How to Write Restaurant Reviews Like a Pro

From left to right: John Kessler, Denise Romeo, Debbie Rosen,
and, Christopher Hassiotis
As mentioned in a previous post, I had the sincere pleasure of sitting on a panel of experts at the recent TECHmunch Atlanta Food Blogger Conference. The panel discussion revolved around best practices for writing reviews of restaurants. Each of the panelists lent a different perspective on the process from local newspaper critic to public relations representative. Below are the key takeaways from the panel discussion:
John Kessler, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Food Critic (@ajcjohnkessler)
1.     Stay away from using to many clich├ęs.
2.     Do your research.
3.     Take notes of your dining experience.
4.     Visit a place more than once (if you can). It gives you more information to write with.
5.     Trust your own opinion.
6.     Make reservations.
7.     Be prepared to pay for your own meal.
8.     Pictures are a great part of the dining experience.

Denise Romeo, food blogger at We Like To Cook! (@welike2cook)
1.    When pictures are not allowed or turn out to be inadequate - be prepared to convey your experience in words.
2.     “Don't eat and tweet” (the Twitterverse can wait until you're done eating).
3.     Follow FTC blogging regulations.
4.     Find your own voice and be authentic.
5.     Use your words (find alternatives to just using 'yummy').
6.     You can always choose to write an informational review versus a good or bad.
7.     Always tip your servers, even if the meal is comped!

Christopher Hassiotis, Zagat, restaurant reviewer (@ZagatAtlanta)
1.    What is your ‘why’ for the review? To spotlight the people behind the food? To share your opinion?
2.    You don't need to write about every step of the dish.
3.    Remember to edit your posts (take time away from your post and then go back to edit).
4.    Know what you are talking about.  Elaborate on what you like about the meal.

Debbie Rosen, owner, Rosen PR
1.    PR agencies are hired by restaurants to present a consistent and positive message about their companies. We are the gatekeepers of media content for their clients.
2.   It is not in a PR company's best interest to encourage writers/bloggers to write honest reviews. If you have unfavorable opinions, we prefer informational posts rather than negative commentary.
3.   Use press releases as a guide, but don't copy verbatim; describe your experience in your own words.
4.     Ask to be included as a guest for special occasions of the restaurant.
5.     Communication is necessary to ensure that bloggers are meeting obligations set forth by PR agencies.