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Pour it like you hate the owner

  • m

Last night a member of our group overrode one of our restaurant picks for dinner because
he despised the owner - he doesn't really know him personally, just by reputation through friends (supposedly not the nicest guy). This is a long-standing NYC place that has great food and good service.

ANOTHER pick was also overrode because one of our group "on more than once occasion" had witnessed the general manager of this establishment publicly dressing down an employee on the sidewalk in front of the people sitting on the patio (with words like "You're an effing idiot"). This place is also an NYC institution and the GM has been in her position for years. The food is definitely good, service is eh.

I've seen the threads asking how important service is and whether that's enough to keep you coming back when the other parts aren't as thrilling. My question is, do CHers ever withhold their support of a place for a reason like disliking the people who manage or own it despite how good the rest of it may be?

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  1. I do. If I know the people who own/run the place to be not nice and/or that they treat people poorly, I'm not going to patronize the establishment. It falls under the "life is too short" rule for me; there are places where food is good and service is excellent and the people who own the places or run the places are also decent and treat their employees well, so I'll go to one of those.

    As a practical matter as a part of a group, its also not worth it to me to push a friend or group member on the point because I feel like if we were to go to such a place, if anything untoward happened, you're like to have that group member immediately say "see!" and that would just be annoying.

    1. Totally. If I know the owner/chef/manager is a jerk (I've worked in food service for years, word gets around) then I am definitely reluctant to go to the restaurant.

      1. Years ago, we had a regular place we went to every couple of weeks or so. One night we had 8:00 reservations for 10 people. We got there about 7:45 or so and they said for us to have a drink at the bar and our table would be ready shortly. Long story short, it was 9:30 before we were seated and 10 before we saw any food of any kind (bread, etc.) and when Dh addressed the issue with the owner, he said it was too bad for us that was the nature of the restaurant business. We have not been back and will not be back unless the place changes ownership.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          Please tell me you got up and walked out of there.

          1. re: bryan

            I was thinking the same thing, if managers/owners respond like that, it tells you about the whole place. I've also never understood waiting that long, especially when you have a reservation. Someone has a place you can go and order up some pizza or chinese take out or _something.

            1. re: ccbweb

              We did not walk out (though we should have) because of the people involved and in hindsight we definitely should have.

              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                Yeah...it is hard when you're in the moment. You always end up thinking "oh, it'll only be 10 more minutes."

                There is little worse to me than having to wait a long time for a reserved table. I get that turnover is hard to judge all the time and the restaurant might get thrown a curveball by a particular table.....but sheesh.

                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  Happened to me 20 years ago in NYC at Il Mulino. The maitre d'/manager was such a jerk, "It will only be a few more minutes." 7:00 reso with 9:30 seated. I do not care how good the food is, no way i am going back there and have nothing good to say to friends about this place. We got suckered into staying.

          2. Oh definitely. Ruth Reichl told one of her experience in her book about a place where the manager was very rude to the workers there who don't speak English well. I have a friend who told me about her experience with a very well reviewed local restauarnt where she felt she was not respected because of her ethnicity. I have high trust in this friend, and as a result have never gone to this restaurant.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PeterL

              When I was bussing tables in a restaurant near Lincoln Center in college, I was young, good looking, clean cut white guy, (and still am dammit!) but a busser (and a bad one) none the less, got every single random customer questions about the menu, while experienced servers, and clearly so, but not so Iowa looking, kept getting yelled at for water and bread. It made me feel really uncomfortable and I didn't stay there long.

            2. After working in food service for many years, I have a lot of patience with servers, seating delays, mistakes in my order, etc. What I have no patience for is rude people. If I know the owners of a restaurant to be mean to their staff or if I or someone I know well has had a bad run in with him/her, I will not patronize their business. You can always ask for a different section if there's a server you don't like. You can't replace management.

              1. Another emphatic yes here. A manager or owner can always have a bad day and be rude with staff, but if the treatment is abusive regularly, I'll take my business elsewhere. I shop the same way.

                2 Replies
                1. re: cheryl_h

                  I disagree. There is never a good excuse for treating a staff member rudely in front of customers. Take it to the back, out of ear shot. You will never have the respect of your staff if you treat any one of them badly in public. Fear is not respect.

                  1. re: Le Den

                    So true. I think some times restaurant managers forget that business is business. In my line of work (corporate desk job in retail marketing), if my boss treats me badly or with disrespect, I can always go over his head and complain to the VP or to the human resources department if necessary.

                    In a restaurant, if an owner or manager treats a staff member badly, who can they go to for support or to make it right? They have no recourse in a lot of situations.

                    I've no patience with people who do not respect their staff. Who do they think makes their business run and brings in their money?? I would have a hard time giving that man or woman any of my hard-earned cash by dining there a second time if I witnessed that sort of behavior.

                2. Absolutely. There is a restaurant owner/chef here in Louisville who operates a very successful business and (I've heard) turns out exceptional food. I know dozens of people who've been screwed over by this guy in one way or another, so we eat elsewhere, no matter how many stellar reviews the place gets.

                  1. Absolutely NEVER enter a resto of an owner who abuses staff. The Jfoods will never give a nickle to Gordon Ramsey or any of his ilk. I am glad to say i am on first names basis with the owner or manager at all my favorite restos. They are good people and good people who make good food get the Jfood biz.

                    5 Replies
                      1. re: mojoeater

                        jfood- something we agree on - fo'sho!

                      2. re: jfood

                        Most of the Gordon Ramsey thing is for show...he has some of the lowest turnover in the staff department, supposedly. The whole yelling thing is really stupid, though.

                        1. re: therealbigtasty

                          If it IS mostly for show, that makes him a bigger a**wipe in my book than if it's real. Exactly what purpose is served by putting on a "show" that makes him look like a tyrannical jack*?

                          1. re: mclaugh

                            I think there's a certain thing in the American psyche that likes to see a european chef acting like a jackass, maybe. Not entirely sure. But on his shows on the BBC he isn't nearly as screamy and goofy--actually pretty calm and straightforward, albeit blunt.

                      3. i've been in the business a long time. there are 3 chefs in this city whose doors i will never darken. i've worked with/for each of them at one time or another, and they act like monsters. there are plenty of other decent folks who are far more deserving of my business.

                        i once witnessed a manager reaming a server. she burst into tears and ran off the floor. the place was very busy, and i was surprised more people seemed to not notice. we were about to order (at the bar), but the whole thing made me feel so badly, i no longer wanted to stay. i explained to the maitre d' why we were leaving. he begged us to stay, but it felt too icky. i heard that manager got fired shortly afterwards, but i had no doubt he turned up elsewhere and continued his shameful behavior.

                          1. I totally agree... for the most part.... To use myself as an example, I consider myself to be a very good employer, very respectful and very tolerant and I think that my employees will tell you the same. I try never to loose my temper and I try to never loose my temper in front of customers, however, I must admit that I might be guilty once or twice. I'm not saying that you should tolerate this behavior if it is particularly offensive or frequent, however, do keep in mind that people get stretched and pushed beyond thier limits occassionally, especially in the restaurant business, especially in NY.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: harryharry

                              Ohh, this is such a juicy topic, and I love controversy!

                              It's called ETHICS. Unfortunately lots and lots of people in this world lack them. And the resto industry has LOTS of skeletons in the closet. I will try to avoid establishments that cheat, lie and steal. However, realistically this is difficult to do, especially given we can't see what goes on behind closed doors.

                              Unless we know spies ;)

                              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                Sorry harryharry, not responding specifically to you, just in general.

                                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                  No offense taken... cheating, lying and stealing are always unacceptable.

                            2. I have seen first hand poor treatment to staff from an owner or manager. If they're not nice people, and "genuinely" nice at that matter, I will not give them my money and have them have the satisfaction to have a power trip with the staff having to suffer. The Golden Rule in the restaurant business is "Be Nice to Others or I Hope your restaurant does poorly."

                              1. I would definitely avoid a restaurant in said situation. In the town I live, we have a local chef that is constantly given rave reviews, but being that I know how he treats his staff I refuse to support him. That being said, for some reason, I keep this to myself when it comes to this board(his restaurants always getting good recs.) It just does not seem right to me to dissuade some one from what may be a unique dining experience, do to my personal issues with the owners. However, in a more private situation, a friend perhaps, I WOULD dissuade them from going.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bethd127

                                  Interesting that someone mentioned ethics. I am a health care provider, and we had this same discussion on a professional forum lately. If you knew someone was the best surgeon in town, would you refer patients who needed surgery to her even though you knew she was a crook? Would you send your family? What would you say if your spouse said "I want to see Dr. Ahole, I hear she's the best surgeon in town?"

                                  Same question, different profession. I wouldn't give the crook any business, because I think bad business ethics translates to bad OR ethics. Similarly, a guy who treats his staff like s.... or is skimming from the top is bound to make bad judgements in the kitchen sooner or later.....