Last year, at an “influencer” dinner hosted by a popular restaurant in a major American city, a so-called “restaurant critic” writing for a high-profile food blog insisted that the organizer give her cash for the valet parking — including tip.
Earlier this year, at a similar event for social media users, a guest ordered a bottle of wine that wasn’t included in the menu for the evening. He was indignant when the restaurateur presented him with a bill.
A few weeks ago, a well-known and well-liked restaurateur in an affluent American market received the following request from a social media user from a different city (paraphrased for anonymity’s sake): I would like to surprise my significant other with the following menu and wine from your menu at your restaurant. Will you organize the dinner and pick up our tab in exchange for Instagram posts? I have a lot of followers.
It happens all across America every day, from metropoles and megalopoles to small towns in the heart of farmland: Food-focused social media users ask restaurateurs to pick up their tab in exchange for content.
Few restaurateurs are willing to discuss it openly — for fear of retribution and ostracism. But they are bombarded incessantly by brazen requests for free food.
Whenever you cross the threshold of a restaurant’s entrance, whether you are the New York Times restaurant critic or an Instagram user with a handful of followers, you enter into a social compact with the restaurateur, the restaurant employees, and the other diners.
Today, I penned and published the following post for the Houston Press: “Influencer or Freeloader? 10 Tips for Social Media Users Who Expect a Free Lunch.”
I hope it will give aspiring influencers new perspective into the insidious but sadly all too common practice of extorting restaurateurs and their employees.
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.