This week, a fellow identifying himself as the City Weekly restaurant critic walked into a Bountiful restaurant and told the owner he'd "give them a half-page review" if they would comp his meal. Well, legitimate restaurant reviewers don't work that way. This guy was a con artist. And, it surely wasn't me. I haven't been to that restaurant in well over a year, since I reviewed the place in 2010, when I payed my own tab.
With every third person on the planet writing a food blog or chiming in on Yelp, Urbanspoon, etc., restaurateurs need to be especially diligent about keeping an eye out for scams and cons. I've heard more than once about people identifying themselves as me (Ted Scheffler) at a restaurant, trying to get a free meal. Yes, there are occasions when restaurateurs will host members of the media, particularly to showcase new menus or chefs, but those are isolated instances and not solicited by the writers or reviewers. I always make it crystal clear that I won't "exchange" a free meal for a review. Or, one I've paid for, for that matter.
For the record: I pay for restaurant meals and beverages out of my own pocket, and then I am reimbursed fully by City Weekly. We've had the same arrangement for more than 17 years, dating back to the days of the Private Eye. In that time, according to John Saltas, City Weekly has spent nearly $200,000 in local restaurants, paying for meals and drink for their food reviewers.
So, the next time someone comes in to your establishment and claims to be a restaurant critic, ask to see some credentials, at the very least. Beyond that, no credible and legit critic I know of would ask a restaurant to comp a meal in exchange for a review. Professionals don't work that way.
And, you might ask yourself this: Why has this so-called critic blown his own cover? Most restaurant critics I know do our best to review restaurants anonymously. So, if a guy walks through the door and announces that he's a restaurant reviewer, food writer or critic, an alarm should go off. Don't be fooled by faux critics.