I sit and watch my twitter time line as it flashes past and so often I see comments about restaurants and coffee shops. I see comments about car companies, banks, City Power and everyone else as well but for the purpose of this blog I am sticking to food. Yes, I do have a vested interest.
In days of old there were “Food Critics”, feared paragons of food virtue that every restaurateur everywhere hated. One has visions of stick figure people with waistcoats and waxed mustaches popping in unannounced, expecting the best table in the house on a busy night and examining every plate of food for every nuance and flavour. Rolling every morsel around their palate fifteen times before swallowing that mushy gelatinous mass to extract the last micro ounce of flavour no matter how subtle or missing. Lucky there are no spittoons in modern restaurants, this isn’t Rome any more.
Then the following day that very same stick figure critic, after licking his plate clean, paying his bill, giving you a sour smile as he exits your establishment proceeds to destroy your restaurant one carefully placed very long word at a time.
The ambiance wasn’t right, the music was too loud, the plate too big, the portion too small. The fillet was just so when it should have been just so. The food was hot, the food was cold, I ordered it rare, the list of things he could, would and will judge you on endless, the potential for obscurity huge. Did you think he would judge you on the colour of your serviettes, the colour of your plates, the quality of your wine glasses. I heard Barry Ronge, the movie critic, on the radio one day talking about, wait for it…………restaurants. How he wouldn’t eat off coloured plates or drink out of coloured glass wine glasses and serviettes had to be white. I had to text him to say “I know where you shouldn’t eat”
My point in all this actually being that there was this one person a restaurateur actually feared walking in the door because that person could make or break your establishment with one swift flick of his pen and the morning’s daily paper.
Those were the old days! Today we have social media, twitter, Facebook, food bloggers and every one of us is a critic no matter how much or how little experience on the subject we have. We walk into restaurants, we check in. We order and then we begin to tap our fingers on the table. The food is slow, let’s tell the world. The food arrives, let’s tell the world. The food is cold, let’s tell the world. The order was wrong, let’s tell the world.The food looks fabulous, let’s take a picture and tell the world.
Are we so busy telling the world that we forget to enjoy our meal? Are we so busy telling the world, that we forget to tell the owner, the manager, the waiter (I refuse to say waitron)? Have we forgotten how to speak to people? How to pay a compliment face to face? How to complain face to face in such a manner…actually that is the material of a whole other blog post.
What sparked this post was a tweet I happened to see last week which I followed for a while until it had run its course. A blogger was sitting in a very well-known very busy restaurant with friends, they had ordered and they were waiting for their food. If they had their times right, they had waited an hour and the food hadn’t arrived yet. Granted that is an incredibly long time to wait and is wrong, particularly if no one is communicating with the client about the delay. So the blogger tweeted to the restaurant, to whomever runs that twitter account which is not necessarily a person who is on the spot to complain to about the wait. By the time the reply and responses had gone back and forth with the apology made etc, another 20 minutes had elapsed and the food had arrived and the blogger never said another word about it. However the parting tweet which didn’t mention the restaurant’s name was words to the effect, if you cannot manage a 200 seater restaurant you shouldn’t run one.
This tweet was phrased in such a way that it went out the entire follower base and not only to the intended recipient thus ensuring that everyone and his dog saw the comment.
For me this raises a couple of questions………..
What would have been wrong with calling the manager or the waiter over to the table to inquire as to the whereabouts of the food and the delay?
Why was it necessary to tweet to everyone and not just the restaurant?
Why was it necessary to tweet at all?
Are there such things as twitter ethics and should we be looking at them?
Are we entitled to rip into things just because we can, does that make it okay to do?
Are you entitled to be a food critic just because you eat food?
Are we becoming hyper-critical just because we can be or have we always been this way and now it is just easier to moan to a wider audience and bring someone else down?
I am just putting these questions out there in the ether, it isn’t my intention to actually answer them so please don’t hold your breath waiting for the answers. I don’t have the answers. However it is my feeling that discussion is needed. Whether it is a murder trial or bad service in a restaurant, a lousy driver or a radio presenter saying something you don’t like, just because you have an opinion, do you need to voice it? I was brought up with my mum saying, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”, is this an outdated ethic or just a modern dilemma?
The question can also be asked of the restaurant……………..
Why wasn’t the waiter communicating with the client about the food delay?
Why was there such a delay?
And indeed if your clients are waiting over an hour for their food, are you running your restaurant properly?
Maybe your staff need a little training in customer relations?
These questions, whilst I have posed them, are not pertinent to the subject of this blog and maybe will tackle them at a later date……………..maybe.
In the meantime every restaurateur everywhere from Jozi to the world at large best jack up his service, his ambiance, his food, his decor, his sense of humour and thicken his skin because everyone’s a critic