Everyone's a food reviewer

In the age of the Internet, everyone's a food reviewer. 

People enter, they snap, they eat, they publish. It's a non-stop deluge.

As a restaurant owner, you can either be

(a) glad for the people who flock to your place due to positive reviews,


(b) shittin your pants due to negative reviews.

As a consumer though, reviews are largely helpful and welcomed.  Many foodies often look forward to meal time - it's a chance to experience something new and hopefully pleasant. We only have one mouth, many stomachs maybe, but one slim wallet. So reviews help us make smarter decisions with our money and time. Nobody wants to make a wasted trip or waste calories on crappy food.

For myself, I use blogs and apps like Burpple and Hungrygowhere to check out a place. I mean, why not learn from others' experiences? Take a look at the place and food, without the filters and edits of the restaurant? In the information age where there are so many choices to be made, reviews help us choose one over the other.

We trust the views of a fellow consumer, more than stuff from the marketing department. After all, who is more likely to present the truth? For consumers, reviews are more of a boon than a bane.

As a reviewer, I write about my experiences as a way to contribute back to the community. I don't want to only consume, I want to create too. Yes, it's another drop in the ocean, but maybe writing about my experience will help someone make a better decision. Not creating anything makes me feel stagnant and sometimes even like a sheep consumer. I don't claim to be a connoisseur, and I feel my amateur opinions can be helpful nonetheless.

Of course, there are downsides to reviews. No restaurant is perfect, and there may be a day where the food or service was simply not up to par. Consequentially, the reviewer tears the place apart and readers avoid the joint in search of another. It's sad and terrifying when you realise reviews can completely destroy the restaurant that you've built with blood, sweat and tears, in a matter of hours.

So for restaurants, reviews can be a double-edged sword. They can drum up lots of business, but make one mistake, and it blows up in your face. However, if you're in the industry, you probably have quite some mettle, so you could probably bounce back by providing great quality and service.

Review Ethics
This has been on my mind recently as I have been posting quite a bit of food related content on this blog. I sometimes wonder if I will get sued if I say the wrong thing. So here are two guidelines I follow:

  • When reviewing something, avoid hyperbole. For example, "This is the WORST restaurant ever!" You may actually get sued.
  • Taste is subjective. Reviews are opinions. Make sure that is evident in your review.
I see restaurants as 'creators'. They create something and present it to the world. The same goes for artists, musicians, crafters, and anyone who creates something to be sold. Like music, some food dishes have soul in it. It is someone's creation. So to have it criticised must not be a nice feeling at all. I try to keep this in mind when I write.

As for bad experiences, I'm torn and undecided on this, especially for homegrown businesses. The huge chains I'm not too worried about, but the smaller cafes or hawker stalls? I think twice before saying anything. I guess it's a way to protect these businesses that are run by real people and are their livelihoods, but somehow it doesn't feel very honest too. I struggle with this.

So I generally just try to leave them alone if I had a bad experience. Maybe I'm too cowardly to point out their flaws. Perhaps the saying, "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all," would be apt in this situation. 

Most reviewers I know are ravers. They are mostly positive. They come into your restaurant looking for something to praise. It's fun and not to mention easy to be positive, but who has the courage to be truly honest? Maybe mostly the real food critics, and not the dime a dozen bloggers like me.

Of course, negative experiences are great too as valuable lessons can be learnt. If you as an owner, are humble enough to accept the criticism and fix things, negative reviews can be a boon to your business by helping it to improve too.

Well, in a nutshell, honesty is important to me, but so are ethics and kindness. I don't want to destroy lives by accident. What are your thoughts on this? Do you post about your negative food experiences? What is ethical to you?

So like it or not, food reviews are here to stay. And since anyone and everyone can be a food reviewer, the question is whether your review is fair and useful or not.