No one likes being taken for a ride and it must be galling when you show a journalist the love but receive nothing back. I always feel for independent restaurants on press nights in this respect. Big brands can afford to dish out the freebies – a bottle of whisky here, a hamper there means nothing to behemoths like Diageo or Waitrose – but for a small restaurant group it’s much more personal.
All that free food and drink has a very real cost just at a time when budgets are stretched.
No wonder they want to see a return on their generosity.
How to weed out the freeloaders from the responsible journalists, though, that’s the problem. The usual approach is to make the quid pro quo explicit in the invitation. “A free meal in exchange for a review” or “Let us if know if you can join us and tell us the feature you intend to write.”
I can understand the need for it - God knows, I’ve met some journalists who would happily crash a family supper and nick your silver on the way out – but I’d urge you not to use it as a blanket approach. Save it for the serial offenders, the writers whose integrity you don’t trust.
For the rest of us, it’s rather an insult. I can assure you I’ve got better things to do with my time than scoff free food at a restaurant I have no professional interest in, so how about showing a bit of faith.
An invitation is an invitation, not a contract. I can’t guarantee I will write about your restaurant but I can guarantee I won’t it if your opening gambit is to treat me like a potential scam artist.