Sun 17 Jul 2011
Two weeks ago a food blogger in Taiwan started serving a 30-day sentence for writing a critical review of a local noodle restaurant. Known only as Ms. Liu, the blogger wrote that the restaurant’s food was too salty, which led to the restaurant owner taking her to court for defamation. The judge sided with the owner and in addition to the jail time ordered Ms. Liu to pay NT$200,000 (4,900 Euros) in damages to the restaurant.
I imagine some restaurant chefs and owners are secretly celebrating this “victory.” The relationship between food bloggers – most of whom are amateur writers with little or no cookery school backgrounds – and restaurant owners has always been tenuous at best. Many chefs cite bloggers’ no-holds-barred critiques as nasty and irresponsible while bloggers say they’re merely doing the public a service by offering straightforward reviews. Both arguments are equally compelling.
Even in Ireland, where the social norm would be to quietly accept mediocrity rather than complain, I’m seeing a real uprising among food bloggers who are fed up with lousy food and terrible customer service in restaurants. A local vegetarian food blogger relayed her disappointment at the “nasty” comments she received from her waiter – who clearly wasn’t interested in her vegetarian-related menu questions – at a popular Dublin café. “Next time you have a veggie customer, I hope you treat them better than you treated me,” she warned. Recently CheapEats.ie “named and shamed” a Dublin restaurant for “appalling” service and then launched a week-long series outing a variety of other offending eateries. The feedback from readers was generally positive; they, too, were fed up with the lack of good service and conceded that it was high time blogs called restaurants out for it.