Dealing with "Palm Beach Syndrome".....

Discussion in 'Restaurant Reviews' started by foodpump, Oct 20, 2010.

  1. foodpump

    foodpump

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    I guess this is a different slant on things, but it's a scenerio that many restauranteurs face on a daily basis:

    Handouts, freebies, whatever you want to call it.

    Right now bloggers seem to be the worst.  Vancouver has over 150 restaurant-type bloggers, and getting  my name in the paper or on radio/tv is double edged sword. 

    See, now they know I exist.... Of course one could question as to how the paper/radio/tv people knew I existed--for 3 years now in this business, but I digress.

    Today I get a request from one blogger who wants two free seats to my "High Tea" Saturday afternoon.  Why two?  Seems he wants to take his mother.  That's nice, does his mother write the blog too?

    After a moment of though, we e-mailed the blooger stating that we would be delighted to provide one complimentary meal and the other with a 10% discount.  Tactfull planning had it's effect, the blogger his still deciding on a booking date....

    So how do other restauranteurs deal with this? 

    Customer's thoughts on blogging and Palm Beach Syndrome? 
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    So, you're "buying" what you hope is a "good review"?

    Sorry, I do NOT offer "comps" nor "discounts" for bloggers, reviewers, or other "freeloaders"!

    A legitimate reviewer will not even let you know they are "in the business" let alone expect "comps". Why not just pay a couple of your "good customers" to write something?
     
  3. foodpump

    foodpump

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    I'm not buying anything. I got rid of him fast.   Problem is, I get more and more of this stuff, always seems to escalate when I get a small write up in a local bi-weekly (unsolicited) or on the local radio (unsolicited).

    Maybe I should design a standard issue e-mail response along the lines of:

    Dear _______

    Thank you for your interest in _____________.  At the present moment there are over 150 food related blogs in the Vancouver area, and many more in the lower mainland. 

    At _________ we pride ouselves on our food and service and can only accept a publicly broadcasted  opinion based on a typical dining experience.  We are there fore unable to provide compensated meals, but would be delighted to provide you with the same service and food for our customers at the very same price.
     
  4. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Foodpump, while such a letter seems like a good idea it can backfire fast, as unethical bloggers will use it to pan your restaurant without even visiting it.

    You're better off declining on a one-to-one basis. That is, if they call, politely explain that your policy is not to comp, because there are far too many bloggers in the area, and you can't afford to host them all. Basically the same message as your proposed letter.

    Pete is absolutely right: legitimate reviewers not only do not identify themselves, they take great pains to hide who they are. In some cases this can make for funny stories. See, for instance, "Born Round," Frank Bruni's autobiography. Frank is a former restaurant reviewer for the NYTimes.

    You've identified the problem yourself: The vultures react to hearing about you from media that did not look for freebies or even tell you ahead of time that they were visiting.

    As an aside, while I recognize they have reviewed you based on a single visit for economic reasons, I don't like that approach. What if you were having a bad night? Or the reviewer didn't like the particular dish (s)he ordered? The standard approach is to make a minimum of three visits. Sometimes, on the third visit, the reviewer identifies him/herself after the meal, so as to arrange a kitchen tour. But I digress.

    Whether to comp or not is a business decision you have to make. FWIW, overall, comping out of town travel writers is more beneficial than comping in-town food bloggers. In such cases, more times than not, the Vancouver travel bureau will be your initial contact on that, so you'll know it's a legitimate request.

    That's nice, does his mother write the blog too?

    Putting aside the comp issue, I would always expect a reviewer to have at least one guest. There are several reasons for this, which we can discuss if you like.

    .....there are over 150 food related blogs.....

    Nothing to do with the issue, but I can't help playing editor, and this is one of my pet peeves. If you do produce that letter, there are more than  150 bloggers, not over 150.

    Sorry! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/redface.gif
     
  5. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Nice save KY, I know this sounds corny but I've always enjoyed editing and I have to do a lot of writing for part of my job as well.  Why would you say "more than" rather than "over" in this case?
     
     
  6. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    That's actually one of the less ambiguous rules, KK. Unlike, say, the confusing morass of as & like.

    You use more than/less than when dealing with quantities. Over/under when dealing with location. Thus, because "150 bloggers" is a quantity, it's more than.

    To relate this to your kitchen:

    The vent hood is over the stove. Your feet are under the table.

    The bread dough required more than two cups of flour. The hot water is less than 140 degrees.
     
  7. gobblygook

    gobblygook

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    Also, "there fore" is really "therefore". 

    The truth of the matter is that the best way to ensure an unbiased opinion is to never let the business know that you are a restaurant reviewer.  If you ever identify yourself, you're no longer an anonymous patron of the establishment.  You already know that your "blogger" is looking for a free meal.  The "blogger" is indirectly offering a review of your restaurant in exchange for payment, which seems unethical. The blogger should be used to rejection by now.  Also, just because a person blogs about things does NOT make them qualified to have an opinion.  Oh wait, here I am having an opinion and yet, really, am unqualified -- however, because I like you, I won't ask for a free meal in return /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif. 
     
  8. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Well that's true, Gobbly, but when I open my doors, I get all kinds walking in.   In Vancouver the public here either are staunch supporters of small "indies", or consider small business a blight and fair game to squeeze as hard as possible, there are no in-betweens.

    I am proudly a M & P (mom n' pop) with an unheard of  seating capacity of  (drum roll please)16 seats.  I offer a very good product and a competitive price, and as a result have found moderate success--that is to say I'm now in my 3rd year of operation and am looking forward to a 4th and 5th.

    Fact of the matter is, every week I get some kind of an e-mail from some kind of a blogger, all wanting freebies.  Some bloggers are quite successfull, some aren't, some are diplomatic and knowledgeable, most aren't, and some take enormous pleasure in "dissing" a business/service either by writing directly or allowing posters to submit very negative comments on their site, and many of these without a shred of fact to back up what they say.

    In the past I've had success chasing bloggers away by inisting on reservations, some by only offering certain discount and not the entire freebie, some by refusing photography of my premises without my consent, and some by ignoring.  This is always done via e-mail, as the bloggers never provide any other form of contact.  But, as we all know sooner or later the odds will catch up with me, and I will get negative publicity.  If I work hard enough I should create enough positive publicity to temper this.

    The kicker of the whole thing is that bloggers only take notice of me when other media sources--albeit local and small ones feature me or my work. I don't blog personally or on my website, never knowlingly promoted my business with blogs or social media. 

    But it's not like I'm against bloggers or blogging, I just don't like the approach that they take, I do feel a bit threatened.

    I forget which Chinese "Great Leader" said something about when you open a window, you let in a fly or two.  When I open my doors, I get all kinds, the good customers, the bad ones, the comparison shoppers, and of course, the scam artists and the thieves.  I just don't know which category to put the bloggers into...... 
     
  9. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Let's see, well, they're obviously NOT good customers, they're probably not "bad customers" because they're probably NOT "customers", that leaves two categories, doesn't it? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/laser.gifBINGO!
     
     
  10. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    You could just ignore the request, so the worst they can ever say is that you did not respond. 
     
  11. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Yeah, Grace. Can you see the credibility they'd achieve by posting in their blog: "I asked XYZ for a free meal, and they didn't respond, so obviously nobody should eat there."

    Not!
     
  12. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    The truth of the matter is that the best way to ensure an unbiased opinion is to never let the business know that you are a restaurant reviewer. 

    While that's correct in essence, Gobblygook, you have to keep in mind that we are not talking about legitimate restaurant reviewers. Most of the bloggers foodpump is dealing with are foodies with an ego---no training, no particular qualifications other than liking to eat, and an attitude that what they are doing is ever so important---when it's mostly not.

    There is also little in the way of objectivity about what they do. Do you really think one of them would write a bad review after getting a free meal? It's like Pete says; host one of them and you are buying positive coverage.

    Significant is the fact he gets flooded by such requests immediatly after a legitimate source writes about his place. That alone is telling. It tells me that those bloggers are either unwilling or unable to do make their own "discoveries," and that they're so stupid they think they're the only ones out of 150 to try for a freebie immediately after exposure in a real medium.
     
  13. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    Yes, I'm with you on all of this, however  fewer people than you imagine even care about the differences.  Just messin wicha, KYH

    In the case of less than/more than,  this is used when dealing with volume or area, such as more than a cupful,  less than an acre.  With things that can be counted, "more than/fewer than" is the rule of thumb.  More than 100 apples,  fewer than 90 calories. 

    /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lookaround.gif
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2010
  14. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Grammer aside, in that usage I would say "smaller than an acre," only because the words flow more smoothly.

    FWIW: "Few" and "less" are exact synonyms; check any thesaurus. In your example, "less than 90 calories" would be equally correct. So it isn't a case of one vs the other, but of writer's choice. Although I don't follow a consistent usage (who ever does?), my inclination is to use less than when a specific number is used, and fewer when it's an indeterminant amount; such as in this quote:

    fewer people than you imagine even care about the differences.

    Unfortunately, that's very true. And a major cause of misuse and non-caring can be laid at the feet of so-called broadcast journalists.

    It's getting even worse, of course, with the widespread use of texting. We're actually moving further and further away from using full words altogether.

    The above quote also illustrates why good writers are aware of grammer, but ignore it when necessary. Technically, "less people....." would be gramatically correct. But it sounds so dam.ed awful that no wordsmith with the brains God gave a turnip would ever use such a phrase.

    Tune in next time when we discover how come it is that nobody except English teachers know why Winston tastes good as a cigarette should. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
     
  15. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    This topic deserves a thread of its own. Let's take it to the late night cafe.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  16. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Since I live in Palm Beach, I think this applies all over and not just here. Here they have enough $ to pay for everything.
     
  17. foodpump

    foodpump

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    No dissrespect to the fine people of Palm Beach, Ed.  It's jut that when I get more than two people per day, asking for money or product with thier  palms outstretched, , that's when I call it "Palm Beach" syndrome....
     
  18. foodpump

    foodpump

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    In regards to my original post, the blogger in question has responded back.

    He will take the free seat and pass on the 10% discount for his mother.

    Table for 1........

    Wonder how this is going to pan out...........
     
  19. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    As in "BraveHeart", you're SCR3WED!
     
  20. candyclc

    candyclc

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    Hello everyone! Not where i wanted to post my first post but it seemed fitting because along with just switching my major in college to culinary, I am a professional product reviewer. So when you say things like freeloaders, its hurtful not only to me but all bloggers that do reviews. I don't do restaurant reviews and I live in the United States so don't worry. Food critics get you reviewed in print but bloggers get you known digitally.

    Having reviewed a few hundred products, I can say I do know of unethical bloggers that are in it for the stuff. It sucks but it happens. And no blogger worth their google page rank would give you a bad mention for turning them down. If they do then I gurantee they aren't professional.

    And for those thinking they are giving away freebies and handouts, I have to ask you something. Would you cook for your boss for free? Writing is a job that takes time and just like a print journalist who is paid for their article, your free meal is the compensation for the article. Does this guarantee a positive review? it better not, that is unethical. Heck I got a gift card to go to Chili's here and because I had to drive over an hour to get there I put that in my review.

    Please don't believe every blogger out there is bad. I know product reviews are different from food reviews but the principles are the same. And for the record, to be 100% honest, I don't think bloggers should be reviewing restaurants. Hire a blogger to write a piece and generate buzz if you need it. Food critics are paid a lot of money for their expertise and they really should be the only ones reviewing restaurants.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010