CHEAPSKATES: Corruption concern over Cheap Eats as we reveal how little The Age pays restaurant reviewers

cheapoutscorruption Cheap Eats, a popular Fairfax publication full of restaurant reviews of low-cost restaurants and cafes, have been revealed as cheapskate employers by whistleblower reviewers.

The famed VEXNEWS Investigations Unit can exclusively reveal – for the first time – the secret inner-workings of the Age’s poorly paid army of food critics.

They explain they are paid $50 per review and are expected to pay the cost of the meal from the $50 and must also write a pithy summary of their findings afterwards. The hourly rate ends up being a few dollars an hour, one insider complains. VEXNEWS understands there are around one hundred reviewers, most of them from the inner-city.

This is considered a very low fee to pay by industry standards, according to journalists familiar with the matter and is possibly a breach of Fairfax’s Fair Work obligations.

Cheap Eats has previously enjoyed tremendous sales success, with its sister publication the Good Food Guide, generating multi-million dollar profits for the company for its best-selling books.

The revelations have prompted industry concern that the content of Cheap Eats could easily be compromised by financially famished reviewers acting in concert with dodgy restauranteurs who would be keen to buy off a reviewer. There have also been concerns raised in the past about the conflict of interest involved in presenting an independent guide to restaurants and cafes that also solicits for advertising from the same businesses.

A Lygon Street businessman in the hospitality industry says many Carlton restaurant owners are made a wide variety of corrupt propositions from food reviewers. He told VEXNEWS he was unfamiliar with Cheap Eats reviewers being tempted into corrupt deals but that because a business could be “made or unmade” by a review that it would be worthwhile for owners to “pay them $5000 or more” if they could be trusted “to write something nice.”

Because of the fear of reviews being corrupted, websites like urbanspoon.com have enjoyed tremendous success greatly as they rely on individual users to contribute their own ratings and commentary. Unlike tempted Cheap Eats reviewers, they have no reason to lie about their experience.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “CHEAPSKATES: Corruption concern over Cheap Eats as we reveal how little The Age pays restaurant reviewers

  1. Anonymous

    It’s only inner city leftards who are being ripped off so who cares really.

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  3. Dowd

    “Because of the fear of reviews being corrupted, websites like urbanspoon.com have enjoyed tremendous success greatly as they rely on individual users to contribute their own ratings and commentary. Unlike tempted Cheap Eats reviewers, they have no reason to lie about their experience.”

    Unless the owners write a bunch of super-positive reviews under different names.

  4. Dan Lewis

    Dowd’s right and I find that “eatability” (another restaurant review site) is polluted with negative reviews, often by direct competitors. You can often spot them as they share poor spelling and language traits. Ditto the artificially glowing reviews which seem to appear within a day of each other, often posted by first time reviewers who have never reviewed a single other restaurant.

    Also, these sites are often unduly negative as people tend to post negative reviews when they have something to complain about, but seldom rush to their computer for a positive review unless the experience was amazing.

  5. Walter Plinge

    Spot on Dan Lewis – that’s what I was going to say. Review sites in general tend to attract mostly complainers and few happy customers. I don’t trust productreview.com.au for the same reason.

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  7. SFW

    I think you will find that the word is Restaurateur not restauranteur.

  8. Ken

    Not sure who your source is but the payment info that you quote is wrong. A friend of mine reviews and I’ve been to a few review restaurants with her.

    Writers get $50 per review written, plus if a restaurant turns out to be so awful that it doesn’t warrant a review, the writer will get a $20 fee but doesn’t need to write it up. On top of fees for writing the (very short) reviews, food and drink is reimbursed up to $60 spend. This includes alcoholic drinks if they are served at a given place.

  9. Les 20something

    This’ll encourage them to review Hungry Jacks & Maccas

  10. frangipani

    worked for the age cheap eats many years ago and the then-editor tried to backtrack on our rate, said i was being greedy to want the fee that had been agreed, then wdn’t pay for petrol to get to restaurant, wanted me to throw in a few more reviews for free, talk about bad taste in the mouth, this has been going on forever!!!

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