How to entice restaurant reviewers?
August 25, 2010 8:47 AM   Subscribe

How do you entice newspaper/magazine/blog writers into reviewing a restaurant?

I've been enlisted by a friend to try and get some press for a new menu at their restaurant, however I have little experience with this kind of writing/marketing and I'm looking for some advice.

So far I've been led to believe the way this is usually done, is to send the critic/blogger a letter explaining the changes at the restaurant, and then try to sell it to them (explain why it is worth their time to check it out?).

I'd be interested to hear both alternate suggestions, and suggestions on how best to execute the aforementioned letter.

posted by paradoxflow to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The points that need to be explained in such a letter are,
Why was the menu changed?
What does this restaurant offer that makes it a better choice than some other restaurant?
Is it economical or expensive, familiar or exotic, limited or varied, simple or elaborate, fattening or non-fattening, vegetarian or meaty, etc.
How do you get there? Is there parking?
posted by grizzled at 8:56 AM on August 25, 2010

You're sending an email, not a letter, right?

Does the place have a Twitter account, a FB page and/or a website? If not, get these. And then start following bloggers/critics you want to work with.

Send an email to Eater, if you're near any of their locations. Post on Chowhound. Social media will engage bloggers and critics.

Post a review on
posted by Ideefixe at 9:25 AM on August 25, 2010

I don't know about reviews, but another way to get some press is to offer a free dinner voucher as a prize in a drawing of some kind. Check your local schools or non-profits to see if they are having any fundraiser/auction/raffle type events coming up soon.
posted by CathyG at 9:27 AM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: As the food writer for a mid-sized American newspaper who sometimes reviews non-fine-dining restaurants, I can say how story pitchers can get my attention.

Tell me what the restaurant offers that I can't get elsewhere, or at least many other places. Tell me what's new about the food, what's outstanding about the value, or the experience, or the food. Details (ingredients, dishes, prix fixes, etc.) sell the pitch.

Your job is to differentiate the place from everyplace else in town that wants the free advertising and hopefully a positive review. You don't say how large your community is, but the smaller it is, the better chance you can pick out something fairly unusual-in-a-good-way about it.

If it's the only vegan restaurant in town, say that, and I'll put it on my list. If it's got the only authentic Hungarian goulash from the chef's grandma's recipe, I'm already halfway there.

Glowing adjectives (awesome, fantastic, cutting-edge, amazing, tasty) do nothing for me besides add more PR white noise. Too many such words tend to create the impression that the pitcher is trying to sell the sizzle instead of the steak.

You might be able to interest me in a chef overhaul if the new person has a reputation for excellence or is coming from a place that does.

But for me, it's mostly about the food.
posted by Andrew Galarneau at 9:28 AM on August 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

Send an email to Eater, if you're near any of their locations. Post on Chowhound. Social media will engage bloggers and critics.

Post a review on

Sending a press release about a revamped menu/changed concept at a restaurant to Eater is a great idea. Also send it to other local publications with dining sections or newsletters like UrbanDaddy, Thrillist, Tasting Table, etc.

Don't post this news to as a "review" or post the press release to Chowhound, it will be deleted/locked quickly. They spend a lot of time policing for shills (PR reps posting positive reviews, pretending to be everyday consumers) and are swift with the delete key if they think you're biased in any way.
posted by kathryn at 9:45 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For us at We Love DC the most likely thing to get us in the door is if there's a buzz/interest in the joint.

Yeah, it's the old "need experience to get a job/need a job to get experience" conundrum but that's the cold hard fact. Like any media outlet we're in existence to write things people want to read. If there's 0 chance anyone is going to give a damn then you have a much harder row to hoe.

If you don't have that general interest you should try to target at people who will have their own passion for what you're doing. Look for folks already writing about your kind of food, who have expressed interest in your chef in the past, who are writing about your neighborhood.

The number of "microblogs" out there is phenomenal. They may not have a huge audience but if you target the right ones these are the people whose audience could potentially become your regulars - folks who live around the corner.

As Andrew Galarneau says, don't waste your time telling me how awesome everything is. Of course you're going to tell me it's awesome - it's your place. Every extra adjective and paragraph I have to wade through that expresses opinions I cannot trust is a chance I'll lose interest and move on.

Write us your pitch - at least in the opening - like you're writing a news story. First para should be who, what, where, when, why. You are restaurant X located at Y serving Z.

If you are going to do a tasting, same thing.

If you're pitching a tasting to blogs you'd better make sure you offer times that people with other jobs can make it to. We get pitches all the time for previews on weekdays at 10a or 2p. I know that's a good time for you but unless we've got a writer off work that day or who works VERY close and can bop over then we're not going to be able to show up.

If you're pitching blogs with multiple writers take a moment to figure out who the appropriate person is to contact. There's over a dozen of us at ours and you'll get better traction if you go straight for the food writers rather than mailing some random person whose name you find quickly.

If a blog has an official contact form, use it. I can't speak for anyone else but for us that puts it into a channel where everyone gets to it rather than hoping someone forwards it to someone else.

Make a modest effort to seem like you know who you're writing to.The reality is that most bloggers are in this at least a little for ego, if not totally. Feeling like they're getting the same form letter as everyone else isn't going to endear you.

If you're going to use the same boilerplate for everyone then make it a proper press release; you're not fooling anyone with a mail merge. Maybe it's unfair that one seems okay and the other doesn't but the difference is you're not trying to fool anyone with a press release.

Speaking of, look into PR Newswire. A lot of us in the "non-traditional media" use it. It'll depress you to discover just how much modern journalism is flowing out of press releases but at least you'll be effective along the way.
posted by phearlez at 10:06 AM on August 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Andrew Galarneau has it.

I'll offer another angle ... try to get involved in some other kind of event. Cater an event. Open up a food stand. A wine tasting with local wineries. Something visual -- an eating contest, a challenge.

The BBC version of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares often had Ramsey getting out among the town doing little think-outside-the-box events, like a little parade downtown (one place had a "campaign for real gravy"), or offering samples on street corners. Note that the BBC version was totally different and far more interesting and "real" than the American version.

A little cheesy ... but dammit, why not? Who said everything had to be deadly serious?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:11 AM on August 25, 2010

Post on Chowhound.

Don't do this.

It's against our rules.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:45 AM on August 25, 2010

I've certainly seen all sorts of posts on the Los Angeles Chowhound that ask "what about Dixie's Diner?" and then responses--can't the OP here find a regular patron who'd do that? (Ludobites recent campaign springs to mind.)

I'm not suggesting that the OP break the rules, but there's posts and there's posts.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:51 AM on August 25, 2010

can't the OP here find a regular patron who'd do that?

No. Solicited posts aren't permitted, either.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2010

If the publication you want to get mentioned in has a shoestring budget (think local blogger/student paper), including a meal voucher with the letter can help. (When I worked for a budget travel guide our writers would always visit places where they had been sent vouchers, although it wasn't a guarantee of getting a favorable writeup.)
posted by phoenixy at 1:15 PM on August 25, 2010

Nthing all the responses not to put a review on Yelp - but while you're at it, do make sure that the place in question has an entry on Yelp, and that it's up to date with a website link, opening times, cuisine type, etc. You can always add the business to the site, no matter what your affiliation - and that makes it much easier for other folks to find and review it.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:06 PM on August 25, 2010

Two other ideas/thoughts:

- Perhaps find a local blogger/social media meet-up and offer to host/cater an event? (Maybe a happy hour kind of special with free tasting items from the new menu?)

- If possible, provide easy access to high-res, quality photos of the new menu items, restaurant, etc. Make it easy for bloggers/low budget press to create an attractive post/article
posted by nuffsaid at 2:07 PM on August 25, 2010

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