de latte and buffalo mozzarella. A food blooger/critic worth their salt will always make great reccomendations.

Peer reviews, made by friends on Facebook, people you follow on twitter or your favourite food blogger are more valuable to the average restaurant goer than the opinions of food critics, who are frequently perceived as being "just after a freebie".

But does that make every person with an internet connection a ‘foodie?’

My view? It’s all about the followers. Sure anyone can tweet or facebook a picture with an opinion… but who is really listening? If you post one glowing review after another it gets boring rather quickly?  And as far as taking a hatchet to every place you go… nasty gets old fast too. And these days, with so many opinions flying around, you can afford to be picky about who's advice you take.

Either way, I believe reviews by Joe Public posted on popular websites, read by many people, are far more beneficial or harmful to restaurants than the traditional food critic’s little column. They are ubiquitous, accessible and (mostly) believable. And restaurants should take heed of every customer as they would a well known food writer.

Do you agree? Drop us an email or comment below and share your opinion.

Happy reviewing… everyone.

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