Dave Andelman, The Kettle is Black

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 10/22/2013

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.

Some of us don’t forget.

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.

Here’s a public comment in response to Dave’s piece on the Herald website:

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.

[MC Slim JB is a professional food writer, blogger, and one of the most widely-respected, objective, and knowledgeable voices on Greater Boston restaurants.]

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.

#2- Phantom Gourmet loyalty to Upper Crust Pizza advertising dollars.

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.

Permalink | Posted in Human-to-Human Service | 13 Comments »

Just Stay Home

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 10/3/2013

For the sake of humanity, some adult humans should not be allowed out, period.  If they were allowed out, on a limited basis, their “house arrest” should preclude them from interacting with anyone who serves the public. They just don’t get it.

I received these pictures from an employee at a restaurant that is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in America. (It’s in the Southeast.) I’ve confirmed the employment of the sender, and the restaurant, but agreed not to disclose the identity of either. The pictures represent both sides of a card handed to a server by a guest last weekend, during a very busy dinner service. Side 1:

It’s one thing to ask for a few modifications, but really? If you want to pick and choose exactly what you want, go to a buffet, or go to a supermarket. Side 2:

No, this was not a joke. This diner actually sent a note to the kitchen requesting that they default to his dietary philosophies!! I can hear the kitchen crew now, “Hold everything. We’re going Forks Over Knives for table 32…”

The restaurant took the hospitality high road, and served the persnickety patron a vegan entre of local produce. (I’ve requested information from the server about the interaction with the guest and his dining companions, and how they tipped.) I do know that the demanding douchebag did not thank the chefs in the open kitchen for accommodating him.

The perky, Thanks for working with me!” does not offset how obnoxious this note is. The entitlement epidemic is alive and well. I’m surprised the diner didn’t specify ideal lighting luminosity, room temperature & humidity, and hand the maître d’ a playlist…

Love to hear your reaction, and your stories in the comments.

 

Permalink | Posted in Customer Hall of Shame | 19 Comments »

Thank you, Joey Prusak

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 09/23/2013

I couldn’t let the week end without acknowledging the maturity and fortitude of Joey Prusak, the 19-year-old Dairy Queen manager who refused to serve a woman after she stole $20 from a visually impaired customer.

As I have often stated, tolerating and placating arrogant, abusive, and disrespectful customers enables them. Some customers need to be fired for the sake of employee morale, and for the benefit of the majority of customers, who are good people. Toxic customers are bad for business.

According to The Huffington Post, Joey Prusak not only refused service to the thief, but he also approached the victim and gave him $20 out of his own pocket.

This refreshing story has garnered national attention because there are so many things to like about it:

#1- Joey’s humility. “I was just doing what I thought was right,” Prusak said Thursday as he recalled the incident from earlier this month. I did it without even really thinking about it…Ninety-nine out of 100 people would have done the same thing as me.”

Joey, I wish that was true, but it’s not.

#2- It came to light through an independent observer, another customer in line behind the thief, who witnessed the incident and sent an email to Dairy Queen. From the email via Reddit:

An older lady in front of me picked up the [$20] bill and instead of telling the gentleman that he dropped it, she put it in her purse. She, as well as everyone else in the store knew that it was dropped by the gentleman when he was struggling to find his pocket and put his change away. Before I could say something to her, your employee stepped in. He politely asked her to give the $20 bill back to the young man who was blind. She told your employee that it was her money and she dropped it. Your employee asked her again to return the money to its rightful owner. She declined to do so. He then asked her to leave the store as he would not serve someone as disrespectful as her. She got extremely angry and began to swear at your employee. He stayed calm and never gave her any attitude. He calmly asked asked her to leave the store again, as he would not serve her if she wouldn’t return the money to its rightful owner.The older woman left the store, without returning the money. It was now my turn to order. Your employee kept his cool and greeted me politely and apologized for the incident that had just taken place.

[The entire email is worth reading.]

#3- Joey stood his ground and kept his cool.

#4- Someone took the time to document the story and send the email. Many people are quick to criticize and complain, but often hesitate to compliment.

#5- When Joey returned the money, he said he was doing it on behalf of Dairy Queen.

#6- Joey has worked at Dairy Queen for 5 years, and was just promoted to manager in the spring.

#7- Joey is saving money to attend school for business management. Perfect.

#8- Billionaire Warren Buffett, whose company owns DQ, called Joey, and according to the Huff Post piece, Joey said, “He called and thanked me for being a role model for all the other employees and people in general.”

Amen.

#9- Business has picked up considerably, and people are leaving big tips.

#10- Dean Peters, a spokesman for International DQ, said the company is figuring out how to reward Joey.

I love this kid.

Permalink | Posted in Human-to-Human Service | 6 Comments »

Kudos to Kiren at The Bladebone Inn. Evisceration of a ‘Foodie’ Scam Artist.

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 08/27/2013

Thank you to everyone who has sent emails, DM’s, texts, and content for this blog and book project, especially for the posts contributed to the Server Not Servant Facebook Group. The idea for today’s post was submitted via a TripAdvisor UK  link to the SNS Facebook Group by Drew Starr, contributing editor at EaterBoston.

The following review was submitted to TripAdvisor UK by anonymous member, ‘Sinsand’, about The Bladebone Inn, located in Bucklebury Village in West Berkshire, England. In general, I believe that restaurateurs should exercise restraint, and only respond to amateur ‘reviewers’ on a limited basis. The response by chef/owner, Kiren Puri, is warranted, and an instant classic. Well done, Kiren.

Sinsand:

“Aweful food and dire complaint handling”

1 of 5 starsReviewed 15 August 2013

One of the worst evenings out in a while. Been there now and again and visited with my folks expecting an enjoyable night out. Two of us ordered the beef rib with marrow bone/smoked mash etc. All fine except the rib was so tough that it was practically inedible – I left half of mine (I even asked for steak knives which didn’t help!).
The very nice waitress asked where we were enjoying our meal and we fed back that the rib was pretty awful to the extent that I wasn’t going to finish my meal. She said that she would talk to the chef. We didn’t hear back. When the bill was presented there was no acknowledgement of our feedback. We asked what were the chef comments and at this point what turned out to be a very incompetent and rude waiter arrived. He informed us that he had tasted the meat as had the chef and that the meat was tender as always.

I fed back that all three of us would beg to differ to which he said that had we informed them earlier that they would have offered an alternative. This of course is what we did and they didn’t do anything and he then asked what I wanted to resolve the developing argument. I asked for some gesture. At this point he seemed to become very concerned about the scene developing so just grabbed the bill and said that we needn’t pay and disappeared off. We chose to pay for the third meal and drinks and left quite amazed at the immature customer service and bad food.

We like to support local pubs and restaurants and are real ‘foodies’. Some constructive advice for the management of the Blade Bone Inn:

Train your staff to put the customer first and not make mountains out of mole hills Only ask how the food is if you are going to take action and feedback – otherwise don’t bother

Empathise with your customer who after all probably isn’t trying to cheat you – don’t argue With this in mind, a small gesture, bit off the bill, drink, free dessert etc. goes a long, long way.

This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

[Note from Patrick Maguire, SNS; If you are a self-styled 'foodie', you are an asshole.]

Bladebone, Owner at The Blade Bone Inn, responded to this review on 20 August 2013.

I never respond to reviews on here, good or bad. I am a believer that these sites offer a communal platform to share experiences on, that enable us all to eat, drink and sleep better, and that can’t be a bad thing. Alas, we can never please 100% of people 100% of the time, no matter how hard we try, but we never stop trying.

Unfortunately, there are a small minority of people that use these sites for ulterior and more sinister motives and these people, like yourself, are a disease upon our wonderful industry, and it must be addressed. Therefore, I have chosen to respond for the first time in two years to your review as I do not think it is a fair reflection of the evening in question.

I have tried to address each of your points as fairly as I have seen it;

All plates that return to the kitchen unfinished are kept for either my or the head chef’s inspection. We both inspected what was left on your two plates (one plate was completely clear, whilst the other had the most miniscule piece of meat left.), the meat was tender and unctuous. We served six other portions that evening to a universal response of ‘excellent’, although I am open to the suggestion that food fairies may have bought another one into the building and replaced the one on your plate as a personal slight against you. Naughty fairies!

You falsely claim that half was left. Now I think someone has a little problem here telling the truth. I saw the plate, and our cctv shows that next to nothing was left, I would be more than happy to show you these images if your memory is hazy. Your parents seemed like lovely people, I’ll bet that they taught you better than that.

Your comments were fed back to the chef, and on his and my inspection, we agreed that the line we would use is “We have fed your comments back to the chef, and the chef thanks you for your feedback.”. Unfortunately this was not enough for you. We did not feel based on our inspection of the meal that the comments were fair, and decided against going deeper into the matter as I felt that a problem was out to be caused by yourself, and I was not prepared to indulge you in that.

The rude and incompetent waiter you speak off was me. I am the chef/patron and the business owner. I know, even I struggle to believe that sometimes! I have trained in the finest restaurants in the world, numerous three Michelin star etc, and I feel that I can recognise when there is a problem with the food by now. I did not feel that there was any issue whatsoever with your meal, this is my job and my chosen career. My regular customers know that I am very quick to ‘comp’ food if the food service or quality does not come up to my high expectations.

You are absolutely correct in that I was concerned about a scene escalating. My restaurant was fully booked, and I had eleven other tables enjoying their evening, and an atmosphere I wanted to protect. I made the decision to remove your bill, refuse your money, rather than risk one cancerous person ruin the atmosphere for everyone else, you were not the only customer. This is a decision I stand by.

You state that you left money to cover one meal and drinks. It did not cover that. The money was dispatched into the Air Ambulance charity box. If that is the value that you put on a meal in my restaurant, I would rather not have it.

You claim to be foodies. I have never met a self professed foodie start his meal with a bowl of chips.

I love looking after my customers and serving the food that we serve. After a while in this industry, you start to learn those who are out to look for problems and try and get a free ride. Unfortunately, we noticed straight away with yourself, and I asked the front of house team to take extra extra care with your table. I made sure that I took the order myself, even feeding back cooking times so that you would be aware that one of the dishes took a little longer to cook (they call this customer service), but unfortunately we were never going to win this one. As you have been so kind to give me some advice about how to run this business, I would like to give you some feedback on how to be a customer.

1. Tell the truth. Lying and distorting the truth beyond recognition is not cool, big nor clever even if it is a tool towards achieving your end result.

2. Having read the pseudo-criticisms on your other reviews, there are a couple of consistencies. I.e., You are after freebies and money off. If you are going to constantly do this, have the decency and ask for a reduction on the bill at booking or free courses. I’m sure all restaurants would love to take your reservation at this point, or at least recommend somewhere that would appreciate your custom. Margins are tight and the industry is harder than ever to make a success from. It is not fair to demand things (check your own reviews and you will find the same theme).

3. Remember that you are (thankfully) not a food critic. If you were, I would not be a chef. To quote Voltaire ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend unto the death your right to say it.’ However, Voltaire also said, ‘one always speaks badly when one has nothing to say’. If you one day learn how to complain correctly and accept that we will listen to your feedback where appropriate. But, you will never tell me nor my staff to give you something for nothing when it is unwarranted.

4. Stick to venues that will satiate you. I can recommend an endless list of chains that have endless capital and will not mind gifting you the freebies and discounts that you so obviously crave.

5. Have a little respect for your fellow guests. Your parents appeared to be as embarrassed to be with you as I was to have you in my restaurant. That’s not fair on anyone.

Best Regards,
Kiren and The Bladebone Team

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Neither ‘Friends’ nor ‘Family’

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 08/7/2013

I was very fortunate to be invited to “Friends & Family” night at Ribelle, a new restaurant in Brookline, MA, last night. Anyone who is lucky enough to have been included in one of these evenings, knows that they’re a real treat. They can be rough, raw, and akin to watching actors rehearse for a big show. Mistakes are made, and you’re in on the action. You really appreciate showtime when you’ve been behind the curtain.

However, there are some responsibilities that go along with the sneak peek; You ask permission about what’s ok to post on social media, and you don’t post a critical ‘review’ of a restaurant that is a work in progress — especially after eating and drinking for free!!!

A few attendees from last night’s dinner broke the ‘rules’. One of them posted an anonymous ’review’ of Ribelle in the comments section on EaterBoston;

Tried ribelle tonight and was not impressed. Loud, weird paper over windows. Not a larger enough menu selection for vegetarian or kosher diners. I won’t be going back.

The “weird paper” the anonymous ‘friend’ or ‘family’ member is referring to, was brown paper taped over the windows because the restaurant was closed to the public!!

Seriously, where do these people come from??????

Here is my response on EaterBoston:

That anonymous comment, including, “weird paper over the windows,” is one of the most ridiculous fucking things I’ve seen in a long time. File under, “You can’t make this shit up.” People like this moron are the reason I started my blog/book project.

Dear Moron- You attended a FREE “Friends & Family” night at one of the most highly-anticipated, Boston-area restaurant openings in recent memory. It is an honor to be included on the guest list of a FREE Friends & Family night. TRUSTED guests (and their guests) are expected to come in with an open mind, a keen sense of their surroundings, and an awareness that these nights are a dry run for The real McCoy, when the restaurant opens its doors to the (critical) public.

In exchange for attending the FREE dinner, guests are expected to give candid, constructive, confidential feedback via email, or a comment card that is furnished by the restaurant. (Yes, Ribelle provided them.) Armed with that info, the restaurant team continues to brainstorm, tweak, train, and “work out all the kinks,” before going “live”.

Your comments about the menu choices are comical, and make it crystal clear that you are clueless about what ribelle is doing. Do you own a computer or ‘smart’ phone? Are you really that dumb?

I was at the dinner last night, and loved the limited # of choices. There are several items (including the octopus) that I want to go back and try. I also loved the food, drinks, hospitality and the room, despite the fact that the chairs were rented and the room is still being decorated. (Still building, working, tweaking, get it, Dummy??)

I hope my comments help, in case you are ever invited to another FREE Friends & Family dinner (as a +1, or an actual “friend”). Oh, and one more thing; Over-tipping is part of the social contract when attending these dinners where your friends invite you into their house to eat and drink, all night, for FREE.

PS- Full disclosure: I was invited to the dinner last night because I am friends with the Ribelle family………..

PPS- If you are a blood “Family” member of anyone at Ribelle, I’m sure they’ll be thrilled at your vow not to return to the restaurant, or to ANY family functions for that matter. End of rant to anonymous moron.

Sincerely-Patrick Maguire

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