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The Great Debates Critiquing Restaurant

Reader Feedback:

I believe that the restaurant review plays an important part in shaping the industry's top spots. However, many restaurants attempt to receive a review before their restaurant is truly ready. Simply because the general manager believes that his or her establishment in fabulous, does not necessarily guarantee a wonderful review. I think that the trick to running a successful operation is to constantly remind yourself to look at things from other perspectives than one's own, while staying true to the direction oneself is heading with the business. One cannot allow themselves to become too involved in their own, or others opinion, too heavily. In this business, there is no wrong or right, just opinion! Paying too much or not enough attention to yourself or others can be costly.

Evan G. Spiegler
General Manager
Club 26, Fort Atkinson, WI

**Next Post

Restaurant Critics should be made to go to school. Most reviewers do not know what they are talking about. Food is very subjective -- just ask any two chefs. I am all for freedom of the press, but some of these reviewers walk around like their shit don't stink.

Trevor Hamilton c.c.c

**Next Post

Absolutely wonderfully-written and accurate article, Ken.

We have worked with similar operations who continue to succeed despite the odds of critical reviews. Recently, a multi-unit operation contracted us to for onsite consulting services with a myriad of, what we know would be perceived as, critical flaws, yet:

1. They turn tables three times each evening--and short of a torrential ice storm, are consistent performers in this regard;

2. They cannot truly offer reservations (under parties of ten) with the constant stream of patrons beating at their door waiting to get in before opening at 4PM and all other patrons waiting patiently for their tables throughout the night. They claim they don't even have time to answer the phone--despite my continued encouragement and their amusing replies: "We're too damn busy--you answer it!"

3. Essentially, they serve "plain" food in huge portions sans garnish of any kind at incredibly reasonable prices--so huge that "doggie bags" are an expected part of the experience;

4. Historically, over a 15 year period, they are in a holding pattern of local reviewers lambasting subjective service issues rating overall two and a half to three stars.

5. Each operation's interior is impeccably clean, but desperately (in our opinion) in need of updating in both the front and back of the house.

Upon further discovery we have reached a conclusion about this successful restaurant and others that fit this profile and why they succeed:

1. The owners are serious SALES PROFESSIONALS who take the time to KNOW their guests on a first-name basis encouraging repeat business. For this reason alone--as role models, they command the continued respect of their staff;

2. They KNOW their marketplace and improve only those details that will not turn the financially-successful operation upside-down;

3. They UNDERSTAND the restaurant's role in the community and the broad-spectrum demographic appeal of their operation and WHY this is so;

4. They ENCOURAGE criticism, but are armed with their irrefutable P&L statements, which would make anyone want to invest--to say the least;

5. There is NO SHORTAGE of job applicants--no matter what season it is. They were a former serious upscale operation evolving to a more of a casual-upscale operation. There are no shortage of respectable tips either--tips, recently, have even improved.

In our opinion, these are dream clients. We will do a "little" work with them in addressing some of these issues, while they work 12-14 hour days and keep their ears to their tables and their feet always on the ground. Their demonstrated love, commitment and continued perceptiveness of this business will keep them going with or without us. We know this and believe they know this. But as their privileged partner, we hope to take them to places they haven't dreamt possible.

Thank you.

Maren L. Hickton
Pittsburgh, PA

**Next Post

I have read some very interesting comments regarding restaurant reviews. I must admit that I read restaurant reviews in newspapers and magazines to see what other chefs are doing in their operations. I do not feel that a bad review or a good one will be the telling difference in how well a an operation does. Nor do I feel that an owner or chef give up or get mad when they get a bad review. After all, the reviewer is expressing their personal opinion. Who knows they may have been having a bad day. Yes I know that the Chef and Staff can't have a bad day, after all it is show business and the customer expects and pays for the show.

The thing that I find disappointing about a review is when the reviewer comments on a dish that isn't even served at that restaurant. When this happens as it has happened to me I definitely feel that the reviewer should find another line of work so that they can do something that they know about.

Thank you for this opportunity to express my thoughts.
Leslie Bartosh, CCC, FMP -
Director of Culinary Arts, Galveston College

**Next Post

I am a pastry chef in CA. and the restaurant I am currently at has re-opened approx. 6 months ago. I was reviewed three times since we have opened. One review excellent, one okay, and one terrible. My sales overall outnumber any other pastry chef that has been in this restaurant and I am consistently getting excellent verbal and written feedback from other chefs, customers, and friends. The terrible review was not even accurate! The critic commented on ingredients that do not even exist in my kitchen! What I really want to say is that, yes, these critics are supposed to 'critique' but usually they come in one night, one meal, and base the chef's whole career on one meal!

A friend of mine in San Francisco had a terrible review last month and she was fired from her job! I think that these reviewers can give bad reviews, but a lot of times they absolutely tear the person/chef apart and I don't agree with that. Needless to say, my sales have not been effected at all but it was truly embarrassing and yes, it could have ended or altered my career and all that I have worked for just because ONE person had a bad experience, ONE night, and ONE meal. These critics can really change a persons life, whether it be for the better or for the worse.


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