Apr 6, 2012
08:11 AM
Café Connecticut

Everyone's a Critic


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But how much does one educated opinion count these days? Anderson says a professional restaurant reviewer doesn’t offer him the “full scope” of opinions of Open Table, which has 63 reviews of Pip’s that allow him to “definitely see the trends.” Among online comment sites, Anderson puts most stock in Open Table because in order to comment, one must have made a reservation through the site. And if guests complain later, he says, restaurateurs are able to send an email to apologize and “offer them something.”

One frustrating point can be comments about price. “When they say that a bottle of wine cost $9.99 in a liquor store or they could have made the chicken themselves at home . . . We employ 38 people and there are so many intangibles,” says Schaffer. “We’re making a dish with special ingredients and 19 steps. I wish the consumer was more knowledgeable.”

When Jeff Schlessinger, who earned a following on Chowhound under the name “Jfood,” started writing for the popular Web site CTbites.com two years ago, he gave up his anonymity and changed his tone. CTbites prides itself on presenting only positive reviews of “places we like.” “I was tired of sniping,” Schlessinger says. “I’m enjoying the positive approach of CTbites.” Reader comments, however, are anonymous, “which allows people to be slightly irresponsible sometimes,” says CTbites founder Stephanie Webster. “They say things they’d never say in person.”

Schlessinger has felt the sting himself. His glowing write-ups of one restaurant elicited a series of comments implying that he “worked for the restaurant” and was “doing PR.” Schlessinger, who works in finance and is an amateur writer, says he’s motivated only by a love of food. “Personal attacks are hard to take,” he adds. Scotti suspected friends of rival restaurants when, in contrast to The New York Times “Very Good” review of the Scottis’ Zest, also in Westport (now closed), an online reviewer said, “It was like airplane food.” Restaurateurs are busy—too busy to pad sites or track down anonymous critics. “I bite the bullet,” she says. But she’d like to see more cooperation between restaurants, customers and online sites. “Restaurants and customers should not be adversaries,” she says. “We want you to be happy.”

Everyone's a Critic

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