Forgive me chefs for I have sinned. I did something that I knowingly knew was tacky, yet I did it anyway. Last December, my family – 17 of us, went to see the play, A Christmas Story. My mom waited till the week of to make a dinner reservation (I was on her case to do this the day after Thanksgiving, but no one listens to me…). Of course she couldn’t get us in anywhere due to the timing and size of the party. So she was going to take us to a chain. My family had a rough year and I really wanted us to have a great meal and overall dining experience. So I called Brandon over at L’Albatros (even though I knew they were already booked) and asked if he could squeeze us in if we came super early. He did and we had a memorable holiday outing. It was the only time I’ve ever requested a favor of this kind and felt so funny in doing so. It’s incredibly tacky, among other things – even if the result of not doing so means dining ala chain. I was so appreciative he got us in, but vowed never to do it again.
A recent conversation with one of our chefs sparked an idea for this post. While in the scheme of things, me calling Brandon really wasn’t that horrible – we all rely on relationships we have with people from time to time (and it’s not like I used my blog to score a table, I relied on the fact that I have built a relationship with him – if he would have said no, that would have been the end of it). But for as great as social media is, it can also be used for evil. It’s amazing what a little anonymity can do and what comes out of people’s mouths when they hide behind the safety of a keyboard. People think nothing of it to bash and trash others; it drives me up a wall. I love the customer service aspect social media provides and overall experience it can enhance – when used properly. It is not an open invitation to make threats if something doesn’t go your way. I hear about this all the time – and have overheard people make this threat in restaurants. Someone will say something like: “oh, if you don’t accommodate me and take that off my bill, I’m going to tell everyone on Twitter and Facebook just how bad your restaurant is.” Really? Seems to say a lot about that person if you ask me.
Chefs have to hear and read all the time what we think of them and their food, why not give them a voice so we can hear what they think of us – not as a way to insult, but as a way to learn. Because in the end, we want a positive dining experience out and that’s exactly what they want for us, too. So how can we be better diners? How can we enhance our visit at one of the many restaurants?
There’s some good stuff here. And out of respect for everyone’s privacy, all chefs and restaurants have been omitted.
“Dear customers: I will start by saying I love you all, and I appreciate all the love you have showed me in this great dining city that we live in. Anything you do to me or my restaurant will never stop making me love you all just the same. But, could you please show up on time for your reservation? Maybe even call if you decide to go somewhere else for the evening. Could you not get up to go smoke as your entrees are presented and then just flick your cig onto the ground? Could you not say you know the chef, when he or she is not there, but really just saw him on local TV and assumed that we were life-long friends? Could you be kind to my service staff, and relish in the fact that they work tremendously hard, long hours for you. Could you muster up the strength to maybe point out the reasons you were dissatisfied that evening as opposed to running home to blast it on the Cleveland.com food forum. And with regards to the food forum, please be considerate. If you had a bad experience, label all the bad, but don’t be so cynical. We all want to know what went wrong in our establishments. And finally, don’t label yourself as “do you know who I am or I have got a lot of money.” I don’t care about your money, As far as I am concerned you are a person that wants a great dining experience, and I am a chef trying to deliver.”
“I am allergic” to something when it really is “I really don’t like it, please don’t use that ingredient.” The “food allergy” issue is being used as an excuse. I understand that many people do suffer from them, but you can tell when they are making it up. It seems that more and more people feel that they can design their own dish and completely disregard the concept that we design the meals with a certain strategic balance. Then they have the balls to complain that “their version” was not that great!”
“So Friday night this table of four on the patio decides to call their friends to join them. Not a big deal except there are no more tables or chairs and we’re on a two hour wait. This woman begins to take chairs from tables that either have gotten up to use the bathroom or from tables we’re setting for the next group of customers. She’s a little tipsy and so I spoke with her and it goes terribly wrong. “I will never be back” is her first comment; “watch what you say to me because I’m a food critic and I can ruin you” was next. Now at this point I just want her to sit down and stop harassing the staff. Finally after I said I didn’t care who she was because of her actions and the fact she had too much to drink she came back with the granddaddy of them all – “I’m friends with Mike Symon!” Guess what people, so am I but that doesn’t give you the right to be an ass. So I’m looking forward to being bashed again on all the internet sites…”
“My biggest gripe is that customers come in to eat and they are in a mad rush and don’t realize that we cook our food to order – without microwaves and with the best technique we can. Sometimes they think we slow it up to spite them when we really just want to put out the best product we can. I wish customers had a bit more patience and understanding and realized that we are here to give them an exceptional food experience.”
“Why does everyone think they’ve got to eat at the same time! Everyone comes in at the same time and very often, leaves at the same time as everyone else. It’s kind of weird.”
“I wonder why a guest would get the chef’s tasting menu, and then ask for dishes to be changed or altered. If you’re going to order that, be willing to try what the chef has created.”
“When you order something well done, do you really have room to complain that it’s dry and tough?”
“Do you really expect to order all these extra things for your dish/meal, and think that they will be free? It didn’t come in the back door for free, so we’ve got to charge you for those extras.”
“Guests changing their mind on what dish they want, after it has been cooked and is being plated. Really?”
“Saying they know the owner, just to get special privileges.”
“Treat the hostess with kindness, especially if you don’t have a reservation. She/he is going to be the one to get you a table so treating them like they are beneath you is not the best route.”
“Don’t assume that because you are in Cleveland, Saturday nights are not busy. Make reservations for the weekend.”
“Posting anonymously on a review site or food forum makes your words less credible.”
“If you have an issue with a restaurant, don’t immediately put a bad review up on yelp. Write to the management.”
“Put faces behind the food you eat. When you write untruths on the Internet you are directly affecting our lives, our families and our futures.”
“Treat people who work at restaurants with respect. We are there to serve you and make your experience pleasurable; however we are not your servant. Treat us kind.”
“I don’t go online and bash your job performance. How would you like it if you had a bad day at work and then had to read everyone insulting you online, people you don’t even know. You wouldn’t. And neither would your family. I get we are in a different business and thrive on word of mouth and media and blogger reviews. And I am all for food bloggers and respect most of them and people in general sharing their thoughts. Even if it’s bad, I will learn from it, no one is perfect all the time. But be fair in your review and honest. It’s okay of you don’t like something, I can take it and we all have strong opinions about food. But if it’s personal and not about the food, then you have bigger issues and are taking a forum that could be positive and turning it ugly. Oh, and call if you are going to miss your reservation. Don’t be lazy, make the call. You wouldn’t like it if I decided at the last minute not to come over your house for dinner and didn’t bother to tell you.“