A Case For Blogging About Restaurants On Opening Night (& Other Ethical Dilemmas)

Recently, I have pondered discussions by fellow foodies about how long bloggers should wait after a restaurant opening to post a review and the effect critiques and negative comments or reviews may have on family-owned restaurants during this challenging economic time.

I can’t help but to choose sides.

Some believe it’s completely unfair to review a restaurant within one to three months of opening.  Others feel bloggers must visit a restaurant multiple times before critiquing.  Official, paid “food critics” for major media companies may need to abide by a different variation of rules.  However, there are many of us who do not claim to be food critics.  Rather, we are foodies who like to blog.  But even if we did. . .

Why is a restaurant’s dollar more important than mine?  Why is any restaurant’s dollar more important than mine, whether a corporate chain or family-owned establishment?  Just as restaurant owners, many diners also support themselves on modest and bare-bones budgets.  The economic climate affects us all, and we, like many others, are striving to reduce restaurant visits to save money.  For some, dining out is more closely tied to special events, treats, or occasions and take-out is tied to the end of a really bad day.

As far as I’m concerned, bloggers should review as candidly as they wish, though they should also self-disclose.  If a blogger visits a restaurant on opening night, he or she should disclose this fact at the beginning of their post.  Bloggers should also disclose relationships with the restaurant or its staff, and solicitations from restaurants in the form of gift certificates or complimentary food.  It might not hurt to disclose if a restaurant is still in it’s newly-opened phase, or if one has biases, such as a longstanding discomfort with runny egg yolks or if one is tasting a certain ethnic cuisine for the first time.

Candid never equals mean or spiteful.  Candid is honest and fair, though it does not equal “positive.”  

In my humble opinion, anything for which a restaurant lists on their menu and charges customers is fair game.  Even if it’s opening night and even if it’s not a house specialty.  $10 is still $10 dollars out of my pocket, whether it’s a restaurant’s opening night or 100-year anniversary.  $10 can equal an hour of somebody’s work day as easily as another’s petty cash, and $10 will always equal $10.

If a restaurant serves a low quality, poorly made menu item, it has no business listing it for sale.  Even if it’s a seafood restaurant selling the obligatory steak, or a northern Chinese restaurant serving Szechuan cuisine.  An establishment doesn’t have to prepare the most authentic version of a dish, but it does have to be made with care.  Good food can not be confused with anything other than good food, even if it’s a simple grilled cheese sandwich or General Tso’s chicken.  The taste of apathy is unmistakable and unacceptable.

Perfection is impossible to obtain and unreasonable to expect, and authenticity is relative, but a restaurant should not list menu items for sale if they are made with apathy.

Bloggers vs. restaurants?  

Quite the contrary.

We need both bloggers and restaurants to continue doing what they do.  The more people blog, the more restaurants are held accountable.  The more restaurants critique bloggers, the more bloggers are held accountable.

This push and pull strengthens both subgroups of the food industry, ultimately delivering writing worth reading, tastier food food, and more effective service.

It’s a harsh financial climate for us all, baby, and we’re all working hard for our dolla dolla bills.  So let us remember that a $1 = $1, and may we all strive to be honest and fair.

Let’s discuss.

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