Two Writers Attend The Same Event

Something that’s fun to do: compare the eyewitness accounts of two different people who went to the National Restaurant Association show this year.

On the one hand, we have the reporter from Nation’s Restuarant News, observing and summarizing as usefully as possible.

Then there’s the AV Club reporter with a little less familiarity with the restaurant industry who wanders in and more or less calls it as she sees it.

Clearly, these two writers have different expectations from their editors, and the AV Club reporter is charged with making her column entertaining; but I think there’s something we can learn from this about communication.

Normal people only use “food words” ironically, or with implied quotes: “Make choices on a touchscreen, and 40 seconds later there’s a customized and kind of tasty cup of ice cream in hand,” she writes. That’s how people talk. With a word like “tasty” held at arm’s length. Meanwhile, our industry reporter talks about a tea company “touting its new flavors.”

Clearly each writer is aware of her audience. But we can see what happens to a writer the closer she gets to the “business” side of the business: she chooses verbs like “touts” and sums up the show like this:

“Responding to consumers’ increasing demand to have their food when and how they want it, foodservice operators walked the floor of the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show in search of better ways to delight their customers. The need for customization was much in evidence.”

Meanwhile the AV Club writer sums up the show with more color:

“Pitches flew about point of purchase machines and streamlining customer service. If anything, though, this year’s NRA show was about bringing fine dining experiences—or at least fine-seeming dining experience—to consumers who have lower budgets.

“That doesn’t mean the restaurant industry is trying to get people to put on nice pants and eat lobster ravioli, but rather that the industry is trying to get jean-clad, burger-eating asses into their seats while still making people feel special.”

Which summary is more accurate? Who knows. We all know the NRA Show is a lot of things to a lot of people.

I only know which writer I’d trust to have an objective view of the show.