Knives out: why we love reading cruel restaurant reviews

As a food critic, I know that people love the negative reviews and that it’s more fun to read and write about the bad meals than the good ones

Where restaurant criticism is concerned it is hate that springs eternal. Sure, people may enjoy restaurant reviews in general, but what they really love are the takedowns. Pete Wells of the New York Times is undoubtedly well read, but it was his 2012 review of cable TV star Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar, phrased as a few dozen questions – “Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu … ?” – which became a national talking point. Times restaurant reviews tend to attract a few dozen comments; the Fieri review garnered over a thousand.

I had a taste of that a couple of weeks ago. My somewhat negative review of Beast, an unintentionally hilarious steak and king crab place in London, went viral. It may have had something to do with my suggestion that the beef was so expensive they should, for the price, install the animal “under the table so it can pleasure me while I eat”. Usually my reviews are shared a few hundred times on Facebook. This one has been shared 17,500 times and has been viewed around 10 times more than any other.

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