The question is often asked, “What do restaurateurs feel about critics?”. The truth is that it depends on who it is and what they have written. Ask Claude Bossi about bloggers and he will have flashbacks of going on a Twitter rant after one of them reviewed his restaurant.
In a number of ways the restaurant industry is different to most others. It is one of the few that can gives previous offenders a second chance. Whilst rehabilitating, many prisoners learn the ways of the commercial kitchen. This is a good thing as it provides a future to some who are not given one. In another way it is also a reflection of the type of environment a professional kitchen can be. Ex-prisoners are possibly more resistant to the sometimes abusive nature of the kitchen brigade. Restaurant kitchens can be harsh place where tempers can be short.
Anthony Bourdain wrote in depth about the people and the place in his book “Kitchen Confidential”. As preparation for his role in “Chef” Lenny Henry experienced the kitchen of John Burton-Race. Here is a man who has a reputation for his temper and for sometimes throwing pans at people. The angriest chef? We can relate this to one man, Gordon Ramsay. Gordon used the F word more than 100 times in one epsiode of Kitchen Nightmares. This comes from strong opinions and very precise standards.
Now, in walks the critic. You can understand how some feathers could get ruffled if the owner doesn’t agree with what is written about him. AA Gill, first name A, a critic for the Times was physically ejected from one of Ramsay’s restaurants. He said of Gordon “a wonderful chef, just a really second-rate human”. The lot of the professional critic is not an easy one. They often get accused of judging from a position where they have no professional expertise.
So what about the amateur critic? Bloggers, review site writers and Tweeters have all got on the wrong side of the hospitality community. How about someone who tries to use the threat of a bad review as a way of getting better service or extra stuff on the back of it?
One enterprising individual in the USA came up with ReviewerCard. The idea is that you flash this thing at staff and you get a lot of grovelling. It’s inventor Brad Newman dreamt up the card to try and boost the service offered to him and his potential members. Speaking from the restaurant side of the line, I think Mr Newman and his gang will get a boost, probably onto the pavement. Blackmail is not cool even if it is a bit of plastic.