Over at The Bad Deal—one of two blogs he runs in his spare time when he’s not busy being Bloomberg’s New York restaurant critic—Ryan Sutton dropped a fairly lengthy essay this afternoon on the subject of negative restaurant reviews. They get an unnecessarily bad rap from professional organizations like The Association of Food Journalists, Sutton writes, but more importantly, they’re not nearly common enough among the smart, insightful writers most qualified to give them.

Sutton makes a very convincing case for the need for pans, using the kind of hard numbers-based approach he so often applies on The Bad Deal and The Price Hike. Here’s the heart of his argument:

An inaccurate, single-visit positive review, based on poor fact checking, poor eating, or poor writing, is no worse than an inaccurate, single-visit negative review. With a misplaced positive review, you’re wasting the hard-earned disposable income of those who visited the restaurant on your recommendation, and you’re also taking money away from a better restaurant that your readers would have gone to otherwise. That’s just as bad as a “slam.” Everyone loses. 

Sutton urges his fellow critics, many of whom have provided “studied, laser-sharp, and level-headed observations” on less-than-stellar meals to him in private, to go on the record with their negative feedback instead of going soft on restaurants in the name of preserving relationships. Over on Twitter, the NYT’s Pete Wells voiced his approval, though he’s not as incensed by the idea of false positives as Sutton is.

The full essay goes into considerably more detail about the current state of restaurant hype and food criticism, and is absolutely worth the ten-minute read. Do click through and judge Sutton’s argument for yourself.

[via The Bad Deal]