After a month-long hiatus, I have decided to end my food review series ‘The Southsea Food Tour’.
Last March, I began writing honest and in-depth food reviews. I wanted to celebrate Portsmouth in a new light and to make a name for myself in the city. Since then, I have written over 40 reviews (almost one a week) and encouraged friends and strangers to eat at new, local eateries. On several occasions, my reviews have even convinced people to host their birthday dinners at the places I have featured.
I write my reviews as a ‘secret shopper’ meaning I do not inform the shop I am visiting. This is to avoid any special treatment and to relay an experience as honest as possible. I also make sure to order a range of food from sides and mains to desserts to provide the reader with a more detailed opinion. Because of this, I have spent over £500 on my reviews in the last year alone and, because I am not supported by the company, this comes out of my own pocket.
This leads to the first reason I have decided to end my reviews. I simply cannot afford it. It has been suggested to me to approach the businesses to receive free food in exchange for a review, however, this conflicts with my style and intentions. As they know I am a critic, their service will be different and, as they are essentially paying for my work, they will expect only positive comments. This will obviously result in a dishonest and censored review.
However, even if I wanted to do this, I am 90% sure local, food companies would not support me. This leads to reason number two which has influenced my choice the most. Over the last year, I have sent my reviews to countless companies in hopes of support. When I write a positive review, I contact the restaurant or cafe in question and ask them for their opinion and to share it. It’s a quid pro quo, as Hannibal would call it – I give them a great review and more customers and they give me exposure. Simple.
Well, no, not quite. Out of the 40 reviews I have written, only 5 eateries have shared the reviews. 5. That is just over 10%. The other 90% either said they would share it and didn’t or flat out ignored me. At first, I didn’t mind but in time this demotivated me greatly. I had paid money into a company, encouraged people to shop there and spent 3+ hours of my free time to write an entertaining piece of writing. A quick share to an organisation may mean nothing but, to me, means so much more. A share on a company’s page can help my readership and popularity and, in turn, help me to make my mark in Portsmouth.
When I started writing, I hoped to network and develop freelance work for myself in the city. Maybe, I thought, someone would pay me for a review or some copy or some advertorial. If that happened, it didn’t matter how much money I sunk into The Southsea Food Tour, as I would make it back in time. But I have come to realise that many local companies do not want to support upcoming freelancers. They may shout ‘support local’ but what they really mean is ‘support me and my friends.’ They preach community ethics yet do not follow them.
A recent experience of mine has proven this. The last review I wrote was highly optimistic and, when I posted it, the company in question replied very positively to me. I asked them if they could share it as they liked it, but they didn’t. Instead, they copied an extract of my work and posted it without crediting my website or facebook. This hurt me but I ignored it. Perhaps they didn’t want to ruin their social media image. Two weeks later, however, they promoted and shared another blogger’s review, one who is already established in Southsea.
This was when I decided to quit. I had tried so much but was getting nowhere, simply because I wasn’t already established in Portsmouth. Before you mention it, it is not a case of talent. I have written for 11 years now and have had my work published in countless publications from Strong Island to Star and Crescent and even the London Magazine. I have won awards and competitions and received a long strand of 1sts. I have talent and experience but it still doesn’t seem enough in apparent ‘city of culture’.
I will continue to write but I am going in a new direction now. I plan to focus on my studies more and to pursue my ambition of becoming a travel writer. I will still be available for freelance work of any kind but I will not waste my effort to seek it.
If you want to show your care and support then please visit my Patreon page here, follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and share my work. If I can start getting some income, no matter how small, and if demand is there, The Southsea Food Tour will return. But, right now, I have no motivation to continue to the end of the line. I’m switching trains and hoping I will be taken to a better, more supportive destination.
Thank you for reading and to get in contact please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org