Review in review

Everybody usually loves restaurant reviews. Restaurant owners like them, because they offer constructive criticism and get the word out about their businesses. Newspaper folks like them, because they are fun to do. Readers like them, because they are informative and deal with a topic—food—that everybody has an interest in.

But when that really bad review comes along, everything changes. Restaurateurs are upset because the word getting out about their business is negative. Newspaper folks are dismayed because they have to deal with upset restaurateurs and the ensuing controversy—not to mention the possible loss of advertising revenue. Only the readers gain any enjoyment from bad food reviews, unless their favorite restaurant is the one receiving the poor review, in which case they’re angry, too.

That’s why I braced myself when Johnathan L. Wright’s one-star review of the Peppermill Steakhouse arrived at the office. After the review ran in our Feb. 8 issue, the Peppermill folks were understandably upset, although they have been very professional in all their dealings with us since. They invited RN&R folks, including Johnathan and me, back to the restaurant, on their dime, to give it another look.

In the pursuit of fairness, I decided not to go back to the Steakhouse on the Peppermill’s tab; instead, I decided to go there just like any member of the public would and check it out for myself, on my (or, rather, the RN&R’s) dollar. I asked Johnathan to join me.

I am happy to report that our experience was much better than the experience Johnathan had when he went to review it. He said the service and the food were both much improved. Since I wasn’t with Johnathan the first time, I couldn’t compare.

We both agreed that our meal was a solid three-star experience. The server was very capable and pleasant, and the food was pretty good. Our appetizers—lobster ravioli and coconut prawns—were both enjoyable. I had a nice, thick T-bone steak; it was a good cut of meat, and the flavor was good, if a bit bland. Johnathan had grilled swordfish, and he thought it was good, too. The price—$84.67 before the tip—was a bit high, considering we had nothing but an appetizer each, our meal and soft drinks.

One of the problems with one-shot restaurant reviews, which the RN&R and many other newspapers do, is that if a restaurant is having an atypically crummy or phenomenal day when the reviewer shows up, that’s what the review is going to reflect.

Because our reviews are so widely read and therefore have such power, we have changed our policy to make things more fair. If our reviewers have a significantly below-average experience, they will automatically go back and give the restaurant a second chance, incorporating both visits into the review.

The first application of the new policy, coincidentally, appears this week on page 27.

Speaking of coincidences, last week I wrote about former high school intern Chelsea Correia’s appearance on the front page of the Reno Gazette-Journal regarding her advocacy of AB 8, which would place driving restrictions on teens ages 16 to 18. Her interest was piqued by her internship’s final project, a news story in our Jan. 11 issue titled “Teens on the Road.”

Well, on Tuesday the Gazette-Journal did it again. On the front page of the Reno-Sparks section, there was a photo of current high school intern Brian Jackson, along with his teammates on the Reno High School Academic Olympics team.

We can’t take any credit for Brian’s interest in Academic Olympics, but we are happy to have such a talented guy in our midst. Look for Brian to be a big force in our second annual Teen Issue, coming up in May.