Dine, an upscale Chicago diner with the broad-shouldered hubris to sell $15 slices of red velvet cake, has figured out how to get good reviews: bait online restaurant raters with free booze and food.
Yelpers mostly ate it up.
The Wall Streets Journal reports on an event in August "for members of Yelp, a Web site where consumers post reviews and rate restaurants. The nearly 100 members were treated to an open bar, duck roulade appetizers and red velvet cupcakes for dessert. As a bonus, they all received certificates for discounts on subsequent meals. The result: a torrent of favorable reviews on Yelp. Most reviewers mentioned that they attended a Yelp event, though few highlighted that the food and drink was free."
The story goes on to note the influence some blogs have over some restaurants, and the symbiotic relationships that have developed: restaurants using bloggers as culinary consultants, and restaurants bashing back at their critics via blogs.
Chow.com lets staffers accept freebies -- except when reviewing, said Jane Goldman, the site's editor in chief. It's a recourses thing, she said. But, she said, the practice "subtly influences the recipient."
"I accept the comps because I don't have a budget," says a blogger who says she eats free about two-thirds of the time says freebies don't sway her. "Just because a restaurant is hosting me...it doesn't mean I will write a glowing review."
Dine's little Yelper gravy train cost the restaurant $1,500, the equivalent of the cost of 100 slices of its red velvet cake.
That may sound sweet, but I think it stinks, and I've got receipts to prove it.