Tuesday, 9 July 2013

To Pay or Not To Pay...

Location: Oxford, UK
<img src="PayForFod.gif" alt="FoodieOnTour Pay For Food">

Do I accept free meals in exchange for reviews... that seems to be the question I was asked several times last week, following speculation that not all local food reviewers decline free meals in exchange for gratuitous publicity.

So as a restaurant critic, what is the right thing to do?

I considered this myself, before starting the blog; but for me, this is a no brainer - I'm not doing this because I want lots of free food, I'm doing this because I love food, love talking about it, and want to shout about the good (and sometimes downright bad) food I've had.

One factor to consider is anonymity - as in, do I want restaurants to know I'm reviewing them when they're taking my order and serving me up a soon-to-be-reviewed plate of food? The answer is most definitely no. In some cases, this can't be completely avoided, as some of the local venues now know me; however, what I can do is not let them know I'm coming, and not announce myself to them when I'm there (how embarrassingly arrogant would that be anyway?!).

Mostly, the reason I don't accept free meals or book in my name is because I want to experience the food as my readers would experience it, so I can give a full and frank review; I'm not looking to blow smoke up anyone's backside, I certainly don't want a restaurant pandering to me and taking extra caution to prepare my food correctly then serving up a plate of utter rubbish with appalling service for anyone else.

Of course there will be the occasional group event - maybe a restaurant opening, or a tweetup, where you can't avoid RSVP's or complimentary nibbles - in which case I will highlight in any follow up blog.

Image courtesy of anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As you'll notice from my reviews, I rarely offer top scores, because for me, 9 or 10 out of 10 requires a restaurant to provide exceptional service, venue, food and atmosphere... difficult for anyone to nail! So far this year I've awarded scores all the way from 3 up to 9, with plenty in between; with a scoring system that is based purely on my enjoyment levels.

I like to tackle my reviews as though I'm chatting to friends about somewhere I've recently eaten; I might feel the need to wax lyrical about how wonderful it was, or I might like to rant about the appalling food or service... Either way, they may not feel I was being completely objective if the meal was a freebie - who doesn't like a freebie after all?!

So, in summary.... PAY! I value my integrity higher than a free plate of food.

FoodieOnTour x

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