How Many Restaurants Do Food Critics Visit In A Day?

The job of a food critic is coveted and illustrious. Dining at incredible restaurants, writing about it, and getting paid for it — sounds like a dream, right? When thinking of food critics, some may conjure the image of Anton Ego, the menacing food critic from "Ratatouille" who writes scathing reviews, picking apart dishes callously. But the job of a food critic is more nuanced than meets the eye.

A good food critic will articulate not only the taste of the food, but also the quality, presentation, restaurant ambiance, and service (via MasterClass). But what escapes this job description is that food critics must visit a restaurant multiple times anonymously to be thorough and eliminate special treatment. And just because a critic visits a restaurant doesn't mean it will end up in print.

According to food critic Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post, there are plenty of restaurants he visits that don't make it in the paper. "The truth is, I eat at far more restaurants than you read about, north of 125 a year," wrote Sietsema. "There are restaurants I might not mention because I know something unsavory about them." This sentiment is not unusual; food critic Michael Stern, who has co-authored north of 30 food and travel guide books, doesn't write negative reviews, either. Stern's tenured experience as a food critic means he's constantly eating out, searching for the best eats.

More than a food critic can stomach

Jane and Michael Stern are the food critic, husband-wife dynamic duo that have won three James Beard Awards for their contributions to the food world, and they have published 10 editions of "Roadfood," a 1,000-restaurant coast-to-coast dining encyclopedia, since 1977. Not only are they veteran critics, but travelers, too. When they are on the road, they have a packed schedule full of eating. "If I'm traveling, or on a road trip to review restaurants, I'll go to 5 to 10 restaurants in a day," Michael Stern told Taste of Home. "Oftentimes, I'll just have a few bites of food at each restaurant." 

This condensed timeline impedes on the standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner eating schedule by a lap or three. Julia Kramer, former deputy editor at Bon Appétit, echoed a similar experience while traveling for BA's annual restaurant guide, "The bare minimum I would be doing on a given day would be two lunches and two dinners, and sometimes it's more than that," Kramer said on an episode of the Eater Digest podcast. "The back-to-back tasting menu is rough." In the same episode, Eater NY chief critic Ryan Sutton comments on the toll it takes on the body, "I have a little bit of a gut and that's simply the fact of the job impacting me." 

So while the job of a food critic is widely admired for the perks and mystery, the tenured professionals remind outsiders that there is such thing as too much of a good thing.