I’ve been fortunate to have been invited by different restaurants who wanted bloggers to sample their dishes. As a blogger, I will admit that receiving these invites is really exciting – I won’t lie. And I do go to a few food tasting and opening events. I say “few” because I am not a food blogger but do want to highlight hip, trendy restaurants worth visiting from time to time.
(While I am thankful for every invite I receive, I am quite picky these days – as you know, the invites to eat do not come with a gym membership…)
A few days ago, my blogger friends and I were invited to an opening of one of the newest restaurants in town. The event was posh to say the least, complete with red carpet and display of interesting creatures straight out from a children’s fantasy book. It was exciting and I can’t wait how the night would unfold.
Unfortunately, our experience, in general, was a big let down.
In fairness, the food was great and I could’ve used a lot of adjectives to plump up a blog post about it however, the treatment and service we received was very disappointing enough to merit this long-ish, impromptu blog post.
I was busy that night, not to savor the food and exchange opinions with the bloggers in my table but busy to call the attention of the servers and ask if they can at all see us and why our table was without food that was served in other tables.
The servers and the waiters seem to act like there’s an invisiblity cloak hanging over our heads and just whizzed by us until we were too hungry to ignore them. I had to go around and find the PR who invited me (us).
The PR said when I finally caught her and introduced myself, “Oh, you’re the blogger I invited, please get busy with social media, write good things about tonight’s event!”
I replied, “Oh yes, I would gladly do that IF ONLY I had something to talk about…we are not served any food as we speak. We don’t have anything to share on social media.”
We were done talking about the ambiance, the music and the restaurant decors…
She apologized but said “you should have told me earlier!” (sounds like a lame defensive remark, really), pointing the fault to me/us why we didn’t complain earlier.
It’s unfortunate when PR and blogger relationships turn sour (especially on first meeting!) so I have compiled a list of things that I wish PR people, especially those handling F & B accounts would bear in mind for a more successful relationship with bloggers:
1. Please don’t assume that bloggers only go to the event for free food.
…that you don’t care to check whether they came or not and meet them in person.
While there may be those kind of bloggers, some go to these food tasting events to genuinely check out the venue, the service and the menu. And want to meet the PR who invited them. It’s always great to put a face behind the email address.
2. Do not discriminate bloggers against print media people.
If you’ll invite bloggers and people from traditional print media, please don’t make the distinction and discrimination too obvious like placing bloggers at the back of the room and served LAST, if at all. If you really need to put more importance to print media people, then it’s best idea to not invite bloggers (if they will just end up looking like wallpapers).
We do not expect to be treated VIP, but only being served the main dish when all others are starting to finish their dessert is really off. No, I’d be honest – it’s upsetting.
3. Bloggers are not venue fillers!
There had been instances where bloggers were invited for an opening of a restaurant and they couldn’t even find where the PR is. There’s no one to greet them. The PR who invited is lost in the crowd, never attempting to make contact with the invited bloggers until the event ends…makes bloggers want to ask, “what are we here for?”
4. Do not send last minute invites.
Last minute invites mean something, and it’s not really pleasant or welcoming. Do not send invites to an opening event 2 days or one day or worse, a few hours before the event itself. Please see #3.
5. Do not pressure the blogger to write about the opening event of your restaurant.
I understand why you had to invite bloggers – to create a buzz around the establishment, the brand and maybe the opening event. Bloggers will happily post on social media real time (mostly Instagram and Twitter), sometimes only start touching the food that has already gone cold because they had to work first.
But a blog post?
…unless the certain blogger really wants to write about it but I believe that an opening ceremony is not a good and justifiable event anyway to cover to get a general view of the restaurant’s food quality and service. Typically a fair review is where you are experiencing what the “real customers or clients” are getting when they visit. If you want the blogger to publish a review of the restaurant, invite him/her for a separate sit down where he/she can sample what you have to offer so he/she will be able to share his/her opinion about it.
In the end, we were served a basket of bread, water, some soft drinks for those who asked, a small plate of appetizers and the main dish that came only after almost everyone in the room (especially the print media people in the other side of the room) finished with theirs. And only after constant asking and finally, complaint.
PR stands for public relations. Unfortunately with most PR people I’ve met, the latter word seems to be the hardest one to perfect.