Restaurant Review Policy
Since restaurant review policies vary from site to site we thought it might be useful to outline blogTO's policy via this series of FAQs.
CAN A RESTAURANT PAY TO BE REVIEWED?
No. All reviews are at the discretion of the writers and editorial team. Our site policy prohibits us from accepting money, credit or other forms of compensation. To be clear, blogTO has never accepted (nor will we ever accept) money or another form of compensation in return for a review.
HOW DOES A RESTAURANT ADVERTISE ON THE SITE?
The only way a restaurant can advertise on the site is to purchase banner advertising.
DO YOU ACCEPT PAID REVIEWS OR ADVERTORIALS?
No. We have a complete separation between our editorial (content creation) and our advertising/sales efforts. Unlike some sites, we do not blur the lines. In the history of the site we have never run an advertorial or allow any business or advertiser to pay for a write-up or review.
IF A RESTAURANT ADVERTISES ON THE SITE VIA BANNER ADS, ARE YOU MORE LIKELY TO REVIEW THEM?
No. We have a complete separation between our editorial (content creation) and our advertising/sales efforts.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT RESTAURANTS TO REVIEW?
We encourage our writers to review restaurants that they'd be eating at as part of their normal social life. We do not encourage writers to eat at restaurants only for the purpose of writing a review. While we make suggestions to writers from time to time and highlight to them new restaurants or other places that look interesting, it's ultimately up to each writer on the team to decide where to eat and what to review.
DO YOU ASSIGN RESTAURANTS TO REVIEW?
No. Our editors will suggest places but it's ultimately up to each writer on the team to decide where to eat and what to review.
CAN A WRITER ONLY WRITE A POSITIVE REVIEW?
No. Each writer is encouraged to write a detailed and accurate depiction of their dining experience, good or bad.
I'VE SEEN A NEGATIVE REVIEW OF A RESTAURANT BUT LATER IT SHOWS UP ON A TOP 10 OR BEST OF LIST. HOW CAN THAT HAPPEN?
A restaurant review reflects only the opinions of the writer who wrote it and nobody else. Their sentiments may not be shared by anyone else on the blogTO team, including the site's other writers, photographers and editors.
HOW LONG AFTER A RESTAURANT OPENS WILL YOU WAIT TO REVIEW IT?
As soon as a restaurant is open and they are serving customers and charging for meals we feel it is fair game to review it. We recognize that some publications (mostly traditional newspapers or magazines) will wait at least a few weeks for a restaurant to "iron out the kinks" before they visit and review it. We feel such a policy is antiquated. However, we aim to let readers knows if the restaurant in question has just opened its doors so that readers can make their own judgements whether any issues with the food or service were likely simply a result of the chef and servers still figuring things out.
DOES BLOGTO GET INVITED TO RESTAURANT EVENTS AND MEDIA OPENINGS? IF SO, IS THIS HOW A RESTAURANT GETS REVIEWED?
We do get invites to restaurant events and openings but our writers rarely attend them. Regardless, our writers are instructed that they cannot review a restaurant at a media or opening event. If they choose to attend, they are simply doing it for "fun" or perhaps to learn more about the restaurant. Writers are not allowed to review a restaurant based on this experience. Also, just because a writer attends one of these events does not mean that they or anyone else from blogTO will ever return to review the restaurant.
SOME OF THE RESTAURANTS IN THE BLOGTO RESTAURANTS SECTION ONLY HAVE A SINGLE PHOTO AND ONE OR TWO SENTENCE WRITE-UP. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?
Our aim is to have as comprehensive a restaurant directory as possible. So even if we haven't reviewed a place, our aim is to have it listed in our directory. You'll notice that these restaurants are marked as "LISTED" and generally have "STAFF" as the writer's name.
CAN A RESTAURANT PAY YOU TO INCLUDE IT IN YOUR DIRECTORY?
No. All listings added to the site are done so at the discretion of our editorial team. We are constantly scouring the city to add places that are not included. We do not allow restaurants to pay us to be included.
I'VE NOTICED RECENTLY THAT SOME OF YOUR RESTAURANT REVIEWS ARE REFERRED TO AS PROFILES. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
From the time the site was founded up until June 2012, all the reviews on the site were anonymous. In other words, writers were instructed to do their best to ensure that a restaurant didn't know they were reviewing it. In June 2012, however, we decided to allow some of our writers to "profile" restaurants instead of reviewing them. For a profile, a writer contacts the restaurant in advance and let's them know they would like to come by to write a profile of the restaurant. They ask the restaurant to prepare a few dishes for them to taste and to be available to answer any questions the writer might have about the chef, the history or mission of the restaurant and/or other details.
In these circumstances the write-up is obviously not anonymous, however, the writer is still free to share whatever opinion they have about the food or other aspect about the restaurant. But the main objective of the write-up is to give you (the reader) an idea of what the restaurant is like so you can decide for yourself whether it's a place that might interest you.
SO PROFILES ARE BASICALLY AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR A RESTAURANT?
No. While the restaurant has obviously agreed to host the writer (and usually an accompanying blogTO photographer to take photos), the writer makes no guarantee that what they will write will be positive. Further, as per standard blogTO policy, the restaurant cannot pay to be profiled. It is solely up to a writer's discretion what restaurants they would like to profile. Their decision is not based on any media event, invitation or any other type of outreach by the restaurant. In almost all cases, writers decide to profile restaurants that have never had any prior contact with us.
HAVE YOU EVER ACCEPTED MONEY FROM A RESTAURANT FOR A LISTING, REVIEW OR PROFILE?
No. And we never will.
WHEN A WRITER PROFILES A RESTAURANT, DO THEY PAY FOR THE MEAL?
Most of the restaurants we have profiled have chosen not to charge the writer for the meal. However this is up to the restaurant. We do not ask nor require the restaurants to give us the meal at a discount or for free.
I FIND THIS VERY CONFUSING. WHY DO PROFILES AT ALL? WHY NOT STICK TO ANONYMOUS REVIEWS?
From the site's founding up until June 2012 all of our reviews were anonymous. However, two issues we struggled with over the years were (a) the inconsistent quality of our food photography for our reviews and (b) that many of our writers weren't naturally eating at new and/or higher-end restaurants and thus many of the restaurants that you (our readers) were interested in learning about weren't being reviewed on the site (or were being reviewed long after many other sites and publications had already reviewed them).
Pursuing profiles allowed us to immediately address both of these issues. Firstly, the writer could visit a restaurant by themselves (or with a blogTO photographer) which is something they'd almost never do if they were writing an anonymous review (they normally dine with their partner/date/family/friends). As such, the write-up of the restaurant could be done on a more timely basis. Secondly, the lighting conditions at many restaurants is quite dark (and/or discoloured from mood lighting) and therefore presents a challenge to get high quality photos under a typical dining scenario. Coming into a restaurant with advance warning allows us to set up the plates under more favourable lighting conditions. It also allows us to take more photos of the interior, bar and other features of the restaurant that you (the reader) might find interesting.
SO ARE YOU STILL DOING REVIEWS? OR JUST PROFILES NOW?
Most of our restaurant coverage continues to be anonymous reviews. However, to avoid confusion, we have indicated next to the writer's name and publication date whether the write-up has been "REVIEWED" or "PROFILED".
OK. I GET WHAT PROFILES ARE. HOW DO YOU CONDUCT REVIEWS?
Reviews continue to be written the way they always have been. Writers do not contact restaurants in advance and are instructed to try to remain anonymous while they are there so that the restaurant doesn't know they are being reviewed and cannot (if they so chose) to alter the quality of service or food to try to make a more favourable impression.
DOES A RESTAURANT EVER SUSPECT THEY ARE BEING REVIEWED?
Sometimes it's difficult to maintain anonymity. Our reviewers often use a high quality DSLR camera to take photos of their food at restaurants. While cameras are certainly becoming more commonplace at restaurants these days, reviewers will still sometimes get asked by their server or a restaurant manager why they are taking photos. If this situation arises, we advise our reviewers to let them know that they are from blogTO and are taking photos for a review.
SO WON'T THIS BIAS THE REVIEW?
In situations where this has happened, our reviewer has generally already made it through a substantial part of the dining experience in order for their review to be unaffected by such a disclosure. At this point, they have likely already interacted numerous times with the restaurant's staff and received at least some of the food and drinks they have ordered. In other words, it's unlikely at this point that a restaurant can really do anything (if they wanted to) to affect the quality of food and service the reviewer has received.
DOES A WRITER EVER DISCLOSE THEY ARE REVIEWING THE RESTAURANT, UN-PROMPTED?
Sometimes. This would generally only occur during or after a meal if the writer or photographer wants to ask permission to take additional photos, or if they want to ask one or more of the restaurant's staff any questions about the restaurant or dining experience in order to learn more about the restaurant or how the food was prepared.
I'VE READ EVERY WORD ON THIS PAGE SO FAR. DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE TO SAY?
Our main goal is simply to be as transparent about our process as possible. We aim to provide the most useful and objective information about restaurants as we can, and we strive to maintain the highest ethical standards in our approach.