Soon, food bloggers may have no option but to scoot from a restaurant.
Imagine you’re at a café and a cup of piping hot cappuccino complemented by a rich, chocolaty muffin is served to you. Instinctively, you take out your phone to photograph of this picture-perfect ensemble and then post about it with a caption describing how it tasted. The next day you learn that the Indian Hospitality Association has sued you for that post. Sounds improbable, right? Well, this is all set to become the reality in the near future if certain reports are to be believed.
The hospitality industry has decided to identify bloggers who can mislead customers with their reviews. They are planning to prepare a certification system to recognise “genuine” food bloggers and any negative reviews from unlicensed bloggers can tantamount to defamation. According to officials, the industry is filled with people who do not have the proper capacity to review restaurants, and this move is meant to tackle such irresponsible behaviour.
Supporting the move, food and travel writer Rupali Dean says, “I am all for certification as I believe that one should have some background in food to write about that subject. At least a little bit of understanding.” Rupali, who conducts food-writing workshops in Aurangabad, does it for only culinary arts students, as they know understand the basics of food and cooking. She believes that it helps them to easily identify what might have happened when the food tastes a certain way and understand the process more empathetically.
If there is some sort of control in play for bloggers’ credibility, then that would help the entire industry in the form of constructive feedback is what renowned food blogger and influencer Vishal Fernandes believes. “When I look at it from the restaurant’s point of view, then I empathise with them about the rampant damage that takes place with negative blogger reviews,” he says.
“But, then who decides who will get a license?” Rupali expresses her concerns. She believes that the first step that the Association should take is to decide on a proper panel of experts and a clear procedure to get such a license.
“I think experience is what matters here. The criteria for selecting someone should ideally be the expertise or experience one has on this issue,” believes Fernandes, as people with experience and knowledge are more likely to understand the market.
The vicious circle of ‘experience for work’ and ‘work for experience’ poses a challenge in that case. According to Fernandes, the only way to counter that is by first trying to observe and learn the art. “If someone is genuinely passionate about it, then they should mirror an experienced blogger, instead of just going all out and posting about restaurants all by themselves; even an internship should help them grasp the dynamics better,” he advises.
And what about one’s freedom of speech? “This will definitely affect one’s right to post on their social media accounts. Certified bloggers will post more sponsored content as with more power they will get more offers to influence people,” believes Chayanika Saha, a college student who likes to post her opinions on food on her social media handles. She adds that even big chefs like Gordon Ramsay comment on the presentation of a food item. So, saying that judging a food based on its looks is not an unethical thing.
So, the next time you want to go out and eat, maybe keep your phones away and just let your taste buds do the talking.