Searching for advice on restaurant blogging etiquette…

I am new to the whole blogging world and am still very much trying to learn internet etiquette and my blogger identity. One thing I felt very passionate about blogging from the start were restaurant reviews: my husband and I are foodies to the max and enjoy eating out and are always trying someplace new. We like to keep up on the local ‘latest and greatest’ just for our own personal fun, so my thought was that I could blog about awesome new restaurants as we add them to our restauranteur repertoire!

To come up with new material I would pick a place for my husband and I to visit on date night and would blog about our experience afterwards. Not good for our waistline I am sure, but nevertheless fun to both experience and reflect upon later as I write my review. Up until this past weekend, all I had to say were good things. Honestly, I understand how important digital reviews are to a company’s livelihood, so my intent had only ever been to share good content to promote local businesses who deserve a quick second in the spotlight, even though the spotlight I have to provide at the moment is quite tiny 🙂

BUT, the other night I had family visiting and picked out a place to dine out with the intent to blog about it afterwards, and was unfortunately extremely let down for the first time. I had come into someone’s restaurant with the intent to give them free publicity, but instead left with a fussy toddler and family that was underwhelmed by their experience visiting the city.

Where I used to just chalk this up to a bad night out, this seemed to stick with me a little more. Perhaps it is because I came in and spent money hoping to get some content for my new little business I am working on, and on top of leaving hungry and annoyed, I also left without anything to write about!

So this question is to other food and restaurant bloggers. And even lifestyle bloggers too. What do you feel good blogging etiquette is, in this instance? Would you still write your restaurant review and be honest about the experience, or is that just bad business karma to give a bad review on your blog? I am sure I could come up with some positives to say: good things about the ambiance, the good beer my husband tried, etc., but if I wrote about it I feel at some point I would have to be honest about the bad parts too. I don’t think I would be so hard on this place if it were our first time visiting, but this was our 3rd or 4th and it has been quite the same every time, which I find disappointing for how trendy the place should be.

I am not trying to be a hater. Just looking for some open, honest conversation from one blogger to another. Any input you have is welcome!

7 Replies to “Searching for advice on restaurant blogging etiquette…”

  1. Great post. I’ve been in a similar situation. Was involved with a startup that sought to provide an alternative to the Yelps of the world. I handled the blogging side of things and would post short writeups about places. I thought a lot about the issues you mentioned. In the end, I decided I wasn’t interested in posting negative reviews, but I do think there is a place for thoughtful, honest reviews from reasonable people. I find that sort of feedback much more valuable than the rants and tirades we too often see online labeled as reviews. I read a great article in the New Yorker about the New York Times restaurant critic. I’ll try to find a link. Given your interests, I think you’ll love the article. Sorry, I’m getting a bit long-winded here. I’m not wild about the development of the sprawling influencer gig on social media, but I did read an interesting profile on some of the most successful influencers – seemed pretty consistent that they did not post anything negative. If they didn’t have something positive to say, they wouldn’t say anything. If you’re planning on going that route, might be something to consider.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts! If you do find that NY Times article I would love to read it. My gut feeling is there is enough negativity and cyber bullying out there already that I don’t need to add to it. Especially professionally.

  2. I fell that you are practically obligated to post a review now in order to warn other potential customers. However, you can do it in a positive way: instead of complaining about things that went wrong, you could present it in a form of an advice to the restaurateur as to what needs to be improved. This way, it would be a service to him as well.
    Good luck!

  3. I had the same thing happen this past weekend and the guy recognized me. Lol I still have a review on my personal page but suggested some positive changes to the negative experience.

  4. This is a tough question which you will face way too many times in your chosen journey. There are few simple rules, to begin with, in blogging. #1 – this is your blog. This is your space. you write first and foremost for yourself. You decide what to write or not to write about. #2 – don’t lie. This sounds a bit stronger than this rules actually is, because withholding the truth is still lying :), but we are in the court of law here 🙂 – all I mean is that if you didn’t like something, you don’t have to write about it. Again, remember rule #1 – you can write whatever you want – but, if the dish was burnt or overcooked, don’t say it was delicious. As a wine blogger, I would never write about the wines I didn’t like, and 99 out of a 100 I wouldn’t post about bad wine experiences.
    However, most of the bloggers I know post so called “rants” from time to time. You decide if a subject warrants a rant, and then proceed according to the rule #1 🙂 It all depends on a particular experience – what exactly was good, what was bad, and if you can find an angle of the positive criticism. I write quite a few restaurant reviews in my blog, and if I had challenges with a particular dish ( overly salty or chewy or whatever), I would often say it as a suggestion that “it was such and such to my taste and I would probably improve it by doing X”.
    And before you write anything negative, always inject a pause – let’s say, wait for a day or two and see if you still feel as strong about the subject.
    Lastly – not all restaurant visits should result in the blog post. More often than not, Yelp, Zomato or Trip Advisor review will be a better medium – for sure for the negative experiences.
    Sorry for an extremely long comment – I’ve been blogging for 7+ years, and your question was the one pretty close to the heart 🙂

    1. Wow thank you so much for all the input! I very much believe in the “pause” for many instances in life. It’s good to stew on something a little and give yourself the chance to calm down before unloading. Ultimately in this case I decided what you suggested – maybe a helpful Yelp review is more appropriate to make diners aware and also help the business better themselves.

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