How to write a scrumptious restaurant review: paying and writing it up, Part 8

In this final part of our serialisation of “How To Be A Savvy Restaurant Reviewer” author Sam Worthington shares final tips on paying your bill, and going home to write your review.

How to write a scrumptious restaurant review: paying and writing it up, Part 8

It is not a bad idea to let readers know what you did as far as tips were concerned as a guide for them when they visit the place.

And according to the wonderful and sadly late Sam, neither of the above needs to be painful…

Getting through the final reckoning – and writing up

Getting the bill is important, but needless to say not painless – unless you have a sponsor. There is nothing worse than sitting around waving at the staff because you want to go home, and getting no reaction.

So the speed of the arrival, the accuracy and clarity of the bill are important. In Europe credit and debit cards are the norm so there is no need to dwell on them unless for some reason they are not accepted. In certain countries it maybe the other way round – as it is in Asia where I live – so how you pay maybe of interest.

What is always of importance is the service charge.

I know how much of a contentious issue that can be from the other side – when I worked as front of house staff I thought what I received I should keep … as a chef I thought I should get a share … as a manager whatever I did was wrong.

I like a tronc system where the weekly tips are shared equally among the staff on the basis of shifts worked. However that is not the reviewer’s concern unless the system creates problem. If in doubt I always ask if a service charge is included – assuming it is not, I add about 10% – ‘about’ because I will round it up or down depending upon what I thought of the food and service.

The answer I hate is – ‘there is (a service charge) but we don’t get it.’  My answer is ‘talk to your manager.’ In Asia they love to say ‘up to you,’ which means I would like a good tip (even if it is already included).

It is not a bad idea to let readers know what you did as far as tips were concerned as a guide for them when they visit the place. Or to give some maxim … because the service charge is often as much a problem for the customers as it is for the servers.

Once the bill is paid it is time to go home

…that is unless you suddenly fancy a roadie and want to see what happens when you ask for one. But eventually the door out opens.

Does somebody call a taxi for you if you ask? Have they lost your hat or brolly and, if it is precipitating, does someone hold an umbrella as you walk to your carriage? All nice little final touches.

On the way home it is time to reflect on the experience. What are the thoughts? An enjoyable, memorable meal?

Or ‘well yeah it was OK’ … or ‘that was a waste of money!’

Now all you have to do is write it up.

I never write a place up immediately afterwards, mainly because I have enough trouble getting my fingers to co-ordinate with the keyboard without the interference of the demon drink. But assuming I have the correct notes and photos, a few days should not affect my memory – in fact it may allow a little reflection that will improve the final story.

How to write a scrumptious restaurant review: paying and writing it up, Part 8

Sam’s book makes a great little gift – available on all the Amazons. Click on this cover to go to the UK Amazon.

On the other hand it is not a good idea to leave it too long – because by then things are forgotten.

I like to write my article and then leave it for a day before re-reading and editing it. So don’t be in too much of a rush to publish – a little extra reflection on your essay will probably make the prose better.

The required length of a review will depend upon where it is to be published. In my prime I wrote for magazines and weekly papers which provided me with a target length of 800 – 1000 words.

These days MS word helps as it provides an instant word count at the bottom of a document. And to an extent this book is about writing to that length.

However it does not really matter how long the article is.

Even a single sentence can cover both the food and what to expect from the place. Examples are – ‘fun place with just about acceptable TexMex food in lively surroundings;’ or ‘high standard of cooking served in elegant, if slightly stuffy, backdrop;’ or ‘archetypical Italian decor with a good value menu serving acceptable food.’

In all cases the description of the environment is as important as the food. I used to be asked to write 50 word descriptions for magazines and travel books and I found those remarkably hard work – trying to get nuances of a restaurant in few words as well as summing up the food is not easy.

The internet now has a number of customer review-driven sites – the biggest being Trip Advisor. I treat such sites with caution, because the primary reason many so-called reviews first get on them are as revenge for a bad meal, or a perceived slight. And now there are legions working on ‘reputational management’ which means writing reviews for establishment on places like Trip Advisor.

My own maxims when using T A are: “all good” means it is fluff, “all bad” probably means it is bad … but if there are a couple of “bad” among many “good” I will consider that the ‘ayes’ have it.

For those writing a review, it is not a bad idea to see what is said on the net.

If it is contrary to your impression, think about it: have you got it wrong? Then sit down and write exactly what you thought after the restaurant visit. Firstly it is your review and your impression of what you found when you visited – and you must be true to yourself. Secondly there is lots balderdash on the internet.

How to write a scrumptious restaurant review: paying and writing it up, Part 8You may also be writing to put your review on Trip Advisor or another site. Fair enough; it is not a bad way to get read. But still the same rules apply:  the reader wants to know the whole story, not just that the food was great, or awful. How about the atmosphere, the service, the wine, the bread, the owner?

You are a restaurant reviewer and your readers will love you if when they go to a place, they agree with you. That is what makes you great: keeping your readers informed and amused.

Now go and do it.

Catch up with the rest of the series here – just click on the green words:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7


Questions? Drop Suze a note on