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Top Chef calls to rant about negative comments


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#1 MrsCC

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 11:30 AM

You may have seen my recent post about Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. Today I received a phone call from Marcus Wareing himself. He ranted at myself and my husband for close to 30 minutes. Why I did not hang up the phone I am not sure. Actually, I do know why. I felt bad for him. He was obviously upset. Having thought about this, we are actually now quite angry with his phone call. We paid £600 for our meal and if we want to say we didn't enjoy the evening then we have every right to do so. Marcus Wareing was actually abusive in his call. At one point he said, "how would you like me to write about you and your appearance and the way you dress?" He came back to this several times. He was angry because he felt that we should not have posted a negative view of his restaurant on our blog http://www.thecritic...ng-service.html What are your thoughts?

Mrs. CC
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#2 Carlovski

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 11:47 AM

Completely out of order in my opinion. I presume he wasn't concerned by the glowing report you gave him in the first 2 reviews on your site?
If he had rang to offer any reasons why your visit wasn't up to scratch, or wanted to ask you to publish his response on the manner, then that would be fine, although you wouldn't have been obliged to do so.
To behave in that manner is unprofessional and childish.
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#3 MrsCC

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 11:57 AM

Thank you for your reply. We tried to point out the positive comments made even in the recent post but he would not listen to a word. He just yelled. I told him I had a three page letter to him in my handbag that I was about to post to go into our experience in more detail. He said, "don't post it". In my view, this is not how one retains business. We have been to MW 7 times in less than 11 months, it mattered not.
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#4 jenc

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 12:01 PM

I agree with Carlovski. If he was taking the time to bother calling, he should have used this opportunity to find out why you felt you had a bad meal and turned this into something more positive.

Instead, like many who are short-sighted, he decided to rant and turn this into a negative PR moment. Though... it's still publicity for him, I guess! I assume, their CRM is where he got your number, so that would have told him exactly how many times you had visited. So it makes his actions seem to be especially hmn.. I dunno.. unclassy...

Edited by jenc, 29 October 2010 - 12:04 PM.

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#5 kutsu

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 12:23 PM

Maybe he should spend more time training his staff rather than calling you. Oh well, from all accounts it sounds like the Marcus Wearing experience isn't as good as what is still being produced at Royal Hospital Road, or indeed, at Le Gav', where they treat you like you deserve being a paying customer!.

#6 Harters

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 12:29 PM

Hmmm. I shallbe Devils Advocate, I think.

Not by agreeing that what appears to have been a display of great rudeness is acceptable. Clearly it is not. And it is even less acceptable when directed at a paying customer. I have no time for rudeness, even when on occasions I'm guilty of it myself.

That said, folk who write blogs, review restaurants professionally or, simply, post on internet discussion boards are putting their views into the public domain. And, therefore, shouldnt be surprised if the object of their criticism isnt always well chuffed about what's been written.
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#7 MrsCC

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 12:34 PM

I totally agree with you. I have no problem with Marcus being unhappy with our post but I do feel it was a poor business decision on his part. Not wishing to over-inflate our power but merely to say that his ethos on this subject might be reflective of a bigger problem.
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#8 Dakki

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 01:36 PM

I'd never even heard of the guy before this, and now I have a very low opinion of him and his business. Streisand Effect?
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#9 CKatCook

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 01:37 PM

Genuine rudeness on his part, IMHO. That is one of the issues with doing business in the computer age. Sorry, but that is a risk you take. You had every right to post what you did.
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#10 Harters

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 02:06 PM

merely to say that his ethos on this subject might be reflective of a bigger problem.

We north westerners can be touchy buggers at times.
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#11 MrsCC

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 02:49 PM

Haha well that certainly is a problem John
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#12 MacD

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 03:03 PM

I'll be devil's advocate too ...

Again - no excuses for his rudeness and abuse - totally out of order. But ... If I was in your situation - ie. having had many good meals somewhere, followed by one not so good experience, I would have written to them about my concerns before making my thoughts so public. If it happened again, or if their response had been inadequate, then I would feel justified in making my opinions known more widely.

#13 MrsCC

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 03:08 PM

I think that is a very valid point of view. One which Marcus shares and certainly the reason for his irate phone call to me. We did discuss it with the maitre d before leaving but he failed to address any of our concerns.
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#14 JBailey

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 06:52 PM

When I ate at Marcus Wareing's restaurant, it was an experience of a lifetime. The front of house staff was terrific and Chef Wareing took time to give me a kitchen tour and leisurely chat about what he was acomplishing.

I am certainly sorry you had a bad experience. I am also sorry you have decided to pillory Chef Wareing. Too many of us writing opinions (mine included) are from sources that may or may not be credible. One question that cannot be answered is where does a Chef Wareing go to have his reputation restored if there were misunderstandings or exagerations?
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#15 sethd

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 07:07 PM

I read your critical review of your meal at Marcus Wearing and I don't understand what was so terrible that you posted such a scathing review of your meal and received such a personal call from the chef. Are you such a good customer or friend of the house, that M. Wearing might have taken your review as a personal insult.

#16 Rick Mogstad

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 07:54 PM

In what way would that qualify as a "scathing review"? It was actually pretty mild, and well worded.

If one wants to clear their name, they would probably want to contact you in a rational manner, at which point most people would update their original criticism to include additional information.

Completely out of line to call you personally with such an attitude, in my opinion. If you want people to love your restaurant every single time, then make sure they have a superior experience, every single time.

Edited by Rick Mogstad, 29 October 2010 - 07:55 PM.


#17 MrsCC

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 04:23 AM

Scathing? Really?
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#18 IndyRob

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 05:20 AM

I have a real concern here that arises out of an unrelated incident. We really love our veterinarian. I won't go into why, but trust me, he has proven his worth consistantly over the years. So one day I found a site where people rate and review businesses. So out of curiousity I looked up our vet. He had three glowing reviews (from long time clients) of the sort we would give him. But also three harsh criticisms from people who were there just once or twice. I feel that those could be chalked up to, say, a bad day, a misunderstanding, or even unrealistic expectations. But these reviews will be there forever and people looking at that page will get the impression that only 50% of his clients are satisfied.

Having been there, as you say, six times previously, your expectations were well set and not met. But it appears that this is your third post in seven visits (plus, at least, this thread on eG). I, for one, would not like to be blogged about every other time a customer visited. Eventually, there's going to be a negative post.

If the restaurant was truly going down the tube, I think that would be fair game. But a single experience does not demonstrate this.

It appears that this was a night when the top people were not there. And perhaps because of this they may been having an even worse night than you were having. Ettiquete-wise, I think the thing to do would have been to send Marcus a note describing what was wrong with your experience so that he could work on it. If it was about money for value, perhaps he could have fixed that with a full or partial refund. If it was just a bad night, I don't see how anyone is served by posting this experience publicly. This latest post will probably attract more eyeballs than your previous positive posts combined.

I don't agree with how Marcus handled this situation, but can understand his frustration.

#19 Tim6

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 10:01 AM

Wow, find it hard to believe he called you and said all that!

#20 Pam Brunning

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 10:06 AM

I have been following this post with interest. We had a similar experiance a few years ago at Le Manoir, it was a Sunday evening, Blanc was away and a lot of things were wrong. I was there to review the restaurant for a magazine. When I told my editor of the experiance he said write it as it was. I did, when he received my copy he decided to send it to the restaurant before publication, for comment. They thanked him for his consideration - agreed with most of the comments, said it was alright to publish, and invited me back for a complimentry evening. We had a superb meal, the Sommelier - who I had complained of had gone and I put a rider to my original article.
The whole incident was handled in a business like manner.
Some of these celeb. chefs need to grow up, they have been feted and have much too high an opinion of their own importance.
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#21 Dakki

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 12:07 PM

I have a real concern here that arises out of an unrelated incident. We really love our veterinarian. I won't go into why, but trust me, he has proven his worth consistantly over the years. So one day I found a site where people rate and review businesses. So out of curiousity I looked up our vet. He had three glowing reviews (from long time clients) of the sort we would give him. But also three harsh criticisms from people who were there just once or twice. I feel that those could be chalked up to, say, a bad day, a misunderstanding, or even unrealistic expectations. But these reviews will be there forever and people looking at that page will get the impression that only 50% of his clients are satisfied.

Having been there, as you say, six times previously, your expectations were well set and not met. But it appears that this is your third post in seven visits (plus, at least, this thread on eG). I, for one, would not like to be blogged about every other time a customer visited. Eventually, there's going to be a negative post.

If the restaurant was truly going down the tube, I think that would be fair game. But a single experience does not demonstrate this.

It appears that this was a night when the top people were not there. And perhaps because of this they may been having an even worse night than you were having. Ettiquete-wise, I think the thing to do would have been to send Marcus a note describing what was wrong with your experience so that he could work on it. If it was about money for value, perhaps he could have fixed that with a full or partial refund. If it was just a bad night, I don't see how anyone is served by posting this experience publicly. This latest post will probably attract more eyeballs than your previous positive posts combined.

I don't agree with how Marcus handled this situation, but can understand his frustration.



I run a small business myself, not related to the food industry, and I understand that a review based on a single bad experience, whether it's because of an off night, unrealistic expectations or some other reason can be very upsetting and unfair. That said, I don't think that a reviewer, particularly a blogger, has any obligation to communicate their problems to the management separately. In my eyes, the only obligation a reviewer has is to describe things as accurately as possible - because their principal obligation is not to the business, but to other customers. In short, I don't think Mrs. CC had any reason to do anything other than what she did.

I also think how someone handles criticism says a lot about them and how they run their business. Taking it as an opportunity to fix problems they were not aware of would tell me they'd probably make an effort to put things right with me if I had a problem in their establishment. Conversely, blowing up at an unsatisfied reviewer tells me the response I'd get if I found a fly in the soup would probably not be something I'd enjoy.

Frankly I find Wearing's response incredibly childish and unprofessional, and it left a much worse impression of the establishment than any one negative review could have.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#22 PhilD

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 12:41 PM

  • Restaurant gets negative review from long term, loyal customer. Who has a history of good reviews i.e. not a troll
  • Reviewer complains on the night (as CC did) and gets the brush off
  • Chef rings up and berates the guest
  • Poor review compounded
or

  • Restaurant gets negative review etc.
  • Restaurant apologises on the night, chef rings valued and loyal client and offers a free meal
  • Reviewer re-visits and updates review
  • Chef turns a PR disaster into a victory
For me this is marketing 101, I had a dire meal last week at a restaurant whose chef has a similar media profile and career. I complained at the end. They thanked me for my criticism, and immediately invited me to return as their guest "to experience the restaurant in the way it should have been". I won't write about it until (and if) I take up the offer. Whilst I may not have had a great meal, I can't fault their response, and the brand is stronger (IMO) as a result.


So one day I found a site where people rate and review businesses. So out of curiousity I looked up our vet. He had three glowing reviews (from long time clients) of the sort we would give him. But also three harsh criticisms from people who were there just once or twice. I feel that those could be chalked up to, say, a bad day, a misunderstanding, or even unrealistic expectations. But these reviews will be there forever and people looking at that page will get the impression that only 50% of his clients are satisfied.


IndyRob, the classic issue with any site. Isn't the key to read other reviews from these people and assess their competence. There will always be trolls. I don't see the OP as a troll, a bit of research shows they have a good pedigree of reviews and balanced opinions.

#23 codheadred

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 12:46 PM

I guess any publicity is good publicity if you run a blog...unfortunately not if you run a restaurant

Edited by codheadred, 30 October 2010 - 12:46 PM.


#24 sickchangeup

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 01:03 PM

Obviously this was mishandled. Badly.

BUT, what strikes me as out of bounds is calling out members of staff by name, taking it down to a very personal level about who was there, who was not, who left, who was travelling etc... I'm surprised you didn't name the server who commented on the strong flavor!

I too have a strong relationship with a very high end restaurant, and although I know 80% of the staff by name, I would NEVER make individual reference to any of them. The Chef's name is on the door, it's ALL his fault - no need to throw others under the bus, that's not your job - it's his.

In short, I think there are tasteful ways to mention your issues, but I don't think you took that route.

Was it wrong of the chef to berate you? 110%. 120%! But when you chose to take it to such a personal level against his staff, I'm guessing he takes it personal as well.

#25 MikeHartnett

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 02:12 PM

Reading the OP's characterization, I was sort of shocked that something like this could happen- that any successful businessperson could react like that.

But after reading the offending post, I question the circumstances a bit. The last paragraph seems to suggest that the diners and Chef Wareing had something of a personal relationship. Chef Wareing has "been so generous sharing his time and ideas with us over the past year" (perhaps inaccurately) indicates some level of personal relationship beyond occasional customer. The level of familiarity indicated by the use of the chef's first name supports this. If this is in fact the case, it seems that the OP wants it both ways: a friendly relationship with the chef, close enough to brag about, but not close enough that they should feel it inappropriate to publicly criticize his business.

My question, thus, is which is it? Is this a standard regular-customer relationship, in which it's perfectly acceptable to walk away unhappy and complain to third parties? Or, rather, is this a relationship as close as the post makes it seem, i.e., one that should have made the poster first consider the damage that would be done to a friendship before publicly criticizing? In the latter case, Chef Wareing's angry call seems a much more reasonable response to what happened. Not a great response, mind you, because he clearly failed to recognize that his "friends" (acquaintances?)would so quickly stab him in the back, but more reasonable.

Edited by MikeHartnett, 30 October 2010 - 02:17 PM.


#26 IndyRob

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 02:47 PM

IndyRob, the classic issue with any site. Isn't the key to read other reviews from these people and assess their competence. There will always be trolls. I don't see the OP as a troll, a bit of research shows they have a good pedigree of reviews and balanced opinions.


I don't think the blog post was a troll. Actually, I don't think that the three poor reviews of our vet were trolls. I think they each genuinely felt that there were one or more issues. I do think that people who feel wronged are more likely to post.

But I think my main problem is that, unlike word of mouth, a blog post is so much more permanent. It's also more of a standalone thing than a post at a review site. I don't think this means that a blogger is obligated to conform to some particular set of ideals, but I do think they should try to make sure that their posts have a purpose in the larger sense of things.

An e-mail, or a post in an eG thread for the restaurant, seems like a more appropriate means of expression for a "went there tonight and they seemed off their game" sentiment. But I also understand that the level of financial commitment also takes this to a sort of different level. But that's all the more reason to try to rectify the problem within the system.

I do agree that if Marcus just never presses that call button, none of this would be known to most of us. It was a BIG mistake. But there are becoming so many instances of, say, Facebook posts turning out badly (some even resulting in suicides), that I think we should be careful about how/what we're posting publicly and why.

Edited by IndyRob, 30 October 2010 - 02:54 PM.


#27 MacD

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 02:50 PM

MikeHartnett

I completely agree - it seems that there was more than just a customer/restaurateur relationship.

PamBrunnning

Your post emphasises that it is sometimes nicer to talk to the restaurant first before making a very public statement, when a business can be destroyed buy one well-publicised blog. Le Manoir behaved impeccably, but your editor made the right judgement when he/she decided that it was a good idea to show the review to the restaurant first.

Edited by heidih, 03 November 2010 - 02:39 PM.
Delete off topic sentence


#28 MrsCC

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 03:11 PM

Hi Mike,

I think that is a very interesting comment. I have had many comments and conversations that have been most thought provoking. I want to talk about these in further detail once I have our commitments this weekend out of the way and I can properly put pen to paper. In the meantime, I will quickly clarify your pending questions:

We have been to MW 7 times in around 11 months. On our first visit, Marcus was incredibly generous with his time and chatted with us table side and showed me around the kitchen. The second time, I was taken into the kitchen and had a brief chat. After that Marcus was not present or available. He was kind of enough to leave us a personal note after we were married and returned to the restaurant after our honeymoon. In all fairness, our relationship was with his restaurant manager who is currently in the process of working out his notice and was not present on the evening in question, who always made us feel most welcome. Every time we have been there we have paid 100% of our bill. We have never enjoyed complimentary courses or drinks. It has been a 100% commercial relationship. In this day and age, I hope you will forgive my familiarity by referring to him as Marcus. It was born out of custom rather than the desire to imply a friendship of any kind. For example, I never called my previous bosses by their surname.

This incident and the subsequent feedback and chats has given me much to reflect on. What do we expect from a 2 or 3 star restaurant? What responsibilities do we have as bloggers to both our readers, ourselves and the relationships we may build with restaurateurs? What responsibility do chefs/restaurateurs have to acknowledge and take on board the implied impact of bloggers and other social media on their business? Do we relinquish being a customer once we start blogging? Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester recently invited a group of bloggers for a complimentary tasting menu with wines and all of the bloggers have so far slated it. Is Alain currently looking for their numbers? I am not saying I have the answers. I don't. This incident upset me on many levels. I want to explore the issues I have raised along with any others that come up along the way.
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#29 JeanneCake

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 03:17 PM

I have to wonder about whether or not the OP told Chef Wareing that the conversation would become a thread on a public forum. You know, sort of like the message at the beginning of a call that says "this call may be monitored and/or saved for training purposes". At least then you know that whatever you say has the potential to be recalled and reviewed.

Sometimes the answer we get isn't the answer we want. I haven't read the review, I don't know the restaurant but I have to wonder about the intent of the poster in making the phone call so very public.

Once, when I made a mistake with a customer's order; I fixed it and still the woman was irate and let me have it. I calmly replied that I hoped her boss would be as kind to her as she was being to me when she made a mistake at work.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Even when they are wrong and behaving badly!

#30 Edward J

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 06:12 PM

As o/o of a small cafe I have a few things to say to Mrs CC:

You are a paying customer who writes reviews. My Gawd there is a Santa Clause after all! I have been e-mailed to death from "bloogers" wanting to "do" my place in lieu of a free meals, or to hit me up for "other services" they provide like marketing, "branding", web design, or business consulation.

Stick to your guns, and in my humble opinion tell it exactly as it happened, with perhaps glossing over the precise words the Chef had to say, but with a general indication of the conversation.

The man screwed up and only he can be responsible for his actions.

It's as simple as that, and if he has two brain cells to rub together, he better go into "damage control".....