Monday, March 27, 2017

Rant: Two Restaurant Reviews, One Failure

Two reviews, in different local periodicals, of the same new restaurant. Both written by experienced and knowledgeable reviewers. However, one of those reviews succeeds while the other fails. Why is that the case?

To me, there are four primary elements that every professional restaurant review should address, including food, drink, price and service. There are numerous secondary aspects that can be addressed as well, such as the restaurant's size, decor, ambiance, parking availability, etc. If a review ignores one of the four primary elements, then I feel it has failed in its execution, omitting significant information that many potential customers would like to know. Such an omission does a disservice to both the potential customer and the restaurant.  

Of the four primary elements, one seems to be ignored the most, despite its importance to many diners. I've raised this issue before but it bears repeating as it remains a problem. A number of restaurants reviews ignore a restaurant's drink program, even when that element is a vital aspect of the restaurant's concept. That is a clear failure and professional reviewers should know better than to ignore such an important element.

This is the reason why one of the two reviews I recently read failed. It failed to discuss the restaurant's drinks program, even though it plays a significant role in the restaurant. And this restaurant has some unique elements to its drinks program, highlighted by the other reviewer, which would entice a number of potential customers to check out the restaurant. That information should have been in the failed review too.  

Many restaurants invest much time and effort into developing their drink lists and bar programs. They may bring in experts, sommeliers, mixologists and more, to help design those programs. They may be rightfully proud about their accomplishments, and it becomes a significant reason why diners will patronize their establishment. Potential customers might seek out a restaurant because of its tequila bar or whiskey list, their natural wines or Sake menu. When reading a restaurant review, they want to read about the food but many also want to learn about the drinks program.

Consider the example of a Japanese izakaya. The literal meaning of izakaya is a “sit-down-Sake-shop,” though it now generally refers to a Japanese bar that serves any type of alcohol, not just Sake, and also food to accompany that alcohol. Izakayas originated during the Edo period (1603-1867 AD) when Sake vendors began to provide tables and seats for their patrons, and eventually started serving food with the Sake samples. Thus, in an izakaya, their alcohol and food are both significant and warrant discussion in any professional review. Failure to do so ignores an important aspect of the izakaya's concept.

Diners can sometimes spend more on their alcohol than their food so that alone would point to its significance. Other diners specifically seek out restaurants with specific drink programs, such as a well curated wine list. Lovers of spirits may seek out a restaurant with a large and/or unique selection of their favorite spirit. They want to read a restaurant review and learn about what drinks it has to offer, and whether it has something to entice them or not.

Restaurant reviewers, please don't ignore a restaurant's drinks program. It is significant information that should be within your review, and will better help your readers decide whether they want to patronize that restaurant or not.

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