Monday, December 18, 2006

Everyone's a critic. No, really.

Two remarkable blog posts today reveal how quickly word of bad service can travel.

The most horrid example is New York magazine's Underground Gourmet, who waited 45 minutes for roast chicken at a West Village place, only to see it delivered to TV dude Charlie Rose less than five minutes after the VIP walks in the door. A waitress then lies, saying the chicken was "accidentally" misdirected and offering free pasta while another chicken is roasted.

SFist, meanwhile, recounts being ignored, seated late and seated quite poorly at a table that sounds like it should not exist in the first place at Harry Denton's.

In the old days, the only recourse was to tell your friends and threaten the manager. These days, anyone with time and a legitimate example of poor service can find a ready audience online.

Which is hardly news -- to anyone, it seems, but several platoons of clueless chefs and managers, who don't seem to realize that the price of stealing from the status-poor to give to Charlie Rose is higher than it has ever been.

More bloviating on the topic in the Gawker comments.

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haddock said...

And you can lie if you want also. It's never been scarier for those of us who are really trying quite hard to do a great job.

Someone can post to Chowhound and you can't respond to their post as a representative of the business. Even if the information is wrong, a lie, or perhaps the person really did have a bad experience that you as an owner would like to put right.

I'm all for people voicing their opinion. As long as it can be ALL the people.

December 18, 2006 11:43 PM  
Ryan said...

That's a great point and a fair one.

The trouble online is that so many people are either anonymous of effectively anonymous. How many people use their real names, and of those how many have earned good reputations? Not enough.

The bad info situation hurts consumers, too, in the other direction -- one never knows when a critic, online or offline, has been unduly influenced by favors, free food, being spotted, becoming part of a "scene" they don't want to offend, etc.

December 19, 2006 11:36 AM  
Ryan said...

PS I did not know that about Chowhound, the interface used to be so unweildy and my computer so weak that I did not bother to surf there. I am sure CNET has spiffed up the interface.

I wonder if any restaurant has tried starting a blog to have their own platform to respond to Chowhound and other critic sites?

December 19, 2006 11:40 AM  
Carter Lusher said...

I agree with haddock when it comes to giving folks in the restaurant biz a chance to respond to comments. BTW, it's not just on-line communities like Chowhound, newspapers or magazines don't provide chefs/managers a chance to respond either.

I recently had the general manager and chef of Viognier, an upscale joint in San Mateo, respond to one of my recent -- negative -- reviews. Both were balanced and gracious responses. In the first post, the response is in a comment by the general manager:

The second response was in an e-mail by the chef to me, which I got permission to post:

In both cases, the responses contained credible information that provided a new perspective on my review. Very useful.

December 21, 2006 8:42 PM  
Ryan said...

Carter, what a fascinating series of posts! I am feeling an itch to blog all this ;->

December 22, 2006 11:30 AM  
Carter Lusher said...

Hi Ryan, I think that we should all blog about this -- and send e-mails to management -- and perhaps help Chowhound see the error in its current policy. See my post "Should chefs be able to respond to negative reviews on-line?" at

Here is wishing you a fun and relaxing holiday season with lots of tasty treats and wine.

December 24, 2006 6:33 AM  

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