If you watch restaurant “reality” shows, you might get the impression that chefs always know when the dining critic is coming, that critics always show up on opening night and that reviews hinge on a single visit with no additional reporting.
You'd be wrong.
The “reality” at this newspaper is a much more thorough process. World-Herald food critic Sarah Baker Hansen and our other food writers give you reviews that are honest, informative and free of outside influence -- and also fair to the restaurants they examine.
Key elements include:
Anonymity. We base reviews on restaurant visits that are unannounced and, whenever possible, anonymous.
Why? To ensure that the critic experiences a restaurant just as ordinary diners do.
Multiple visits. We base reviews on two or more visits.
Why? To better judge a restaurant's capabilities and to minimize the impact of a single dining experience - good or bad - on a review.
No freebies. We pay for the meals on which reviews are based. We do not solicit or accept restaurants' offers of free meals or anything not offered to other diners.
Why? To avoid special treatment that might influence our opinions.
A grace period. We generally avoid visiting new restaurants for review within their first month of business.
Why? To give restaurants some time to work out the kinks inherent in starting up any operation.
Checking. After visiting a restaurant but before a review is published, we contact the reviewed restaurant to arrange for photographs, confirm basic facts (such as hours of operation), inquire more about what might have contributed to our experience or changed since our visits, and seek comment about our impressions.
Why? For better accuracy, depth and fairness to both readers and restaurateurs.
Ways to respond: Our critic's e-mail address (Sarah.BakerHansen@owh.com) is included at the end of each review. Comments intended for publication may be directed or copied to the Public Pulse (email@example.com). Readers also may submit signed, written accounts of their experiences at a restaurant to the critic or her editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) for potential posting as reader reviews on Omaha.com.
Why? Because we realize the critic's opinion is just one opinion.