The Great Restaurant Critics Debate


Thanks to Eater, our lunch conversation today at the Foodable office took an interesting turn. It all started with a well-written piece by restaurant critic Robert Sietsema about how the landscape of restaurant critics for publications has changed so much over the years. Between budget cuts of print media (and, in turn, employee cuts), and the waves of free social media insight from consumers themselves (and review sites, to boot), "conventional restaurant criticism was profoundly changed, and maybe not for the better," Sietsema wrote. He also goes into the fact that most critics now visit a restaurant one to two months into its opening (usually only once), rather than the original three to six months, in which critics - when the budget was there - would visit a few times to check on consistency, try other menu items, and really give the establishment a chance to grow into itself given all the moving parts.

Stemming from this insight came a rebuttal from Luke O'Neil of Slate, with a subtitle that reads, "Reviewers should write about restaurants as soon as they open, instead of giving them time to find their legs." As Eater reports, the article, titled 'Critics Need to Stop Coddling Restaurants,' leads us into what we'd like to call The Great Restaurant Critics Debate.

O'Neil's piece stresses the point that if (and when) proper restaurant critics wait even a month to review a new restaurant - to give it time to grow into itself, work out the kinks, what have you - they're doing a disservice to the reader.

In our opinion, the only disservice you can give a customer with reporting is inaccuracy, not in how quickly you report on it. Huge news broadcasts make this mistake all too often. Not only is a publication or network's credibility at stake by doing so, but inaccurate reporting is misleading to the audience - in this case, consumers. Therefore, we're taking Eater's side on this one.

A restaurant is made of many moving parts. You can't walk into a freshly opened establishment and have the same experience you might have a few months into its growth.

We'd love to hear your thoughts about this debate. Which sources do you rely on most for restaurant reviews? Do you think critics are, as O'Neil puts it, "coddling" restaurants, or do you think it's fair to review an establishment a few months in? Let us know in the comments below!