How to Spot a Food Critic in Your Restaurant

Despite the rise of Yelp reviews and food bloggers, restaurant critics can still make or break your restaurant with one review. Knowing how to spot a food critic can be a challenge for restaurant staff, and a can cause big problems if they fail to do so. Some high-end establishments post photos of prominent food critics in the back of the house. You don't have to go to that extreme, but you should educate your staff about restaurant critics with the following tips and tricks.

  1. Take Note of Inquisitive Customers
    If your customer asks you a lot of questions about the food, he may be a food critic. Restaurant critics will ask about the preparation of the food and the sourcing of ingredients, in part to test the staff's knowledge of the restaurant. Expect follow-up questions from critics in response to your answers, and do your best to stay calm and give clear and enthusiastic answers.
  2. Spot Repeat Guests
    Critics typically eat at a restaurant a couple times to get a true sense of the food and service. They usually arrive when it's not too busy, often early in the evening or just before the end of service.
  3. Notice People Who Notice Everything
    Critics are definitely interested in the food on their plate, but they are also constantly looking around to get a sense of the environment, staff and restaurant. An especially attentive guest may be tuning into different factors that would affect his review.
  4. Look for Moving Plates (and People)
    A solo diner who orders enough food to feed an army is a dead giveaway. If a group comes in, however, it's difficult to spot the critic. You may notice one person constantly moving his friends' dinner plates across the table and eating off them. Critics need to try a lot of different items from the menu, so watch for someone who can't stick to what he's ordered. In addition, watch for restless customers — someone who's constantly typing into his phone or taking frequent smoke or bathroom breaks could be a critic discretely taking notes.

If you think you have spotted a food critic, the best plan of action is to make sure he receives consistent service from one (very good) server and one busser. Do your best to anticipate the needs of your customer and reflect your restaurant's brand. As always, if you or the restaurant makes a mistake, apologize and take something off the bill. An apology can go a long way to ensure that everyone — even a restaurant critic — has a positive experience.

Photo credit: Flickr