How to Get Your Restaurant Reviewed by a Food Critic

In an age where, quite literally, any restaurant customer can write a review and post it for the entire world to see, does the traditional food critic still hold power? The answer, according to many a panicked restaurateur, is a resounding yes. In a recent New Yorker article, famed chef David Chang recalled the fear in his heart when an unassuming man stepped into his restaurant—the man was Pete Wells. The influential New York Times food critic who can make or break a Big Apple restaurant in the span of a few hundred words. If food critics produce anxiety in the most prominent of chefs, it’s not surprising that they still hold considerable sway.

But before critic anxiety sets in, the real question for owners and chefs of a more modest scale is: How, exactly, can a restaurant attract a food critic in the first place? Here are some tips for attracting these culinary influencers to your tables, and what to do once a review hits the stands.

Just Ask!

If you haven’t started already, read local publications to see who moves through your local food world. A simple, though a bit scary, way to get them through your doors is by contacting them at their work emails or phones. Introduce yourself and your space, and focus on your restaurant’s unique aspects that might attract a critic. An even quicker conversation with food critics can take place on Twitter or Instagram. If they have accounts on social media, follow them and send them quick messages to tell them about your place.

Restaurant review bloggers are searching for new places to try and share with their readers just as much as restaurant business owners are trying to get these influencers to write about their experience. Asking is the first step to starting a collaboration that can branch out into building a real following online after getting reviews from an influencer.

Another—and a growing—branch of food culture to pay attention to is the blogosphere. The Internet has become a dynamic and engaging space to talk about all things culinary. Local food blogs now have the power to drive traffic, so it’s not a bad idea to get to know the writers and extend a hand.

How to approach food bloggers, influencers, and bloggers online to request a restaurant review:

  • Find a local influencer – or one who already travels to your area for reviews
  • Read their profile – understand what type of restaurants they typically review.
  • Leave relevant comments on their social media posts and blog.
  • Create an offer for them to come into your restaurant, make sure it is mutually beneficial.
  • Send a warm greeting that shows you have researched them, and extend an offer to begin a relationship with the restaurant and food influencers in your area.
  • Send blog pitch ideas to show how working with your restaurant can greatly benefit their blog in addition to the compensation benefits you can provide.

See what not to do when approaching social media influencers and food bloggers online from Condiment Marketing.

Keep It New

One of the best times to secure a review is when your restaurant is in its first year of opening. But if it’s been a few years and you still haven’t been reviewed, fear not, for there are ways to attract a critic’s attention. Menu changes, whether seasonal or permanent, are prime times to contact a local reviewer. Even better, if you’ve recently added local ingredients to your fare, local reviewers have more reason to come and taste. New chefs, revamped dining spaces, novelty dishes, and special events are also compelling reasons for a review. Whatever the cause for fanfare, write an engaging press release to generate curiosity.

Build a Buzz

A restaurant’s relationship to social media can be a double-edged sword—social media provides a place for angry customers to rant. Still, it also allows interest and excitement to grow organically. Critics pay attention to this collective enthusiasm and may be more apt to review a place that has noticeable culinary influence. Restaurant owners can develop the buzz by encouraging customers to post on social media, and by posting regularly themselves. Sharing a picture of a delectable, unique dish can’t hurt your chances to get critics through your doors.

For an easy way to build your presence online, check out our one simple trick for boosting your restaurant’s Instagram presence.

Using Social Media to Create a Buzz – What kind of content engages?

Videos

Videos engage users and build a buzz faster than any other type of content. Try posting a short video about one of your best dishes, or about what makes your restaurant special.

Questions

Create a poll for your social media to engage users to vote. It could be for a favorite dish, who your best server is, the possibilities are endless.

Stories

Every business owner has a story to share, share yours with your audience to create a buzz around your restaurant brand.

They’re here—now what?

So, you’ve taken the time to attract a reviewer, and now you get to sit back and wait. The only problem is, which customer is the critic? Although food critics prefer to operate in anonymity, there are a few ways to tell the difference between a discerning diner and a diner with ulterior motives.

Critics will likely ask more questions about food preparation and ingredients, to see if the wait staff are knowledgeable and to understand the dishes better. Unusually high attentiveness to surroundings is also a tip-off—the critic is looking to get an idea of the environment, not just the food. An order of more food than a person could eat is another sign of the critic at work. On top of all these clues, if one of your guests begins taking notes at the table, you may very well be witnessing the food critic in her natural habitat.

Give Food Critics the Best Experience in your Restaurant

All customers should get your best service, best food, and have the best experience in your restaurant. Since you can never be sure who is a food critic or blogger, train your staff to give the best experience to every customer who enters your restaurant.

Check here for tips on giving the best experience to every guest by building a top-notch Front of House team for your restaurant business.

And…For Better or Worse…It’s Review Time!

Once the review drops, take a deep breath, and surround yourself with supportive staff before reading. If you earned a positive review, celebrate! Display the review in a place where customers can see it, and share it on social media. If the review was mostly positive with a few criticisms, note in your sharing of it that you will take the time to address these small issues.

If you and your food received a less-than-stellar review, don’t let anger or disappointment consume you. Instead, try waiting a few days to cool off, and then send an email to the critic, saying that you appreciate her time, you heard her complaints, and you’re taking them seriously. After all, just like a chef, a critic appreciates acknowledgment for the time and effort put in.

A negative review might mean that now’s a good time to assess your restaurant. Maybe the music is too loud or the mashed potatoes are over salted. Look at any review as a gift—and opportunity to improve, or to amplify the excellent.

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