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Chefs fighting back online?

090731_Angry_Twitter_BirdEarlier this week, Andrew Capron, owner of Boner’s BBQ in Atlanta caused quite a ruckus on the internet and in local and national media when he lashed out at a customer on Facebook. The customer, who supposedly stiffed the waitress with $0 tip, posted a negative Yelp review after paying for her meal with a Scoutmob. Capron then fired back with a scathing post on the Boner’s Facebook page, which he has taken down and apologized for.

I’m not here to re-hash the Boner’s fiasco, or to point out that it is weirdly coincidental that Stephanie S.’s Yelp account didn’t exist until she wrote that review that sparked that whole thing.

Ok, maybe I did want to point out that last part.

But what I’m more interested in is the phenomenon of business owners taking the fight back to the customers via the internet.

Sites like Yelp, which I’ve written about before, give diners an open forum to praise or bash restaurants on a whim. No amount of automatic filtering could stop someone from writing an articulate review eviscerating a restaurant simply because they didn’t like the way the manager looked at them. And given that many of us look to these sites when picking our dinner spot on any given night, that can have a real and frustrating effect on the business.

Obviously, Capron’s online outburst is an extreme example. But would Ron Eyester be as well known in Atlanta if it weren’t for his Angry Chef Twitter persona? I don’t think anyone would argue that his humorous jabs at moronic customers won him more fans and notoriety than it cost him, though I’m sure it cost him a few as well. And recently, the Austin Grill in D.C. took to reddit to post their colorful thoughts on one snobby bad tipper’s receipt.

As social media and crowd-sourced websites have grown in popularity, so has the participation of chefs and business owners using such platforms. And, like many Hollywood PR agents must deal with on a daily basis with some of their more reckless and loose-fingered clients, the instant vehicle for information that is Facebook and Twitter makes it easy for the heat of the moment to turn into PR nightmare. I can’t help but think we will see this happening more and more often as owner’s frustrations get the best of them, and venting is only a cell phone app away.

John’s post on the Boner’s backlash received over 200 comments from you all in a matter of hours, and the ratio of Capron supporters was surprisingly high.

But what if this becomes part of our culture in the broader sense? Do you think that you might reconsider stiffing your server if you know there is a chance it might land you on the chef’s Twitter feed? Judging by the up-in-arms bloggers and tweeters out there ready to march on Turner Field on Tuesday, pitchforks and torches in hand, we don’t take it anywhere near as well as we give it out.

Is this a trend where we, the opinionated and infallible masses, may get a taste of our own medicine and be reminded that, perhaps, we are not always right? Or is this just sour grapes from a few isolated hotheads?

- Jon Watson, Food & More blog

38 comments Add your comment

csblabmom

January 13th, 2012
8:31 am

I absolutely hope this is a sign of things to come. People use their relative anonymity to behave badly in public far too often. Maybe if people are aware they are subject to public humiliation for their poor behavior, we will see the return of common courtesy and civility.

Bring it on!

January 13th, 2012
8:35 am

Nothing I enjoy more than a big Food and More controversy.

Edward

January 13th, 2012
8:37 am

This is just another facet of the continued descent into “meanness” that our society has taken. I blame the proliferation of “reality tv”. People now assume the yelling, name-calling, rudeness, cursing, and turning everything into a competition is acceptable and even admired. Every woman wants to be a diva, every guy the “bada**”.

Reds

January 13th, 2012
8:40 am

His response was a little intense, but he wasn’t in the wrong. I do however, think he went too far. I really hope that this wasnt a publicity stunt, but yelp reviewers have to start somewhere. Apparently there is now a second review on there for the Spotted Trotter. I don’t think there is much excuse for stiffing the waitress though, end of story. Especially when you use a groupon/scoutmob etc.

Rodney

January 13th, 2012
8:44 am

I’m all for it – while evidencing a modicum of decorum on the chef/business owner’s part. Sure, someone may take to Yelp or elsewhere and slam you – it may be justified it may not. And I think you should have the opportunity to respond as well. But from a business owner perspective, just keep it civil. Take the high road.

Refute their claims, state what you know to be fact (they didn’t tip – wanted everything free – were moronic), and let those of us who are bright enough to spot the Stephanie S.’s of the world for what they are sort it out.

Doc Hollidawg

January 13th, 2012
8:52 am

Interesting csblabmom…..I was typing almost the identical thing and then thought “how ironic we are typing this, with anonymous names, on a blog”. But what you say is absolutely true. This goes further than a restaurant review on a website. Society in general is losing the sense for simple courtesy, respect for others, civility and integrity. It’s simple things like saying thank you when your server at a restuaruant refills your water, not talking or texting on your cell phone while checking out at the grocery store or buying a latte which tells the person waiting on you they aren’t worth your time, waving a small thank you to the car that lets you merge in traffic instead of playing a game of chicken to see who yeilds first and one of my absolute favorties, being a lazy, inconsiderate, worthless, lazy, worthless, inconsiderate bum to put your freaking grocery cart where they go at the store after wheeling it out to your car instead of just leaving it wherever you please so that it runs into other cars, blocks parking spaces, etc.

Rod

January 13th, 2012
8:55 am

If a waitress gives me bad service, ignores me and is totally unresponsive to my dining needs – then yes, I’ll stiff her on the tip.

If the chef then wants to write about me, then I’ll blast the hell out of him and the restaurant in a public forum about their lack of service.

Theresa

January 13th, 2012
9:10 am

Doc Hollidawg, I completely agree with you, especially your comments about grocery carts.

Lizzy

January 13th, 2012
9:33 am

Anonymity breeds mean spiritedness and it’s pretty doggone cowardly also. So I have to give a high five to the chef’s blast as he’s not hiding behind his words. As to tipping, my server would have to be guilty of verbally insulting me and/or completely ignoring me to leave no tip, with a coupon too boot. People with high expectations and the cheap component don’t belong in restaurants. Stck to Mickey D’s or the home kitchen!

George

January 13th, 2012
9:48 am

The owner should clearly be given a pass here, he called a apade a spade and I applaud it. And lest we forget, the guy can’t truly be held to any high standard as he’s most likely not playing with a full deck of cards upstairs; he named his restaurant Boner’s.

JimmyZ

January 13th, 2012
10:11 am

I think this is yet another sign of businesses struggling to find ways to deal with a newly vocal audience. The old saying about how a person who receives good service might only tell one person, but a person who recieves poor service will tell fifty still holds true, only now they can reach fifty thousand in a matter of seconds.

I regularly review businesses I deal with, but I follow two rules. 1)No one gets a significantly negative review based on one bad night-I always try to give them a second chance. 2) I try to keep it factual. If I say something is wrong/bad, I expect to be able to articulate exactly why that is.

I have broken rule number one before, but it was at a place where the service was so bad that I felt it necessary to contact the owner directly, and his attitude was one of “who cares, go away.” At that point, I felt justified.

I actually LIKE to see businesses respond. In fact, I just bought a two hundred dollar radio controlled model from a company that had some negative reviews. But they’d answered each and every one with an effective, intelligent explanation. My purchase was handled quickly and efficiently, and I’ve already given them a positive review. Which brings me to my final point…those of use who post reviews need to ALSO post the postive ones.

Bottom line, I have no problem with him responding as a business owner, but I do think he has learned that you cannot act like a ticked off twelve year old and expect the community to come to your defense.

Guy I.

January 13th, 2012
10:38 am

Good for the owner. I think we are all about to see a revolt against bloggers and Yelpers in a public forum. How long can blackmail go on?

Yelp takes down bad reviews if you pay them enough. This has been well documented.

Bloggers/Yelpers often won’t write bad reviews if you give them free food, they often make that clear when they check is presented.

Oh yeah, don’t forget that Yelpers treat the food business like high school. If your not in the right clique`, it isn’t about food. it is about whose butt you kiss.

I can’t wait to see the next restaurant who steps up for not being blackmailed.

BoolSchitt

January 13th, 2012
10:40 am

What WAS the point of pointing out her account was recently opened? It’s a shame that too many see nothing wrong with a business owner resorting to bulling a woman, inciting others to do so and make fun of her physical appearance. Tip or no tip, there is nothing right or justified about that. And that is just his side – according to her, she did tip. A decent amount at that. ($40 bill, $10 Scoutmob discount, bringing it to $30 plus tax – she left $40). So if you believe her side – this is even more ludicrous. Sure, he has every right to respond – and should as a decent business owner. But that venue should’ve been through Yelp where it was initiated instead of lifting her photo and attacking her elsewhere. That’s a cowardly move. And with this one, I’m leaning towards the patron’s story instead of someone who clearly has a temper and the mindset of a prepubescent boy.

Diego

January 13th, 2012
10:40 am

Off Topic: Will someone please invest in Heirloom BBQ for a bigger location so that customers can have a place to sit while eating and a place to park their cars, love their food!!

Go Boner’s!

Michaela

January 13th, 2012
11:43 am

It’s really scary for me to see how many people take the business owner’s side. She says she tipped, he can only rely on another party’s (the server’s) account, so his side is hearsay.

But that’s neither here nor there. She left a very thought out review, explained what she liked and what she didn’t liked and why. She gave the business the chance to change things by being detailed and not just ‘their food sucked’ . She kept it professional to the subject, while the business owner attacked and ridiculed her as a person. It’s like trying to kill someone because they changed the channel. And it’s unbelievable to me how many people think that that is ok behavior. Society is going to the dogs, if this is acceptable norm

Goober

January 13th, 2012
12:41 pm

Michaela – I agree with you. It’s scary to think that just because you didn’t leave a tip, someone will hunt you down and attack you that way. Even if it is on-line. Whether she left a tip or not, whether she left a good review or bad, Boners acted absolutely unprofessional about this, and I will NEVER eat there.

Sydnar

January 13th, 2012
12:56 pm

So … “go f*** yourself” is the appropriate response to a customer who had a bad experience? Stalking a customer’s facebook profile and posting their photo for ridicule is all good? What star rating in a review should merit this response? She gave two stars and her review was “articulate” enough. She described each dish she had and how she felt about it. She says she tipped, so what makes the boner owner more credible? It was her first review on Yelp, so what? Doesn’t everyone who uses review sites start somewhere? How many reviews does someone have to write to not be labelled a “b itch”? There’s an “owner response” option in Yelp that might be an appropriate place for addressing any negative reviews. Restaurant (and business) owners should have better things to do than stalk their customers.

The message here is don’t complain, ever. Or else. All power to the business owners! Consumers, “go f*** yourself”.

BoolSchitt

January 13th, 2012
2:27 pm

I wish there was a “like” button here.

The first response is still blowing my mind:

“I absolutely hope this is a sign of things to come. People use their relative anonymity to behave badly in public far too often. Maybe if people are aware they are subject to public humiliation for their poor behavior, we will see the return of common courtesy and civility.”

You HOPE that more business owners will stalk their customers online and berate and humiliate them based on hearsay – because THAT will make the world more courteous and civil? Hot-tempered bullies calling a woman fat and a b*tch – yep, that’s the Road to Civility right there!

What exactly was her “poor behavior”? Leaving a well-thought out review? She did not trash the place, she even complimented him. Did you read it? She didn’t call the media – they contacted her after it went viral. So this is no agenda against Boners.

And Jon Watson – get your facts straight and proofread your writing.

foodblogger

January 13th, 2012
2:32 pm

Well said, Doc Hollidawg. Just another example of how common courtesy has become almost completely absent in our society. Both sides are wrong here. The customer should have been content to vote with her pocketbook; if you don’t like it, simply don’t return. But her cheap, petty mean-spiritedness affected both the untipped employee and the business owner — who decided to spew vitriol all over the internet, just like his customer did. 2 wrongs. No one’s right. I’ve got news for you, Stephanie and Andrew — you have said a lot more about yourselves than you have about each other.

carla roqs

January 13th, 2012
2:36 pm

wow. kinda opinionated.

observer 1

January 13th, 2012
2:37 pm

There is no bigger white trash and lowlife magnet than Scoutmob and Groupon. If you shop on price alone, you deserver what you get.

BoolSchitt

January 13th, 2012
2:55 pm

Foodblogger, do some research – the waitress was tipped. Yelp is there for the sole purpose of reviewing businesses – good and bad. She was well within her right.

Observer – the restaurant chose to use Scoutmob and offer that promotion.

observer 1

January 13th, 2012
3:04 pm

foodblogger nailed it. BoolSchitt, you are right, but I’ll bet the won’t do it again. Especially when they see their bottom line go negative. The goal it to make money, not work harder to serve a bunch of tightwad losers and then lose money anyway.

Grasshopper

January 13th, 2012
3:06 pm

The ‘Food and More’ bloggers face scorn and ridicule on a daily basis for the reviews that they write. That’s what happens when you own your opinion and sign your name to it.

Why should an amateur reviewer face different consequences? It can be an ugly and vicious world; if you can’t take the criticism, stick to being anonymous.

By the way, I notice that you never see a real name in the comments section of this blog. I wonder why not?

jimmy

January 13th, 2012
3:12 pm

The Angry Chef may be more well known in Atlanta now, but the whole persona has turned me off to eating there.

smartnernu

January 13th, 2012
3:32 pm

@Grasshopper “The ‘Food and More’ bloggers face scorn and ridicule on a daily basis for the reviews that they write. That’s what happens when you own your opinion and sign your name to it.” Where? Which ones have been stalked online and called out by name and photo, being cursed by restaurant owners? Why aren’t all the other negative reviewers on Yelp, even the ones before this woman’s review, being called out?

@Foodblogger “The customer should have been content to vote with her pocketbook; if you don’t like it, simply don’t return.” People should keep their opinions to themselves? What is the internet for if not to voice opinions? I assume from your screen name that you write about food. So you never say a restaurant could have done better?

I don’t have any dog in this fight, but am upset at the meanness of the go-along herd.

Rodney

January 13th, 2012
3:48 pm

@smarternu – see Dave’s post above. And almost any blog Kessler writes always gets a few rather nasty posts, too.

I don’t think any sane person would agree the tone and delivery of what the resto owner did was correct. But he should totally, completely, have the ability to respond in kind to any review he reads – good or bad.

Then again, I’m one of the few who avoid reading Yelp reviews. I don’t trust my own friends recommendations much less Yelpers. I come from the print industry – specifically I wrote restaurant reviews for an Atlanta publication during the early 2000s. I know what goes into an ACTUAL review, not a one-time visit and trust me, Yelpers ain’t doing it. Grain of salt, you take with it (in my best Yoda).

Lizzy

January 13th, 2012
4:35 pm

Ouch City, USA. I read Jon’s blog and took it at face value and joined the ranks prior to my input that was pro-chef. I just checked back in and, Man, the tide has turned. From other commenters, Jon’s story is full of errors (she tipped as opposed to didn’t tip; left a “well thought” review as opposed to negative, etc.) Such a good example of heresay and opinions…….along with everyone thinking their view point is the right one and anyone differing is a maggot……

Ptc dawg

January 13th, 2012
7:15 pm

Right on docdawg. Gata

Baltisraul

January 14th, 2012
8:10 am

Yes the owner went a little to far. Not tipping your server is almost commonplace for some folks. Bet this is not the first time she has shafted her waitress. My guess is that if she has been out to eat since Boner’s, she stiffed the wait staff again. Bet also she does not return her shopping cart to the collection space.

Edward

January 14th, 2012
10:49 am

Hmm, so people make suppositions, (”I bet she does…”), and then excoriate the woman for the supposition they just made. That practice has become so commonplace, now. It is right up there with the infamous, “some people say…”, line that is popular on a “news” channel.

Nick

January 14th, 2012
11:42 am

I owned a restaurant and lived the same life of public vulnerability to criticism and servers working for tips. Two things come to mind . . . . this owner is not at all representative of responsible ownership response. Going to a third party source to tell a customer to “play hide and go **** yourself” is an ego driven attack rather than standing up for replies to criticism. Critics have been a part of restaurant business since decades gone by. Either you performed or you closed. nothing has changed. This owner and many other small businesses, including mine, rely HEAVILY on word of mouth. That is a two edged sword every day of your business life. You perform badly, and you are 10 times more likely to get criticised than to be praised for good performance. It is a part of public performance just like movies, singing, and other direct service industries.

TWO: Wait staff wages are directly decided by the business and not the dining public. The owner made a choice to take the “tip credit” wage option that allows him to be obligated for less wage to servers. Owners can claim srver tips towards their obligation to pay minimum wage. That was no problemo when the economy was great guns. Now that fewer people dine out and tipping is more restrained . . . servers earn less, and the owner has audacity to blame diners for the whole problem. Paying 2.18 instead of 7.35 or so if a huge difference. When I was in business, we paid much higher than the tip wage, and worked diligently to make customers happy to entice higher tips and repeat business. AS A BUSINESS DECISION – denegrating customers and humiliating them publically, and not to her face, is a poor choice. It risks customer trust, satisfaction and willingness to dine. It simply makes no sense except as a personal vent and ego stroke. Few businesses anywhere make a brand of ‘rudeness’ and seldom are the outright mean and humilating . . . such as cheering on comments about waterboarding a customer. Yikes. The Varsity is pushy, unforgiving, impatient, but never ever mean and/or abusive.

Sophie's Choice

January 14th, 2012
2:44 pm

RIGHT ON, Nick@11:42 am. I’ve read Stephanie S’s Yelp! review, and honestly, I’ve read reviews from “professional” food critics that were harsher, meaner, and more cutting than that one (she at least made an effort to point out things she liked, as well as didn’t like). Some Yelp! reviews I’ve read were so bad they made me cringe, but those business’ owners didn’t throw a tantrum in public. And she gave the place TWO stars, in spite of the fact that her experience was obviously sub-par. She was quite fair in her review. Capron could actually heed some of the things she said, as I’m sure there are others who share her opinion of the food (could be why the place was nearly empty when she went, despite the fact that he had a Groupon special running). But nooooo– he instead behaved like a spurned frat boy, and unfortunately had a contingent of like thinkers (& restaurant workers who obviously hadn’t read her review, either, but were projecting their own bad customer experiences) egging him on. Neither Kessler’s initial FAM article about the incident, nor Jon Watson’s here, gives the impression that either of them bothered to really look into both sides of the story– particularly Kessler’s, whose completely second-hand account clearly shows that he didn’t bother to read Ms. S’s Yelp! review before he wrote about it, & had lots of commenters (myself included) on Capron’s side until they read her review for themselves. Ms. S says she DID tip– Capron alleges she didn’t, so we’ll likely never know the real truth. But even if she didn’t, she may have had a good reason (uh, perhaps LOUSY SERVICE???), and Capron was COMPLETELY in the wrong for how he handled this. No one forced him to advertise his business through a coupon service– he CHOSE to do that. No one forced him to pay his waitstaff $2.13 an hour (& let tips make up the rest) instead of straight-up minimum wage– he CHOSE to do that. He fails, however, to be able to roll with the inevitable fallout of some of his choices, then tries to make up for his mealy-mouthed meanness by offering Ms. S a free meal. PLEASE! I hope he’s learned his lesson, and that the rest of his employees don’t end up paying the price of another failed restaurant because of his immature, toolish behaviour.

truthpaste

January 15th, 2012
12:58 am

While I’m all for an owner defending his/her establishment, Capron did nothing of the sort. He went after her about a tip and the fact she used Scoutmob. I’ve written a few reviews on Yelp and Stephanie’s was honest and well-detailed. Most people leave a one-star because a waitress spilled water on the table or the screaming kid at the next table over ruined their meal. I’ve worked in the industry, so I know about the importance of tipping, but waitstaff don’t correct a person when they over tip.

Tomredder

January 15th, 2012
1:09 am

Don’t care if the customer was originally in the wrong, the owners response made him seem like just as big if not more of a prick. Stephanie S isn’t seeking potential customers, but he is and seeing how he reacted gives me a reason to avoid the place.

Secret Diner

January 15th, 2012
9:01 am

I regularly contribute to Trip Advisor about restaurants … and the ratio of good to bad reviews is 5-1. I won’t kill a restaurant for a bad meal but I will for rude or disinterested service. I have used Yelp for such a complaint (not in ATL) and it was surprising and heartening that several other posters quickly backed up my claim. Then the owner posted a snotty comment which mostly made her look the part. It is empowering but easily abused. But, when the check arrives, it’s our money. We have the right to honestly criticize. The problem is few people will take the time to say something favorable.

Baltisraul

January 15th, 2012
1:48 pm

Edward ………..that is first hand knowledge not supposition on my part. You come off as some kind of nerd, but thats just supposition on my part. Try not to cry!

Edward

January 15th, 2012
11:24 pm

Balt: so you have “first hand knowledge” that the woman has shafted the wait staff in the past and has now done it since going to Boner’s? You have “first hand knowledge” that she does not return her shopping cart appropriately? You’re either married to her or stalking her, then? No doubt you intend your assumptions to be negative portraits of me and others, but actually, they make you look bad, instead. Perhaps if you tried a more effective laxative you wouldn’t be so angry.