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Giving Negative Restaurant Feedback


winegeek
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After reading Alexandra Gill's review of Rare (Vancouver, BC)HERE, I got me thinking about the relationships between eGullet members, and chefs & restaurant owners who also happen to be eGullet members.

Ms Gill, whose reviews I really don't take too seriously, does make a few points that I think warrant some discussion. An example;

Chef Fowke (formerly of Joe Fortes) is also a regular contributor, which must explain why he was eager to launch his own blog. When it was announced on eGullet that one of their own was opening a restaurant, there was a natural flurry of excitement, followed by a special pre-opening dinner for the tight-knit group of obsessive foodies, waiters, chefs, magazine executives and restaurant critics who make up the local eGullet contingent.

"Do I dare say it surpassed my penultimate dining experience at Lumière?" Zucchini Mama wrote in a thread titled "Rare! eGulleter Opens in Vancouver," which now weighs in at six superlative-laden, back-patting pages.

Ahem! Would anyone on this site dare say anything critical?

Now this is definately not a slam against Rare on my part . I have never been there but definately plan on doing so in the near future. This is more of a question of the ability of local egulleter's to contructively criticize local chefs, owners, managers and servers who are also a part of the egullet society.

I can only speak for myself here and even though I have never attended an egullet get together (how come I'm never invited :huh: ), I still would find it difficult to post my true feelings about a local spot knowing that the owner/chef/GM are a big part of this community. I know that this is not the case with everyone, but how objective can someone be when they are invited to participate in the creation of a menu (again, just an example...not meant to slight anyone).

I have in the past visited a local restaurant who is mentioned here quite often (always in a very positive light) and walked away wondering "are you serious?" If my meal was one that I enjoyed tremendously I would posted about my great experience. But as it was, I never did. What stopped me? I would be lying if I said that I did not want to "rock the boat". I would more likely send a message privately telling of my less than stellar experience. Having said that, if the restaurant did not have a "known person" posting here, I may have been more likely to post.

What are your thoughts on this?

Derek

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I have in the past visited a local restaurant who is mentioned here quite often (always in a very positive light) and walked away wondering "are you serious?" If my meal was one that I enjoyed tremendously I would posted about my great experience. But as it was, I never did. What stopped me? I would be lying if I said that I did not want to "rock the boat". I would more likely send a message privately telling of my less than stellar experience. Having said that, if the restaurant did not have a "known person" posting here, I may have been more likely to post.

Hey, I resemble that remark.

Personally, I would like to see a PM, as I would not like to see a negative posted about my own place. It happens, people drop the ball, shit happens, we all know it. But , I can't have it both ways : I only want to see the nice stuff posted and send me the bad stuff privately. I am prepared for it. I am a big boy.

I have seen some negative stuff written and it always stings a bit, but that is part of the deal. It really does not matter who, how, what or why, sometimes the ball gets dropped ( or not ). Perception is reality.

As a particiapnt here whose name is my true identity, it is hard to write something stinging about a fellow restauranteur that I could not have told face to face, someone you have to run into at events etc. This is a small town.

There are a few thoughts.

Kind of rambling, not really any clearer is it.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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I think by not posting your true feelings on a place you are harming Egullet.. This is a place to give your opinion and post your feelings.. Once people stop doing that, Egullet will become one big Advertisement..

Spill the beans winegeek :biggrin:

Edited by Daniel (log)
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I think by not posting your true feelings on a place you are harming Egullet.. This is a place to give your opinion and post your feelings.. Once people stop doing that, Egullet will become one big Advertisement..

Spill the beans winegeek  :biggrin:

The problem is that it rings true though. I won't mention any names but I myself have been pressured to sugar coat bad reviews and I've gotten PMs from fellow gulleters regarding the same thing - how they don't post bad reviews anymore for fear of repercussions. When you get to know the proprieters of a place you don't feel as open about giving a bad review. Period.

Once burned, twice shy. If I write a bad review and get slagged for it because it is in some way my fault I'm not going to do it again. But it's human nature to immediately shift to the defensive when someone attacks you (you being your restaurant, your employer etc...) so I don't blame people for trying to rationalize the horrible experience.

my 0.02

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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I went to an eGullet event recently and while I did have a great time and like the restaurant, I didn't have any trouble sharing that I didn't care for one of the dishes.

The question to me is, as someone already said, Could you give the feedback in person that you posted on-line? If you would cringe at saying what you wrote, then you might not want to post it. I'm disgusted at the pure mean-spiritedness that passes for discussion on some forum sites. E-Gullet's not at all like that.

I don't think Gill did her homework, if that quote's anything to go by. She should check out more of the threads focused on particular restaurants. There's plenty of debate.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Folks, I've changed the thread so that it better reflects a "General Food Topic," and thus is more appropriate for discussion here. I think that the topic about how we do (and don't) give feedback about less-than-stellar experiences applies to more than posting on eGullet, for example.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Participating in the eGullet discussions is totally a relaxing hobby for me. I'm in it for the joy. I am not a food critic, nor do I pretend to be one. If I feel enthusiastic and inspired about something I've eaten, I will post it. If I have a mediocre meal, I might take the fifth. Why waste the time and energy to write about something uninspired? I know there's been some snarky comments lately about unbridled enthusiasm on eGullet-I've always preferred life without a bridle, and I have crafted my online persona from the more positive dining experiences I've had.

I have also posted when I have had extremely negative experiences, but since I read eGullet to keep informed about what restaurants are offering, and I'm very choosy where I spend my money-bad dining experiences only seem to happen once in a blue moon. (Knock on wood.)

We censor ourselves every day on some level in order to interact in a socially acceptable way. If I'm going to say something negative I try to be as articulate as I can. I try to separate my personal tastes from the flaws in the meal itself. The same is true when I'm being positive.

You know, I have a relative who is a retired plastic surgeon. He is proud of the fact that he talked many of his patients out of cosmetic surgery. He tried to show them how little flaws can make us more beautiful. He points out that many beautiful people don't have perfect teeth or noses. Even when meals I've eaten have little flaws here and there, I can taste the passion, the depth, the chef's willingness to take risks--such is the case with meals I've had at Aurora and the meal I had at Rare. In the same way I can look at the whole face, not just the minor flaws. Some critics only see the blemishes. What a shame that they miss out on so much beauty.

I will not post a "meh" revew if I think a chef is going to go all postal, whether I know him in real life or not. I just don't want to go there. I don't think negative reviews show be censored, but I also can't stand it when people say a meal is bad, but they can't articulate why they feel that way. What's the point?

Finally, I do get suspicious when people are promoting food they have had some kind of creative input into without a full disclosure of this fact. Once you're creatively involved, there are certain blind spots that tend to manifest in the perception of those products. Chances are most other people on eGullet will point out those blind spots pretty quickly.

Edited by Zucchini Mama (log)

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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Isn't it all subjective? I have gone to a movie after a fight with a friend and hated the movie and then later seen the same movie after a wonderful picnic, and had a completly different experiance.

I think that the important reviews on egullet are the positive ones. I would prefer a recommendation to a warning.

At the same time I have friends in the industry and I am without a doubt bias. Also when I go to thier establishments I will recieve a different level of service than the avrage Joe. It is Garlic and Saffires. So how can a person objectivly judge anything?

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Participating in the eGullet discussions is totally a relaxing hobby for me. I'm in it for the joy. I am not a food critic, nor do I pretend to be one. If I feel enthusiastic and inspired about something I've eaten, I will post it. If I have a mediocre meal, I might take the fifth. Why waste the time and energy to write about something uninspired?[...]

Why? Because if you think others might go and have mediocre meals themselves, your posting may spare that fate to them. If you don't think that will happen, I agree that your report wouldn't be of much importance. You get to make that call, but I think the same logic would apply to conversations with friends. If you would consider your mediocre meal important enough to tell a friend about it, I would think that it would be important enough to at least consider posting about.

Isn't it all subjective?[...]

Yes, opinions are subjective, but if I don't know what you don't like, as well as what you like, I am limited in forming a judgment about the extent to which your taste coincides with mine. And that's what I want to know when I look for information about restaurants in any source.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Why? Because if you think others might go and have mediocre meals themselves, your posting may spare that fate to them. If you don't think that will happen, I agree that your report wouldn't be of much importance. You get to make that call, but I think the same logic would apply to conversations with friends. If you would consider your mediocre meal important enough to tell a friend about it, I would think that it would be important enough to at least consider posting about.

That's an interesting comment. The problem is that generally if you are going to warn your friends about a place you might do it very openly without much restraint. If you want to warn a community about a place you kind of need to double check your facts and be wary that you may be treading on people's toes.

I guess that's what makes for the restraint on bad reviews because it really is subjective.

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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Why? Because if you think others might go and have mediocre meals themselves, your posting may spare that fate to them. If you don't think that will happen, I agree that your report wouldn't be of much importance. You get to make that call, but I think the same logic would apply to conversations with friends. If you would consider your mediocre meal important enough to tell a friend about it, I would think that it would be important enough to at least consider posting about.

That's an interesting comment. The problem is that generally if you are going to warn your friends about a place you might do it very openly without much restraint. If you want to warn a community about a place you kind of need to double check your facts and be wary that you may be treading on people's toes.

We should always endeavor to avoid errors in our reports, regardless of whether we are talking to our friends, posting something, or writing a review for publication. (And note that according to the Member Agreement -- paraphrasing, now -- we are all obligated to do our best to avoid factual errors when posting on eGullet Forums, and represent that what we post constitutes our good-faith attempt to tell the truth as we understand it.) But having said that, I don't restrain myself more when making negative comments about a meal vs. positive comments, or vice versa, and I don't care if the fact that I did or didn't like something about a meal treads on someone's toes. That goes with the territory. We all have jobs to do. I will get very little sleep tonight, yet I have to teach my full Saturday schedule. That's life. I do not post here as a groupie or something; I am a diner. You can trust that my reports on what I eat are honest to the best of my ability, without personal favoritism or fear of ostracism or other forms of pressure from restaurant staffs or their supporters.

I guess that's what makes for the restraint on bad reviews because it really is subjective.

As far as I'm concerned, likes and dislikes are more or less equally subjective, and we might as well recognize that and act accordingly.

The biggest red flag to me is if I see that a listing of restaurants includes nothing but wildly laudatory reviews. Wouldn't that be the case for you, too?

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I think we should be honest about our experiences at a restaurant without being an ass about it. Explain why you didn't like the dish or the service. I think we do this on eGullet for the most part.

The review of Rare from the link above sounded like the reviewer came to the restaurant with a chip on her shoulder. She had already formed an opinion that she was not going to like the restaurant and belittled eGullet members by name. I found it a bit Payton Place. I thought Vancouver was bigger than that. Does this reviewer always use this tone in her writing? I don't find it respectable.

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The review from Rare sounded like the reviewer spends time in a dark room thinking about certain Egullet members.. She sounded like a truly unprofessional angry person who wishes she had half the talent or readers that the Egullet community has..

I have never read a review more completely worthless or mean spirited.. It had the insecurity and cattiness that I would expect to come from someone in High School..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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After reading Alexandra Gill's review of Rare (Vancouver, BC)HERE, I got me thinking about the relationships between eGullet members, and chefs & restaurant owners who also happen to be eGullet members.

Ms Gill, whose reviews I really don't take too seriously, does make a few points that I think warrant some discussion. An example;

Chef Fowke (formerly of Joe Fortes) is also a regular contributor, which must explain why he was eager to launch his own blog. When it was announced on eGullet that one of their own was opening a restaurant, there was a natural flurry of excitement, followed by a special pre-opening dinner for the tight-knit group of obsessive foodies, waiters, chefs, magazine executives and restaurant critics who make up the local eGullet contingent.

Ahem! Would anyone on this site dare say anything critical?

What are your thoughts on this?

Please excuse my ignornance, but is Globe and Mail a respected newspaper? A new, purely online news source?

The reason I ask is that I am rather shocked at how personal the review is and how unprofessional its nasty tone strikes me. It is not about the restaurant; it is about eGullet. People in the real world unfamiliar with eGullet would not find a whole lot in the review of interest or newsworthy. Would anyone care about the nit that Ms. Gill is picking--or understand it? :blink: Granted I haven't had my coffee yet, but after a quick reading, I recall the description of a single dish.

After a second consultation, I realize my impression was wrong. There are almost a dozen. Still, the main thrust of the piece seems to be the author's perception of a preciosity encouraged by rapt clubiness. I do hope someone from Vancouver will write a letter to the editor.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I agree with Daniel... Gill's personal attacks were ridiculous. She could've just wrote "I hate Ling," but I guess writers get paid by the word. I haven't read the blog or eGulleters' thread (have never ventured into that forum - maybe I should) but I expect it's possible the eG'ers who reviewed the restaurant didn't actually have anything negative to say.

As far as writing a bad review on eG, I think so long as the reviewer includes the reasons and full explanation of why they were disappointed, and it's an area where the restaurant needs improvement versus just being they way they do things, then I think it's appropriate.

But complaining about carmelized hazelnuts sticking in your teeth? Come on! If this restaurant critic was worth her salt she would've eaten carmelized nuts before now and would know that sometimes food does that.

Please excuse my ignornance, but is Globe and Mail a respected newspaper? A new, purely online news source?

No, it is one of 3 national newspapers, and the oldest and most respected. I don't think Vancouverites should be writing to the editor, I think everyone who reads the globe should be writing to the editor. You're right, it was a review of eG, not the restaurant.

Edited by Sugarella (log)
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It's a serious newspaper. But serious newspapers give their columnists and critics a lot of freedom. Look at someone like Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

To get back to the topic at hand, I think it's a real shame if someone feels he or she isn't free to speak ill of a bad dish or a bad meal. But the consequences of saying what you believe are . . . what exactly? People will disagree with you? You won't get invited to some other member's birthday party? I think those who hold back do a disservice to others and have only themselves to blame. Maybe it's easier to go with the herd, but that's only if your priorities are superficial. If your priorities involve self-respect and integrity, you'll say what you believe.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Yes, of course, critics should have as much freedom of expression as cooks, artists and political commentators and their publications should support them. They are paid for being articulate about idiosyncratic tastes that, in this case, Globe and Mail found expert and interesting enough to consider professional skills.

Nonetheless, I'd like to think this thread is about things both macro and micro. The review would have had a lot more credibility for me were Ms. Gill to restrict her references to the chef's online activities to what she viewed as a disconnection between aspiration and realization if she was underwhelmed. Give some background on eGullet, perhaps, but leave Zucchini Mama, Ling, et al, out of it. It was all too creepy.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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It just reminded me of the small town newspaper social column. Provencial and caddy. And, I should know because I come from a small town that had such a social column

I expect better from one of three national newspapers in Canada.

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
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It just reminded me of the small town newspaper social column. Provencial and caddy. And, I should know because I come from a small town that had such a social column

I expect better from one of three national newspapers in Canada.

That presumption disturbs me more than his"her" review. I must inquire, what are the three that you think are representative of national?

Actually our local publications (as they were meant to be) and the inner city rags are probably more evocative of the reality of our area, as we know it.

Edited by ~cayenne~ (log)

"If cookin' with tabasco makes me white trash, I don't wanna be recycled."

courtesy of jsolomon

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I think we have to weigh our less than perfect dining experiences carefully. The cyber pen is mightier (way disproportionately so) than the sword of personal conversation. Relate the experience & pm the name of the place. (?)

And I think Alexandra is saying, "Gotcha!" like a child standing on the dining room table for attention.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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I must inquire, what are the three that you think are representative of national?

The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and the National Post are the 3 national newspapers. As I said upthread, there are 3.

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To get back to the topic at hand, I think it's a real shame if someone feels he or she isn't free to speak ill of a bad dish or a bad meal. But the consequences of saying what you believe are . . . what exactly? People will disagree with you? You won't get invited to some other member's birthday party? I think those who hold back do a disservice to others and have only themselves to blame. Maybe it's easier to go with the herd, but that's only if your priorities are superficial. If your priorities involve self-respect and integrity, you'll say what you believe.

If I hid behind a screen name and was not in the industry myself, that may be true. As it is, I sign every post with my position (server), name (Derek) and most importantly, the restaurant where I work (Joe Fortes). Am I worried about making negative comments and having someone "come looking for me"? No, but by posting where I work, I do feel a certain responsibility to my employer. Rarely will any post I make have any severe negative connotations. I will weigh in on topics but don't feel a need to be negative, more so when it pertains to my fellow restauranteurs. If I have a negative experince in a restaurant, I will let someone know privately. I would appreciate the same courtesy. Those of us in the industry have to be a little more diplomatic than those who are not. It's a small industry.

Derek

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And I think Alexandra is saying, "Gotcha!" like a child standing on the dining room table for attention.

Yes, it made me think of the sleepy beauty villian whose invitation was lost under the carpet.

When it was announced on eGullet that one of their own was opening a restaurant, there was a natural flurry of excitement, followed by a special pre-opening dinner for the tight-knit group of obsessive foodies, waiters, chefs, magazine executives and restaurant critics who make up the local eGullet contingent.

Perhaps her pre-opening invite for the local eg crew was lost under her carpet. :biggrin: The EG portion of the peice just smacks of hurt feelings and grudges.

-Mike & Andrea

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I have little sympathy for those who self-censor. They have only themselves to blame for any sort of integrity problem. People should say what they think. Anything else is an excuse.

Oh no, a restaurateur is going to respond to my posts online and attempt to "micromanage" the discussion. I better just roll over and play dead, and only ever say nice things about that person's restaurant. If any member of the eGullet Society is thinking that way, please, think again: you're doing a disservice to yourself, the community, the public and, yes, even the restaurant business.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oh no, a restaurateur is going to respond to my posts online and attempt to "micromanage" the discussion. I better just roll over and play dead, and only ever say nice things about that person's restaurant. If any member of the eGullet Society is thinking that way, please, think again: you're doing a disservice to yourself, the community, the public and, yes, even the restaurant business.

The fact is Steven, that's exactly what happens. Negative reviews are posted, owners, chefs, managers, jump on and try to put out the fire, and pretty soon narry a bad word is spoken. At least that's what I've seen in Vancouver/Western Canada. :hmmm:

If one goes through the regional threads and reads, there are plenty of negative reviews. However, for many there is an inability to simply come out and say "I didn't like it." Rather, they feel it necessary to say the food tasted like "crap" or that the servers looked like "crack whores" .... you get my point. Venemous reviews may be entertaining, but in the same way that watching the school bully put gum in the geek's hair is entertaining.

What has happened in the Rare thread has happened in other threads, and in other on-line communities. If I say something good about a restaurant, I'll get accused of shilling. If I say something bad about a restaurant, I'll get accused of trashing. Pretty soon, members are protecting their POV for fear that if someone disagrees with them (heaven forbid!) it somehow devalues that opinion. In Vancouver, this has been complicated by the social apsect. Friends now protect friends. It all becomes so personal.

Get over it. Read Chew Discuss.

I need a nap.

A.

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