So You Recognize The Food Critic – What To Do Next

So You Recognize The Food Critic - What To Do Next

It can be a blessing when the food critic walks through your doors. This means you get a review.

Your hands are sweaty. You are as nervous as you were on your first date. Your tummy is rumbling, and your knees just went weak.

Wait! It’s just the food critic.

That’s a simple sentence, but it packs a power punch when you think this person has the ability to make or break your restaurant.

In this article, we look at what happens when you recognize the food critic and what to do next.

Don’t Comp the Meal

Food critics are bound by a code of ethics. (tweet this) One of these unwritten rules says that if you comp them food or drink, they should make every effort to pay for it.

While it may seem counter-intuitive because you are offering them a gesture out of kindness, comping their food can be seen as a bribe.

Additionally, by offering to comp their meal, you’re putting them in a difficult position. They don’t want to reject your goodwill, but they should.

Don’t Interrupt the Meal

Ok, so you know they’re the food critic. It’s not your job to recognize this.

They want to sit quietly and enjoy their meal and take in the sights and sounds as well as your restaurant’s customer service. You especially don’t want to interrupt them if they’ve brought a guest with them.

So, don’t hover and don’t interrupt their meal. Leave them alone unless they ask to see the manager, owner or chef. But, do make sure your best server waits on them.

You probably don’t like it when people put you on the spot, so don’t put the food critic in an awkward position by interrupting their meal.

Don’t Pry

Let’s say the food critic invited you over to his table.

Now is not the time to pry into his life and grill him on his experience as a food critic. If you really want to know more about the food critic, open your smartphone and go online.

Additionally, don’t try to find out if he liked the meal. It’s bad manners to interrogate him about his thoughts regarding your food and service.

Do be polite and tell him thank you for coming and that you hope he enjoyed the meal.

Don’t Be Defensive

Be open to criticism if it comes.

If for some reason, your food critic starts to complain about your food, service or something else, don’t argue with him about it.

Don’t become defensive if the critic is criticizing your restaurant. (tweet this)

Do whatever you can to remedy the situation immediately. This may even earn you some bonus points if you can show them you care about service.

Don’t Gawk

The food critic doesn’t want you or your staff to stare at him. Really. He isn’t a zoo exhibit.

If prying eyes, long stares and multiple walk-bys make the critic uncomfortable, you may risk your review.

Now, we’ve already established that you recognized the food critic when he walked in, and it’s a good thing you did.

But, it’s up to you to make sure your staff pretends he’s just another customer to be treated to your delicious menu and stellar customer service.

Now that we’ve looked at some do’s and don’ts, let’s look at some of the guidelines your food critic is bound by conscience to follow.

food critic

Be responsive to the food critic but don’t lay it on too thick.


The Association of Food Journalists lays out certain guidelines for food critics. Although, it is worth noting that these aren’t rules to be enforced, they are just guidelines to help food critics maintain their objectivity.

The guidelines say a critic should:

  • Be fair
  • Be honest
  • Understand the food he is writing about
  • Look beyond the menu and review all aspects of the restaurant as a whole.

As with good journalism, the Association of Food Journalists advocates for critics who adhere to the same professional responsibility as other journalists.

Their guidelines also lay out a process for sampling of the menu. They encourage food critics to sample from a wide breadth of the menu – appetizers to desserts. They suggest critics taste everything they order and only write about what they tasted.

They go on to state, as we discussed before, that food critics shouldn’t accept free meals or gift certificates. They encourage the publication employing the critic to provide an ample tasting budget.

If for some reason, the restaurant decides not to charge the critic for something, the critic should mention it in the review.

When writing a negative review, they encourage critics to be precise and just. If a critic is prepared to write a negative review, a good rule of thumb is to visit the restaurant more than once to be sure the experience wasn’t a one-off.

Now, let’s examine what the food critic is looking at when he comes to your restaurant. Take a look at this list and make sure your restaurant excels in each of these areas.

Then, you have nothing to worry about when you recognize the food critic as he walks in the door.

The Critic is Looking For…

  • Taste – this is what the critic values most.
  • Technique – the critic looks at how hard the food was to make.
  • Creativity – you’ll get bonus points here.
  • Presentation – you want your food to taste and look great. Everything should look appealing.
  • Service – bad service is extremely off-putting. The critic looks at the attention of the service, how fast expectations are met, how friendly your staff is and how much they know about your menu.
  • Value – make sure your menu items are priced accurately.
  • The atmosphere – is it comfortable to dine in your restaurant? Do you have ambiance?
  • Cleanliness – this is an absolute must. A dirty restaurant never makes a critic happy.

To Conclude

A food critic can make or break your restaurant. So, whether you recognize a food critic or not, you should strive for consistency.

Provide great food and excellent service all the time. Train your staff. Clean your restaurant.

Then, step back and take a look at your restaurant. What would you think if you were the restaurant critic? Would your restaurant and your menu meet or exceed expectations?

If not, do what you can now to fix any inconsistencies and improve what you can. After all, you never know when the next food critic will walk in your door…

Has a food critic ever visited your restaurant? How did you handle it? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share below.

Images: Jeff Sheldon and Sweet Ice Cream Photography

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