Blogging

Food Reviews - What's the Point?

Professional Restaurant Critics, Bloggers or Review Sites?

With thousands of restaurants in London alone, choosing where to eat can be a daunting task. When all else fails, you can always turn to food critics – but are they the people to listen to?

When it comes to engaging with culture, I don’t always seem to get it quite right. Many is the time a film has been panned by the critics, only for me to love it upon watching, and more than once have I gone to highly-acclaimed restaurant to leave disappointed. My belief is that only an extremely silly person would believe that there is such a thing as an absolute right or wrong opinion when it comes to consuming things – be it films or food. So what are the critics there for?

London Restaurant Marketing

The Guardian food writer Jay Rayner believes it is less about the restaurant and more about the review itself – “Some people do use [food reviews] as a guide, but the vast majority read them for vicarious pleasure or displeasure”. I am one of those people. I love nothing more than curling up with the Sunday papers and reading about the fanciest or most fashionable restaurant that week. But food reviewers do much more than that, they give you a way to understand the food and teach you a language you can use to describe it. The critics can tell you why the food is good, what it is about each ingredient which adds something to the dish as a whole. Last week I mentioned that egg added richness to a pizza – a truth I always knew, but hadn’t previously been able to explain. Critics shape what we already think into more coherent, eloquent sentences.

Food blogger

Critics also have access to new restaurants long before us mere mortals do, and are exposed to food trends and sure-fire successes far earlier on. If you want to understand where food culture is heading, they are the people to follow. If you disagree with one food critic, that is one thing, but if ten highly-respected reviewers agree on a restaurant, it should give you a good idea of its worth. We asked Joanne Gould, the blogger behind Jo Eats London whether she thought food critics were a good gastronomic barometer, “Yes and no. If there is widespread panning or applause then yes, but you will always get people disagreeing. Plus, it is kind of more fun to go make up your own mind”.

Food blogger

This is where food bloggers come in. These are the halfway point between your Gran and Giles Coren – people who know about food and actively engage with it, but who do not write for a national magazine. They are – for the most part - yet to achieve the semi-celebrity achieved by the critic. Successful food bloggers often start out like anyone else– looking for good places and tasty things to eat – and they form a knowledgeable food community. Blogger Her Favourite Food says she finds most of her new restaurants through other food bloggers, “you build up a relationship with them through following them for a while, so in time you realise you agree with and trust”.  Herein lies the rub however – although they may not have achieved the same levels of fame as the critics, bloggers still wield a considerable amount of influence in the restaurant world. If you are a successful blogger with a good following, restaurants may seek you out, offering you free meals in exchange for good publicity and compromising the review’s reliability.

London Chef

And so we come to the trickiest reviews of all – Trip Advisor. A restaurant’s best friend or worst nightmare, Trip Advisor has taken a great deal of heat in recent years for not doing enough to prevent fraudulent reviews, spawning the twitter campaign #noreceiptnoreview. The platform is set up so that anyone can say anything they like about the business and reviews will only be taken down if it is very clear that guidelines have been violated (the reviewer is abusive in their post, or never actually went to the restaurant, for example).

Trip Advisor

So what use, if any, does Trip Advisor have for potential customers? It can be a perfect window into customer service. I don’t mean by reading that Mabel30954893 gave the service 1 star (Mabel30954893 could have had a bad day, perhaps she got caught in the rain or got a flat tyre and took it out on the waiter), but by reading how the management responds. If they respond rudely (or not at all), and you can see that they do so in other reviews, that is a fairly good measure of how much they value their customers.

London Restaurant Marketing

So, what can we take from all of this? Essentially that Trip Advisor should give you an idea of customer service, food bloggers are helpful insofar as you find one you relate to and trust, and critics are there to entertain, to give you the tools to talk about and understand food, and – at times – to capture and translate the zeitgeist. As Rayner put it, “mine is a writing job not an eating job. Either you like what I write and find it authoritative or you don't. Simple as that.”

What is SEO and Why Do You Need it?

Epicure Digital Marketing Breaks SEO Down

If you run your own business, chances are you are approached on a daily basis by people who have a tool, product, or service that you “desperately” need. One of these is probably SEO. There can be a certain anxiety for business owners when it comes to services like this – you are proud of your business and you want it to succeed, but you are no website expert, and you are not even sure you know what SEO is. Do you really need it? Or is someone simply trying to sell you something?

To help, this week we are demystifying SEO.

Epicure explains SEO

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and, very basically, means ensuring that your website is high up on a search. Any search engine – let’s say Google – will look through all websites and work out which fit specific search terms. The more relevant a website is to a search, the higher up on the list it will be. Search engines tend to be clever and know how to examine a website’s copy, images, location etc. to determine how relevant it truly is to the search. This is why a Google search for “adorable baby kittens” will turn up pictures of adorable baby kittens, and not a second hand tyre shop trying to attract more visitors.

Epicure's SEO Kittens

Optimising your website for search engines will mean your website is more likely to be seen - this will attract more visitors, and these visitors can be turned into customers.

SEO – Then and Now

In the past, the way to show that your business was, for example, an Italian restaurant in East London, was to fill your website with the keywords that would be used by the people looking for businesses like yours. This could mean repeating the words “Italian”, “Restaurant” and “London” several times on each page. This also applied to the structure of your page, so instead of labelling your menu page “Menu”, you might label it “Italian Restaurant Menu”.

SEO Improves Restaurant Marketing

Thankfully things have moved on since those days – and the Google bots have gotten smarter than ever – so smart, indeed, that they can essentially mimic human reading patterns. This means that instead of looking for 18 instances of the word “Italian”, they will instead be scanning for content which genuinely relates to Italian food.

They will also be looking for content which is updated and changed regularly, to make sure that your website is still live. Every time new content is added, Google’s bots have to come back and “crawl” your page again, giving additional weight to your website.

SEO Improves Restaurant Marketing

Do I really need SEO?

The short answer is yes. Google is the world’s largest marketplace, and to miss out on an opportunity to rank well would be a mistake. However, this does not mean you should jump on board with the first SEO “specialist” who gets in touch – optimal SEO work can be both simpler and wider-reaching than that. Dan Zarrella, the author of The Science of Marketing began his career as an SEO specialist and is keen to point out that SEO is constantly shifting and changing. In actual fact, “you probably don’t need more SEO help. Most businesses would benefit much more from increasing content quantity and quality.”  

Search Engine Optimisation with Epicure Digital Marketing

How to improve your SEO in 5 easy steps

1. Optimise your copy

This does not mean throwing in keywords left, right, and centre - but it will never hurt to use them. Do you cook authentic Italian food? Then mention it! But back up this assertion with pictures of said food and further elaborations, and always make sure your copy is well-written and clear. If it hard for a human to read (too small, flashing, white writing on light background, full of misspellings and incorrect grammar) then it will be hard for Google to read.

2.  Fool-proof your architecture

This is where an SEO specialist comes in. Find out what keywords apply to you (they may not always be exactly as you would expect) and use them not only in your copy, but in each webpage’s meta data, such as title tags, headers, and meta descriptions.

3. Crosslink

Essentially this means including links to other pages on your website. For example, having a link to your Menu page in the main body of your homepage. The more links you have directing people to important pages, the better their visibility.

4. Get Blogging.

Remember we mentioned updating content? Having a blog on your website is the best and easiest way to have relevant, well-written, frequently-changing content on your site, without having to re-write your copy every couple of months.

5. Backlink 

A blog will also provide quality content to share with people over social media. This is where back-linking comes in. The more inbound links to your website, from whatever source, the higher it will rank. Simple!

Google

SEO algorithms are consistently changing – in 2010 alone, Google made over 500 changes to their algorithm - that’s over one a day! Because of this, SEO can seem like a risky investment, intangible and uncertain, but if you commit to filling your website with relevant, interesting, well-written content – with just the right amount of guidance – it will make all the difference.

 

Still have some unanswered SEO questions? Get in touch and we would be happy to answer them!