Ever dine alone at a restaurant only to notice that you're being treated more attentively by staff? This might be why.
In a Monday tweet, Chicago Tribune food writer Kevin Pang shared a photo taken of a memo posted inside the kitchen of "a prominent Chicago restaurant" that served as a one-sheet explaining "how to identify food critics, media and bloggers" to its staff.
Found in kitchen of prominent Chicago restaurant: Instructions on what to do if you spot a food writer pic.twitter.com/KkQTEgAbeV
— Kevin Pang (@pang) March 17, 2014
The memo instructs servers to be alert for diners who "ask an unusual amount of questions" regarding the food and the restaurant's concept, guests "observing the dining room very closely," guests paying attention during server spiels and wine service, as well as those dining alone.
If a diner has been identified as a suspected food critic or media member, staff are instructed to "remain calm and composed," notify the manager immediately and refrain from revealing that they are aware the diner is a member of the media.
The memo then proceeds to offer an (outdated, as Chicagoist's Melissa McEwan noted) list of some of the city's prominent food critics and writers.
Indicating such memos may be more commonplace than those outside the industry might think, Pang also tweeted a photo (with blurred-out faces) of a board of headshots of New York food writers that was reportedly posted in the kitchen of a Manhattan restaurant.
Pang also told media blogger Jim Romenesko he is aware that "many restaurants around town [in Chicago] do the same" and media coverage surrounding New York magazine restaurant critic Adam Platt giving up his anonymity also suggested photos of food writers were commonplace on the walls of restaurants.
Pang's photos went public on the heels of Washington City Paper publishing a secret document tracking D.C. food writers and their likes, dislikes, quirks and more. The document had reportedly been circulating among restaurateurs for years and also included photos of the writers.
CORRECTION: "Restaurateur" was misspelled in a previous version of this story.