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Top Ten Rules for Food Bloggers

A Guide to Restaurant Blogging Etiquette

This idea started with the immortal words from Rick Bayless, who said, ‘I guess maybe we need to publish a little booklet on food bloggers etiquette.’ (You can find the full quote and context on Media Bistro).

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Since foodchannel.com is, in many ways, written specifically for and about food bloggers, we decided to accept the challenge and give you our TTRFFB...Top Ten Rules For Food Blogging.

These Rules were written by Kay Logsdon, The Food Channel Editor in Chief, and illustrated with photos taken by David Nehmer, our Creative Director, live and on site at restaurants we have visited over the past year.

1. Be professional, even if your blog is a hobby. That means identify yourself. Whether it’s a blog or a comment on a review site, use your name and location. It means keep the blog short—no one wants to read War & Peace when hunting for a place to eat. And, run Spell Check before posting your blog.

2. Photos are OK—in fact, they are a compliment to the chef. However, flash photos are a distraction to other diners. Do not use flash. If you need more light, work with your tablemate to use a ‘flashlight’ feature on your phone. Do not attempt to move or use the candlelight, play with the light fixtures, or get five iPhones lighting up the room.

3. Respect privacy. Do not take photos of other diners. Taking a photo of the plated food is not an excuse to intrude on others’ privacy, even if they are in a public location. If you want to get a photo of a line, or of someone else’s table, ask permission and react graciously and comply whether it’s a yes or a no.

4. Make sure your photo will do proper justice to the restaurant and its food. Restaurants pay a lot of money for professional food shots, sometimes employing food stylists and lighting experts. Keep that in mind if your photo turns out murky or out of focus, do the restaurant owner a favor and don’t use it. You may be able to capture a photo from their website, or simply link.

Tip: To get the best photo, consider a little distance. Although editors used to say, "Get close, then get closer," new cameras and software make it easier to focus from a distance and zoom in when you crop the photo for your blog.

5. What applies to photos should also apply to what you write, especially that part about "respect privacy." Don’t quote from private conversations or from interviews with the staff—or even the restaurant owner or chef—unless you have identified yourself as a blogger and they are OK with being quoted. It’s really not enough to leave their name out, particularly when they can be easily identified by their boss the next day. Ask first.

6. Use good judgment when judging. In other words, if you are going to criticize, be sure you know what you are talking about. Few food bloggers are trained culinarians, no matter how often they eat out. So something that tastes ‘odd’ to you may simply be your untrained palate. Be sure to identify your level of expertise so the reader can take your opinion for what it is—opinion.

7. Be polite. Again, blogging is not the same as being a food critic, no matter how much social media has changed the game. A good food blogger is about sharing the experience, and being polite when relating your experience is essential. So, if you received poor service or bad food, it’s totally OK to say that was your experience, but do it without expletives, invectives, or insults.

8. Link to the restaurant’s web site. Give your reader the chance to find out more about the restaurant and to peruse the menu a little further. Avoid linking to review sites unless it’s a review you’ve written, because you cannot judge the veracity of the reviewer—do you know if they are qualified to love or hate the place? Instead, talk about your experience and link to the restaurant’s site for more information. That’s also the best way to ensure that the most current and accurate information about their menu, their hours, or their special events is made available.

9. Let the restaurant know you’ve written about them. Again, it’s simple courtesy—this is not a ploy to request that your next meal be free, or that you receive priority seating. It’s simply that in a world of new media and blogs with low Search Engine Optimization, it’s hard to keep up with everything said about you. And if they don’t know, they can’t enjoy the two minutes of fame, or make changes based on your opinions. Give them that chance.

10. Don’t let note taking, photo taking, or observations hinder your enjoyment of the meal or the atmosphere. Blogging is meant to help others discover the experience, but if you aren’t having fun, too, what’s the point? Slow down, make it less of a job and more of a delight.

Some other links you may find helpful:

Beginner's Guide to Food Blogging

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Food Blog

Searchwarp.com

Goldilocks & the Three Bloggers

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