Still, the retaliation is somewhat understandable. Even if a brutal review doesn’t bring down the house, that’s not to say there’s no immediate impact.
“Even the regulars at a restaurant might not go when there
’s a negative review, at least for a while,” Ms. Sheraton said. “It could mean they’re not sure of their own taste. But I also suspect that because there’s a lot of entertaining at these restaurants—business especially—no one wants to invite someone to a restaurant that just got a bad review.”
Naturally, the opposite is true for the eateries that pleasantly surprise Mr. Bruni.
Dan Barber, the owner of Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwich Village, described the impact of Mr. Bruni’s three-star review last August as “immediate.” “What we see generally after a good review like that: People are willing to come in earlier at the 6 o’clock tables, and people are willing to come in and eat later, which is a huge asset for us,” said Mr. Barber, now obviously a big fan of the Bruni Effect.
“One would think that with the rise of the Zagats, the rise of the blogs, and all the rest of the stuff that’s out there, that with Bruni, the power would be greatly muted. I haven’t seen that,” Mr. Barber added. “In fact, in some ways, it feels stronger than when [former Times critic] Ruth Reichl reviewed.”
Still, some restaurateurs seem entirely unaffected by reviews—even the deadly barbs of Mr. Bruni. Among the so-called “Bruni-proof” is the devoutly followed Mr. McNally, whose new eatery Morandi received just a single star last month. But just try getting a table.
“People don’t realize that neither Balthazar nor any of my restaurants ever received really good reviews. But they’re all still around and thankfully quite busy,” Mr. McNally said via e-mail. “I certainly don’t engage a P.R. person or anything like that. I simply try to make my restaurants the kinds of places that I’d like to go to. Nothing else. Hopefully, other people feel the same way.
“The smaller-minded critics, however (and this includes Bruni), don’t care for my places, because when they’re there, they feel disempowered. They don’t have the power, as they so often do, to alter the fate of the place. It drives them to distraction. But it only makes me smile.”