Food Blogger Pays for Expensive "Freebie" Restaurant Meal, In More Ways than One

Aug 252010
 

The upscale eatery that invited the blogger to a meal.

Here’s a story that could have happened to any food blogger or restaurant reviewer who receives email invitations to restaurants.

A restaurant p.r. person invited a food blogger to a “food tasting session,”  where she said the restaurant would host him for lunch.

The food blogger couldn’t make it at the suggested time, and later sent an email saying he’d be in the following Sunday for brunch, not lunch. He did not confirm that he expected it would still be a “food tasting session” where he would be hosted.

Lesson #1: If you’re changing the game plan, seek confirmation that you can still be hosted. Just because a restaurant invited you to a specific event doesn’t mean you can show up any time for a free meal.

The p.r. person asked if he would be bringing a guest to brunch. He replied that he’d be bringing 3 friends!

Lesson #2: If you’re going to a “food tasting session,” you are working. Do not bring extra people as though you are out socializing. If the restaurant says you can bring a guest, that means 1 person.

That Sunday, the food blogger and his pals enjoyed a fine brunch over several hours, including champagne. At the end of the meal, the restaurant presented the blogger with a bill for about $320 US. Needless to say, he hadn’t seen that coming. After much discussion, the restaurant reduced the amount to $117 US. The blogger paid, but he was furious and stormed out.

Somehow the story got into the press, and then a second story followed quoting outraged food bloggers who made some good points, but did not have all the information.

Then the blogger tried to explain it all on his blog, and he apologized for being rude. But sorry, he fell short because he failed to observe Lessons #1 and # 2. He also said he assumes everyone knows that food bloggers don’t pay for their meals. You know what they say about assuming: it makes an ASS out of U and ME.)

And then the restaurant put out a press release suggesting “a possible formation of … an association/society, which cultivates and promotes the appropriate manner of blogging and blogger’s etiquette. There should be some guidelines and policies implemented to avoid any similar incidents from occurring again.” Good idea.

So what should Lesson #3 be? I’d say “Don’t take or expect free meals,” but I’m old fashioned.

Thanks to Nathan Lau for alerting me to this story.

For more on freebies, see this post on guidelines on taking freebies.

  70 Responses to “Food Blogger Pays for Expensive "Freebie" Restaurant Meal, In More Ways than One”

  1. Somehow it seems that if the restaurant knows you are coming and offers free meals, you are not really experiencing what the “real customers or clients” are getting when they visit. The best blog posts, for me, are the ones that capture the everyday excitement and character of a restaurant and feature menu items that they have chosen for what they expect them to be. I am with you Dianne, don’t take or expect free meals – if you do, you have to ask yourself if it is really “free.”

    • Yes, that is true for reviews.

      Many writers just write “about” the restaurant. They don’t “review” it. If you write negative comments in a review, you might get off the restaurant’s freebie list.

  2. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of restaurants inviting food writers and bloggers to “food tasting session”, but it does seem as though this blogger was stepping on the toes of basic hospitality.

    If, as he says in his rebuttal to the brouhaha, he “asked for no waiver” for himself and his guests, then why was he hostile when asked to pay for his bill. Why did he haggle over the bill? It simply does not compute.

    • Agreed. He also says in the post that “everyone” knows that food bloggers don’t have to pay for restaurant meals. So that doesn’t compute either.

    • (I’m assuming here – uh oh)

      I’d say he was hostile because he expected to not have to pay anything at first, and then managed to get him and one guest (plus the alcohol) comped. But he still had to pay for his two other friends, which means he “lost face” with them. Losing face is a big deal in Asian cultures.

    • Will people attending the International Food Blogger’s Conference this weekend in Seattle bring the topic up at the Ethics session on Saturday?

      I do support the adoption of ethical guidelines regarding food bloggers doing restaurant “reviews”. As you said, bloggers don’t consider themselves journalists. They don’t all adhere to journalistic standards. But at least there should be some food blogger ethical standards.

      The Food Blog Code of Ethics http://foodethics.wordpress.com/the-code/ is a start but I don’t think it goes far enough to cover this kind of activity. Neither does the Association of Food Journalists Critics Guidelines http://www.afjonline.com/afj.aspx?pgID=887 or Blog With Integrity http://www.blogwithintegrity.com/

      Do you know of any other attempts at coming up with ethical guidelines for food bloggers?

      Of course, not all food bloggers are going to want to follow the rules. They’re too blinded by the prospect of being feted with free food. But I think if enough respected food bloggers start talking about ethics more, we can get the ball rolling and something good will coalesce out of it.

      • Possibly! I’ll be there.

        No, I don’t know of any other guidelines other than my own post on freebies, which is not extensive.

        Most bloggers have no income from their blogs, and therefore believe they can’t go to fancy restaurants unless someone else is footing the bill. At least that’s the rationale. And they get wooed by p.r. people to come have a free meal at a hot new place, which makes it very tempting.

        I guess the people who believe its fine to go are not going to comment on this blog. That’s a shame.

  3. Infuriating. I never expect anything, and I do my best to remain anonymous all the time. For me, it’s a reason I don’t do restaurant reviews – because I feel like a set-up tasting is an artificial experience (besides, that’s not really my blog’s purpose anyway). Entitlement, entitlement. So ugly.

    • Remaining anonymous, though, puts you in a perfect position to do restaurant reviews. You are having the same customer experience as everyone else.

  4. I have only had one free meal offered to me in my 16 months’ blogging and I admit it felt weird to be there and have them know who I was and then write about it. Fortunately I liked the food but I did have some constructive criticism for them and I wrote that in the post.

    I certainly don’t expect free meals, let alone ask for them. Recently I dined with my 4 family members at CIA Greystone’s Wine Spectator restaurant in Napa and I received an email from the head of PR complimenting my writeup (even though there was some very harsh criticism of the wait staff) and inquiring had I been hosted by them. Since I would never contact a restaurant and ask them for a freebie when I am eating out with my family, I responded that I had not and reiterated the point about the waitstaff and she said she would pass it on to the restaurant staff. So that was positive but had I been hosted by them I would have felt mighty uncomfortable writing that. Although had I been hosted by them, I doubt I would have received such poor service….

    At the end of the day, yes a freebie is nice but at what price. I prefer to be able to experience the real deal…

  5. As a chocolate shop owner I’ve experienced the good and bad. I’m comfortable with scheduling a meeting with a blogger where they come in alone and I offer free samples, going through and explaining each one so they can really get a story out of it.

    What I don’t like is the occasional blogger who comes in unannounced, orders a bunch of chocolates and then as they’re checking out says, “By the way, I’m a food blogger so can I get discount?” The answer is usually “no” because a)everybody blogs now and b)even if you’re famous, you didn’t give us a heads up to google you and verify it.

    I’ve also had an invited guest bring in her bratty 10 year-olds to partake in the sample session. That was more than infuriating, especially when she told them they could try whatever they wanted, expecting it all to be free.

  6. My Rules: “Nothing is FREE” and “Don’t be a PIG”
    Something is always expected in return – whether spoken or unspoken. It is important that we as bloggers understand this, respect it and don’t walk around like big “Chazzers” (pigs).

    • Yes, exactly. When you get something for free there is always an expectation of something in return. And in the case of writers, it’s that we will write about it. Unspoken: in a positive way.

  7. I have to confess that the blogger’s behavior baffles me. But then, I my undergraduate degree was in journalism (back before blogs were popular, this was 10+ years ago). Lesson #1 was always don’t accept payola. It’s been a little strange navigating these new waters. I do accept review copies of books but make it clear that I’m not obligated to write nice things. I haven’t been offered any trips or free meals, but if I do get a press pass to an event I’ll probably take it.

    • Yeah, mine too. I’m old school too.

      And speaking of old school, restaurant reviewers have been complaining about a new generation of food bloggers who go to soft restaurant openings and write about them. They’re invited to eat for free, everyone knows who they are, and they write posts, not reviews. This way they scoop the reviewers, who generally wait a while to review.

      • As an old-line critic, I have to say I find the practice incredibly annoying. Even if I reviewed a place based on a meal the day it opens, which I don’t, I’d still be a week behind the bloggers who get comped during friends and family, take pictures of every course, and add a couple of tired adjectives to plump out the post. In a way, it’s like covering a baseball season by writing about a spring training game in Florida.

        The way I review is the correct way I believe, 3-5 (or more) meals, as anonymous as I can manage, spread out over a couple of months, plus a day or so of reflection and outside research, but there is often a whiff of staleness to that approach these days. And publications that should know better have been rushing reviews into print way, way before the restaurants have settled into their grooves.

        • Yeah, you’re old school. But think about this: people are paying full price for their meals while the restaurant is settling into its groove. So to bloggers, it’s fair game.

  8. Blogging is forcing a whole new language to be written about PR and etiquette, and it isn’t just about food bloggers. There are, equally, some pretty bad PR folks out there too.
    This guy just sounds like a cocky SOB, using his hobby as a platform for free stuff. And sadly, he isn’t the only one out there doing so.

    • Yep, I’ve written about guys like him before:
      Food Writer Busted on Free Wedding Meal

    • I’d have to say, from what I read, that the PR person is partly to blame as well. I don’t think she handled the blogger’s visit correctly. If you read the SMS texts between the blogger and the PR person, she said she’d be “around” when he came to visit. But no mention is made of her being there to smooth things over.

      Granted, the blogger probably shouldn’t have gone with the attitude that he was gonna get his meal comped. But the PR person could have been more clear about the conditions of his visit.

      • That’s a good point. She also did not tell him that his meal would not be comped, although maybe she did not know at that time, and perhaps it was not up to her.

    • Further update.

      *If* the XiaXue blog is to be believed http://xiaxue.blogspot.com/2010/08/everybody-hates-bloggers.html (careful, the post is loaded with f-bombs), then the PR person *was* there at the restaurant and spoke with the blogger about why he needed to pay for his 2 companions. The blogger, irritated but hardly rude, paid and left after thanking the PR person. The PR person even asked for him to arrange to come back for dinner.

      Shortly afterward, the one-sided story was leaked to Yahoo about the food blogger demanding free food and then getting huffy about having to pay.

      If this is true, then I don’t know about you but I smell a rat.

      Someone’s credibility, rightly or wrongly, is ruined. This blogger got burned.

      “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Indeed.

      • I was thinking that too. Whoever wrote the story did not fact check. It is sad that it got blown out of proportion, but there are still lessons to be learned.

        Her post was a little hard to follow, but some good info in there about what really did happen. Thanks for sending.

  9. All of the “freebie” stuff is appalling to me, but like Wendy (The Local Cook), I went to J-school before blogs existed. Thus, I have a view of ethical behavior & standards shaped by old-school practicing journalists. I think the Association of Food Journalists has wonderful guidelines for writers who cover restaurants, and more internet food writers should review the guidelines: http://www.afjonline.com/afj.aspx?pgID=887

  10. I’m reeling a bit from this; a sense of entitlement because we blog about food (and in my case wine). I’ve been fortunate to have been feted by a couple of different restaurants who actually invited bloggers on Twitter to sample their dishes. But those were by invitation, it was made clear that I’m not a reviewer but will just offer my personal impression on an amateur level and that was well understood and accepetable for everyone involved. The same with wine.

    But I have to say, that has never led me to feel I should mention I’m a food blogger and expect ANYTHING complimentary. If I go to dinner, I expect to pay. Period. It’s embarrassing to read of such behavior as it tends to give a group as a whole a bad name. I see food bloggers lately with expectations of compensation or sponsorships as if they are God’s gift and wonder..are they? I mean who is reviewing the bloggers?

    • Barbara, you set expectations and followed them. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

      As for who is reviewing the bloggers? I am. And usually bad behavior makes the news, at least online.

      • The firestorm of criticism about this blogger has really taken its toll on his reputation. His “apology” is not being well received. This ought to make many of the “entitlement” bloggers stop and think about their actions and attitudes.

        One can hope.

  11. if you get a free meal it counts for nothing as far as a review… bloggers need to try to stop getting over on restaurants and the staff cause most of then dont tip right either. if you go out for a free meal hook up your severs… we are the ones that delegate and are the middle men for your experience… the restaurant just sees a ticket in the kitchen.

  12. Agreed with what everyone said.. so sad there are still people defending him over here in Singapore…

    http://ubookmark.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/no-no-darling…/

  13. I’ve read about this as well, and if this bad behaviour by the food blogger were true, this makes the rest of us look bad. I’m the complete opposite when I dine out or when I visit food establishments/shops; I don’t ever want to be known as someone other than a regular consumer. A few times, family and friends mention about my blog–not to ask for anything, but out of their pride for me and my hobby–to the wait staff, managers, or owners, and I basically want to just disappear. I like the anonymity, I can pay for my own, and don’t want to have the burden of getting “free”. When I like a place, I ask them for their card and tell them that I’d love to recommend them to others.

    I have to admit that although I mentioned feeling guilty about free things, I don’t feel quite as bad about conference swag.

    P.S. See you this weekend!

    • I feel the same way when I dine out, and I don’t even cover restaurants in my blog. I don’t feel guilty about conference swag either, except for one incident earlier in the life of this blog, about a pitcher.

      See you in a few days!

  14. No matter what actually happened, stories like this coming out in the media are so infuriating as they bring a bad name to the rest of us. When I tell someone I have a food blog, it’s not uncommon to then be asked if I’m one of those “freebie-grubbing” bloggers who demands free meals at restaurants etc. etc… I’ve instead started using the term “cooking blog” to avoid the neg. stereotype that’s reinforced in the public mind each time incidents like this occur. Why can’t the media also write about the great things some food bloggers do, such as collaborating to create a cookbook to raise funds for Haitian relief? Something to let the rest of the world realize not all of us are accurately portrayed by those articles.

    • Good point. He was not accurately portrayed.

      As for why the media doesn’t write about the good things bloggers do, it’s because that’s not how it works. The world is presumed to be a good and normal place (dog bites man); so when something unusual happens (man bites dog), it’s news.

      To my point, here’s another short post about a prima donna.

  15. I was invited to a high-end Paris restaurant by a Brit reality show.
    I was told upfront that I would have to fork over 40 euros so I could be considered ‘unbiased’. I dragged along poor Amy of SweetFreak, which was fine with them.
    They were testing out specially-trained British servers/waiter staff brought over into a French environment. And we were the guinea pigs and the judges to boot.
    It was a complete trainwreck.
    I asked if I might take some photos for my blog and was chastized up and down. NO WAY! Not until the show had aired in the UK-no dates were offered.
    The entire restaurant was full of so-called invited ‘guests’ like us. As soon as they opened the reataurant’s famous ceiling, everyone got out their cameras and started shooting like crazy. Natch I joined in.
    The food was late, cold, badly served=everything was so hellish it was ridiculous. And they had the nerve to ask our opinions clearly expecting for positive responses.
    All I can say is blogger ‘guest’ BEWARE!

    • This would make a hilarious post! Did you blog about it? But you are right — what a nightmare. It must have sounded like fun at the beginning, and you were probably flattered to be invited.

      • My initial response was disinterest. I find fancy places way too pretentious, but Amy said, “Let’s do it!”
        I’d LOVE to blog about it but we were threatened with lawyers tracking us down. At least before the airing of the “Service” show on the BBC. They do this regularly – drag in ‘paying’ ‘guests’ to test out the novice staff in a different restaurant site each show = A weekly trainwreck evidently.

  16. I have never been approached but I think I would probably feel most uncomfortable if I were doing a review. The feeling of entitlement this blogger displayed is not something I agree with. I do think good communication is a must and probably could have avoided this from the beginning.

    • I’m sure you will be approached at some point. It just comes with the territory. Feeling uncomfortable is a good reaction, Grace.

  17. I most definitely agree with you. If one is accepting such an invite, one must be professional about it.
    As for doing a review of a restaurant, I think it might be a good idea when accepting a free meal (just like for cookbooks and products) to point out to the sponsor that the review would be unbiased.

    • I’m not sure that many bloggers “review,” vs. “post.” They are not the same thing. If you expect to get a lot of free meals it would not be in your best interests to be critical.

      • The blogger’s policy regarding restaurant invitations is posted on his site

        http://www.ladyironchef.com/advertising/

        where it clearly states “I accept invitations for an invited food tasting session, but do note that invited tastings are non-obligatory; I reserve the right not to blog about it, and the restaurant has no say over whatever I wrote. ” Which is essentially what he told the restaurant’s operations director upon paying.

        Looking at it from the restaurant’s side, this blogger invited himself and his friends to come on a time of his choosing instead of the originally arranged date. They further inconvenienced the restaurant staff by coming in at staggered times, even going past normal operating hours for the brunch. Then the blogger got the restaurant to comp more than half the meal. And finally this blogger says he might not even post about the restaurant, implying that the food wasn’t good.

        I’d be insulted too!

        Would I be inclined to then start an online controversy to slam the blogger and make my restaurant look good in the process?

        Hm.

  18. It’s bloggers like this – ones that expect special treatment because they, um, blog – that give us all a bad name. It’s greedy to expect a restaurant to host you and your group of friends and feed you a big ol’ variety of foods and champagne when you feel like it.

    And really, while in some tastings are valuable (such as when a restaurant releases a new menu and wants to introduce it to a whole segment), the more valuable restaurant reviews and visits are conducted when they don’t know you are writing about them. I think anyway. That’s the real experience of eating there … The one that everyone would have. I think, anyway.

    • Re the blogger, now I’m starting to feel a little sorry for him, but in general, he screwed up.

      You are absolutely right about reviewing, Sarah. Most of us can choose what price range we can afford, and we are not so well known that we will be recognized.

      • This blogger *is* well recognized as one of the top restaurant “review” sites in Singapore, and is regularly invited for tastings. In the highly competitive world of restaurants in Singapore, getting attention from his blog is valuable. He gets so many invitations, he actually has posted his policy about it

        http://www.ladyironchef.com/advertising/

        So I would say he has a certain expectation of how an invited review works.

        Granted, he didn’t come on the day he was invited for, and he brought more guests than asked. He shouldn’t have expected the special “invitation treatment” that he would have got had he come at the appointed time. Maybe all this “invitation treatment” has made him too prideful. Maybe his Internet fame has made him some enemies.

        Maybe this situation can be a good thing, as long as we use it as a learning experience.

        • Good for him for posting a policy about it. Very professional. I suppose I shouldn’t focus on how a restaurant can pay him to write advertorial, but I couldn’t help but notice. I didn’t see anything on his blog marked as advertorial, though. I wonder where he runs the stuff, or whether readers have no idea which is which.

          Anyway, I’m hoping it’s a good learning experience. I don’t know if there are people who read this post who do take free meals and have no intention of saying so on my blog. They might be torn to shreds with this group.

          • It has certainly made me and Annie discuss what would we do in the event (hasn’t happened yet!) we one day get invited to a restaurant.

            Thanks for providing this forum for discussion!

  19. Wow, interesting story, thanks for sharing it Dianne. This is a bit shocking to me. I think if I were offered a freebie meal, I would appreciate it, but I certainly woudn’t expect it. To be honest, restaurants and small manufacturers don’t have hefty margins, I don’t really feel right about taking “freebies” in that respect. I think a lot of food bloggerse a) think their reviews have more influence than they really do and b) don’t realize how hard it is to run and grow a small business. It is important to be considerate, communicate, and certainly not to expect anything!

    • You are most welcome, Alisa. I don’t think most bloggers see it from the point of view of the restaurant.

      I am always flattered to be included when I get a rare email about a free meal at a hot new restaurant. I just don’t go. Since I don’t even write about restaurant meals on this blog, I’m not even sure why they’re inviting me! I’ve talked to other people about this who say I should just go, see what it’s like and enjoy a good meal, but I don’t feel right about it.

  20. Dianne, I agree with you, I would never accept a free meal. I think it is much better to dine anonomously and if you enjoy the restaurant,blog about it. If you don’t like the food or don’t have a great experience what is the point of blogging about. it, other to hurt someone’s business or livelyhood. If it is consistently bad then the marketplace will put them out of business soon enough.

    • Linda, it depends what kind of restaurant it is. For a little mom and pop place, I wouldn’t write a negative review, but for a big restaurant that charges a lot of money, I would. I don’t agree that blogs should be all positive all the time. It makes for boring reading.

  21. Call me old school, but the sense of entitlement — not to mention downright rudeness — is off the charts in this case. As for the lack of professionalism, don’t get me started.

    What I’m noticing when I report on restaurant folks is their total surprise when I insist that I pay for my own food. That tells me that lots of so-called journalists are happy to take handouts.

    I’m so glad you continue the conversation on this subject. I know it will come up this weekend as well.

  22. Although the Michelin Guide may be be derided and considered outdated by some, one thing I have always given it credit for is that the inspectors are anonymous and always pay for their own meals. I am not a famous restaurant critic (probably never will be!) but integrity is integrity. How else can a reader trust you as a writer if you get special treatment because you made your presence known in an establishment? I know these bloggers food tastings exist, the world is changing, yaddah yaddah yaddah. Fine, attend the tasting (along with everyone else, no freeloaders please), disclose the fact on your blog that you were invited, and finally, be honest. Not mean, just tell it like it is. ‘Nuff said.

    • Good idea to bring up the Michelin guide. Of course, they pay their reviewers, so entitlement does not come up.

  23. I posted my thoughts re the ethics of all this on your facebook post, but having reread all this, checking out the offending blogger’s post and Wendy, his “defender’s” recap, I am more against at what appears to be a blanket acceptance of what is blithely called “advertorial,” or basically posts for hire. I don’t think this is much of a U.S. thing yet, but it scares me terribly.

  24. Dianne:

    Love this thread. One of the the things I like about food bloggers is that they are for the most part not journalists. Any Mom or Pop can blog. I love reading a unique ‘not honed by journalism school ‘ perspective. That is the beauty of the net. If a restauranteur does not like what a food blogger writes, he can write his own food blog or give a misleading scoop to rival blogger.

    • I would say they are untrained journalists. How’s that for a moniker? It’s a beautiful thing but can also lead to problems. Bloggers have to educate themselves. That’s one of the reasons to read this blog.

  25. I haven’t reviewed or posted about restaurants. To be honest, I never understood how anyone can accurately review a restaurant based on one visit, comped or not. I’m always hesitant to call a restaurant good and instead say such and such dish is good or describe the atmosphere.

    I don’t think there can be one cohesive blog code b/c people blog with different goals in mind. However, it does annoy me when people appear to be shilling junk just b/c they got it for free.

    As for the blogger’s bad behavior, if that’s what really happened, I imagine there are some cultural nuances I’m missing. Whatever happened, it seems as though the PR should carry a good share of the burden as well.

    • Yes I think you’re right, Vanessa. My guess is that she didn’t think about his expectation of not paying and didn’t bother to bring it up. Re reviewing, the standard is to go three times. But that’s a lot of money for many bloggers, which is why it seems to be rare to read reviews on blogs.

  26. I found my way via another blog I was visiting. I guess I’m wondering why bloggers would even think that they should be comped for anything? I know that Pioneer Woman does a lot of give aways that are paid for by the companies supplying the goods, and have seen many giveaways on the cooking blogs I visit, which is usually a cookbook, or a spice set, or an apron-and most will put a disclaimer on that the product was supplied by XXX and that they did not agree to write a favorable post or get compensated in any way. I’m rambling I know, but just because I have a blog that maybe 50 people read (and would never be recognized, even in my small town) would I think I should be comped anything.

    Have I done restaurant reviews? Not really, but have told of some delicious meals I have had out and said if you were in that particular neck of the woods you might want to try them out. I’m not a journalist-heck I have problems with proper grammer most days, and I never portray myself that way.

    Blogging, for me, is a chance to express how I made a nice dinner, that my daughter got accepted into her college of choice, how my cat doesn’t know she is a cat, and to find other people with similar interests and form cyber-friendships. This gives all bloggers a bad name and makes me sad that as a nation and as a world, we are this shallow and looking for a handout.

    • We think we should be comped because people comp us! Ex. I just got a $300+ value goodie bag from Sur La Table when I attended the IFBC. Sure, I put half the stuff in it into the donation box, but I liked what I kept. I am not sure what kind of press SLT will get from it, but they wouldn’t have done it unless they thought it was worthwhile. I get emails about whether I would like a free box of pomegranate juice and other items. I’m sure I get nothing compared to may other bloggers, but that’s what it like out there. So this reviewer was accustomed to being treated a certain way.

      I like what you said about blogging, but it’s not how everyone does it. Some of us are more ambitious. We just have to remember our manners along the way, and not take ourselves too seriously!

  27. Whatever the true story is about what happened that day between this food blogger and the restaurant, I think the essence remains — the fact that he INFORMED (not asked) the restaurant that he’d be bringing 3 additional guests is extremely presumptuous on his part. (I read the email trail he posted on Lady Iron Chef). If someone invited you to their home, would you INFORM them that you’d have 3 people in tow? I’d think not. You might ask permission first, right? (Goes to both Lesson #1 And #2). But regardless of who said what and when, I believe this is a classic case of poor communication and a failure on both parts to manage expectations, and it just spiraled out of control.

    I too am a food blogger who has accepted a handful of invites to restaurant PR events. As a relatively new blogger (1 year), I will admit that receiving these invites was really exciting — I won’t lie. I’ve always wanted to be a journalist and these events allowed me a small glimpse into what that might be like. However, when I’ve gone to these events, I treat them as, well, work. I try to imagine myself as my own publication sending me out on assignment to cover the restaurant at hand, and as such, I always go with the intention of following up with an informational post on what the broader restaurant experience offers (food, ambiance and crowd, for example), and I don’t attempt to write about stuff that only an anonymous customer could experience (service issues, food quality quips, or what not).

    I think it’s fine for food bloggers to accept these invites just as long as they act with common courtesy and professionalism. But although events like these can be fun, I think bloggers need to think about to what degree they want to continue to accept invitations like these. For me, it’s fine once in awhile, but at the end of the day, I want my blog to reflect ME and my opinions, and not be treated as a micro PR site for any restaurant that happens to invite me in, although I’m extremely appreciative of the PR firms that have afforded me the opportunity to do so thus far.

    Sorry for the longer comment! Post just got me thinkin…

    • How wonderful to have a response from someone who does accept invites and feels fine about it. You are exactly right to manage your blog to be your own product and not as a shill for new restaurants. However, I expect some people have been very successful devoting their blogs to just reviewing restaurants.

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