How to Criticise?

Sometimes beans on toast are better!

I like to write restaurant reviews online. I do it because those reviews help me find good places to eat. And I feel like I ought to contribute to the pool of knowledge. My problem is that I’m reluctant to criticise. I’m especially reluctant to criticise a small business. I know how tough it can be to get a small business up & running. I know too that it’s been really tough for many small restaurants to survive covid restrictions. But, to be honest, some of them don’t deserve the reviews I give them!

I know, I know, that is not very helpful to the other readers. But I just can’t help it. When I hint that the food was mediocre, the service average, or the cleanliness just slightly lacking, I then compensate by enthusing about how great & nice the people were. Even if they weren’t! I’ll then tick 3 of 5 stars, because I just couldn’t force myself to give them the 2 that would have been generous.

Is this wrong?

It’s been really challenging to write good restaurant reviews in whatever phase of the pandemic we’re in at the moment. I don’t know what’s going on, but places that I used to like are now awful. Did they fire the old chef? Are they using last year’s oil? Are they buying cheap ingredients? It’s been so challenging to write good reviews, that I’m not writing any recently.

We’re all used to something advertised as “home cooked” being absolutely nothing like Mom used to make. But we’ve only got one Mom, so that’s understandable. But when something is advertised as bring authentically Irish, British, or whatever ethnic flavour is core to the business, then it should vaguely resemble that. Sometimes, it doesn’t. And when the owners are from that country, I feel even more cheated. I know they know better. Or maybe their Moms (or Dads!) were hopeless in the kitchen!

So here’s my dilemma … how do I warn the other Irish people out there that the Irish breakfast at this particular restaurant is about as Irish as flambéd alligator ice-cream? That the other place is about as British as Timbuktu? But without beating up on some small business owner, who may be struggling to pay his kids tuition through school. Or she is trying to keep the place afloat because her partner is sick. I worry that my criticism will add to the burden of their backstory.

But if I don’t offer criticism, how can I help the small businesses owner who genuinely wants the feedback, so they can improve?

I’ve built a list of new restaurants that I want to visit. I’m hoping there will be some good ones that will free me to wax lyrically about how great they are. Fingers crossed! 🤞🏻

Despite all the very mediocre food I am being served, I’m still tucking it away. So, no, I’m not losing any weight either. Maybe those people are serving me this stuff because they see that I need the help! 😜

Anyone got any idea how to best provide feedback? Without being too hurtful!

3 thoughts on “How to Criticise?

  1. If the food is good despite not being true to its claimed ethnic origins, it’s easy to praise. If it’s not so good, there’s always portion size, service, effort, atmosphere, or price. And if none of them can be praised, you can always speculate. I once had an astonishingly awful breakfast, but went away assuming the place is better as a night spot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rather than criticize online or in general, bring the information directly to the restaurant as feedback. I’m from a subjective field. I’ve heard it for many years and I’d like to think I am a better creative because of it. Maybe the small business is just without the good chef this week or worse, struggling to understand why their business is failing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. Go directly to the restaurant in the hope they will take on board your feedback. At least you’ll have tried to assist them without making their flaws widely known.

      Liked by 1 person

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