Thursday, January 10, 2008

First Impressions, Fine

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I respect, admire, and appreciate what Adam Peltz does with his blog,; in some ways his aggregation and comments of reviews was what I originally had in mind for this blog. He does it a lot better than I could have done, and I'm happy to have the Eat Local beat. Anyways, Adam takes a little umbrage with the early reviews of Lao Beijing on LTHForum
Yes, editorkid, we agree with you. Newly opened restaurants should get a chance to get settled before they're reviewed, and the more influence a reviewer has, the more he or she should abide by this code of conduct. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to put the genie back into the bottle. LTHForum could establish a policy of not allowing reviews for restaurants less than a month old, say, but this is both unlikely to happen and almost beside the point, anyway. The rabid foodies of the Internet cannot be made to follow rules in the quest for information (and to be first).
Nope. Count me as one who does not agree, nor with his commentor, editorkid who first raised the issue. It is basic. Commerce, if you charge for a meal, you should expect the customer to be satisfied. And you should be aware that someone is going to talk about it, online or off.

I'm all for cutting a restaurant some slack in its opening, to the extent that it needs slack, but I also do not believe the slack should stay hidden. With some places, as in the restaurant in question here, Lao Beijing, early eaters may be able to put the experience in context against the track record of the owner. So, for instance, G Wiv, who has eaten at other places owned by the owner of Lao Beijing expects things to improve. Perhaps. On the other hand, how can a restaurant improve if they do not get critical feedback. Also, first impressions, even mixed experiences, can drive traffic to a place. There's not much experience in Chicago with Northern or Beijing style Chinese food. Just hearing about meals at Lao Beijing will raise interest in this style of food and get people to try for themselves. Besides, foodies are gonna talk about their experiences whether they post it or not. Would not the restaurant, besides the public, be better that this chat take place in the open?

I surely concede that there can be problems if the reviewer does not inform the reader that the place is new, assuming, of course (and it's not always obvious) that they know it's a new place. Without such information, the reader cannot put the experience in the right context. Yet, the failure of some reviewers (and this is not the case cited) to best disclose does not mean that any and all first peek reviews should stop. Once a place is taking your money, they are fair game as far as I can see.

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