Sunday, April 16, 2006

Invitations from Restauranteurs

I've just started blogging recently, I think I'm on week 3 or 4, and my blog covers the gamut in food but tends to focus towards the city I live in. I've been getting minor attention here or there but was surprised today when a sommelier from one of the better italian restaurants in town left a comment on my board and sent me a one line email. He has asked me to come to the restaurant and tell him in advance, that's all. If you'd like to take a peek at it, it's on the A la Carte page.

Now my question is, how many other people has this happened to and what was the result? I'll be emailing him to figure out what exactly he's trying to do here.... but I'm curious to see if he just goes around to the blogs of my city doing the exact same thing. There doesn't seem to be a way for me to search through comments on other blogs easily to find him.

Is this a new recurring experience in the grand ol' blogosphere? I definitely don't want to schill for the man and I now nearly have no intentions of telling him in advance of going to even the playing field. But I'm a little bothered because I don't know what to think....

This Post was written by Vanessa from Tongue & Cheek


fooDcrazEE said...

maybe he;s asking you ro review the restaurant...anyway, if you are not comfortable with that...dont go...

Vanessa said...

i guess i was just trying to get a feel for how frequently this happens. i'm just surprised because i don't consider my blog to be prominent. thanks though.

Sam said...

Hey Vanessa - there are a view things to consider:

1) Is it really him? It could have been anyone. (there is no link with his name - was there a genuine email?)

2) Maybe he is just trying to use your blog a promotion tool for his restaurant. But unlikely since he was on a kind of obscure post.

3) Maybe he genuinely wants to help you get through some of your 'to do list'

4) I wouldn't take his comment to be an invitation to a 'free lunch'. I read it more as if you go to his restaurant, let him know, and he will give you some special treatnment. How would you feel about this? I try and make sure to dine out anonymously if I want to review somewhere.

Has this happened to me?

Well yes - here is a copy of a comment I got on my review of 'Osteria del Circo' in Vegas:

"I am so sorry that you didn't enjoy your meal (my name is Michel and I am the chef at the restaurant) please come back next time you are in Vegas and I will personally cok you a free meal of your choice.
I cannot be held responsible for the dessert as it's one of those that comes straight from the freezer, all I do is pop it on a plate.

I havent had the chance to take him up on his offer yet, but I would. If indeed it was a genuine comment. If I wrote about it thereafter I would obviously explain the situation.

I also write a review of another resstaurant newly opened in SF. The owner engaged in a great conversation wtih me about it publicly and privately. Of course he has invited me back. I was under the impression that the return would be on my own dime (fine with me), but that if I told him I was going, then he would make sure I got the best service. Of course, I am going to go back, and I am NOT going to tell him, and I will make up my own mind.

wheresmymind said...

I'd love to get a legit request for some of our yummy Boston restaurants! However, if it is a 'real' invitation, would the restaurant be ok even if your reviews are less than flattering?

Vanessa said...

as far as i can tell, my person is legit. in addition to leaving a comment on the blog he emailed me from a proper business email address that indicates his place of work.

i thought the same as you in that it's not a free meal, which is fine, and yes he'll give me special treatment. if he wants a review based on special treatment, well i think that's simply ridiculous.

i've dabbled with the idea of going for dinner and at dessert asking for him and revealing who i was to see if things take a huge turn for the better suddenly.

which leads into what wheresmymind mentions. i don't think i'd review them as well if i knew they were specifically trying to suck up to me. some of my friends have suggested that i take full advantage of this, which i'm not comfortable with, so i thought i'd see what others have done in the past.

thanks :)

Sam said...

I think we are on the same page. The reason I would actually consider the Vegas invite, (but in reality will never get arounnd to it) is because we had a lousy dinner and I would be happy for them to make it up to me as an apology.

And I felt that was the spirit of his suggestion, not to try and get me to write a good review or anything.

I am not very good at accepting freebies, and I prefer to do things on my own terms rather than someone elses. Are they making the offer because they adore you and your blog? No. Are they making the offer because they see your blog as a potential vehicle for promoting their restaurant. Probably yes.

Do you want to do free advertising for them?

Probably not.

Owen said...

First off, I think that these guys are becoming aware that bloggers have influence - I don't think they are trying anything underhanded - just offering to improve what they see as a bad situation for themselves - they know that you will or won't accept and that you will or won't write about it as it really happened. They HOPE that you will let them across well and they want to know because they want to show you that they CAN do it well...

I should also say that in your case Sam, you are better known than you know. I got asked if I knew you on a job interview six months ago! As in - oh you have a food blog - do you know this british woman - becks or something who has this really great food blog?

The point is that you probably influence a LOT of people in the Bay Area.

But for a newcomer it is pretty amazing. I don't get this stuff, even after 4 years, but I don't write about restaurants much - or cookbooks.

Maybe I'll turn into a total restaurant whore and start writing reviews in return for free meals! Or not....

Raspberry Sour said...

Hi Vanessa, I'm in Toronto too, and nope, no such invite. But I don't write about restaurants very much (and certainly not about any spats with other restaurants, which I cynically suspect may have prompted him to contact you as a pre-emptive strike). Personally, I would likely have few qualms about saying hello (never hurts to make some more contacts), but only after getting through my meal, and only if I actually enjoyed the experience. If I hate it, I don't want to get to know the chef or anyone else involved. I've had that happen with establishments being tested out for write-ups in my publication, and even when the place clearly doesn't deserve the write-up, I still feel horrifically guilty once I've met the people behind it.

I've gone to establishments (both restaurants and other businesses) anonymously and not- I can tell you that I sleep better after when I'm incognito.

tankeduptaco said...

Hi Vanessa, I wrote a post defending a Melbourne chef over the treatment he received from eGullet. We had some email conversations and he invited me to the restaurant, but I didn't go as the quality of the restaurant wasn't the reason I wrote the piece in the first place. Nice to get an invite for just doing something you love though.

SaltShaker said...

It's not clear whether or not he's offering you a freebie, and that obviously shouldn't be the deciding factor. But either way, I don't see anything wrong with accepting the invitation (be prepared to pay though, don't expect it for free). However, make sure he's clear that you don't promise to review it, and if you do, no promises on whether the review will be positive or negative. And then, if you do review it, be upfront about having been invited and that you may have recieved special attention (you can usually tell by looking around the room and seeing how other folk are being treated); and/or if you got part or all of the meal free.

Vanessa said...

i just want to thank everyone for their comments as it's been helpful in considering how to approach this situation. i'd thank you individually but this would get terribly long!

through some act of fate, it turns out that a friend has signed me up for a wine and food pairing event being held at my solicitor's restaurant before this whole thing started. they aren't aware that i am going, so i'm hoping to take this opportunity to get a feel for the type of person he is.

in all honesty, my regular life is so far removed from the industry that i'd be happy for an honest to goodness contact.

thanks again!

Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

I've had one restaurant owner leave me a comment thanking me for my review of their place. At least I think that's who it was since the commentor didn't leave a name or e-mail adress. Either way, I was tickled.