An article in the British Independent newspaper written by Alice-Azania Jarvis, has caught our attention, as it highlights the growing influence of food blogs, especially how they have affected the way the public chooses which restaurants to frequent.
For decades, the world’s most famous restaurant guide has been the Michelin guide which awards restaurants with 1, 2 or 3 stars for excellence. Chefs spend entire careers striving to achieve these stars, as they place them among a skilled elite, and they allow restaurants to increase their prices exponentially.
However, lately, restaurants have been bucking the trend by attracting customers without a single restaurant guide – or restaurant reviewer’s endorsement.
Word of mouth recommendations have always been perceived as the best advertisement for any restaurant, and now with the popularity of social network sites – especially Twitter – this is made much more far-reaching, as friends tweet their praise for a restaurant to all their “followers”, achieving a new kind of online buzz-building.
As the article points out, “it’s not just Twitter which has facilitated a culture of recommendation – the internet is littered with blogs devoted to dining out. Far from being an amorphous mass of information, the food blogging network has assumed a definite, reputation-based structure. The website urbanspoon.com acts as a kind of umbrella, ranking individual blogs. Meanwhile bloggers themselves cross-reference vigorously, so it only takes a little browsing to discover the most respected. And, unlike guidebooks or newspaper reviewers, food bloggers tend to upload pictures of every dish they eat. Readers can look at a plate, decide if it takes their fancy, and pick up the phone.”
When Tweeters or food bloggers give an endorsement, it is almost as if it has come from a friend – a particularly knowledgeable one with good taste. By contrast, Michelin inspectors are completely anonymous. One inspector finally granted an interview in 2009, on condition that her identity remain secret, but she revealed a peculiar method of assessment: meals aren’t enjoyed, only a few bites of each dish are consumed, and companionship is not encouraged. It really did not resemble what most people are looking for on a night out. And, for the first time, the buzz surrounding the latest edition –“Great Britain & Ireland, 2011” the 100th in the UK – has been somewhat muted.
As Jarvis points out,”In an age when countless alternatives are available across newspapers, magazines and the internet, the self-described “foodie bible” suddenly looks a lot less biblical”.