The moment a food critic steps into your restaurant, you want to make their experience the best one possible. There are plenty of ways for people to learn about your everyday spectacular customer service, wonderful dishes, and amazing environment, but a food critic’s opinion still has the ability to make or break your restaurant. There’s just one problem: you have to recognize who the food critic is! While you won’t be able to identify them a hundred percent of the time, knowing how to spot a food critic will give you an extra advantage the next time one slips into your restaurant.

The Time Matters

Most of the time, food critics aren’t going to arrive at your restaurant during your busiest times. Instead, they’ll arrive at odd times. Very early reservations are often a giveaway that you’re dealing with a food critic, as are particularly late visits. Customers who come in before the dinner rush on more than one occasion are particularly likely to be food critics, especially if it’s a face you don’t see on a regular basis.

Keep in mind that many food critics prefer to check out a restaurant more than once in order to get a real feel for the dishes, the staff, and the ambiance of the restaurant. You probably know your regular customers fairly well, so the sudden appearance of a customer at an odd time who comes in two or three times in the space of a week is a sign that you’re dealing with a food critic.

Customers who come in before the dinner rush on more than one occasion are particularly likely to be food critics.

Watch for Warning Signs

Many restaurants are on the lookout for customers who come in alone, especially those arriving at odd times. There are, however, several other warning signs that may indicate that you’re dealing with a food critic:

  • Detailed questions about the food, including how it’s prepared, where it’s sourced, and more.
  • A customer who visits the restroom frequently or appears to spend more time than usual on their phone. Critics have to take notes somehow!
  • A customer who pays detailed attention to the server’s spiel at the beginning of the meal.
  • A customer who is very interested in everything going on around the restaurant, constantly looking around and taking everything in.

A customer who pays detailed attention to the server’s spiel at the beginning of the meal is likely to be a food critic.

Observe the Food

Food critics need to taste as many dishes as possible when they visit a restaurant. When they come in alone, they may order an appetizer, entree, and desert for a single individual or check out more than one dish, even if that means leaving with a large number of leftovers. A food critic who dines with a group, on the other hand, might seem more difficult to spot–until you take note of the following behaviors.

  • Everyone at the table orders something different, especially if they order more than just the entree. At a typical table, you’ll see a couple of people who order the same thing.
  • Plates that are passed around the table, especially if they seem targeted at one individual.
  • Small portions of food placed on bread plates and moved to a particular individual at the table.

A savvy server can note these behaviors and let the restaurant managers know that they’re dealing with a food critic, ensuring that you’re able to respond appropriately.

Once you’ve identified a food critic, your goal is to make their experience at your restaurant the best one possible. Ideally, you want your best server to be the one to wait on the food critic to ensure that they’re getting the best service. Treat the food critic like every other guest: offering them the best your restaurant can provide.

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