Stepping on my soapbox here on RWT isn't something I often do. I've had my tongue in cheek rants in the past but they've still had a little levity. However, an exchange I had at the recent Taste of The Highlands event planted a seed in my brain that I just haven't been able to ignore. The owner of a fairly well regarded local restaurant approached our group - comprised of mostly non-restaurant review bloggers - and asked who we were. Once it was clear to him that we weren't part of the offending party, he revealed his disdain for the local food bloggers and the impact that their opinions - often based on quick glimpses at one time experiences - have on their business.
At the time, we all sort of gave each other the side-eye and went on about our business. The following week, as I read negative after negative review of Atlanta establishments (both new and longstanding), I have to admit there might be some truth to his argument. These days, the restaurant review bloggers can be considered an expert with no background in the etiquette or ethics of their field. Some folks are blogging irresponsibly. There. I said it.
Don't get me wrong...I'm all about the Internet being an open forum to express ideas and pass along information. I did it myself with this here blog. However, from day one, I've made the conscious choice to post about cooking, life stories, and unique experiences I can share with readers. When products are pitched to me, I immediately pass along the caveat that while I will try most anything a company wants to share with me, I will only present positive reviews and uses for their product on my blog. Why? Because being negative and controversial is too easy. Let's face it - there is a lot of mediocre out there, whether it's a product or restaurant or service. Spicy words and scathing reviews drive a lot more traffic to a blog than the warm-and-fuzzy stuff. It's much tougher to seek out the good stuff (and do real research) and highlight the positive - something bloggers like The Blissful Glutton have grown to do and earned a great deal of credibility & respect in the process.
The bloggers aren't the only ones to blame here. The excitement by companies and the faces of their PR machines caused them to jump on the food blog bandwagon as a way to get free publicity and peddle their wares. They've often not quantified who is qualified to speak on the topic of their business, their restaurant's style of cooking or the service they provide. Now, the pendulum has swung in favor of the bloggers and the weight they carry, much to the dismay of those representing a business who gets a review based on an off-night or a bad batch.We need to get to a point where those pushing restaurants and products really target those who best fit the image and market their trying to reach.
All I'm saying here, folks, is think before you type. I know this is demodé but cliches are around for a reason - there might be something to be said for not saying anything if you don't have something nice to say. Silence or lack of information about something often speaks volumes. At the very least, don't let your judgment be swayed by Google Analytics or the lure of free swag. Please continue to go out, stimulate the economy, and let people know how you feel about it...but do so in a way that is educated and well thought out. Visit a place more than once. Give things a second taste. Walk a busy service in their shoes. You'll be rewarded by a better blog, more credibility and the respect of the entire community.