“You’re so lucky you get free food all the time.”
That statement is my ultimate pet peeve when it comes to writing about food, even more than having other people copy my reviews.
I didn’t get into blogging for freebies – I started out of passion and it is still something I’m very passionate about. I don’t blog to suck up to chefs or PR practitioners though over the years, I’ve developed a good relationship with some.
I write what I want and feel like writing, be it food, travel, fashion or beauty. Food is something I’m sensitive about because it can potentially cause me flak from my readers. I’ve gotten a good amount of hate mails/messages (of course I have good ones too) because some did not agree with my food opinions.
Jien and I also have a strict policy of accepting a maximum of two invited reviews a month, often less because I no longer have the time to commit to such reviews. However, we venture out on our own a lot based on recommendations from fans and our friends. In a nutshell, we fork out quite a bit of $$ for food, which I will then pen down on bangsarbabe.com to share with my readers.
“Why so lanci? She big shot meh?”
Yes, word gets around that I accept reviews sparingly and some PRs think I’m being “difficult”. Unless I’ve been to the restaurant before and know the food is good or heard positive things about the restaurant, let me tell you why I refrain from accepting invited reviews.
1) I don’t get to write in my usual opinionated tone. Well actually, I still do. But I would feel bad about it because I was hosted. If I can afford the meal myself, I would rather pay for it and write the way I want (heck, I wouldn’t waste my time writing if it was terrible).
2) I can’t afford to eat at the restaurant. It is true that I don’t grow money on trees. And I like to think that a lot of my readers are in the same boat – we want to spend our hard-earned money on good food and pleasant dining experiences. If I can’t afford to pay for the meal myself, I don’t see the point in recommending the place to my readers.
3) I want some privacy when dining. A lot of invited reviews combine bloggers in a group so we get to “try more” and the restaurant gets to “save some time and cost”. I don’t like being restricted in my photography because “people are waiting for me to finish up”. Neither do I like waiting for others to “finish with their 100th photo of the same dish”. Also, when there’s some form of personal interaction with the restaurant owner/PR, it becomes difficult to be completely objective and constructive about the food.
When a restaurant owner is aware I’m reviewing the food and pays extra attention to me, I feel uncomfortable. Because I know this isn’t the level of service or food quality that will be extended to my readers. Someone once commented that I’m “big enough not to care about offending people in the F&B industry”, which definitely isn’t the case. I’ve just developed a thicker skin to stick to what I believe in and write what I feel.
Eating out and writing about my experience is something I enjoy doing – it combines pleasure and work, and I get rewarded in other ways (advertorials, endorsements, etc). Bangsarbabe.com is meant to help readers make informed decision and sometimes, to entertain. Not an attempt to get free food because I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to pay for myself.