As a food blogger, one of the most flattering things someone can do is trust and endorse your credibility. As I’ve found out over the past year or two, there are a lot of ways for one to do so. One of which entails a local restaurant reaching out to you in hopes of gaining some exposure on social media in exchange for a complimentary meal. Some of you already know that this is the general practice for food bloggers and insta-foodies once their following reaches a desirable number. It’s one of the many perks of being a credible food enthusiast in your city, and it’s a completely fair opportunity to take once it’s presented to you (and if you genuinely like the food, of course).
What’s not fair is when a local insta-foodie, or even better, a Yelper, gets denied such lavish treatment when they’re the one who approached the restaurant in the first place. I’m sure some of the city’s foodies will back me up when I say that the worst thing about being an acclaimed food “critic” is going to a restaurant and not being given free food based on my status on Instagram and Yelp. I mean, am I right, guys?!?
I know what some of you are thinking… “I can get a comped meal if I just spew a bunch of banal criticism on social media??? I want in!!!”
Well you’re in luck, my friends! Because that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to teach you in this new and exciting step-by-step guide on using social media to exploit your local businesses based on the tactics of our fellow foodie friends at PhilMyTummy.com – better known as @PhilMyTummy on Instagram.
Step 1: First things first, If you’re going to call yourself a respected food blogger who’s opinion should be taken seriously, you need to start an Instagram account. Don’t worry about general knowledge or enthusiasm about food and the people who cook it because that’s not what this is all about. It’s about free food, preferential treatment by restaurants, and the accolades of being an insta-famous “foodie”!!!
Step 2: If you don’t have any original thoughts on your city’s food scene and don’t know the first thing in starting a dialogue about food, just do whatever the other bloggers (like me) are doing to promote good food in your city and copy their tactics, BUT DON’T DO IT WITHOUT THE INTENTION OF CAPITALIZING YOUR NEWLY APPOINTED STATUS!!! Because why else would you do it? I can’t stress this enough. A lot of people have this crazy misconception that being a food blogger is about sharing your genuine enthusiasm and knowledge of your local food scene and the talented people who make it possible. Let me be perfectly clear when I say that this perspective on food is for amateurs. Let me repeat that: Having a food blog is all about free food and taking advantage of whatever establishment comes your way.
Step 3: Okay, you’ve managed to get a significant following on Instagram and Yelp by posting the same pictures of rainbow colored bagels, unremarkable ice cream cones, crab fries, and cheesesteaks. It’s time to start ringing in those perks! You’re going to want to start reaching out to as many local restaurants and businesses as you can. Don’t be too pushy with your request for a comped bill, but make sure you let them know exactly who you are and why you deserve free food and special treatment. Take the following message to a local restaurant by @PhilMyTummy as an example:
Couldn’t have said it better myself! The message is clear: “We have a lot of followers on Instagram… Give us free food!” It’s tasteful, but to the point. That point being that you are an authority on what’s good in terms of food in your city and you should be treated as such!
But what if you encounter someone who doesn’t play along or can’t afford to comp your bill in exchange for a shout-0ut or a write up (ugh, isn’t that the WORST???)?? Yes, there will be hurdles in this game of foods that you’ll, sadly, have to deal with such as business owners who don’t know you or your food blog (or even care)! Sometimes they’ll do things like give you a free side dish or drink, but still make you pay for what you originally ordered!! Sadly, it’s a reality that happens to the best of us. But thanks to the revolutionary tactics of @PhilMyTummy, there’s something you can do to let these small business owners know that you are an important food blogger and you are not to be fucked with! This brings me to…
Step 4: If someone refuses to comp you, kindly, but firmly, let them know that you will not be promoting their food on your website or social media accounts. Take the following message to an actual restaurant owner from @PhilMyTummy as an example on how to address a non-comper.
Hey, [Business Owner]
Thanks for allowing us to stop by last night. Unfortunately I think there was a slight miscommunication. Usually when we discuss a restaurant hosting us the visit involves more of a dialogue about the restaurant itself, how you started, where the concept began etc. We then can use all this information to write our complete blog article and thus help promote your restaurant. In exchange for this promotion our tastings have usually been complimentary or discounted. As much as we appreciated the 2 small plates last night I would have much preferred to stop by your restaurant for Brunch if I had known I would be charged the full amount for the meal. We appreciate your hospitality and opportunity to dine in your restaurant, but don’t believe at this time we have enough information to write a full article for our site.
[This is a message sent to me by a local restaurant who says they received this message after asking @PhilMyTummy to write a review on her and her husband’s restaurant.]
I couldn’t have said it better myself! I mean, did that business not know who @PhilMyTummy is??? What did she think she was doing by only giving them 2 small complimentary plates? These are Elite Yelpers with over 11 thousand followers on Instagram between the two of them! Did she really think she was going to appease them with good food and hospitality alone? Thankfully, this misunderstanding was corrected by one of the @PhilMyTummy girls on Yelp after she was denied her comped meal:
This brings me to the next step:
Step 5: When all else fails… Head to Yelp! Because what better way to take a jab at someone’s hard work than telling all the other prestigious foodies patting themselves on the back over at Yelp??!? It’s the perfect circle-jerk of a community where we as food critics get to let loose and write malicious and unfair reviews that can be five times longer (and more damaging) than our simple Instagram captions! Take the following review by one of the two @PhilMyTummy writers on the otherwise highly regarded Murph’s Bar for instance (which has been deleted after I brought it up to them, oddly enough):
(I like how she used my quote as a basis for her negative review! I still think it’s some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had, but what do I know! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess!)
Pro Tip: Although you wasted your time by going to a restaurant with the intention of bad-mouthing it on Yelp, you can still recycle the photos you took by posting them on other social media platforms! Even if you genuinely didn’t like the food and used terms like “complete miss” to describe the Eggplant Parmesan (seen above), you can still post it for your Instagram followers… Maybe they’ll like it -or even take your recommendation at face value and even try it- so make sure to give a vague, slightly positive caption to the picture with terms and hashtags such as “Yes please” and “#EatThis” – And in case you’re wondering, don’t be worried about being consistent in your food critiques, chances are nobody is paying attention to both your Instagram and Yelp account so feel free to tell your followers to eat something while completely trashing it on Yelp, like so:
Chances are that chefs and restaurant owners are far too busy and worried about the quality of their product to check in on social media, but they sometimes connect the dots and know who you are based on your “elite” status as a food blogger. Chances are slim, but they may even ask another prominent food blogger if he (or she) knows who you are and why you found it necessary to judge his food based on their bathroom placement… But don’t worry about that. It’s basically impossible for anyone on the internet to point out your inconsistencies and pompousness, even if they’re a food blogger themselves! The picture above is one of the few exceptions of which this happens, but don’t worry if it does! The internet is conducive to those who want to trash talk among their chosen audience so all you’d have to do is block anyone who does these annoying things like call you out… Kind of like what they did to me!
Although there are a ton a of perks to it, food blogging and being a positive voice in your local food scene can clearly be a difficult task. I think a lot of foodies such as Philadelphia’s “elite” Yelpers and the folks over at PhilMyTummy.com would agree when I say that the biggest obstacle to getting preferential treatment and free food from your community’s local businesses is being a positive voice and genuinely being interested in promoting your city’s food scene with enthusiasm with no ulterior motives. I mean, why else would we want to promote food and the people who work hard to bring it to us… to write long-winded articles on our passion for food?!?!? HAHAHAHAHA. That’s funny!
In short, food blogging is about free swag, accolades, invitations to “influencer” dinners, and, of course, being a celebrity on social media. It’s “you get and you give” when it comes to trading exposure for food perks, not the other way around and don’t you forget it. Don’t worry about destroying the reputation of hard working business owners, a lot of them make as much as a 5% profit on their food so they must be rich enough to handle a few bad reviews, right? The quality of a restaurant’s food and hospitality measured by the percentage of your bill they comp and how much of a fucking princess they make you feel at the table. Anyone who thinks otherwise clearly hasn’t been a foodie for very long or, even worse, has integrity!
Think I’m joking? Just watch how a real food critic conducts himself in this video!