We live in a golden age of social media, sharing, and blogging. Anyone can be a critic and we thrive on shouting our opinions from the rooftop. Now if you are a foodie enthusiast writing restaurant reviews is one of the most popular ways to let your voice be heard. But how do you write restaurant reviews and profiles without sounding like an amateur Yelp enthusiast?
You may remember when I talked about writing book reviews and finding an angle? For how to write restaurant reviews, the ideas are similar. You want to find the places that haven’t been written about a million times. You want to pick an angle that will engage your reader.
Write What You Know
This old standby is good for any occasion. It’s like the little black dress of writing tips. And it holds true for writing restaurant reviews. If you want to query a review of a new restaurant, make sure you can write about it confidently and knowledgeably. Are you an expert on Thai fusion? South Indian cuisine vs. North Indian cuisine? Coffee and coffee shops? Liquor and mixology? Find what you could write about backward and forwards and start there.
Focus on the People First, the Place Second, the Food Third
This is my standard for almost any profile I’m writing. Because the people are what make it interesting. The staff, the owners, their story, those are things you don’t read a lot of when it comes to reviews and profiles.
Avoid Excessive Adjectives
When I entered the restaurant, I was overcome by the wafting scents of spices and Italian flavors. The interior was a warm, rustic wood affair with soft, worn, booths, with room for the whole family. We were greeted by the hostess who showed us to our table and lit the candle, which was housed in a red, glass, intricately patterned candle holder, typical of these restaurants.
When the food came, I could not believe how tantalizing it looked. My lasagna was cooked to perfection, the noodles were the perfect offset to the oozing cheese. The steam rose from the dish, indicating it had spent little time between the oven and my table.
Alright already, we get it. You had lasagna at an Italian restaurant. The time for descriptive sentences is over. Today’s reader barely has the attention span to complete a quiz on Buzzfeed. Keep it short and sweet. Save those descriptive words for the sentences that will pack a punch. As in fashion, less is more when it comes to those decorative accessories.
Find your Market
You want to get paid to write restaurant reviews? Me too. But it’s a pretty saturated market. Thanks to Yelp, Facebook, Google, and the comments section, you can get reviews of almost everything.
Finding the right home for your review is easier said than done. Start small. Surprisingly, local magazines and newspapers might have a bigger payout than a huge online conglomerate. And it might be more applicable. If you want to write a review about a restaurant you were at when you traveled in Milwaukee, write to the Milwaukee Sentinel, try a local foodie magazine, look at Wisconsin blogs and websites.
Take You Out of the Equation
Make your piece open, inviting, don’t just soapbox about the best piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever tasted. Make it inclusive, you want your audience to elicit your responses through just reading. It’s hard to do that with “I” dotting the page like a dandelion infestation.
To Bash, To Bait, To Bribe
What if you hate it? What if it was the worst experience ever? Do you really let it rip for the purpose of link clicks?
There’s probably a few schools of thought on this. Anyone who says they are above clickbaity titles is probably fooling themselves. The truth is, clickbaity titles work. There is very little neutral, middle ground online. I wish there was more. I think it’s ill-fitting us as writers, myself included when we try and snag readers with emoji causing titles and articles meant to enrage and show #thestruggles. But sometimes it works.
It is possible to use your negative experience and write a stellar review, but do it fairly, and be knowledgeable. Give credit where its due and take into account the circumstances.
Take Amazing Pictures
You might be able to pen the most tantalizing words known to man but your review will lack a ton of flavor without some solid pics.
Although you can choose to work with a photographer if the scale of the project demands it, in most cases you don’t need fancy equipment, a phone and some decent lighting will do just fine. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Keep the focus on the food. Keep everything else out of your photo, and just keep the food/beverage/cocktail in the picture.
2. Look at some photography tips to get a handle on the basics of shadow, lighting, and angles. This is photography at its most bare.
3. If you want some great interior and/or exterior photos check the restaurant’s website, if you’re not sure you can use a pic, ask the owner of the restaurant if you can use their photos for your review.
How to write restaurant reviews isn’t something you’ll find a ton of information on. And my suggestions conflict a little with what’s out there, but this is what I have noticed in my own profiles, reviews and in working with editors. How about you? Any success stories when it comes to writing reviews.