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A question for food critics


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I wonder how long you(or an editor) generally holds on to a review before it gets published. And what kind of updates you make to a review before publishing. I received a not so flattering review this week. While I'm not going to cry about it, i agree with some of their no food related points, but I do have a problem that they mention stuff that has not been on the menu for at least 2 months. I took over the restaurant 3 months ago and gradually changed the items to where I felt fully confident in presenting and am kind of proud of. I mean the customers like it,they tell me the food is better than the previous chefs and we get busier every week. It just sounds like this reviewer came one time and wrote a review and it got filed away until they needed content.

Can anyone explain to me the process?

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Nypork, I'm sorry to hear about what happened.

It really depends on various factors, e.g. how often the rag is published, the nature of the restaurant and the nature of the writer's retainer. When I was writing freelance for a weekly newspaper, I filed the review within a week of the event and it was often published the following week. However, if I was writing about a restaurant that had been rooted in the same spot and faithfully serving the same food from the same chef under the same owner for the last 26 years, it might be held on to for anything from a few weeks to as few months, the reasoning being that it wasn't about to go anywhere now. Delays will be especially commonplace if the writer is freelance and / or does not have a regular byline.

Now I write primarily for a bimonthly food magazine, the turnaround can be anything from 1-4 months. If the article focussed on one restaurant i.e. a pure review, if there was a chef or ownership change etc, my article would probably be binned. But if it's a feature article, say on the dining scene of a particular city and not focussed on one restaurant, I would emphasise that my review was for the place as it was under the old regime, and the old regime can now be found at new location XXX, etc etc. This can obviously cut both ways for a new chef / owner.

But if your food is better and you're getting busier, then bollocks to the reviewer, no? True, it still sucks to be put down for something that wasn't your doing, but if word-of-mouth is overwhelmingly positive and your bottom line is doing well, then what's the worry? It won't be the first time a reviewer has been wrong, and it certainly won't be the last.

Best of luck with your new venture and I am very glad that you are proving the reviewer wrong.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
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I write for a weekly alternative newspaper.

I turn in my reviews on Thursdays and they are published the following Wednesday. Nothing ever gets filed away.

Also, I always make a final visit to the restaurant I'm reviewing within a few days beforehand. Never thought this was exceptional but imo what you are describing is outrageous.

I hope you get this sorted out to whatever degree that might be possible.

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I wonder how long you(or an editor) generally holds on to a review before it gets published. And what kind of updates you make to a review before publishing. I received a not so flattering review this week. While I'm not going to cry about it, i agree with some of their no food related points, but I do have a problem that they mention stuff that has not been on the menu for at least 2 months. I took over the restaurant 3 months ago and gradually changed the items to where I felt fully confident in presenting and am kind of proud of. I mean the customers like it,they tell me the food is better than the previous chefs and we get busier every week. It just sounds like this reviewer came one time and wrote a review and it got filed away until they needed content.

Can anyone explain to me the process?

I'd agree with the suggestion of a letter to the editor, something short and succinct. "The dishes reviewed were on the menu two months ago but I've taken over the resturant and have since changed the menu. I'd welcome the critic back to taste what's being cooked now."

It says something about you but also says something about the behind-the-times critic. :hmmm:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I wonder how long you(or an editor) generally holds on to a review before it gets published. And what kind of updates you make to a review before publishing. I received a not so flattering review this week. While I'm not going to cry about it, i agree with some of their no food related points, but I do have a problem that they mention stuff that has not been on the menu for at least 2 months. I took over the restaurant 3 months ago and gradually changed the items to where I felt fully confident in presenting and am kind of proud of. I mean the customers like it,they tell me the food is better than the previous chefs and we get busier every week. It just sounds like this reviewer came one time and wrote a review and it got filed away until they needed content.

Can anyone explain to me the process?

I too work for a weekly alternative paper. i share the job with my editor and another writer. We take turnsevery third week and the article is published one week after we hand it in.

I agree write the editor.

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I do have a problem that they mention stuff that has not been on the menu for at least 2 months. I took over the restaurant 3 months ago and gradually changed the items

Some questions the answers to which might make a difference:

1 - Does the review just mention some items that have been off the menu for two months, or is it based entirely on outdated information?

2 - What species of publication carried the review? Magazine, newspaper, online . . . ?

3 - Did the restaurant publicize the chef change or keep it quiet?

4 - Did the reviewer or someone at the publication contact you for fact checking?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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A negative restaurant review, even an erring negative restaurant review, is like capital punishment. Once the switch is pulled not much can be done to rectify the situation. It's impact depends on how much juice the reviewing publication has. Editorial corrections are about as rare as Texas governor commutations.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I do have a problem that they mention stuff that has not been on the menu for at least 2 months. I took over the restaurant 3 months ago and gradually changed the items

Some questions the answers to which might make a difference:

1 - Does the review just mention some items that have been off the menu for two months, or is it based entirely on outdated information?

2 - What species of publication carried the review? Magazine, newspaper, online . . . ?

3 - Did the restaurant publicize the chef change or keep it quiet?

4 - Did the reviewer or someone at the publication contact you for fact checking?

1. The review definitely mentions outdated menu items as well as current items-the thing is the current items had positive feedback and the old the negative.

2. The publication is a weekly NYC mag with a related website, pretty popular but I never really read it because I think their content overall is pretty weak.

3. The restaurant is a small UWS mom and pop-so we really don't do any press stuff-totally word of mouth publicity.

4. Apparently they did some fact checking about our hours and pricing. I actually did contact the editor this morning and they got right back to me, saying they do believe the reviewer was there in the past month. But then today in the afternoon I answered the phone and it was them doing fact checking. The questioning was bizarre, they were questioning the hours and pricing again and asked about a couple of dishes, some old some new. We'll see what happens.

Overall, like I wrote before, if this review came out two months ago I would be kicking myself for not cleaning up the previous chefs messes quicker and paying more attention to certain details. But I feel like I made things so much better in the last 2 months, I got the short end of the stick with the visit from that long ago. But hey, at least someone noticed us. Heck you guys on egullet haven't even discovered us yet.

Edited by nypork (log)
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it's always frustrating when you've been reviewed on something you no longer have, but try to hold your head high when people come in the door and ask for it (or don't ask for it if it got a bad review), and put your best foot forward and turn them on to all the fabulous NEW things you have.

those negative reviews suck...no matter how many great reviews, it's those bad ones that really hurt. the quicker you get over them and address their concerns, the better. also realize that a review is just an OPINION, and even if I go to the best restaurant on the planet, i might not walk out of there with the best review.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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  • 1 month later...

So here is another little update. I guess being in NYC and being noticed should satisfy me. However the low standards of editorial really gets my goat (I was a low level editor for some things at one time so I think I have some knowledge of what goes on in publishing, but this baffles me). So here I am alerted that another weekly mentions me in their backpage listings today. Whatever a little capsule, but hey my name in print for the first time as a chef and it is not the police blotter, I'm excited. Then I read it. Here they call my food imaginative tapas(awesome) and then proced to name things that, once again haven't been on the menu since May and some things I took off the menu my first week in March. And they even got the name wrong of the restaurant I worked at previously, which is a very high profile place. What happened to fact checking? Ahhh-thanks for reading.

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I write reviews for a city magazine and have been thinking about this for a couple of days, since seeing your post. I write my reviews two to three months before my magazine hits the stands. It's unfortunate, and surprising given the state of technology, but somehow it still takes monthly magazines a long time to go from filed article to published work. If a chef changes, or a restaurant closes, that's a disaster. But, in most cases, even if menu items change, readers can still get an idea of the types of foods that are on the menu, and of the level of quality. Maybe they can't order the rosemary chicken I wrote about, but they'll have an accurate idea of whether the restaurant is worth visiting. Not checking facts: There's no excuse for that. But the timeliness issue is an unfortunate result of an old-fashioned form of publishing. By the time a team of editors polish every piece that will be published, hire photographers, have the pages designed and proofread, etc., many many weeks have passed. I'd imagine that the industry will find a faster way to work eventually, but right now every glossy magazine I know works on the same kind of schedule.

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What happened to fact checking? Ahhh-thanks for reading.

Again, sorry to hear about the seemingly endless half-assedness you're forced to contend with.

I've been on both sides on this one -- as a bakery owner and as a writer/reviewer. We suffered the same editorial fate as you, but in our case the paper (which I WROTE FOR AT THE TIME) didn't contact me to fact check, so the resulting listing made it sound like we only made two things. Don't get me started.

Your question of WHY WHY WHY boils down to four things:

1. There is a revolving door at weeklies and an inordinate amount of hippies, flakes and morons (often all three simultaneously) go through them quite quickly. Maybe the idiot was the writer. Maybe the editor. Who knows. But there's a good chance whoever screwed it up has already moved on and is now screwing things up elsewhere.

2. Unpaid (and often unsupervised) interns. Enough said.

3. Poor planning. See #1 for additional info, but more often than not the editors are spread thin, having to cover dining, music, theater and art happenings. They simply don't have time to fact check in addition to, in many cases, rewriting stories that have been submitted 12 hours past the deadline (see #1) that make no sense whatsoever.

4. The pay sucks. Many writers for alt weeklies don't get paid and if they do they most certainly need day jobs to keep the lights on. So you get newbies and those devoted to "the craft of writing" (pompous cigarette holder sold seperately) writing the stories. Skill and professionalism vary wildly.

Of course there are exceptions to all of these rules and they are often glaring. I've done this for over a decade and have met quite a few professional writers and editors who are passionate about the quality and factuality of what they do. These people really, truly care and do not go out of their way to screw people over or put out inaccurate information. They have a special place in heaven. But they've been outnumbered 3 to 1 by flakes who can't meet deadlines, can't write, have an agenda to push (usually involving poetry), etc.

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I guess I just need to name the magazines who have the questionable content, it'll make me feel better- Time Out NY and New York Magazine. So buyer beware.

you also need to name your restaurant, silly...so we can like, try it, and like, see for ourselves...and....

how about a link to the article?

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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I guess I just need to name the magazines who have the questionable content, it'll make me feel better- Time Out NY and New York Magazine. So buyer beware.

you also need to name your restaurant, silly...so we can like, try it, and like, see for ourselves...and....

how about a link to the article?

There are lots of reasons for maintaining ones anonymity when posting on this site. Usually because some things are said here that would never be said in public.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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I guess I just need to name the magazines who have the questionable content, it'll make me feel better- Time Out NY and New York Magazine. So buyer beware.

you also need to name your restaurant, silly...so we can like, try it, and like, see for ourselves...and....

how about a link to the article?

Wel I wasn't too sure about the policys of posting my restaurant but it is called B uceo 95. As for posting a link to the articles I personally don't like the idea of directing traffic to those hacks.

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I guess I just need to name the magazines who have the questionable content, it'll make me feel better- Time Out NY and New York Magazine. So buyer beware.

you also need to name your restaurant, silly...so we can like, try it, and like, see for ourselves...and....

how about a link to the article?

There are lots of reasons for maintaining ones anonymity when posting on this site. Usually because some things are said here that would never be said in public.

Oh, I'm very public about my thoughts on this.

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