Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
When Fontaine locked the door on Thursday afternoon and Arthur climbed onto a stool to take the weight off his bum knee, I knew it was time. You could feel it. The Manjourides siblings have earned their retirement after working very hard together at Charlie’s for nearly four decades–an amazing feat unto itself.
I attended the last day of service on Saturday morning. Some of us camp out for concert and playoff tix, some of us for food and history in the making. My goal was to be first in line for the 7:30 opening. When I arrived at 6:25, the counter was already full of melancholy regulars and lively banter.
There are very few authentic places left that exude as much soul and history that Charlie’s did. After the door was locked on Thursday, I slowly walked around the restaurant taking in every framed picture and scrap of memorabilia, some I had never seen before. Fontaine filled in the blanks for me, “Oh yeah, that picture of me and Marie was used for an AT&T Ad. Yes, that’s Dennis Johnson (“DJ” Celtics legend), Al Pacino,…the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guys were so nice…”
We’ve all been to wakes, funerals or memorial services and thought, “If only we could have gathered this group when (deceased) was alive to celebrate their life with them and let them know how much we loved them.” The “living wake” for Charlie’s began on May 11th when the cat jumped out of the bag via twitter. Since then, and another twitter announcement, the Manjourides siblings have been inundated with media and sentimental regulars visiting for one last meal to say goodbye and congratulations. One gentleman who frequented Charlie’s 50 years ago, drove up alone last week from Alabama to pay his respects.
Personally, I’m thrilled for the Manjourides siblings and their families. I’m honored to have befriended all of them, and so happy they’ve closed the restaurant on their own terms. I have so much respect for what they have accomplished and endured. I’ll repeat the message I posted on my Facebook album dedicated to the extended Charlie’s family:
Much gratitude to siblings, Arthur, Chris, Fontaine, and Marie who have been operating Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe together for decades without killing each other!! I’ll miss the history, charm, wit, character(s), stories and friendship. Thank you for serving the South End neighborhood and Boston (and far beyond) so long and so well. Congratulations on a legendary run, and good luck on the next chapter. Cheers to everyone on both sides of the counter at Charlie’s, past and present.
To Charlie’s, a legendary American institution. Cheers. You will be greatly missed.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Some people are of the opinion they are beyond reproach, and that, regardless of the circumstances, they are the victim and the world owes them something. Fortunately, the backlash against entitlement and the disdain for pretension have exposed some of these individuals.
Enter semi-anonymous, “opinionatedchef” Chowhound extraordinaire, Mindy. The first obvious hint of Mindy’s persnickety nature is gleaned from her choice of Chow handle. The second is her body of work–while often very informative, there’s also a snotty tone in her posts that I’ve been reading for several years. Last week she outdid herself.
In her post about the very-popular Sycamore restaurant in Newton, MA, Mindy referenced two “uncomfortable service confrontations” in her opening paragraph. A lot of people only scan Chowhound, so if they read the title of her post, “Sycamore: Stellar Food but People Problems…,” along with the first paragraph, they’d be left with a negative impression of the hospitality at the restaurant. However, when we dig deeper into Mindy’s post, we find the root of the “confrontation”:
Now, last Wednesday we were 30 minutes late for our 5PM Sycamore reservation. And Sycamore is very small and usually booked solid, so 30 min. tardiness causes them big problems. I get that. And I own the responsibility. But still, the last thing you want to hear FIRST when you arrive late from a miserable over-extended crazy-Boston-drivers tempest – is how much of a problem you’ve caused and how the ONLY solution is for you to depart by such and such a time. And ONLY after you agree to that condition will you be seated.
Mindy prefaced her comments by distinctly identifying the General Manager who spoke with her, and summarily upbraided him in her post. And in a bizarre attempt to bolster her argument, she also interjected the name of a popular Boston restaurateur and concluded what he would have done in that circumstance to make her feel welcome. How clairvoyant.
She concluded her post with, “Next time? Well, hopefully, we will find a more relaxed and welcoming tone [from the staff], but if traffic blockades us…, I think we might just cancel and try for seating (elsewhere).”
What Mindy omitted in her post, but revealed later in the thread, is the fact that she failed to call the “usually booked solid” restaurant to let them know her party was running late. If she “owned the responsibility” she never would have publicly singled out the GM and bitched about the hospitality, period. In fact, when called out on the fact that they didn’t call ahead, she stated, “…we have no cell phone. we left home with ample time to arrive promptly, but the traffic gods had other plans…”
Yup, 2014 and they don’t own a cell phone. And yup, judgement.
Chowhounds can be a very cliquey, insular bunch. Regardless of extreme opinions, there is usually someone who will side with the OP (Original Poster), Mindy in this case. This is the first time I can remember unanimous disagreement with an OP. At least 25 different ‘Hounds’ weighed in supporting the restaurant GM and/or denouncing Mindy’s handling of the situation. Several posts were removed by the moderators (for being too ‘personal’ and attacking the OP), and the thread was locked the same day it started. Here’s a sampling of the comments(I copied and saved some of these before they were deleted):
Gordough: And I am sorry, but you lose me with the no cell phone thing. Totally fine and commendable if you want to attempt to live a completely cell free life but this situation could have been made all the better with a heads up call to the restaurant. I always call if I am going to be more than 5 min late and I can’t tell you how gracious the hosts and hostesses are when I call. To me it seems like common courtesy but so many people don’t do it. And I am also surprised that just based on Sycamore’s tiny size (do they have more than 12-15 tables?) you weren’t more understanding how 30 minutes can mess them up.
Bugsey34: After 30 minutes, I believe you become what is called a “no show, no call.” I think you’re lucky they would have been able to seat you at all, really. I would have expected no soup for you. It’s not about being rude, it’s actually just mathematics of the small number of tables and how long it takes guests to eat there.
MC Slim JB: Might be time to look into a cheap mobile phone and pay-as-you-go plan for emergency use. It’s really not acceptable to make a reservation, miss it by more than 15 minutes, and not give the restaurant a heads-up as soon as you know you’ll be late. It’s worse at a place that is really small and has an early rush like Sycamore.
TimTamGirl: I have to agree with the other commenters that it was pretty awesome that they were able to seat you at all the first time. I understand that you would have preferred a gentler tone, but honestly, under the circumstances, I’m not sure one was warranted – especially since it sounds like you were expecting to be given a comforting hug after your crappy drive. I understand that you had had an unpleasant experience, but that’s… not on the restaurant. At all.
midnightboom: I have several years of experience as a hostess and I have dealt with many people like you. Let me tell you just how your behavior ruins everything for everyone.
We hold tables for 15 minutes max, after that, if you haven’t called to tell us you’re running late, you’re out of luck. Once you decide to show up on your schedule, you’ll be on the wait list and that’s the best we can do.
Once you no call/no show, we plan on you not arriving, and plan out the rest of the seating accordingly. The times we quote to those on the wait list depend on you now not coming/us having that table available when we say it’s going to be available. We see which tables are getting up soon and move the waiting list along.
When YOU show up and demand your table, you are now throwing off our wait times, sometimes by a large chunk of time, pissing off everybody else on the wait list because now that you’ve taken their table and extended their wait time. So if we end up seating you as you feel is your right, you might end up having a happy dinner, but you’ve now upset a long list of other diners who have been waiting patiently and are marring their experiences with your entitlement.
Behavior like this is simply rude. This post is all about yourself and not thinking about how your actions actually affect anyone else, and the domino effect it has from the staff onto the rest of the guests. Feign innocence if you must but most of the time, if you are met with a pissy reaction from staff it’s because of the way you’re treating them. You may think the customer is always right but that doesn’t mean people will stand for disrespect.
Also, important things like having a temporarily disabled person with who requires a certain seating arrangement should be communicated when you make the reservation, NOT when you arrive. The right table is not always magically available. And get a damn cell phone, that’s not the restaurant’s problem.
Jerezhound: …Yes, we are in the hospitality business, but in the end we’re in BUSINESS, and we would like to stay that way. If we continue to alienate the majority of our guests by cowtowing to the neediness of entitled, disrespectful guests such as yourself, then we will no longer attract the good guests who play by the rules and give ample notice of potential problems, and we are no longer able to provide for ourselves or our countless employees because no one wants to do business with us anymore because they can’t get a table on time. So, think twice next time you decide to complain about someone doing you a FAVOR.
DrewStarr: You don’t seem to realize that by not calling, you were as disrespectful of the host as you could possibly be – the most important job they have is managing the seating of that dining room. You no longer live in a society where “I couldn’t get to a phone” is an excuse for being late without warning.
You showed additional disrespect when you gave a physical description that identified the individual to those familiar with the restaurant. Had another Chowhound poster done the same of you, the post would have been removed.
The only reason people are telling you to get a cell phone is because you felt it is your place to not adhere to the social contract; given this is a discussion forum, that implicitly gives them the right to respond to this particular aspect of your life.
As someone who has been reading Chowhound from the beginning, Drew’s comment resonates deeply. The biggest problem I’ve had with Chowhound over the years is that they find it perfectly acceptable for an OP or poster to single out a restaurant worker by physical characteristics, but it’s not ok for a poster to point out another poster’s flawed ‘characteristics’ or arguments. I’ve seen hundreds of posts removed over the years that included important facts relevant to the discussion.
ChocolateMilkshake: And they [Chowhound Moderators] just axed another 10 comments. It’s a wonder why anyone continues to post on Chowhound at all.
hyde: Nah, it’s great! It makes for a dumbed down totally acceptable pablum where nobodies feelings are ever hurt and no real outrage ever takes place. Vanilla Ice Cream for Everybody!
senatorjohn: Entitlement isn’t news. What I find incredible about this story is you haven’t bothered to get a mobile phone in the last fifteen years, but you still take the time and effort to complain on the internet.
If you ever return to Sycamore and they are gracious enough to let you in the front door, make an uncomfortable service confrontation of your own: apologize for your behavior, this post included.
Mindy responded to the admonishment from fellow hounds with obstinate narcissism:
opinionatedchef(Mindy): Man, the assumptions are flying today!! All i can see is CHs not willing to READ my post w/o scalpel in hand.
Except for not calling, I never did or would be disrespectful of the host. Wherever we are dining, we always make reservations and if we are running late from our house, we always call to check with the host, before leaving. No one’s place to tell me to get a cell phone. No one’s place to make assumptions about how i live my life.
We did NOT screw up the night’s floor plan/seating schedule. We departed when we were told to depart/bill paid/ no unfinished business. We ate faster; they made their $ on our table; the following guests were able to sit at their reserved time.
Hey, we all fuck up. How we respond after being enlightened makes all the difference.
I reached out to Sycamore via their website and received a nice note from their GM graciously declining to comment.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Carolyn Grantham’s life was celebrated today at Story Chapel in Cambridge, MA by her family and friends with elegance, class, dignity, humility, humor and champagne. Based on Carolyn’s final wishes, I’m sure she would have enthusiastically approved of the champagne corks popping in the chapel.
Carolyn has been blogging about food (“Writing About Eating”) since the fall of 2006. I’ve followed her journey on and off since then, occasionally exchanging emails and comments about blogging, food, and restaurants. The journey on “LimeyG’s” blog includes trips to Spain, England, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Montreal, San Francisco, Texas, Florida, and yes, the Big E in Springfield, MA. Her food adventures cover everything from humble street foods like Australian meat pies, to foie gras at Au Pied de Cochon.
LimeyG, September 5, 2009 [describing cromesquis de foie gras at Cochon]:
They look innocent enough, … But here’s the deal: They’re cubes of foie gras, breaded and deep-fried. The breading becomes an impermeable shell and the inside turns to liquid.
To eat, you put the whole thing in your mouth, close your lips, and bite. And suddenly it’s as though the entire inside of your head is bathed in warm, soft, rich, deep, soothing liquid.
It actually, literally, seriously brought tears to my eyes.
On January 16, 2011, Carolyn announced on her blog that she had been diagnosed with cancer:
Got some interesting news this week: I have squamous cell carcinoma in my mouth. It’s very treatable and has a high cure rate, which is good. The bad, of course, is that treatment is aggressive and sucky: two or three rounds of intense chemo, followed by seven weeks of radiation.
So what do I have to look forward to? Loss of appetite, changes in my palate, zapped tastebuds, zapped salivary glands, a raw tongue and throat.
Yes, there are a ton of other side effects, but whatever. These are the ones that bug me the most; what will life be like if I can’t enjoy food?
Carolyn’s new journey, including hospital food, medical treatments, and her relationship with her husband, Diego, was chronicled in a poignant Boston Globe piece by Bella English on March 11th 2014. In a very humbling, moving and inspirational piece, Carolyn shared several experiences with Bella about the new challenges she faced with eating, especially in restaurants:
Kate Grams is the nurse practitioner who has been with Grantham since her diagnosis. Her admiration for the couple is deep. “She has suffered horribly, been in incredible pain, disfigured, can’t go out, and can’t eat, which is one of her great joys,” says Grams. “But she has kept an amazing outlook and been game for any therapy and any kind of torture we would dish out.”
…As long as she could sip through a straw, she would take her food that way. “Food is important to me,” she explains. “It’s part of who I am. I didn’t want to lose that bit of independence, that control.”
…She was having to puree her food into liquid form, and when she went to restaurants, asked chefs to do the same.
Some restaurants were very accommodating, and others were not so kind when she requested that they prepare a dish exactly as they normally would, and then throw it in the blender. Carolyn had one nightmare restaurant encounter that brought her to tears when a chef abruptly said no. According to Bella, Carolyn wrote that her experience should serve as a guide to other chefs, “Sometimes a diner will need a little extra accommodation. Please don’t be offended if we need to crush your delicious, carefully created vision. We’re just hungry.”-LimeyG
We’re just hungry.
That quote ripped through me. Eating is such a simple pleasure that so many of us take for granted. A significant focus of my project includes making suggestions about how and why customers should demonstrate empathy and compassion for service industry workers. Thank you to Carolyn for graciously reminding us that mutual respect is a two-way street, and that hospitality includes trying to understand where unique requests are coming from (and saying yes) before judging and/or saying no.
On February 19th, Carolyn tweeted, “Guess I’m beyond the help of modern medicine,” and linked to her blog post, End of the line that included some moments of great joy, accomplishment and fulfillment in her life. I recommend that you read her full blog post.
On February 22nd she demonstrated that her delightfully irreverent sense of humor was still intact when she tweeted, “Spent the morning sorting clothes to give to charity. Now I have to hope I don’t need any clothes.”
A few days after Carolyn passed away, her friends on Chowhound and Facebook noted a message from Carolyn delivered via her husband, Diego:
Carolyn left instructions I now quote verbatim: “In lieu of flowers, Carolyn has asked that you have an excellent glass of champagne; tell your family how much you love them; buy yourself a book you’ve been meaning to read; do one nice, small thing for a stranger.”
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
The Boston bar and restaurant community is tight-knit, and very generous with their time and energy when it comes, to cooking, mixing and serving for many great causes. Now it’s time to help one of our own.
On October 21st, bartender Alex Homans was riding his bike to work at Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline’s Washington Square. The restaurant was still a week away from opening to the public when Alex was peddling in, hoping to work on some new cocktail recipes. As we all know, life can change on a moment’s notice, and none of us are exempt.
Alex was cruising down Beacon Street when a car pulled out in front of him. He crashed into the side of the car, went straight up into the air, and landed on his back. Alex told me that wearing a helmet probably saved his life, but he still suffered a separated shoulder and a fractured vertebrae. Fortunately, the prognosis is good. After spending a few days in the hospital, Alex is looking at approximately 6 weeks of recuperation at home, followed by 1-2 months of physical therapy before he can return to work.
I found out about the accident from Daren Swisher, a friend, bartender and co-worker of mine. Alex has many restaurant industry friends who are rallying together to help him. He’s been in the industry in the Boston area for almost 10 years, including stints at Alchemy on Martha’s Vineyard, Flora in Arlington, Myers and Chang-South End, Russell House Tavern and Temple Bar in Cambridge, Backbar in Somerville, and now Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline.
In many instances, when you work as a server or a bartender, if you’re out of work, you’re out of pay. Insurance often doesn’t cover down time. There was a police officer at the scene of the accident, and the driver of the car was clearly at fault, and cited. Longer term Alex should recoup some compensation/damages, but near term he could use some help.
If you are in a position to help, here are a few ways that you can:
After a successful Sunday Brunch introduction last weekend, the team at PARK in Harvard Square has decided that round two on Sunday, 11/24 will benefit a friend and Grafton Group alumni, Alex Homans. All food proceeds from brunch will be donated to Alex as he recuperates from a recent bicycling accident. PARK’s new brunch offerings include Chef Mark Goldberg’s spirited interpretations of morning favorites like sourdough pancakes peppered with bacon or sausage in “The Collegiate” and a homemade hollandaise spiced with Old Bay for the “New England Bennie.” Brunch is available from 10AM-4PM and reservations are appreciated. For more information, please call: 617 491 9851.
#2- Go to Fairstead Kitchen at 1704 Beacon Street in Brookline. Introduce yourself to Andrew Foster, Patrick Gaggiano & team, order a Vin d’Orange ($6), and proceeds will go to Alex. Fairsted will be serving the Vin d’Orange (Alex’s creation) until further notice.
From the Backbar Facebook Page:
This week please come support our friend and former bartender here at Backbar: Mr. Alex Homans! Our drink of the week is a Time Out for Alex ($10), it’s a blue daiquiri with Bacardi Heritage, fresh lime, aged blue curacao and a little sugar! All proceeds from the drink will go to Alex who needs a little help from his friends due to the fact that he will be out of work because of a bike accident last month, leaving him a long road to recovery.
#4- Go to flora restaurant in Arlington, MA and purchase a Brandy Alexander. According to Mary Jo Sargent, 100% of sale proceeds from Brandy Alexanders with steamed milk will go to aid Alex’s recovery.
#5- If you work in a restaurant, run a drink special for a night, or throw a few bucks in at the end of the night and send it to Alex. You never know when one of us is going to need help.
#7- Stay tuned for updates. There’s a Boston fundraiser in the works.
In an era of so many crowdfunding campaigns and platforms, here is an opportunity to do something specific and direct (w/no admin costs) to help one of our own. Please do something if you can.
Thank you very much.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Phantom Gourmet, Inc., derives a large portion of its revenue from the restaurant industry. Their restaurant “review” television show runs weekly in Boston, Rhode Island and Maine. Under the guise of producing legitimate restaurant “reviews,” the program is largely an infomercial for Phantom Gourmet (PG) advertisers. According to the PG website, “The company is led by the beloved Andelman brothers, with Dave serving as CEO, Mike heading the business division, and Dan heading the content division.” “Beloved” is in the eye of the beholder.
If you ask admirers (“Phans”) of Phantom Gourmet, the Andelman brothers can do no wrong. Conversely, when you ask seasoned, savvy, New England restaurant professionals about the reputation and track record of the Andelman brothers, you immediately strike a nerve.
In a recent op-ed column in the Boston Herald, Dave Andelman penned a shallow piece titled, Seeking help with Yelp bully, in which he accuses Yelp, the amateur customer review site, of bullying. Dave’s piece was inspired by negative reviews he received about the food-related events that his company produces.
From the Herald: My company produces major events that draw huge crowds. Somehow, the commentary on Yelp is overwhelmingly negative, including gross exaggerations like we charged $10 for beer (at a time when it was $5). We’ve tried to get comments removed, but Yelp makes it nearly impossible. My friends in the restaurant business have similar horror stories — some of them “reviews” by former employees or competitors that they can’t get removed. Yelp refuses to explain its methodology for verifying or filtering the material.
Within the piece, Dave goes on to criticize Yelp for not requiring their users to register and verify their identity, and Yelpers for submitting “bogus” comments. He portrays Yelp as a billion-dollar corporate bully, concluding with:
Bullying in school is rightfully being treated seriously. Bullying in online business also deserves serious treatment.
Dave raises some very legitimate points, but his argument is specious for two reasons:
#1- He has no credibility with a large number of highly regarded members of the restaurant community that he purports to represent. Many restaurant professionals have no respect for Dave Andelman and have made a concerted effort to distance themselves from him, and Phantom Gourmet.
I was contacted by a 25-year Boston restaurant industry icon after he read Dave’s piece who said, “They [Phantom Gourmet] don’t represent me. They’re not one of us, and they don’t speak for me. They’re bad for our industry because of their sleazy tactics. Dave is an entitled, pompous ass who does what’s best for Dave, period.”
Another chef/owner (20+ yr. veteran) stopped me on the street and added; “I want nothing to do with them [PG]. They don’t represent good food. They represent a tacky, cheeseball culture.”
These growing sentiments have been echoed to me (and online) hundreds of times over the last few years by restaurant industry professionals and astute customers.
#2- Dave Andelman whining about bullying is the ultimate irony. He’s calling for Yelp to be shut down for bullying when he has a history of bullying and suspect business practices. Dave Andelman is a manipulative fraud: his TV show, token efforts as a “lobbyist,” and personal conduct all betray a contempt for his viewers and the restaurant industry from which he derives his livelihood.
Dave also has a very short memory.
In the Herald piece, Dave states that as victims of Yelp, Hard-working people including chefs, waiters, bartenders, and hostesses* are publicly humiliated for real or imagined mistakes. This is personally and professionally damaging for them.
That sounds like a noble cause, but coming from Dave, it’s a lame attempt at chicanery and redemption.
On a Phantom Gourmet paid radio program on 2/12/11, Mike Andelman disparaged a Boston restaurant hostess*, calling her dumb, moronic and a monkey after she denied his request to be seated early, before the dining room opened. Mike also denigrated hostesses as incompetents who can’t do anything else in life. On the same program, Dan also made some inappropriate, sexist comments. After I called Mike and Dan out on this blog, the story was widely circulated, on food blogs, Universal Hub, Chowhound, Yelp and the Boston Globe.
Dave Andelman was on vacation at the time of the incident. Upon his return, Dan and Mike filled him in on the imbroglio during their next live radio segment on 2/26/11. Here are some excerpts from the program:
Mike (Replaying the taped segment) : “…this moronic hostess who was just getting her, uh, jollies off by sticking to the rules of her little brochure in a little binder…This little monkey, her only job is to look at this binder and say don’t let people in ‘til 5:30.”
[Not a great way to endear yourself to an industry you solicit your livelihood from.]
Dan (to Dave, CEO): Do you think this was so controversial that it should have been in the Boston Globe? Are you offended by what Mike had to say?
Dave: [No acknowledgement of Mike’s ‘dumb’, ‘moron’ and ‘monkey’ comments about the hostess.] I don’t even think it’s interesting enough for us to be replaying it on our own show. [3 brothers laughing hysterically] I’m waiting for the bomb to drop. That was it? That’s what you had to bother me for in Aruba and all week?
Dave downplayed and defended his brother’s insulting remarks and despite multiple opportunities, never apologized on behalf of his company. Even to this day, he’s using the childish, “We were just kidding” excuse, when it’s crystal clear from the audio that they weren’t. On Dave’s facebook page on 10/11/13, he scoffs, “This is the worst degrading of women I have seen since the Andelmans did three minutes of satire about a Grill 23 hostess! How dare you try to make people laugh?”
Not everyone bought Dave’s lame attempt to cover their tracks. The “three minutes of satire” led to stern, public admonishment from the parent company of the host radio station shortly after the Andelman insults:
“Greater Media has a great deal of respect for service industry workers and does not endorse or support the recent statements made by the Andelmans during their paid programming show on WTKK. We do not speak for them, nor do they speak for us.”
The owners of the restaurant where the Andelmans tried to bully the hostess also publicly condemned the Andelmans in a Boston Globe article:
“Himmel Hospitality is shocked and saddened at the personal attack that has been made on an employee and in such a public manner. We always hope that any guest that is dissatisfied with food or service at Grill 23 contact the General Manager or any member of management immediately. We stand behind our employee and her decision not to seat guests in a closed dining room. Himmel Hospitality and Grill 23 & Bar are very proud of our excellent staff and the service they provide.’’
On the 2/26 radio program, Dave stated, They [The Globe] do sort of try to claim there’s a massive online controversy. That’s just not factually accurate. There’s like four guys talking to each other online. I mean that’s ridiculous.
“Factually accurate” is not Dave’s forte.
As I mentioned in my comments to Dave on 3/14/11, “Tens of thousands of people have read and talked about the inappropriate, derogatory and misogynist comments made by Mike and Dan, and now they’ll be talking about your defending them.”
For the record, Dan Andelman did have the decency to apologize for some of his sexist comments. On the 2/26/11 radio program, Dan stated, “I apologize for my rude, insensitive comment about her back.” Dan’s apology was in response to his original comment asking how the hostess looked from the back.
[Dan was also classy enough to tweet the following on 9/26 after TV Diner (PG competitor) was cancelled: Just heard about @tvdiner cancellation. Best of luck to @BillyCosta & @jennyj33, both class acts.]
[Dave's reaction to the cancellation on facebook: Yeah, I heard, don't care that much....busy planning the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival.]
It’s stunning that Dave, as CEO, had an opportunity to reprimand his brothers for their comments on the radio and apologize on behalf of his company, but he dropped the ball.
On his attention-seeking Facebook page, Dave has a penchant for bashing restaurant industry bloggers who are onto his schtick. Almost monthly, I receive Facebook messages about another blogger or restaurant industry worker being ’unfriended’ and/or blocked from Dave’s page (along with me), or forwarded copies of screenshots (I saved them all) including taunting insults from Dave. Banning restaurant bloggers and informed readers is usually the result of Dave being challenged for his abuse and inability to substantiate facts. Deleting dissenters, and encouraging enablers, is a lot easier than engaging in intelligent discourse.
From Dave’s Facebook page:
Dave Andelman (September 17, 2013) : I like [Food Blogger], he’s the best food blog guy out there because he tries to be fair, but here’s how this will go: He will mention my name. Some of his pals will say how much they hate me and be typical FB [Facebook] tough guys, even though I could knock them out in two minutes in real life. [Food Blogger] will let them defame me, pull a Yelp, claiming he has nothing to do with it. Do I have that right, [Food Blogger]? If so, just steal the idea and don’t use my name, I’m used to it. Food Festival Sept 29!
From the same thread:
Dave Andelman: I just get so tired of all these chicken, internet tough guys, they’re like a bad girlfriend, so desperate for attention, and won’t leave when you ask them to.
Unlike some naive Phans, many members of the restaurant community in Boston and beyond, have not been duped by Dave.
Dave’s narrow-minded Facebook bully pulpit is also rife with bigotry, misogyny, and political bullying. Here are a few examples:
Dave Andelman (May 8, 2012): Maybe it’s wrong to say this, and I would never do it, but when I see an able-bodied man, standing on the street, begging for money, I want to punch him in the face and say, “What makes YOU think you don’t have to WORK like the rest of us?”
Dave Andelman (September 30, 2013): [In an argument with a facebook poster/Obama supporter about the government shutdown] Look I just said this president refused to lead, that is obvious, no budget or plan or negotiation, jeez get off your knees.
[Separate comment from Dave] Azzzzzia you should go down on him [Obama] like a circus seal.
Not quite what you would expect from a CEO of a very public entity. And definitely not what you want to see from the president of your Restaurant Trade Association.
As Dave scrambles to remove the incriminating facebook posts, you have to wonder how he ever thought it was ok to go public with such derisive drivel. He doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know. As one restaurant server stated in an email to me, Why would you draft an article for the Herald to let its readership know that your events get ”overwhelmingly negative” reviews? My response would be to wonder if your street festivals just suck.
RDC: This from [Dave] the guy who, along with his brother, my girlfriend and I heard denigrating his own [TV] viewers and listeners at the Summer Shack in Alewife, saying they do whatever they (the Andelman brothers) tell them to do, as their listeners know nothing about food.
I mentioned questionable business pratices earlier in this post. Here is a brief summary of the items I was referring to:
#1- Pay for play on the Phantom Gourmet TV show.
It is widely known that several of the restaurants recommended, and featured prominently on the PG program are also advertisers on the show. The program is oftentimes more an endorsement for advertisers than a legitimate restaurant “review” program. (PG does occasionally promote some better than average restaurants, outside of their cheeseball, “ooey gooey” wheelhouse, presumably as a diversionary tactic.)
Several Boston Herald online commenters, responding to Dave’s Yelp piece, are also onto the PG ruse, and called him out:
kbird: Are you kidding me? This article is blatantly stupid on a number of levels. Hey Dave-let’s get the government to legislate that you can’t accept advertising money from the restaurants your show reviews, because the content isn’t “fair.”
newaitress: Dave Dave Dave. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has less right to whine about bullying than you and your family. Please explain how Yelp making money from its advertisers is any different from the PG shilling for its advertisers. It isn’t.
dyang1: The Phantom Gourmet is easily the worst restaurant review program I’ve ever seen. The reviews are more advertisement than anything resembling a review. And the writing of the show is just as bad as the writing in Dave Andelman’s letter. Yelp may contain some reviews which are questionable in objectivity and content, but everything in the Phantom Gourmet is questionable in bias and taste.
MCslimJB: Dave Andelman is absolutely correct: it is wrong (bordering on criminal) for a business to profit from the propagation of bogus opinions of restaurants by phony critics who have a financial interest in the places they are praising. But as this kind of pay-for-play whoring is the exact business model that Andelman has made a tidy living from with his Phantom Gourmet empire, he’s the most hilariously awful advocate for this argument imaginable. It’s like watching one streetwalker beating up on another sorry chickenhead working girl for trying to work her corner. The Phantom needs to take off his own kneepads first before he slags another business for profiting from opinion prostitution.
nhunixguy: It’s always tough when you’re the playground bully and suddenly a bigger and smarter bully moves in and takes over. Sorry Dave, you’ve said too many stupid, mean, arrogant things over the years for me to do anything other than enjoy your whining. MCslimJB nailed it.
Upper Crust is a disgraced MA pizza chain, infamous for exploiting its immigrant workers. In 2009, the US Department of Labor ordered Upper Crust to pay more than $341,000 in back pay and overtime to their employees. And that was just the beginning of their problems. Long after the disingenuous business practices of Upper Crust became public, Phantom Gourmet continued to shamelessly partner with them, promote them, and run their commercials on TV and radio. The Andelman brothers often personally endorsed Upper Crust at the end of their radio segments when they would discuss where they were going to dinner that evening.
#3- Food Truck Controversy
Food truck operators are another segment of the population that Dave has alienated himself from. In an op-ed piece in the Somerville Patch, Dave declared that, ”…We need sensible rules so that: 1) The food truck industry can be successful and 2) The food truck industry will not: discourage restaurants from opening and expanding, cause restaurants to end their leases, or force restaurants to fire employees…The trucks should not be allowed within a one thousand feet walking distance of a restaurant… Alternatively, the limit may be lowered to five hundred feet if the truck sends a certified letter to every restaurant in the designated area, and the majority of the restaurants then approve issuing the permit to operate.”
The piece goes on to discuss proposed regulation, and attempts to make the case that food trucks were gaining an unfair advantage over restaurants. The article was inspired by a debate between a food truck operator and a restaurant operator (Phantom Gourmet advertiser), both of whom appeared on a PG radio program. The restaurateur claimed that food trucks were hurting his business.
Several food truck operators, restaurateurs, and cognizant consumers weighed in on the feud at BostInno, EaterBoston, Chowhound, and Universal Hub. Many felt that competition between food trucks and restaurants was healthy, and that it was up to consumers to decide the best food, service, and value. Several noted that reasonable regulations were fair, but Dave’s proposed 1000′ rule was unreasonable and his motivation was suspect, at best.
#4- RABA: Restaurant and Business Alliance
” Trade association providing restaurant and business owners with a strong voice in government and media.” (PG website.) Dave Andelman has stated, “We are the ultimate advocates for the restaurant community.”
Is Dave Andelman (RABA president) the strong, trustworthy voice that you want speaking for you? Not according a lot of restaurant professionals I’ve spoken with. I know several restaurateurs who will never consider joining because they believe that such an affiliation is toxic. I’ve also heard from current members who will not renew their memberships. It comes down to legitimacy, integrity and transparency.
Are restaurants that are paying dues (up to $1,000/year) to RABA getting preferential treatment on the Phanton Gourmet TV show? There is no hard data yet, but several RABA members are also Phantom Gourmet sponsors, and their relationship is not disclosed when Phantom Gourmet promotes them on their TV show. I concur with MC Slim JB‘s take on this relationship in his comments on an EaterBoston post:
I don’t have a problem with RABA’s lobbying efforts per se. By definition, a lobby is nakedly quid pro quo: I pay my dues, you fight for my interests. Sometimes RABA lifts all industry boats (as in its admirable, successful efforts to extend brunch liquor service hours…), and sometimes it only lifts its dues-paying friends’ boats (as when it champions the interests of specific brick-and-mortar restaurants over food trucks). I see the latter as classic crony capitalism, pushing selective government regulation to quash new competitors for the benefit of established entrants. But at least the interdependencies are fairly blatant, out in the open.
Where I find it less ethically sound is wherever the relationship is less explicitly disclosed, as in how the Phantom Gourmet TV show plays fluffer to its sponsors while pretending to be real reviewers, consumer advocates, critical guides to what is genuinely good. From an ethical food critic’s perspective, that’s indefensible, and it almost entirely accounts for the general enmity that the food-nerd community and the many restaurants that have chosen not to pay the graft feel toward the Andelmans. It’s not their taste we despise: it’s the insult to our intelligence inherent in knowing that someone paid for the servicing, yet the whore is trying to convince us she did it for love.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim to be a champion of hard-working people including chefs, waiters, bartenders, and hostesses*, and then condone their abuse by your colleagues/brothers. That’s hypocrisy.
You can’t claim that Yelp is a money-grubbing bully, and then bully and exploit the same group of professionals you profess to advocate for. That’s disingenuous.
Dave Andelman has shown his true colors. His vapid, self-serving piece in the Boston Herald, is a veiled attempt to evoke sympathy from his Phans, and a cunning attempt to endear himself to an industry that pays his bills. He has repeatedly, and justifiably, aroused the ire of many restaurant industry professionals, and I call bullshit.