Even in the days of bloggers and online guides, an old-fashioned restaurant review in print is still the holy grail. So how do you persuade a critic to visit?
First off you have to recognise what kind of publication you are dealing with. Local papers? Freebie magazines? Easy. You offer a free meal, they’ll send a hungry work experience and you’ll be rewarded with their gleaming prose. “I opted for the steak and my partner plumped for the scallops, which she pronounced to be succulent” – that kind of thing.
It’s not really a critique, of course, unless you count the bit where they say: “If I had one criticism, it’s that the servings were too generous, meaning we had no room for the delicious looking desserts.” Come on, you’re fooling no one. We all know you didn’t have pudding because you were only offered two courses for free.
With proper papers, though, it’s pointless issuing “invitations to review”, whether with an upfront offer of a free meal or a more nebulous “let me know if I can book you in.” We pay our own way, thank you very much, and making up silly pseudonyms for the reservations book is one of the perks of the job.
If you have no existing relationship with the critic, you’ve got to work harder to sell the restaurant to them. It’s not enough that the restaurant is new – so are 20 other places that week. Why is it interesting? Has the chef got a good pedigree? Is he doing something innovative? What kind of crowd does it attract? What are the standout dishes?
Sell, sell, sell.
Those are the kinds of things that make us pay attention to a press release. Who designed the tables and chairs or made the plates and cutlery, not so much.