(Photo Courtesy of Tammy at www.gingermantra.com)
I haven’t blogged in a while because I have been working 90-hour weeks to get our new Tallahassee restaurant off of the ground. Thanksgiving Day will be my first day off in over two months (and I thought lawyer hours were rough!). Despite the long hours, I am happy – things are going great, and I am really proud of what we are building. But when I saw this restaurant review making the rounds on Facebook, I had to make some time to share my thoughts.
In addition to professional food writers, it seems like everyone has a food blog these days, or is dying to chronicle each dining experience on Yelp or Facebook or Urbanspoon or Tripadvisor or Twitter or one of the many Apps that are now so numerous that I can’t keep up with them. It is a fun time to love food and it is easier than ever to connect with other foodies. One of the first things that I did when we opened this restaurant was to invite local food bloggers in because I was excited to share what we were doing with people I knew would appreciate it, and it turned out to be a great experience that allowed me to meet some really smart, fun people. Our restaurants have benefitted a lot from kind reviews in magazines, blogs and on the internet, and I am always grateful for people who recommend us to others.
But there is a dark side to this trend – the casual (usually anonymous internet) critic – the not-so-nice guy who seems to live to tell you everything you are doing wrong. He knows exactly how to run your restaurant because he watches a ton of Food Network (just like I know exactly how to do brain surgery because I watch Grey’s Anatomy). Plus, he thinks it is too expensive. He often stretches the truth to justify his outrage: he waited hours for a table (25 minutes) his bill was nearly $100 ($75 for five people – that’s about 15 dollars a person for a drink, salad, and artisan pizza made from scratch daily), and the service was terrible (Canadian bacon is not a topping option – this is apparently such a big deal that he felt he needed to be so cruel to the waitress that she could barely hold back her tears). Imagine going to your job every day knowing that each and every move you or one of your employees made would likely end up on the internet. “Joe is a decent bank teller, but his tie was a bit crooked today, so I will be taking my business elsewhere.” “Jane stuttered twice in court today. What a terrible lawyer.”
“Who cares?” You say? I do. My family does. My employees do. I don’t do this for the money – I was making a lot more as a lawyer. I do this because food is my passion. I wake up every day and put every ounce of my energy – my heart and soul – into making food and presenting it to people in a way that will please them, as do my parents and my brother. And goodness knows, we are far from perfect at it – in any new venture, mistakes will be made. And if a mistake is made, we want to hear about it and are happy to correct it. By all means, if your food isn’t cooked to your liking, you should (kindly) let your server know so it can be remade. Unhappy with your service for some reason? Please discuss it with me so I have the opportunity to work with that server and help them to improve. Think we are too expensive? Take a hike. This isn’t Little Caesar’s. (And I refuse to participate in the race to the bottom that you see among chain restaurants these days. There are plenty of places that use cheap, low-quality ingredients to choose from if price is your primary concern).
Criticism, when it’s not constructive, is just mean. Writing nasty, flippant reviews on the internet doesn’t make you a “foodie” – it just makes you an asshole. If you don’t like a restaurant, don’t go back. (I understand that it was the NY Times reviewer’s job to go back, but if the restaurant is really that bad, it probably wasn’t worthy of a NY Times Review in the first place). Why expend so much energy to make people feel bad? For the record, I find Guy Fieri’s TV persona as obnoxious as the next snooty, food-loving yuppie, but, still, my heart sank reading that review. I have never been to any of his restaurants, nor do I know his level of involvement in them – maybe he just slaps his name on them and laughs all the way to the bank. But what I do know is that running (and working in) a restaurant is damn hard, and I also know what it feels like to have someone slam your efforts on the internet. And I am sure that there are managers, and servers, and cooks, and bussers and dishwashers in that restaurant who work very hard, and didn’t deserve to be embarrassed like that.
So the next time you are blogging or Yelping or Tweeting, remember that there are real people working in those restaurants, and please think about how your words will make them feel.
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