Food bloggers: Helpful or disruptive?

Marketplace Staff Sep 6, 2010

Food bloggers: Helpful or disruptive?

Marketplace Staff Sep 6, 2010


Tess Vigeland: Lots of folks will be barbecuing in the great outdoors today. Last unofficial weekend of summer, time to use up those briquettes. But if you’re going out to dinner, get ready for some flashbulbs to go with your appetizer. And your main course. And probably dessert, too. Food blogs and review sites are all the rage these days. And they’ve spawned some new behavior at restaurants that would probably have Emily Post rolling over in her grave.

Sally Herships has our story from New York.

Sally Herships: It’s Thursday night. I’m at Fatty Cue, a trendy barbecue joint in Brooklyn. I’m here with Hagen Blount, Lawrence Weibman and Andy Freedman. Three big, hungry guys trying to decide what to get for dinner.

Blogger 1: The crab laksa, the spare ribs and the brisket.

They spend a while debating their order.

Blogger 2: I would be interested in the cucumbers.

But when the food finally comes, no one touches it. Instead of attacking their plates, they’re photographing them. Which isn’t easy, because it’s kind of dark in here.

Bloggers: Have you been using the two-second delay? One second. One-second delay, yeah.

Hagen, Blount and Weibam are going to post the photos online, along with a review of the restaurant. That’s because they’re food bloggers, or — depending on who you ask — food paparazzi. And Weibman’s not very fond of the term.

LAWRENCE WEIBAM: The idea of paparazzi definitely has a negative connotation to it — almost like a shoo-fly. And what we’re doing here is out of passion, we love food.

But whether you call them paparazzi or bloggers, they’re showing up in restaurants more often, bringing cameras, and sometimes even tripods, along with their appetite. Like at Cafe Flora, a vegetarian restaurant in Seattle. Nat Stratton-Clarke is the owner. For the most part, he’s very happy with the free publicity.

NAT STRATTON-CLARKE: This wonderful woman from Dallas came in last week. And she is gluten-free. And the only reason that she knew about us is because she typed in “gluten-free Seattle” and up came this picture that somebody had taken.

But sometime the quality of the photos doesn’t match the quality of the food. They can be under-exposed, or taken mid-meal, bite marks and all.

Katie Grieco is VP of operations and new projects at Craft Restaurants in New York. We sat down to look at some of the pictures bloggers have posted of three-star meals from celebrity Chef Tom Colicchio.

Grieco: I think they’re horrible looking, aren’t they? You tell me. If I were to look at that picture, I wouldn’t think that looks particularly appetizing. And that was a good review.

But Grieco isn’t that concerned with the pictures themselves. Instead, she says the bigger problem is the possibility of bloggers disrupting the ambiance with flashes or tripods and disturbing diners trying to enjoy their meals in peace. The average check at Craft is about $100.

GRIECO: When people are paying a high price tag the expectations are often just as high, if not higher.

Trendy eateries like New York City’s Momofuku Ko and Le Caprice have banned photography altogether. And Craft doesn’t allow photographers to use a flash. But Grieco’s biggest beef with bloggers is their potential lack of experience. She doesn’t want amateur food writers influencing people’s dining decisions.

GRIECO:When you feel like they’re having that influence without really knowing what they’re talking about, it’s very frustrating.

Back at Fatty Cue food blogger Lawrence Weibman tell me he understands… sort of.

WEIBAM: But in the end, if a chef is making good food, he or she has nothing to worry about, because it speaks for itself.

You know that old saying, “Everyone’s a critic?” Well for restaurant owners, it’s truer then ever.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

Herships: How is it?

Blogger 1: Delicious. That is some pork goodness right there. I’m tellin’ you.

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