When people find out I’m a writer for Spoon, one of the first things they ask is, “Do you get free food from the restaurants you write about?” The answer to this question is rather sad.
In the 7 months and 21 days since the debut of my first Spoon article, I have yet to receive a single free item or even a discount from any of the food establishments I've written about.
To be fair, when I first started writing, I kept a pretty low profile. I would go into the restaurant, order my meal, and I didn’t even have to be sneaky about taking pictures of food thanks to living in the era of #foodporn on Instagram.
I was just like any other customer. This was a good strategy in the sense that I was getting the most authentic representation of the restaurant. No one was going to any extraordinary measures to impress a food blogger.After a while, eating out all the time for the sake of generating content for my articles was getting expensive. I did what any hungry student would do and decided to start exploiting my Spoon status.
The first time I decided to “Spoon-drop” was after I published an article for a review of a vegan brunch restaurant. The meal I ate there was life-changing, so of course, the article that followed was pretty complimentary. That said, this meal set me back a few dollars. As much as I wanted to try the entire menu, I just couldn’t swing it financially with my income of zero dollars.
With the link to my Spoon article in hand, I took the plunge and sent a Facebook message to the restaurant. Satisfied with my course of action, I waited (somewhat) patiently for a response.
Hours passed, then days, and after a week of not hearing anything, I decided to check the read receipts. They had seen it, several days ago. I had to face the fact that the endless stream of free vegan waffles I had been fantasizing about wasn’t going to happen.
I wasn’t ready to give up on the dream of free food just yet. After a great new frozen yogurt place opened, I decided to write a review with the added purpose of (hopefully) scoring some free fro-yo. After the article went live, I decided to go back to the restaurant and play the Spoon card in person.
It was just my luck—the owner was even working! Trying to contain my excitement, I starting talking to him about business, opening a restaurant, etc. When the right moment came, I dropped the Spoon bomb and mentioned the article I had written.
The response: “That was you? I had four people come in here yesterday just because they read your article! I even read it myself. It was great. Thanks so much!”
While this conversation was going on, one of the employees was calculating the cost of my fro-yo. I got out my wallet—slowly. I was waiting for the owner to say, “This one’s on the house!” I looked back and forth between the owner and the cashier. They were oblivious. After about fifteen seconds, reality set in and I realized that I wasn’t getting any fro-yo out of this.
While I’m no marketing expert, a five dollar frozen yogurt seems like pretty cheap advertising, especially since my article brought in new customers that probably wouldn’t have gone there otherwise.
While I can only speak about my own experience, I know there are Spoon writers out there who have gotten freebies. After that ice cream challenge courtesy of Halo Top, I'm definitely still holding out hope for the future.
At the end of the day, I’m not just in this for the promise of free food. Writing for Spoon gives me an excuse to eat out with my friends and a place to express my love for all things food-related. At the risk of sounding cliché, it's the journey (of finding your voice as a writer) and not the destination (getting free food) that makes writing for Spoon worthwhile.
That said, if any restaurants out there are reading this, remember that a favourable Spoon article can go a long way for generating student business—and hungry writers love free food.