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Food Fail Around Richmond

There's a new website for food in the Richmond area called Food Around Richmond. I'm going to gently dismantle it today.

The first thing that slaps me in the face is something I can't say too much about, but it's still worth a mention: It looks pretty foul. Yeah, I'm using a slightly broken Wordpress theme myself, and I've not taken the time to clean it up. That doesn't mean I can't recognize another website with visual issues. The header appears to be three stock food photos of varying size stitched awkwardly together with a not-so-appetizing transparent embossed "Richmond" stretching nearly the full width. There's the tag cloud, the 500-ish wasted pixels below every post dedicated to subscribing, tags, sharing, advertising, etc.

Oh yeah, the "advertising." The entire website feels like an ill-conceived money-making project. There are four permanent spots for sponsor placement in addition to the banner ad at the end of each post. So far they're all empty (though the banner advertising is BOTH "cheap" and "affordable"!). You know why? Because nobody really reads this website yet. It's as if the site owner erected billboards in the middle of farm land that might possibly have a road built through it someday.

But you know what? You could have an ugly website littered with ad space and still have a winner if you have good content. The content, though, is the most unfortunate part of Food Around Richmond...

Problem #1: There have been five reviews since February 9th, and the first three were chains. Richmond is replete with outstanding and varied independent restaurants. It's nearly criminal to start off a local food blog with a review of Outback Steakhouse.

Problem #2: Four of the five reviews have been well outside of the city limits. The only review of a restaurant in Richmond proper was for Weezie's Kitchen.

Problem #3: No links to restaurant websites. Sure, "the social networking application of Twitter and YouTube is cool," (lifted directly from the site) but you can hardly talk about the social aspects of the web if you're not linking to the websites of the restaurants you review. I know not every eatery has a website of their own, but that's not the case for Weezie's or the three chains reviewed on the site. Restaurant websites nearly always have menus, pictures, and other useful information, so it's unfortunate that Food Around Richmond couldn't include links.

Problem #4: The "twist of video" for each post doesn't add much. I don't expect a new site to have professional video production, but these short segments don't serve the food well. The shots are often too close to focus, and the lighting is usually too dark which frequently leads to the food looking unappetizing.

Problem #5: Food blogging usually requires food writing, and the writing here just isn't that good. I don't mean to insult the author(s) because not everybody writes well. I don't consider myself a good writer, but you don't have to be a good performer to recognize whether a performance is good. The style here is too direct, adding little more than simple descriptions and statements of fact.

It's not that I expect a fledgling food blog to be A+ in it's first few weeks, but there are already several solid food columns and blogs in the Richmond area that you can't avoid good examples if you spend five minutes looking for them. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't start your own food blog just because there are some out there, but it would be hard to take you seriously if you're just more noise instead of at least standing tall among the existing players. If the goal is to rake in some advertising dollars, as seems to be the point with Food Around Richmond, you have to do at least as well as I just don't see that so far.

If you want a broader perspective of food in the Richmond area, check out Richmond Good Life's sprawling aggregation of reviews, etc. You'll find links to plenty of worthy Richmond food reads and even write-ups of restaurants by other blogs/sites around town.