By: Melody Mackintosh –

Food reviews. We’ve all read them. Some of us have even written them. But what’s the point of them? Certainly, here in the Middle East, where published criticism of eating establishments is forbidden, they can’t really be called reviews can they? After all, the definition of a review is ‘critical evaluation’. So, in the absence of criticism, they’re really just advertising features designed to promote the eatery concerned and show it off to its best advantage. More to the point, if the establishment in question knows the so called review is taking place, surely the resultant ‘critique’ will only ever be positive.

Restaurant reviews in the UK take a rather different approach. One particular gentleman who writes a regular column for a national tabloid has no qualms about naming and shaming eateries which have failed to live up to his expectations. There’s no denying that some of his observations, so utterly damning they are, could easily result in the enterprise concerned going out of business. A little unfair, when, after all, it’s only one person’s opinion.

So what’s the answer? Well, I certainly don’t see the point of reviewing a restaurant if you’re not allowed to tell readers of its shortcomings. I also think it’s a little unfair to print unfavourable comments about a business without giving it the opportunity to respond. With this in mind, would it not be better to visit the restaurant in question (unannounced), write a critical evaluation (in draft form), then re-visit the venue once those concerned have read, and acted upon, any criticism?

For example, if the draft review highlights the fact that diners were left unattended for an unacceptable length of time, arrangements can be made to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Similarly, if the menu choice was restricted due to the absence of a specific ingredient, plans must be put in place to avoid a repeat of this occurrence. Also, if the levels of service from a particular member of staff failed to meet customer expectations, training can be given to improve service standards.

Having been alerted to the fact that a second review is imminent, the restaurant concerned should receive a glowing reference. If it doesn’t, they only have themselves to blame. The final review, now including observations from two separate visits should be honest and, if all has gone to plan, complimentary. Whilst it will point out negative aspects from the first visit, it should go on to confirm that those defects were absent during the second visit. This will instantly put the reader’s mind at rest and encourage them to visit the restaurant knowing its previous failings have been put right. A good result for all concerned.

The method currently adopted in the UK would see the original review printed without so much as a thought (or care) for those affected by its resulting backlash. Poor service standards, bland food or untidy surroundings would all be highlighted for the world to see and the chances of recovery by the unfortunate business would be very slim indeed.
With the Middle Eastern method, readers would be unable to make an informed decision about whether or not to visit as they would know they had not been informed of all the facts. They would know that even if the experience was bad, the written review would be good. A fairly pointless exercise.

Isn’t it in everyone’s best interest to be honest but fair? Food is a major part of Kuwait’s culture and a very competitive industry. With so many eating establishments to choose from, it’s obvious that only the best will prosper. A genuine, fair and unbiased review can surely only be a good thing.

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