From the Kitchen – Tweet Me
Ah, the digital age. While texting a plea to management to take photos for Instagram, after reading a negative review on Yelp, I received an email from a friend, forwarding a tweet from star chef and owner David Chang. Chang, who is famed for his pork-prolific NYC Momofuko empire, had put down his mandolin for the iPad in order to share with his Twitter-verse a rant about guest insanity. That’s right, I said it! Some of you “customer is always right” folks are damn-near certifiable. (And thereby well suited for a job in our kitchens!)
Chang’s itch was about a guest who claimed to be unable to eat pork, but after receiving a dish without pork that was recommended by the server, insisted it tasted of pork. Though reassured, the guest refused to believe staff or to eat the porkless dish. After a typical guest tête-à-tête and the server’s further guidance on nonpork replacement dish options, the diner chose an alternate meal that did in fact include pork in the preparation. Likely befuddled, the waiter explained this further, but the guest insisted upon the meal nonetheless, apparently having overcome the porky dilemma that created the original swine-whine.
I feel your pain, Chef. I had awakened to the following snivel: “Mr. Plath, we had a [previous] wonderful and creative meal with my father for his birthday. Kudos for the breadth of your menu. Which is why it breaks my heart to write the 1 star Yelp review attached.”
I want to clarify off the bat that I automatically distrust anyone who says “kudos.” That said, with open mind (ha!) I read the author’s rambling, damning, slamming review, based solely upon a seconds-long interaction with a harried busgirl upon his arrival at a hectic full house. The beautiful young lady—awkward as she may have been—tried to cover for the missing hostess and otherwise occupied manager, but apparently failed to smile or speak with polished decorum — and was therefore the impetus for a review that negatively painted and punished an entire prideful and hardworking restaurant staff. He, without waiting for the manager to appear a minute later or tasting a single bite of food, departed to then subject us to his harsh and public lashing, the clichéd and ever dramatic: “We will take our business elsewhere in the future” and “…never treated with such condescension.” So not cool.
To the broken-hearted dude’s credit, once I contacted him directly with our warranted apology, he removed the review, humbly refused our gift certificate “olive branch,” and promised to return. I agreed that we should have been more poised — and he agreed that he overreacted. Furthermore, in a rare but triumphant aside, he pledged to never again post a negative review, embracing the belief that hurting all staff in retaliation for a moment in time is indecent. He further recognized a failure to submit a glowing review after his original, excellent visit. Maybe that negative-slant dynamic is swayed by the whiny-named “Yelp.” (People yelp when you step on their toes; dogs, their tails!) This is why restaurant people despise Yelp. Perhaps folks would otherwise be fair and understanding if said review site were named, say, “Praise.” Or “The Golden Rule Review Site?” Too holy? What about “The Good Karma Comment Club?” Just sayin’.
We actually, regularly, comb numerous review sites — often painfully — to seek legitimate glimpses at where we’ve earned a negative perception. The worst reviews often are submitted by folks who run the gamut of uninformed to plain mean and nasty. Some are funny, some absurd, and some are written in drunken stupors!
Perhaps my favorite guest complaint ever was by a gentleman who apparently did not comprehend the “globally inspired” theme at our second restaurant. He wrote: “Probably will not return … the menu is all over the map.” (Well, thank you, brother!) (Or wait … was he tweaking us?)
Along the way, there has been: “My martini was weak,” “The shrimp cocktail was cold,” “The crabcake was mushy,” “The rib-eye was fatty,” and “This is not the way they do the patatas bravas in Andalusia!” The most fun are the disparate remarks made on comment cards, in the same evening, such as: “The beer selection sucks” and “We love the amazing beer selection” … “The music sucks” and “We love the vibe” … “Too busy” and “Love the energy” … “Much less expensive than Boston” and “What a rip-off!” … “Classy atmosphere” and “The historic building reminds me of dusty old people.”
In the interest of maintaining sanity while reading “between the lines,” we offer the following few, fun interpretations … while truly seeking to please all guests. Even you mad, mad, mad ones!
- “For the price we paid, we should have been stuffed, with plenty of doggie bags to take home.” = “I like China Buffet.”
- “Expensive for what you get.” = “I love gluten, bowls of pasta, baskets of garlic bread.”
- “The drinks are weak.” = Palate tainted by chewing gum.
- “The wine pour looks small.” = “I customarily drink from small wine glasses.”
- “Waited 20 minutes to be greeted by our waiter.” = Theater major (more drama).
- “My eggs Benedict was smaller than McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.” = ’Nuff said.