The Ethics of Restaurant Reviewing

I’m in a bit of a quandry. Normally, if I have a bad experience at a restaurant, I’ll visit a second time before writing a bad review. After all, they could be having an off night, and it wouldn’t be fair for me to pan them based on that, right??

However, I had an experience at a restaurant tonight that was SO bad, SO abysmal, SO atrocious, that my husband and I ended up walking out before we even got an opportunity to place an order. Bad sign #1 was when the hostess told us, when she seated us, that they were out of half of the items on the menu. This is less than an hour after dinner service started – after a 3-hour period after lunch when they were closed, presumably, to prep for dinner. Bad sign #2 is when said hostess comes back after a couple of minutes to tell you that your waitress will be with you “once she gets here” – meanwhile people coming in after us were being waited on by another waitress. Bad sign #3 was when the bread that they served us was so hard from toasting that it cut my gums. A half hour later when we still hadn’t been asked for our order, we left for greener pastures because we were ready to gnaw our own arms off from hunger.

The bad thing was that I *really* wanted to like this place; after all, it’s the only restaurant that serves this particular type of ethnic cuisine in town. Ethnic cuisine that I miss dearly and would drive 500 miles back to my hometown to eat. But I honestly can’t see myself going back there. I can’t attest to the food because I never got to eat any, but based on the toast and Shedd’s Spread we were served, and what we saw coming by on the way to other tables (small, overpriced portions), it didn’t look promising.

Here’s the dilemma – the place is fairly new, and I can understand some minor hiccups,┬ábut if they continue running this place in that manner, it will run itself into the ground in a matter of months. Do I keep my mouth shut, and pretend that this experience never happened, since I don’t plan on going back, OR do I write a negative review without even having tasted the food? I’m torn on this one.

7 thoughts on “The Ethics of Restaurant Reviewing

  1. Anna

    Although very honest in my reviews, I rarely write something very negative about a restaurant, but coincidentally, I had such a bad experience that I wrote my most scathing review ever today. I think that those who read food blogs would like to hear your authentic experience, and be informed of the place so that it can be taken into account when choosing where to go.

  2. Trig

    If nobody writes any criticisms, bad chefs, sommeliers and restaurant managers will just go on thinking they are doing OK. And that can’t be much help to anyone. I guess you need to be more careful if you have millions of readers because then you can destroy someone’s career and maybe their life. But I wouldn’t hesitate to criticise a restaurant on my blog if I thought it deserved the criticism.

  3. Rosie

    Truthfully, I might give the restaurant one more chance – but in the review I would definately mention the first visit and how bad it was…If you are writing a review you have to be truthful about what your experience was. If you don’t want to go back yourself, you may want to tag someone you trust to do it for you…

    As a diner though – I would never go back to that restaurant. I’ve done it before. Sometimes things are just so bad you just can’t stomach going back no matter how good everyone else says it is.

    So maybe the question you need to ask – are you a reviewer who is doing it as a professional or are you a diner who is just writing a casual review?

  4. Chad

    You’ve prefaced your review by saying “I didn’t eat the food… the service was so horrible that we left.” so in effect, you’re not reviewing the food.. just the service.

    It could be your first, service only, review.

  5. Jennifer

    We just came from that particular restaurant. It is July 4th and we appeared to be the first customers in the restaurant. Our waiter could use a few more brain cells, but he tried. A fellow coming in and out of the kitchen was a lot more savvy and I suppose he must have been cooking. We presumed that our food was being cooked to order because it took quite a long time to be served. Probably didn’t start cooking until they finally had some customers, because a couple that came in shortly before we finished were served their food very quickly. We had the chicken nachos (served on fried plantains instead of chips) that were delicious. In fact, everything we had was really good. I had the fried pork (very moist and tender), yellow rice with pigeon peas (looked like black-eyed peas) and fried green plantains. Wonderful. My son had the chicken alfredo over penne, another hit, and my parents had the roast 1/2 chicken, a huge meal with a beautiful half chicken, also very moist and tender. In all a success but we thought we’d give it a little time before going back, in light of the service issues.

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