Singapore: Should food bloggers get free meals?

Singaporean food blogger, Brad Lau (Iron Lady Chef), was accused by a restaurant of bad behavior when he and his friends initially refused to pay for the food they ordered. The incident sparked a heated online debate about the ethics of food blogging.

This is Brad’s version of the whole episode:

Story: The articles seemed to suggest that I paid the restaurant a visit on my own accord, that I walked into the restaurant and announced myself as a food blogger.
Fact: This is not true. I was invited to a food tasting session by Melanie, PR Manager for the Restaurant.

Story: It was reported that the restaurant had decided to “waive the fee” for me and my dining partner out of goodwill
Fact: This was an invitation to a food-tasting session…Having attended previous food tastings before, I assumed that the meal would be, at the very least, on the house for myself and one dining partner. I was not expected to be billed for and then “waived” off from what was disguised as a “food tasting session”. When questioned, Melanie then cited this to be in-line with ‘industry standards’ of food tasting sessions: that the restaurant would only pay for my +1. “

Story: It was reported that I had said: “I always get free food wherever I go“.
Fact: This was never said. Nevertheless, I must admit the hostility while paying (I had tossed my credit card on the table) was uncalled for and I sincerely apologise.

The restaurant management issued this statement:

We want to take this opportunity to suggest a possible formation of a governing body or an association/society, which cultivates and promotes the appropriate manner of belonging and blogger's etiquette. There should be some guidelines and policies implemented to avoid any similar incidents from occurring again.

xiaxue criticized the restaurant for insulting the invited food blogger

You don't like a blogger? FINE. Don't invite him ever again. You can even spit in his food the next time he comes if you want.

But to give other bloggers + newspapers petty details such as him arriving late or overstaying your stipulated buffet period? LOW, SO LOW.

MY FOOD SIREN II dislikes the idea of bloggers attending food tasting events without being invited

I’m fine with restaurants inviting bloggers for tasting events but definitely not the other way round. Integrity is the word, people. If you really truly blog for the passion of food, this issue is a moot point.

Daniel Food Diary has a reminder for those who are interested to become food bloggers

Some of my friends thought that being a food blogger was wonderful with privileges such as free meals, endorsements, and advertisements. But many food bloggers I know had none of these – only a small handful made it to the pedestal. I know that I do not earn a single cent out of this. Zero.

A note to all who wants to be a food blogger, you really have to love both food and writing. I can give my word that it is never about free meals. Spending 2-3 hours of writing, editing, and photo-shopping on one entry for a free meal (if you do get it) is never worth it! Credibility and objectivity can never be bought anyway. It has to be established, slowly and definitely.

This matter has been blown out of proportion and the truth is, I do wish to read ladyironchef’s entries again (whether he did or did not demand for that free meal). Let us just go back to the fundamentals of food blogging – to share about the joy of food. At least that’s how I see it.

Both the restaurant management and the food blogger had shortcomings, according Melbourne blogger – Melbourne Social Scene.

I don’t really understand this PR-invited food tasting culture in Singapore personally. As I said above, I believe that in order to properly review an experience at a restaurant it’s important to be incognito, much as one of the general public would be, so as not to receive special service and special perks. In my opinion, that leads to a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” arrangement that destroys the objectivity of food blogging and reviewing. But whatevs. In any case, I think it was somewhat presumptuous of him to assume he could just bring along as many people as he wanted. Moreover, it was something of a professionalism fail by the PR company to not even dignify him with a response

Ed Unloaded suggests a few tips for food bloggers

Maybe Bloggers should just label their posts more deliberately, especially when it is a paid Advertorial.

Bloggers should have a certain level of integrity. I seriously don’t want to recommend to my friends a really lousy dieting product and find out that they suffer from liver failure in the near future

Thumbnail is from the Flickr page of Milo Riano used under CC License Attribution 2.0 Generic


  • Martin

    I don’t know the blogger, no have I ever got a free meal from restaurant sadly… but I read the article on Asiaone as it sounds quite interesting so i went to the blogger’s blog to read his side, I feel the blogger should have got the meal free. For the person inviting doesn’t state anything about cost or paying. Like we will charge you a nominal fee or anything. When you want to charge I think its basic courtesy to stay it upfront especially when the menu is not launched…..

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