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Boston chefs bitter about those jerks on Chowhound

From the latest issue of Stuff at Night, a Boston lifestyle biweekly, a piece entitled "What's Cooking?" that interviews eight Boston-area chefs:

"Rebecca Newell (chef at The Beehive): What sucks a little bit about the foodies is that sometimes they have no idea what it takes to put together some of the items and put the menu in a streamlined [manner]. Beehive is known for an eclectic menu, but how to string it all together and how to open up an 80-seat patio and have it collaborate with the menu inside and have two different things going? It’d be great if you published this because I would appreciate it, but someone said on Chowhound, “What kind of idiot is running Beehive kitchen?” And I was like, “You wanna try it on? You can come in and wear this chef coat. You’ll cry in an hour.”
Will Gilson (Garden at the Cellar): That’s the other thing. Chowhound and Citysearch and things ike that make it so hard for you to feel as though you’re in control. For the longest time, it was just the reviewers in the city that were writing those articles. And now anybody can write whatever they want about you and it’s on there.
Mary Dumont (Harvest): You open your restaurant and, boom, up comes a blog.
Gilson: Yeah, up comes a blog [on] Chowhound that says, like, “I went there and everything sucked.” And it’s like, okay, that guy got fired that day, came, and had a really bad time. And now I’ve got to listen to this rant.
Newell: The guy that called me an idiot said, “I have never been to Beehive, but whoever’s running that kitchen must be an idiot.”"

I agree with Newell's comment that it's unfair to get criticized by someone who hasn't tried your restaurant; it's worth noting that the mods swiftly removed the "idiot" comment she's complaining about. But I have to shake my head at the "If you think it's so easy, you try it" comment. The issue most Hounds have with places they don't like isn't that *they* think they could do a better job, but that the chef's competitors are doing a better job.

I continue to be amazed at how restaurateurs overestimate the power of boards like this. If your place isn't full, it's not because some Chowhound bad-mouthed it: it's because of your failure to offer an experience of value equal to your competition. I'm not suggesting it's easy to "make a menu collaborate with the patio", but I don't believe a critic of any stripe can make a restaurant succeed or fail: at least not if you're not Frank Bruni.

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  1. A view from the other side of the fence. Chefs are lurking it seems. Although how could they do otherwise? They must be curious as to what people, other than critics, are saying about their restaurants and reading the negative remarks must be demoralizing for them when they think they are doing everything right. But you're correct, MC....when they look out into the dining room and see empty tables don't they consider why?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      There are places with fantastic food that have closed in half a year and some really awful tourist traps that've been open since the age of dinosaurs. Having good food isn't the only criterion for a good business.

      1. re: Gio

        If you have ever seen an episode of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares on BBCA, you'd know the answer. Some of these chef/owners are so completely egotistical and myopic, that they just really can't understand why everyone else doesn't LOVE the overcooked salmon with demiglace, and the side order of minute rice.

        But I do agree that it's ridiculous to read this board, and take away from it that the "commoners" just don't understand the business. I may not understand how to RUN a restaurant. But I certainly know what makes me not want to eat at one. Indifferent service, cold food, food that doesn't match what was described on the menu, high prices, etc.

        If anything, I think for some of these chefs, it's been too long since they went out to eat at a restaurant around here. They should try it sometime.

      2. When people make comments such as "idiot", it itends to erase the value of the rest of the content of chowhound posts (e.g. comments on course timing, meal prep, atmosphere, etc.). It's just a little defensive psychological tic most people have.

        What chefs need to realize with these blogs is that they are not a special persecuted class. Many people are now subject to 'public' review b/c of the internet, and it can be demoralizing (I say this from experience - I am in a profession that has websites where clients can review us).. They have to learn to use the comments when they are good, and discard the ones that are not helpful.

        If your restaurant is not full, you should be on Chowhound and other boards trying to figure out why, rather than shooting the messenger. Heck they are LUCKY to have this kind of feedback so that they can work to improve.

        1. Interesting article (it's at http://stuffatnight.com/boston/stuffa... for anyone who wants to read the full article). And I guess some of them don't realize that they've helped make CHers into better eaters - they've put the new, interesting foods out there, and CHers have helped spread the word about the good things going on at X restaurant(s).

          So yes - while there are always those that will say "I haven't been there, but won't go because I don't like the vibe of the place just from walking past it", they should also look to those that offer appropriate critical comments and potentially take the time to improve on what issues there might be - service, food, whatever. It sounds like some want to live in a little bubble - everything's rosy and wonderful - and aren't looking to why a restaurant isn't successful. If something isn't working, perhaps that should change vs. forcing people to accept what they (the chefs) think the public wants.

          Oh - and if chefs/owners *are* reading here? Perhaps they could tell their website designers to get RID of most of the the Javascript or slow-to-load websites. All the fancy bells and whistles, pop-ups, movey-scrolly things are just plain irritating - people want the main site, they want easy links to menus, location and hours. K.I.S.S. when it comes to websites, I say.

          13 Replies
          1. re: LindaWhit

            Linda, you have described one of my pet peeves to a Tee. Some of them even come with mood music. And for the nuisance and wasted time, I'll have to pay up for the owner to recoup the outrageous cost of website overkill. Tell me what you got and what it costs.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              Even worse are the purely Flash based websites. There are restaurants that I have not gone to because their website is done purely in (or grossly overuses) Flash. To me that is a sign that a business does not care about their customers and in a business like a restaurant where customer care is *everything*, then clearly something is lacking.

              1. re: jgg13

                That's probably what I meant instead of Javascript (can you tell I'm not a technogeek? LOL). My term "movey-scrolly things" meant Flash. :-D

                Yes - overuse of Flash is obviously the web designer charging too much for a useless website. As Veggo said - tell me what you got and how much it costs (and where you are and your hours). 'Nuf said.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Ah yeah - rereading your post, you're probably correct. This is likely to get whacked as I can't really think of any way to bring it back to food specifically but the primary problem with those sites are that the only reason to "overuse" it (things like Flash have their uses, but 99% of the time they're overused) is to break standard controls & operation on a site which from a usability standpoint is pretty poor.

                  The other issue is that not everyone actually can even *see* them. At work, I don't (and "can't" ... in that I *could* but it would be a mega hassle) have Flash so those sites are completely inaccessible to me ... if they did things in a more standard way I could actually see what they're trying to tell me.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Linda - the "movey-scrolly" stuff, is, indeed, called "dancing b***s**t" by the web creators. Its creative, yes, and entertaining, but doesnt really help the person who is going after information. They need to understand that people looking at their website want to see a) pictures of the restaurant, b) a map or at least an address/phone # and especially c) THE MENU. Make it easy, or they will go elsewhere.

                    1. re: Cheflambo

                      Yeah, but that's not INTERESTING to the web designers to just make a static website. So they oversell the "dancing b***sh**t" and the restauranteurs/owners fall for it.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        Depends on the web developer. Most of the ones I know are pretty no-nonsense and agree with all of the sentiments in this subthread, as well as make fun of the ones that we're talking about.

                        The real problem is the customer, they think the flashy (pun partially intended) sites are what they want and the uhh, less good developers are always happy to oblige.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          This has it all: pomposity, needless complexity, time-wasting flash, navigation that is anything but intuitive and that forced me to turn my head on its side, some of the tabs being barely legible. Speaks volumes about customer service.

                          It's just a deli, for Pete's sake! Gimme location, hours, contact, and menu! After I've found those things quickly and easily, maybe then I'll want to read all about your "story"!

                          1. re: Leonardo

                            Perfect example. Interesting how there's a "Cut the drama; let me in already" that's slotted 3rd or 4th in the flash after you FINALLY click on the "ENTER" button on the initial page.

                            And those book spine clickable tabs? Really bad.

                            I remember reading here on CH awhile back of a restaurant's website that has tons of flash - and if you happened upon it without knowing, you'd *never* know it was a restaurant. No clickable links after several minutes of flash (which you couldn't get out of without closing out of the site), and other than their flashy-flash tell-me-nothing pages, you got *no* information about the restaurant.

                            Anyone remember who/where that resto is/was?

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              A perfect example about how a Flashy (again, pun partially intended) site can go horribly wrong: A restaurant was opening up in Boston that had a lot of pre-opening and very early CH buzz. I tried to get my friends to go there with me - they went to the website. Unfortunately, they hired one of "those" web developers, lets just say that I've yet to get them to go because the website portrays a *completely* different image than that which they're trying to hit up.

                              This was totally based off a Flash spread of pictures which WEREN'T EVEN TAKEN AT THE BAR! Uh, good job guys, you lost yourself a bunch of very well paying customers when a CH was trying to rally the troops!

                            2. re: Leonardo

                              This is one of the things that I love about Yelp and menupages.com. Between the two of them, I can get every last bit of info I actually care about w/o actually going to the overproduced (by martin hammet take four, if anyone gets that reference) website.

                              1. re: Leonardo

                                Agreed, but it IS missing sound. I had pop-ups blocked, so I know I missed something good....

                                1. re: Scargod

                                  I completely agree with the comments about websites!

                                  1) I want to see the MENU! Prices are a very nice touch. And Pictures of the menu items are a big bonus
                                  2) Location and Directions and Hours
                                  3) Contact for reservations

                                  THATS IT!! Leave out the rest of the flashy stuff.

                  2. With blogs and boards, everyone has opinion. I understand how it can annoy chefs to read unflattering things from arm chair quaterbacks. Everyone's a critic ya know. But on the positive side a restaurant can gain a lot of business from a positive buzz about their establishment. I would dismiss a few negative critics but if there was a pattern of negative comments then this could be a way for the restaurant to see what may to be improved. Companies spend a lot of money on focus groups and suggestion box analyzations and with blogs and boards they can get it for free. And we all know what value something free has.

                    1. I'm thinking the chefs are confused. They meant to say "Yelp". LMAO!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: HarryK

                        Without addressing the swipe at Yelp, there are some subtle differences between interaction of the businesses & the people on the site, which come down to the differences between the sites themselves (and to some extent the people using it).

                        On the negative side for Yelp, I've seen a general sense of "we have a profound affect on businesses, they're listening to us and must cater to us!" that I think is a serious delusion of grandeur (but perhaps I'm wrong) and to a level that I've never really seen here on CH.

                        OTOH, restaurant/biz owners definitely do interact with the Yelpers more (for better or worse) because they actually can. Here on CH I've seen a ton of posts get wacked by the Mods because an employee/chef/etc comes in to either defend and/or simply try to curry more feedback. CH also has no means (that I know of) to private message or otherwise contact someone unless they post an email address in their profile.

                        With Yelp it is different, you hear stories of the owners/chefs contacting people based on their reviews ... sometimes in a polite/constructive way and others in a manner that is more like that of a 5 year old child (which even further shows you that the place probably isn't worth frequenting). I've seen stories where people have been recognized by the staff due to their picture on their profile (since Yelp encourages "real pictures", something that I don't particularly care for but to each their own) ... again sometimes dealt with in a polite/constructive way and others very childish.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          yelp and chow are my 2 most visited/used/participated in sites. they have very different sensibilities, and are a great compliment to one another.

                          i'm far more social w/ the people on yelp , i find it more of a social review site, while chow is a discussion about food and food place by foodies

                          1. re: thew

                            100% agree. The two sites are in my top 2 sites which involve actual participation (I read some news sites/etc more frequently). They're both different in their own ways, have their good & bad points, have slightly diff goals. Its all good.

                      2. Am I the only one that chafes when the media refers to messages on Chowhound boards as "blogs?" I mean, I post on Chowhound, and I also write a (non-food related) blog. The two are very different things - the former incorporates my opinions into a hodgepodge of other opinions (some concurrent, others dissenting, others...well...incoherent), while the latter is my opinion, undiluted, for anyone who cares to listen (and I have dozens...yes, DOZENS of readers ;) ). This is what I think is the beauty of a site like Chowhound - the fact that there's always room for debate, and that one person NEVER gets the last word. Any yahoo (myself included) can start a blog and write as though their word is law, but Chowhound readers know who to trust and how to filter out the noise.

                        Am I being overly fussy about semantics here, or are we being misrepresented?

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Wahooty

                          No, you're right on, Wahooty, but don't expect to win this fight. As people have become more aware of the blogging phenomenon, they've also confused the concepts of blogs and message boards. I can hardly count the number of times I've seen people refer to their posts here on Chowhound as "blogs," or talk about posting on the boards as "blogging." So it's a a widespread problem, and I have a feeling that it won't be easily corrected.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            Oh, I don't expect to win - it certainly wouldn't be the first thing that drives me nuts that the rest of the world couldn't care less about. :) I just needed to know I wasn't alone - thanks, Caitlin!

                            Chowhound: it's not a mere blog - it's a support group for co-dependent anal-retentives like me. :)

                            1. re: Wahooty

                              I care, I care! I called it a blog above, and you both are absolutely correct in correcting me. I am a novice to the message board world, so please excuse my error. Of course, it has been driving my husband nuts for over 8 years that I still refer to DVDs as "tapes", so this could be an uphill battle for me.

                              1. re: Cachetes

                                Hee hee...Cachetes, I didn't even notice that you did it. :) My comment really wasn't targeted at you...just at those who write an article talking about the "buzz on the blogs" and proceed to quote (and, in the case of the Toronto board, MISquote) selected comments from a single Chowhound thread. I think it's a cop-out on both sides - it does CH a disservice, as well as making the story sound like it's been much better researched than it actually has.
                                Don't worry...I hear admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, so you're on your way. ;)

                            2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              It might not be winnable (some are, some aren't) but it definitely is something worth fighting for. But it is important to remember that we're in a world where there are still lots of folks who believe that "the internet" is the blue "e" on their windows desktop, so ...

                              Still, I'd think that someone in a position like a chef or owner would want to carefully note the differences between the different forms of internet media because they each have their own plusses and minuses, effects, etc. Perhaps I'm wrong and they just don't care but having the extra precision in their vocabulary could be the difference between them getting worked up over nothing and ranting in a newspaper article about "those durned blogs" and not.

                              But in general, the mish-mash and messed up terminology that shows up with internet stuff annoys me (and has been for decades now). The one that I see the most (I don't see the 'blog'/'message board'/'newsgroup' thing nearly as often) is using 'wiki' instead of 'Wikipedia' (wikipedia is a wiki - but only *one* out of a gajillion wikis out there)

                            3. re: Wahooty

                              It's annoying to me, too. I actually had a Boston-area chef who was unhappy about comments made about her place on Chowhound reach out to me at my Chowhound email and complain about "your blog". I responded that: a) Chowhound isn't "my blog", and b) I wasn't the one posting the unflattering comments she took offense to. I pointed out that Chowhound is not a blog, but an Internet bulletin board that she should look to as a valuable source of feedback, and to ignore the most hurtful, extreme-outlier criticisms. Being thin-skinned is not an asset in that business.

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  It's an email address I set up just for Chowhound-related correspondence; it's in my Chowhound profile under "Real Name".

                              1. re: Wahooty

                                I, too say right-on (but I don't blog). Here we discuss and disagree. Occasionally the moderators get a little heavy-handed and throw out the dishes with the dishwater, if you will... but, all-in-all I think we are allowed to debate and counter mis-information. I don't think it takes long to sort out who you find credible, either. Sometimes someone will say something like, "end of story" and look how fast they are to be corrected!

                                1. re: Wahooty

                                  Nope. You are not being fussy. It drives me crazy. "Blogging" is the current buzzword. People know that it's a "phenomenon" but don't really know what it is, so they just throw the term around randomly. Of course, when I want to apply for a job that requires blogging experience, I'll probably feel quite differently. Do my thousands of posts on Chowhound -- and on newgroups before there were web-based message boards before that -- count?

                                  One major difference: people beyond your close circle of friends and your mother will actually read your post on chowhound.

                                2. Communities like Chowhound haven't actually changed how restaurants create and maintain their reputations, it just happens much faster. Word of mouth has always been essential to restaurants [or any service business actually] and can make or break a new business. A site like Chowhound amplifies the word of mouth to a self-selected group that want good food and good value.

                                  Posters who call chefs idiots and proclaim restaurants awful but haven't eaten there are ignored in the same way that the loud-mouth at the water cooler was ignored when s/he proclaimed Denny's as the best restaurant in town pre-internet.

                                  I would think that sites like Chowhound give chefs and owners honest feedback from real customers in ways that have never been possible before. Chowhound is a passionate focus group without a fee, and I wish it was viewed as another touchstone towards excellence.

                                  1. Oh, boo hoo wah. If your restaurant sucks, the problem isn't that those meanyheads on the interwebs are telling other people that your restaurant sucks, the problem is that YOUR RESTAURANT SUCKS. But blaming Chowhound is a quick and simple way of absolving yourself of all responsibility for your own failings, so I can see why they're fond of it.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                      I found one comment to be particularly telling - the bit about how he figured a "this place sucks" review would come from someone who had a bad day. I feel like this sort of attitude is on the rise - I've come across a lot of service professionals who seem to think that any sort of negative reaction on the part of the patron is the fault of the patron and not a reaction to poor service on their part (e.g. a bad tip implies the person was cheap, not the waiter being crappy)

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        Yeah, I can understand that reaction on the waitstaff's part.

                                        For me, the analogy is that everyone thinks they're a safe driver; otherwise, they'd drive differently. Similarly, I suspect most waitstaff think they're good enough for good tips (otherwise, they'd drive differently), so are surprised at low tips (and look for some external reason: kitchen mistake, crappy customer, weather).

                                        1. re: enhF94

                                          And the final kicker is that I suspect most customers think they're good customers/tippers and so are surprised if the staff aren't tickled pink at whatever request they make. The cycle is complete.

                                          1. re: enhF94

                                            I dunno - maybe I'm more self-aware (or self-critical) than many, but when I waitressed, many many years ago, I was well aware of when I was off my game, and fully able to distinguish between times when I was tipped poorly for a poor performance and when I was tipped poorly for no evident reason.

                                      2. The restaurant industry wants it both ways. They want the "buzz" and the traffic from good word of mouth, without the brutally honest criticism that will come when things don't go well. While I agree no one Chowhound review can make a new restaurant, a few reviews on a few sites do have a cumulative effect and WILL influence others to try it. But then you have to take the good with the bad... it can't be all roses and sunshine. That's simply not the reality of the restaurant experience, most especially for a new place working out the kinks.

                                        I'd have to hope that any industry person taking the time to read Chowhound would also take the time to gauge which posters here give feedback worth incorporating into their business. Yeah, there's a lot of hot air blown around, and there's also some uninformed opinions, but there are some people here who really know their shit and are willing to give them that feedback for free. It seems to me that a restaurant owner/chef/manager would be shooting him/herself in the foot by not at least bothering to pay attention to what posters like MC and Limster have to say.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Chris VR

                                          Another point- the chefs in that article are lauding how much better informed Boston diners are these days.... well, at least speaking for myself, the Internet is a BIG part of that. I'm so much more better informed both about food and restaurants as a result of reading Chowhound and similar sites. Being better informed is a dual edged sword- diners are better able to appreciate unique ingredients and preparations, but we also feel more confident about saying "this is NOT good" when a chef makes a stumble on a menu item.

                                          Again, you have to take the bad with the good, but I really do think the good that internet sites like Chowhound does for the restaurant business far outweighs the bad.

                                          1. re: Chris VR

                                            As to the restaurant industry wanting it both ways, no restuarant is universally loved. Often I'll wait two months to evaluate a joint ... it is almost clockwork ... the place with the raves on day one ... two months later come the posters who start saying ... eh, not so much ... then we go through a naysaying period.

                                            And visa versa ... bad open ... two months later usually come the positive reports.

                                            It's easier to evaluate the places that have mixed reviews on day one.

                                            So if a restaurant catches the negative swing of the pendulum the forget the good and that the pendulum will swing again.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              People can be fickle, no doubt about it, but I think this cyclical theory is more due to the restaurant itself. People clamor to a new restaurant; wait in line to get in, hoping that it is the new mecca. If it is too unusual they don't return. Disillusioned, they go back to the norm of what they know and are comfortable with. Sometimes there's a buzz that lasts.
                                              But month to month I think it is the owner, manager or chef taking their eye off the ball (have you ever been hit in the head when you did that?) with complacency, internal strife or turnover. Then it gets back on track again. I remember having dinner at a top-rated, big city place where the owner was on a long honeymoon overseas; I thought it was nowhere near my previous experience or the norm.

                                        2. This is a great thread for the Boston area. There are so many factors in play that no one can place blame.

                                          First, growing season! We're in Massachusetts. (i've avoided the Taxachusetts tag because food and politics don't mix). The growing season is from April to October. July is a great month in the Boston area. Lots of fresh ingredients available for local restaurants. But local chefs often don't know what to do with local produce. In Boston, local chefs look for quick hits, big sellers. Until Boston cooks ( I can't even call them chefs at this point.) understand what is available,what is fresh, and what they can cook, Boston will always be a 3rd rate food town,

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: jjbourgeois

                                            This is somewhat OT, but I think you're being a bit harsh. Now that I live in Denver, even though I appreciate the dining scene I've got now and am enjoying watching it grow even as we speak, I look back at Boston with longing for chefs who were truly ahead of the curve.

                                            But then, the "Boston's not as good as NY or SF" criticism's been leveled forever. Whatever. You don't have to like to Oringer or (granted, now-departed) Nevins or Shire or Sortun or Adams or Schlesinger or anyone else, but to equate them with home cooks is IMO off-base.

                                            1. re: tatamagouche

                                              PS. Not to denigrate home cooks in the least.

                                              1. re: tatamagouche

                                                Yeah, it probably is harsh, but I am a jerk with high expectations. If you're going to charge me $25-$35 dollars, it better exceed what I can cook at home and the service better be exceptional. Quite simply, put up, or go out of business.

                                                Boston as a food town. Some high points, a lot of low points. I've essentially given up on eating in Boston. Very few places are worth the money. Chefs should be reading Chowhound to see what customers think of them.

                                                1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                  I'll grant you that moving to Denver was a lesson in value. I actually probably stupidly spend more now because food (not wine, oddly) seems so cheap by comparison I order everything in sight.

                                                  1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                    "Very few places are worth the money" - It seems you are talking about the higher end places serving $25-$35/entrees? Because to me, a lot of the under $10/entree ethnic places are well worth the money. Are the same dishes perhaps better in San Fran, New York, etc? Quite probably, but that does not mean they are not a value in Boston or otherwise.

                                                    1. re: Dax

                                                      Thing is, places that serve $25-35 entrees constitute the minority of restaurants in Boston. Based on such a selected and small sample it would be very difficult to draw conclusions about an entire city's dining scene that consists of places that costs $5 or less for a meal, to those that cost >$100.

                                                    2. re: jjbourgeois

                                                      >>If you're going to charge me $25-$35 dollars, it better exceed what I can cook at home and the service better be exceptional.

                                                      >>Quite simply, put up, or go out of business.

                                                      Eggzactly, jjbourgeois.

                                                      Or how about $50. or $100. or $150., and think I should be 'grateful' to you (the chef) for having 'allowed' me to dine at your restaurant? Or 'bothered' you (the server) to wait on me?

                                                      I wonder why more restaurants and more customers don't believe and expect exactly what you have written?

                                                2. I continue to be amazed at how restaurateurs overestimate the power of boards like this.

                                                  My take is similar but...not.
                                                  I continue to be amazed that other Chef's under estimate the importance of boards like CH.

                                                  23 Replies
                                                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                                                    I would be surprised if Chow had much to do with the success or failure of a restaurant. It's a pretty niche set of people who read through all of these posts and without a rating system, it is pretty hard for people to grasp whether something is really good or bad without a fair amount of research. So, I would say in the high-end foodie market, then yes, it might lead someone to go to Per Se instead of nobu and on the flip side, it might warn you of places that are REALLY bad, but that's about it.

                                                    For making most of my dining decisions (hungry now, what is close by and good?), Yelp is much more useful.

                                                    1. re: eternalX

                                                      I agree that CH really does not have a whole lot to do with the success or failure iof high end restaurants. It is, however, much more usefil when I am looking for local, non-chain places that are good, economical and unusual. For that purpose, CH is excellent. It still does follow the CH manifesto, pretty much.

                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                        I like to say that I like CH to read about stuff I didn't know existed and I like Yelp to find out about stuff I do know exists. I find it much easier to parse through the reviews on Yelp about a place that I want to know what the buzz is, but I find it much easier to discover new places on CH.

                                                      2. re: eternalX

                                                        One restaurant owner in my neighborhood once told me that it was largely the early and enthusiastic promotion of his place on CH that kept him from going under in the first few weeks.

                                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                            As long as the "early and enthusiastic promotion" was coming from people not associated with the restaurant, I think that's a real success story. If a great small business without the marketing resources of most of the restaurants cited in that article is having business funneled to them by sites like Chowhound, then that's a win-win situation. We get great food, they get great business, everyone's happy.

                                                            But if the restaurant was putting out bad food, early bad reviews are going to be a big wake up call. The people who invested time and money in this business need to figure out how to do it right if they want to succeed, and they need to figure it out fast. Before the internet, such restaurants could have limped along for a while, but was that really better than a quick and fast mercy killing? I guess it's because I'm a real fan of ripping the band aid off, but if it were my business getting panned, I'd want to make a decision about how I'd deal with that (close or revamp what's not working) right away, rather than stringing the pain (and the negative cash flow) along for months.

                                                          2. re: eternalX

                                                            I wasn't suggesting CH had any thing to do with the success or the failure of a restaurant but I can see feed back here having an impact on small or new neighborhood establishments. As a Chef I use all of theese sites like any other tool. Some Chef's ignore this stuff and others simply are unable to sort out the BS from the genuine reviews. I've read plenty of negative stuff here and it was painfully clear in some cases the poster had never actually been to the establishment. That's easy to ignore.
                                                            One thing I can say that I have found to be an absolute is that every Chef and restauranteur I have ever known that ignores feedback or thinks their guests are idiots is destined for failure.

                                                            1. re: Docsknotinn

                                                              Bravo Chef! Any good restauranteur or chef should embrace the Marshall Field's theory of customer service/complaints & I emphasis that to every new owner/operator/manager/chef that I work with. Fields' said that the people that really hurt you are the ones that don't voice their complaints because they don't give you the opportunity to learn and improve. A smart owner/chef would use these sites as a tool, as you do. I'd evaluate the negative comments and use the ones with merit to improve my food or service. I'd use the positive comments to keep my staff motivated to keep up the great work. I'd also reach out to the unhappy people and let them know that I appreciate their observations & am working toward or have corrected the problems. It's amazing how a little appreciation and honesty can turn an unhappy Guest into a customer for life. Of course, you can't please everyone. Afterall, CH and blogs are for people to express their opinion & you know what they say about opinions - they're like a-holes, everyone has one! Cheers!

                                                              1. re: oldbaycupcake

                                                                It's really a problem of background and training. Most chefs (and restaurateurs, generally), don't have training in customer service principles. When I was in training to work for Williams-Sonoma, they emphasized that every customer who has a bad experience will tell an average of 20 people. And that was before the internet. Now, obviously, that one bad experience can be passed on to literally millions of people and can come back to haunt for many years.

                                                                Many people who own or run independent restaurants have no background in customer service, even though they're in a business that depends almost entirely on how happy the customers are with their experience. I think many of them see the restaurant as existing to provide the chef a place to express his/her vision and to provide their employees (often their friends) with jobs, rather than as a place that exists first and foremost to serve their customers. And unfortunately, too many people buy into the notion that they should be grateful be to allowed to patronize this oh so cool and fabulous restaurant and that any dissatisfaction they may have with the experience is something that they deserve for not being able to appreciate the wonderfulness of the restaurant.

                                                                In the end, that's why chains are so successful: they understand that customer service is the key to their business.

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                  You know, your comment about the chef viewing things as a way to express their vision made me think along those lines ... I could definitely see that happening with chefs who view themselves as artists firsts and foremost.

                                                                  My experience with artists has been that you are not to disturb "their vision" - this causes problems in areas like web development because they want to force you to see things exactly like they want you to see them, but you might want your browser set to a different size, resolution different, use different fonts & color schemes, etc. My gf works in an artistic field (not computer/web related) and I see examples of that sort of thing all of the time.

                                                                  I could see the same being true of the more artistic chefs - obviously there's a pretty strong connection for a chef with cooking as art.

                                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                                    But restaurant chefs are different from other artists. They are unique among artists in that their creations are always intended to be enjoyed by someone else. There are the occasional idiosyncratic writers, composers, painters, film makers who create solely to fulfill a vision. We've all heard certain writers say they wrote a particular piece just for themselves, it would be great if someone else likes the work, but it was ultimately just for the writer him- or herself.

                                                                    Restaurant chefs, by contrast, create meal experiences that are always intended for an audience. So to be successful in their endeavor, they need to be able to rise above the emotional sting of negative reviews, and, as others have said, use that feedback to best advantage.

                                                                    1. re: racer x

                                                                      No doubt, but I'm sure there are some that "just don't get it"

                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                        ^ some that "just don't get it"
                                                                        they don't get jobs though. chefs must be pragmatic to a great degree. you might have the most lofty view of food, but when it comes down to it, lots of people want to eat a burger. so you make the best burger you can, and that's a greater part of what you serve. if you serve inaccessible food your place goes out of business or your boss fires you. it's also hard to see yourself as some kind of great artist when the reality is that you're peeling 25# of carrots for an hour, mopping out a walk-in refrigerator, rotating cases of whole chickens, washing bus tubs in a triple sink. no matter what the FN shows look like, being a chef is more schlepping than anything else. a salesman can fancy himself a poet and scribble away on the subway for years before he publishes a poem, but the reality of being a chef is that people must consume your work immediately and consistently and over a long period of time, otherwise it's useless. unlike the poets and painters who may lock their masterpieces away in a trunk until they're discovered twenty years later, a chef's work *has* to be popular rather than personal, because if nobody wants his/her creation, it rots in the fridge.

                                                                      2. re: racer x

                                                                        as mario batali said

                                                                        "however great the meal, tomorrow it's poop"

                                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      I do train new owners/operators/chefs for five different national brands. Customer service is a big part of that training. Handling customer complaints and the importance of soliciting them is a big part of the training. After reading these posts, I'll be adding a section to cover the importance of reading boards/blogs and how to best use the information to improve their business.

                                                                      1. re: oldbaycupcake

                                                                        How progressive of you, oldbaycupcake.

                                                                        I sincerely salute you.

                                                                2. re: eternalX

                                                                  Yep - you hit the nail on the head. Chowhound is a place for people to do research so that they can independently figure out what and where to eat or places and neighbourhood to explore (e.g. by looking for places that aren't mentioned at all). It's not about giving simple answers about where to eat.

                                                                3. re: Docsknotinn

                                                                  Wow. my comment was deleted because I mentioned Yelp was better at quick dining decisions.. awesome.

                                                                  1. re: eternalX

                                                                    You mean the one from 12:23p.m. that's...um...still there?

                                                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                      I think CH is/was having some of their off and on server load issues. I've seen posts of mine disappear and then reappear the next time I look at hte page a minute later. Add in the multiple 500 errors, the hanging I get when clicking on 'reply' or 'Post My Reply', etc and it makes a bit of sense.

                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                        Yea, i refreshed a few times and it wasn't here. So maybe it is a load-balancing issue. Or maybe they undeleted it. who knows.

                                                                        1. re: eternalX

                                                                          There seems to be a latency problem, with some posts taking a while to show up. it's been discussed quite a lot on the Technical Help board.

                                                                4. I do hope that the chefs will learn to take the comments on this board in stride. I've seen some negative comments I might present in a different tone but, for the most part, I still choose and prioritize my restaurant choices by word-of-mouth. I know my friends' tastes better than I do our fellow Chowhounds and I also understand that many factors can contribute to a bad night or bad service at a restaurant - whether new or long established.

                                                                  I do also hope that these same chefs take some of the praise or the constructive criticism from the members of this board into consideration. I would love to see them participating in some of the conversations and speaking to the challenges they face catering to local tastes, finding consistent quality suppliers, staffing, etc.

                                                                  1. I can sympathize where they're coming from since many blogs/posts are blatantly inflammatory and not necessarily written with constructive criticism in mind. They're giant, flaming all-caps tirades that give little insight beyond - "I just hated my meal and the experience sucked." I'm not a pro reviewer, and I don't write or deconstruct my experience the same way, but many chefs could to learn to take any criticism better. At the heart of it - all reviews, inflammatory or not, is feedback, and all chefs should be able to take something away from it, and decide if they want to make changes or not.

                                                                    I think a "you try it" is a poor excuse. Yes, we all know chefs work ridiculous hours, and running a restaurant and kitchen is hard work all around, and it's a labor of love for most. But many jobs require hard work and dedication, and if I gave a "you try my job for a day" to my manager or customer during my performance review, I would've been out of work years ago.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: kobuta

                                                                      Agree fully w/ your second paragraph. I wouldn't be good at what they do, for a variety of reasons - one being that I wouldn't be able to put up with the customers ;) But that's why I don't work in that industry, or any service industry. If they're going to work in that field, they know exactly what bad comes wtih the good - so if they don't like the whole package, they're likely in the wrong industry.

                                                                      There are plusses and minuses to every job, I've never particularly understood the sort of attitude that you're talking about - if someone didn't like everything that comes with a job, perhaps they could just go do something else?

                                                                    2. Actually Rebecca, what 'sucks' (and more than just a little bit) is the food coming our of your kitchen. Surely running a kitchen is difficult, but as they say if you can't stand the heat...

                                                                      I can I can empathisize with the feeling of not ‘being in control’; however IMO while there are outlying posts in both directions, the advice on CH is generally fair and honest. The Garden has continued to step up their game and if anything CH has helped get the kind of local, loyal, regular and recurring customers a place like that needs.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Gabatta

                                                                        ["Beehive is known for an eclectic menu, but how to string it all together and how to open up an 80-seat patio and have it collaborate with the menu inside and have two different things going? ]

                                                                        Well, that's the problem isn't it? Sometimes hounds sniff out bad execution, but sometimes hounds also sniff out bad concepts. It is no doubt incredibly difficult to pull this off, because it may also just be a bad idea.

                                                                      2. I think some chefs would do well to pay more attention to comments on this board, rather than dismiss them by the power of their own egos. But that said, there are a number of blowhards lurking here who feel empowered to rant. Comments like "xyz restaurant sucks," aren't helpful to anyone and simply betray the woeful ignorance of the poster. Like it or not, having a positive versus negative experience at a (popular or respected) restaurant is more a matter of odds, and chefs do or should realize that for a hundred happy diners who go on with their lives, there will be one unhappy one who will instantly post on five sites. I'm a chef, for those who haven't guessed it - and the moderators are well aware - and I read simply awful things about my restaurant on this site once in a while. I take them more to heart than I should, but I always feel that if one person has a bad experience, then something can be improved. It is funny, though, how most criticisms are so far off base. Chowhounds should realize what they reveal about themselves in their posts. Welcome to the public arena.

                                                                        16 Replies
                                                                        1. re: almansa

                                                                          I think, though, that Chowhound far more than Yelp, Citysearch, etc. does a fair job of policing itself. I've never known someone to make a blanket statement like "X sucks" without someone else calling the OP on it: Why does it suck? What didn't you like? People become devotees of this site precisely for the sense that its community seeks knowledge, not just opinion.

                                                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                            Well said! I've never been able to boil down the difference between a site like Yelp and Chowhound nearly as well as differentiating between knowledge and opinion. I find that sites that produce individual reviews are much less useful than those that open up a discussion. I go on a site like Yelp (or a site I visit more often (for hotels) -- Trip Advisor) and I read half a dozen reviews that all read like they were about a different establishment. Which leaves me with no more useable information than I started with.

                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                              I sort of think a site like chowhound gets taken more seriously by businesses just for that point. It is a more serious discussion about the food rather than a bunch of drop and run comments.

                                                                              Though I finally figured the way to do some discussion on Yelp. Often other posters refer to other reviews and how wrong or right another review is. Since endless updating to a post is allow, there's some give and take. It's not as dynamic though.

                                                                            2. re: tatamagouche

                                                                              It's less the blatant ``this restaurant sucks''; ``worst meal ever'' thing that's the problem - we can all see through that. (Although CHers often tend to anoint mediocre restaurants for their intangibles, or because one poster is over-the-top enthusiastic.) It's the vague distaste for a fine, popular restaurant that starts with a couple of posters and ends up spreading to grey a good reputation as if with a dank layer of mold. There are posters who are offended by price in a way that is sometimes inappropriate. There are knee-jerk contrarians. There are antelope-herds of me-toos. There are people who had one dull meal at a place in its earliest days and continue to bear a grudge against the restaurant for years. And I don't think any amount of policing would help.

                                                                              The biases on Yelp are actually easier to read, and while it may not be useful as a consumer guide, it does catch the zeitgeist of a restaurant somewhat better than Chowhound tends to.

                                                                              1. re: condiment

                                                                                I'll take the more staid Chouhound wisdom of a few more years and a few more inches on the waist rather than the biases and usually immature "zeitgeist" that comes from Yelp.

                                                                                1. re: Scargod

                                                                                  I'm with you, Scargod. I'm not sure, condiment, what you mean by "the biases on Yelp are actually easier to read"...but I don't find anything on Yelp easier to read, especially given the average Yelper's grasp on punctuation. Snark aside, as many have already said here, the room for discussion that CH offers rather than the litany of talking points Yelp offers suggests to me the opposite: I can actually query a given poster re his/her potential agenda much more easily.

                                                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                                                    Actually, I'd never quite separated it out that way. Yelp is for people in their 20s; Chowhound skews more 30s-40s; egullet is more 40s-50s...

                                                                                    And I've got to say, I have not even a twinge of nostalgia for usenet.

                                                                                    1. re: condiment

                                                                                      Some of us still read usenet more than web boards :)

                                                                                      The one food group I still read, ne.food is pretty much dead now though.

                                                                              2. re: almansa

                                                                                It wasn't hard to figure out that you're industry, almansa; I've found many of your posts a real education.

                                                                                I've also had discussions with restaurant owners whose basic position on *any* kind of public criticism is that it's just wrong: "Negative critiques take money out of the pockets of my hard-working employees", and "Most people that offer up these criticisms know nothing about how a restaurant works, so they have no right to criticize." This, of course, is the oldest canard in the book: the creators always hate the critics, especially the unflattering ones, and use the specious argument that if you're not doing what they're doing yourself, you have no business critiquing them.

                                                                                That is flat-out ridiculous, in my book: there are scores of very useful, trustworthy critics who have no hands-on background in the fields they write about (think film, art, music, etc.) Jonathan Gold came up as a music writer, and he won a well-deserved Pulitzer last year for his restaurant reviews for the L.A. Weekly. He writes beautifully, he's a passionate and fearless diner, and he's fiercely commited to the work. That's enough for me to read, admire, and highly value his critical opinions.

                                                                                Even if I didn't have considerable (if now long-stale) industry experience myself, I would reject the critics-should-shut-up-if-they're-not-industry argument. I think it helps to have spent some time in a professional kitchen and/or various FoH roles, but it's not essential to your ability to offer a defensible opinion on whether a restaurant is delivering the goods from a diner's perspective.

                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                  This is a common problem in a lot of areas, I think. People feel that anyone who doesn't do creative endeavor X is unqualified to critique X. But whether we're talking restaurants, movies, music, books or anything else, the creator isn't making those things for fellow practitioners, they're make them for the audience. And the audience is very much qualified to critique based on what they do and don't like.

                                                                                  I used to teach workshops in evaluating speeches for new Toastmasters, and the point that I always started my workshop with was that while they might be new Toastmasters, and inexperienced speakers, they had certainly seen many speeches over the years -- from televised political speeches to wedding toasts to business presentations. As such, regardless of their level of skill as a speaker, they were already expert audience members and totally qualified to comment.

                                                                                  It's the same for discussion of restaurants here and elsewhere. I may not know what it takes to run a restaurant (my restaurant experience is limited to two summers spent waiting tables (badly) in a greasy spoon), but I've sure as hell eaten in thousands of them, which more than qualifies me to comment on what shows up on my plate.

                                                                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                    Yes. And not only am I qualified to judge as the audience, but I'm paying for it. While my bad review may (but probably won't) take money out of the pockets of their hard working employees, the bad experience I had at their restaurant took my hard-earned dollars out of my pocket. I took a much bigger economic hit than they did! Considering that I don't do a full-blown restaurant meal very often, a bad meal is also a wasted opportunity, and not wasting eating opportunities and money on bad meals is one of the reasons Jim founded Chowhound in the first place.

                                                                                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                    I agree. Like I said, chefs should get out of their publicity shells and see what the world really wants, and Chowhound is a wonderful resource for getting to know the zeitgeist. I'm in a unique position in that I offer food ranging from the most mundane to some of the most (choose flashy adjective here) in Boston. Guess what sells? And it was a prolific hound that said I really suck with no explanation. I didn't lose sleep over it, but I did take it to mean we screwed one up, and I hate to ever see that. I also took it to mean that that person won't be back to see that, at least in my opinion, we don't suck, or certainly try hard not to. As for having thousands more potential critics now: it doesn't bother me. It is greater pressure knowing that any screw-up could end up on Chowhound or Yelp or whatever, but that should just make chefs more careful than ever. If you can't stand the heat...

                                                                                  3. re: almansa

                                                                                    I agree that having a positive versus negative experience at a 'respected' restaurant with a good track record is more a matter of odds than anything. However I would not necessarily apply this reasoning to all 'popular' resturants. There are some which are popular maybe due to a location, bartending or buzz around their "scene", etc.; however the food is just plain old consistently mediocre (for whatever reason). CHs will call these places out, and it is one of the reasons this site is so valuable to me.

                                                                                    The argument that "Your negative critique takes money out of the pockets of my hard-working employees" is frustrating at best. Restaurants are businesses. Welcome to the real world. If run my business poorly, both my employee and I will be looking for a new job.

                                                                                    1. re: Gabatta

                                                                                      I think you've put your finger on something that is a new source of frustration for the industry. I think for a long time that a restaurateur with good marketing chops could create an enduring image for his place through careful, clever, well-funded marketing. One of the great values that Chowhound delivers from my perspective is rapid piercing of those hype-inflated bubbles, pointing out the disparity between the image ("cool hipster hangout") and the reality (well-heeled, older yuppies in popped collars sipping $11 cocktails).

                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                        "I think for a long time that a restaurateur with good marketing chops could create an enduring image for his place through careful, clever, well-funded marketing. "
                                                                                        Or living on past glories and fame. See: Anthony's Pier 4 or The Barking Crab.

                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          The zagat syndrome. Once positively mentioned ... forever lauded.

                                                                                          At least a place like Chowhound gives restaurants a new chance every day to prove themselves. It's not like a bad media review that sticks with a place for years ... or a good review that long outlives the reputation.

                                                                                          On Chowhound, the restaurant is as good as the people who recently ate there think it is.

                                                                                  4. if only restaurant insiders are fit to eat or judge your food or restaurant, then only serve restaurant people. If you are happy to serve, and take money from the public it behooves you to listen to that public. I'm not saying one needs dumb down their menu before the weight of popular opinion, but to live off people and then poohpooh their opinion is the worst sort of elitist hypocrisy.

                                                                                    I hope any chef who thinks this way never offers their opinion on anything other than food, ever to anyone. I mean how can you tell me what music you like, if you don't work for the philharmonic?

                                                                                    1. I can imagine how tough it is to be a successful chef and then feel like people are being unfairly critical. After all they are human and rely on a staff and have many variables that affect success. Sometimes they think they are creating something unique and pushing the limits of gastronomy, only to have it rejected. As a creative, artistic person I hate to fail or face rejection. So, I don't think many people are cut out to be creative, manage a kitchen and trudge onward, regardless of the comments.

                                                                                      I think there are enough owners and chefs paying attention to places like CH (with CH being the most credible), that what we say does matter. I have talked to, or communicated with, several owners, who, on one hand, listened and worked to fix or improve weaknesses, while another was calling me ignorant.

                                                                                      Restaurants are not like Robert Parker wines, where suggesting you buy a wine 'cause he gave it a 93 is likely to be a sure thing. Even Bruni and others will give a restaurant second and fourth chances if they think it has enough potential. I cut restaurants a lot of slack for occasional bad service or the occasional bad dish. Shit happens and people are human. I think I said that already. I am not one to condemn a Q joint becase the brisket was not melt-in-your-mouth for that one meal I had. Yet, you cannot have a succesful restaurant without consistency and you can hardly blame a CH'er for saying so if they were there on an off period.
                                                                                      Like was mentioned, it doesn't hold much water to say, "you don't know how tough this is" when others are doing it right and making it work. It's like blaming traffic for being habitually late, when others get to work on time.
                                                                                      Lastly, chefs and owners do get on CH. I don't know how much. I've read a post, addressed to me before CH moderators cut it. I've seen rants (which usually get removed, as well) that surely were posted by unhappy people who thought that some customers were scumbags (who us?) and needed to be pitched on the street or chased with a sharp implement.
                                                                                      So how many are lurking and how many try to reverse negative comments with their positive ones? Who are shills? Some seem fairly obvious but I think they are more likely to occur on other forums that are essentially unmoderated.
                                                                                      As Bush and chefs will tell you: "This is hard work!" For us CHowhounders it may be, as well. We don't get paid, yet we go out there and eat the good with the bad and report on it. We have to be vigilant that Chowhound maintains a reputation for fairness, "goodness" and quality, just as we expect of fine restaurants or taco stands.
                                                                                      All in all, I think it's good for the industry to get the feedback and they must discriminate what is worth listening to.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Scargod

                                                                                        Diligent moderating is essential to the value of this board. I think it's interesting that the chefs quoted in the article seemed to make little distinction between Chowhound and CitySearch, the latter of which is utterly useless precisely because it is rife with posts by shills, disgruntled former employees, people with very poor Internet etiquette, and quasi-insane ax-grinders.

                                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                          I was wondering when someone would get to that point. Citysearch is the biggest joke on the internet, after aol ... oh wait, they have owned citysearch for a while now ...

                                                                                          While my comments on Chowhound are far from disserations on the pros, cons, smells, tastes, etc of each restaurant I visit/dish i try, they're a little further removed from your average citysearch review that basically reads

                                                                                          "OMG LOL BoRDeR CaFe ROXXORS!11111!!!!!11111!!!!1111!!" or people complaining about aspects of service that are way off whack. A lot of the reviews on CS seem to be from people about 20 cards short of a full deck.

                                                                                          1. re: Dax

                                                                                            "OMG LOL BoRDeR CaFe ROXXORS!11111!!!!!11111!!!!1111!"

                                                                                            Awesome. I'm going to go post that on Yelp.

                                                                                      2. I can see where the chefs and restaurant owners are overwhelmed by the number of opinions that have sprouted up. There is so much coming on and at such a fast rate, that people can be overwhelmed.

                                                                                        having said that, they need to adjust and making critical decisions about the opinions, see which ones to take into consideration, which ones to ignore. Separate the wheat from the chaff. And that is very difficult, especially if they see this new world as being an alien atmosphere.

                                                                                        I usually read the reviews online in bulk. With my home cities, I know many of the people speaking out about the restaurants, so I can calibrate my own expectations, depending on whether the reviewers are blowhards or not. The chefs obviously does not have that advantage. But if someone opens a review with "the chef is an idiot", my first reaction is that the reviewer is actually the idiot. I keep reading to see if he/she gives enough tangible evidence to justify the harsh criticism. Usually there isn't so I discard the review.

                                                                                        And yes, the people in the industry places way too much importance on our opinions. Kind of make me feel cocky that they feel that way, but it is so unrealistic.

                                                                                        1. i don't know-- i think that on the local boards there are many fair-minded posters who will go to the trouble of saying what works in an independent restaurant as well as what needs improvement, which would be very helpful for any chef or restaurant owner, taken with the normal grain of salt. i'm not so familiar with the boston area board, but i can't imagine that it's all meanies posting negative rants. when the post is the least bit piquing or informative, it's free buzz about your restaurant-- and if it's really all bad news perhaps you have some things to work on, and you've saved yourself a consulting fee.

                                                                                          i do however find some of the general discussion threads to be at times very anti-industry. while many/most regular posters on chowhound seem to put chefs, independent restaurant owners, and themselves on the same "team" in making, seeking out, and cultivating delicious foods; there is a vocal group who seem to have it out for anyone working in the restaurant industry. if a chef were to come to the site as a "tourist," & browsed some of the longer anti-industry threads (without putting these threads into proper context, mind), i could see her/him thinking the site was full of self-righteous diners who expect to have their heinies kissed in the course of an evening's service. the chip-on-the-shoulder folks are apt to have an "us (diner)" vs. "them (chef/owner/restaurant/server/bartender/busser/dishwasher)" attitude which imo these boston chefs, who don't sound very secure with their own concepts, may be picking up on and reacting to.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                            I see that in the volleyball board I am on. people will happily chirp away at what they perceive to be their own opinions but will turn hostile when ever someone of authority comes out and declares who he is and post something pertinent. kind of perverse if you ask me.

                                                                                            1. Thanks for pointing this out -- would never have seen it.

                                                                                              The negative comments by chefs surprise me because I see the "place X sucks" posts as a significant minority -- most CH posts I read either praise restaurants or provide a balanced report (great food, service needs work; or, salmon was overcooked, veggies were delicious). The posts tend to focus on steering people right at restaurants, so that even at places everyone agrees are mediocre, you'll find lots of posts saying, "But try the grape leaves, they're amazing."

                                                                                              Then again, lots of research shows that people tend to discount positive comments and dwell disproportionately on negative ones. I think that's what's going on here. In fact, the rare times I see out-and-out restaurant bashing, it's usually tempered by other posters saying, "I had a good experience at X, maybe you should talk to the management about what happened to you," or pointing out what's good at the restaurant.

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Pia

                                                                                                Perhaps this entire thread should be Emailed to the writer of the article or editor of S@N to counter the chefs' contentions in the article.

                                                                                                1. re: Pia

                                                                                                  True. And I often see people saying "did you talk to the manager before you came here and bashed them?" People on Chowhound love restaurants. We don't have it in for them -- we want restaurants to be good. That's why we're so disappointed when they're not.

                                                                                                  1. re: Pia

                                                                                                    It's true that objects of criticism often focus on the negative.

                                                                                                    I had one owner complain that I unfairly flayed his restaurants, that I had it in for him. I sent him copies of every post I'd made about his places on Chowhound over the past couple of years, pointing out that a small fraction were negative and that in the vast majority, I went out of my way to say something positive. Another one claimed I inflated his prices: I offered copies of my receipts and his own menus as a rebuttal to that one. I haven't heard back from either of these folks.

                                                                                                  2. Interesting discussion here. Was talking to a friend about it at lunch today (Mary Chung's in Cambridge). I mention this because I seriously doubt MC has someone on staff monitoring the board to see what is said about her place, she just goes about her business without caring what we hounds say. And she's been doing it for 30 years. On the other hand, if I was launching a restaurant like Hungry Mother (also Cambridge) I probably would look at what kind of feedback was out there on the board -- in the interest of finding out what is working and what is not. The chef at the Beehive has totally missed the point. No one is saying "I can do it better than you". The majority are saying they are not digging the food. If you don't want the feedback, don't read the board.

                                                                                                    53 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: yumyum

                                                                                                      And in fact, I remember the chef at Djs at the Garden coming on to the Boston board specifically to thank people for their initial feedback and to discuss some of the changes they were planning on making to address that feedback. Of course, the mods kept wacking his posts, but c'est la vie.

                                                                                                      As for Mary Chung, you're right - I can't imagine they particularly care what a site like this is saying. When you have your own entry in the Hacker's Dictionary, you probably don't need the buzz of a new fandangled foodie oriented site ;)

                                                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                        Newfangled? Perhaps only in context - after all, Chowhound has been around for 12 years. [g]

                                                                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                          I'm almost positive that Mary Chung's internet buzz predates the World Wide Web, so yes - that'd make CH seem newfandangled ;)

                                                                                                          That it was a popular place among the MIT hackers and all of the related tech companies in the immediate vicinity probably helped!

                                                                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                            My first ever chowhound "find" was when I stumbled across a description of Mary Chung's Suan La Chow Show on an MIT student board that had a link to the very nascent Boston chowhound board at the time. When I followed the redirect to Chowhound, I knew I'd found a like-minded group of freaks. I was home.

                                                                                                            1. re: yumyum

                                                                                                              This has me trying to remember how I discovered CH (specifically the Boston board). It was definitely the old format and you didn't have to log in to post (i don't even know if they *had* logins) - I used to use a different name every time for privacy reasons (and when they switched to this setup, I took a long time before registering an account for just that reason).

                                                                                                              For the life of me I can't remember how I stumbled across it - I'm guessing it was growing irritation with Citysearch around the 2000-2002 time period. I recently went through and cleaned up a bunch of bookmarks at home and judging from where CH was on the bookmark list that sounds about right. The only thing that I can think of is that I did a web search for something and came across CH - and as you say, realized there was something to the whole thing. :)

                                                                                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                My recollection of Chowhound from that same period was of a wacky site that reminded me of a pasted together ransom letter.

                                                                                                                1. re: Scargod


                                                                                                                  Ya know though, outside of a few features, I actually prefer the old site to this one. I do like how easy it is to search and I do like that it is a a lot more orderly, but some of the prices that are paid for that (the accounts, the heavy moderation, etc) I don't like as much.

                                                                                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                    I have to admit I liked the simplicity of the old site better. And I like being able to look at a poster's posting history to see what he/she's all about, especially when a discordant voice shows up with a strident opinion.

                                                                                                                    People have been complaining about heavy moderation since I showed up here 6 or so years ago (a refugee from the unmoderated ne.food newsgroup, and appreciating the moderated, crap-free forums.) I don't think much has changed there.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                                      I agree, I've been on CH for 7 years now and I don't think the degree of moderation has changed; what has changed is that in the old days mods had the time to contact you to explain why a post was removed. That was nice, though I understand why that's no longer feasible.

                                                                                                                      1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                                        If anything, I think the moderation has loosened up since the change. Pre-cnet, on the Boston board, there were a number of banned board restaurants (albeit slightly inconsistently, ie same chef, different restaurant, one banned, one not). Posts on these restaurants are now allowed.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                                        re: ne.food: I always wondered if you were the same Chris VR I saw in various ne.* groups.

                                                                                                                        I don't dislike the moderation in general but I think it is largely inconsistent and can be maddening at times. But admittedly I'm viewing things from the view point of someone who has loved the free for all nature of usenet for over 15 years now (granted I liked it better 10 years ago than I do now, but ...)

                                                                                                                        1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                          I agree. I think moderation in general is what makes these boards work. But the inconsistency really irks me sometimes.

                                                                                                                          1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                            i don't agree. many unmoderated sites work as well. people just have to learn how to deal with it. i'm a free speech junkie - i would rather a higher noise to signal ratio and unfettered expression , but that's a personal choice - i can certainly understand feeling the other way.

                                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                                              That's my take ... thus "I don't dislike" and not "i like" :)

                                                                                                                              It is what it is though, its their board, their rules.

                                                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                But doesn't "freedom of speech" apply only in the context of the government not controlling speech (other than under certain circumstances permitted by the Supreme Court), rather than a privately owned website doing so?

                                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                  technically yes - which is why i said i understand other preferences. i was not implying this was a legal breach of any sort. I was just stating my preference - that even in private situations i prefer fewer restrictions over less noise.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                    Understood ... it just irks me generally when people gripe about their right to free speech somehow being violated when their post is removed from CH (which I understand you were not doing). I think sometimes people don't understand the actual concept/application of the right to free speech ... which is ever so more important than an occasional post being removed on CH.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                      Free speech - like yelling fire in a crowded theater... of course, if the promulgator was referring to the roasted habanero salsa he had just eaten, it would be perfectly acceptable...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                        There's a difference between the government provided "right to free speech" and being a believer in supporting "free speech".

                                                                                                                                  2. re: thew

                                                                                                                                    Choice is important -- the neat thing is that there are many food websites out there -- if a particular isn't to one's liking, there are others that fill that niche. It's important to realise that no website can be everything to everyone, since everyone has different preferences. Moderation is what makes this site work for me; because there are alternatives, I'd go somewhere else if the signal to noise was any lower.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                      I agree with you, thew.

                                                                                                                                      As they say in the South (elsewhere, too, I imagine): it is what it is.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                      Unfortunately, it's not humanly possible to be 100% consistent, because (1) we don't see every single post and (2) small differences in each situation may lead to different decisions.

                                                                                                                                      Rather than strive for unattainable perfection, we moderate to the extent where we can keep the boards as informative, friendly and hype-free as reasonably possible.

                                                                                                                                      See our Site Posting Etiquette for more details (especially the main post):

                                                                                                                                      You (and all chowhounds) can help us be more consistent by reporting posts that you think we should look at or investigate -- click on "Report" under the post in question.

                                                                                                                                      Many thanks!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                                                        Yeah, figure helping out the mods is the least I can do. I report several posts a week, although I think I've only once reported a post because I thought it was objectionable -- usually the post is off topic, someone plugging something they have a personal interest in or a suspected shill. And just in case you think that the mods play favorites, I've had my posts deleted, too!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                          Oh yeah. Word. I report too, and try to point out mod inconsistencies on the Boston board. And a LOT of my posts get deleted. 98.6% of the time for good reason.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: yumyum

                                                                                                                                            And a LOT of my posts get deleted. 98.6% of the time for good reason.
                                                                                                                                            Normal body temperature. That's a good average. :-) I also report if I see a post on an incorrect board, or if it gets vulgar or inappropriate for the conversation. And I've had enough posts pulled; most I agree with, some I don't. But I *like* the moderated boards. Makes it easier to read what you're supposed to be reading, not the fluff that can appear that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                              I haven't reported any posts yet, but I cetainly have had my share pulled. And as you said, sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't. But that's OK. And I agree - for me, moderation is what makes the boards easier to read and use.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: yumyum

                                                                                                                                              yumyum, the first time I read this, I thought you meant that 98.6% of your posts got deleted (and for good reason). Much less horrifying on the second read, albeit a bit less impressive.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: finlero

                                                                                                                                                Some days it feels like the way you read it at first. But no, usually I do the "take a deep breath before you post" thing and it saves me. Unless I've been drinking. LOL.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: yumyum

                                                                                                                                                  LOL! my posts also get deleted regularly (stupid temper)--but *sometimes* i don't even mean to be rude or abrupt, i'm just typing too fast with not enough self-edit. usually after a delete i'm like, "yeah, sk, you had that coming." doesn't stop me from trying to help the mods out by reporting a shill or an ot post. i probably use the report function most often on my sprawling home board, where folks sometimes forget to put the location tag in the title of their post, and it might confuse people. so i found out that the mods could put the tag in, and i report these threads, and the mods add in the location tag! nobody needs to be confused anymore! helpful mods.

                                                                                                                                                  but i wrote a post the other day after i found out a friend was killed (yes a couple of cocktails later), and it got deleted. for good reason as you say.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                    There have been times when I've posted comments while thinking "I know this is going to be deleted, but...." So I wonder, if I hadn't believed the comment would be deleted, would I have posted it?

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: yumyum

                                                                                                                                                    When I forget that breath, and post anyway, I'm usually pretty good about remembering to "Report" myself... eventually.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                                                                      >>remembering to "Report" myself...

                                                                                                                                                      Wow. Really?


                                                                                                                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                        Sure - I do that too on the (rare - grin) occasion that I think I may have gotten snarky or out of line. Sometimes I don't mean to be rude, but in rereading my post, realize that I may have sounded that way, etc.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                          I think it's great that you can self-edit, MMRuth, and after the fact, ask to remove a post you've left. It's not scary; it's just good judgment on your part.

                                                                                                                                                          I will add that having read your posts over the years, I cannot *believe* you'd ever have had a need to do so - but I commend your level-headedness in that you can request a deletion of your own post. :-)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                            I agree with Linda. MMRuth, I don't think I've ever read a snarky post from you.

                                                                                                                                                            Sigh -- I also refrain from sometimes going all out because it probably will come back to bite me in the ass in the future at some point. I've got to say it's kind of hard sometimes because there are instances where I really want to tell somebody off. I find the best thing to do is just to ignore it. I said this on the site board before, but once I really let somebody have it (and he deserved it!) and caused an entire 100+ response thread to be deleted from Chowhound history. And don't think that because you use a screen name as opposed to your real name that you're immune. A friend once told me that she found out about my "secret" other life when she was on Chowhound. People can be shrewd.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                              That's because I reported myself ;-). I have a not so inner very sarcastic self that I have to rein in on occasion. And sometimes I feel snarky, and then try to word my post *very* politely! My user name, though, is very obvious (my initials and last name, despite all the posters who may refer to me as Ruth) and, frankly, that causes me to do a lot of self editing as well. I prefer it that way though - always makes me think twice about starting a thread on NAF!

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                            I sure hope I've been snarky on occasion. I've sure been deleted for it. I used to get really pissed about the M squad but I have come to view their role in a more positive light and I do more self-editing. Mods have pulled some posts I have narked on and not pulled some. They have even (on occasion), told me why they thought the post was OK.
                                                                                                                                                            Still, would like to "snark" a couple of people off CH. Have to keep saying the mantra, "it's about the food, dummy".

                                                                                                                                                          3. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                            I agree. It's good judgment. Sometimes I say things I regret, and I don't want them immortalized forever on the web. I think a lot of people sitting at their computer don't really take into account that everything they post on the internet can potentially be read by everyone in the world in perpetuity. Even things that get deleted are often available on archive sites if someone cares to dig for them. I for one would like to think that there won't be too many ignorant or mean-spirited things I wrote when I was having a bad moment still on the web years from now that will make me cringe. A lot of younger people who have grown up in the Facebook/MySpace generation are finding that it comes back to bite them when a prospective employer does a little web research and sees the stupid, immoral or even illegal things they've done (or talked about doing) on the web.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                              Unfortunately, the "edit" function on Chowhound doesn't include the option of deleting the post. If it did, there would be no need to self-report, at least if you thought better of the post within the "edit" window. I've reported myself a few times just because it was the only way to get rid of the comment -- including once when, somehow, two versions of the same comment got posted.

                                                                                                                                                              So no, I don't see anything "scary" about self-reporting in this circumstance.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                                                                                It would be nice to be able to self-delete. Sometimes in the heat of a discussion, it's easy to say something that you would like to delete in hindsight. I've self reported, too, but it would be easier on the Chowhound team if we could do it ourselves.

                                                                                                                                                                Instead of reporting, we should all be able to delete, say 3 or so, posts a day from anyone. You'd have to think about it before doing it--is that post delete-worthy?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                  I *completely* disagree with being able to delete anyone's posts.

                                                                                                                                                                  If someone has a beef with you (food reference <g>), or vice-versa, they could choose to delete your posts (or you delete their posts) without any reason - just because. It would be more of a hassle for the Mods to have to restore those posts, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                    chowser, you mean delete our own posts or play god and delete someone else's thoughtful words?

                                                                                                                                                                    That leaves the door open to acrimony, doesn't it?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, but then you'd set up situations where people delete people's posts to get back at them for deleting their posts. Nope. Just report and leave it to the mods.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                        Sorry, that part about deleting was meant tongue in cheek. It apparently didn't come across because so many people jumped on it. I was thinking if you only got three deletes, you'd have to think about whether you'd want to use one of your precious few deletes on a post; ie, is that post was delete-worthy? I watched far too much Seinfeld in the 90's.

                                                                                                                                                                        I'd go back and edit my post and delete that part but then everyone else's post wouldn't make sense...

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry, that part about deleting was meant tongue in cheek.
                                                                                                                                                                          Gotta remember that winking smile, chowser. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                            LOL, it was in my head. I forget you all can't read my mind.;-)

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: jlafler

                                                                                                                                                                        If you're still in the edit window, though, you can just delete the text. I've done that, usually with a "Nevermind..."

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                          But you have to leave some text -- if you delete all the text it will revert.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                                                                                            You can just put a "." or something there.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: yumyum

                                                                                                                                                                I have a lot of posts deleted too - for one thing try as I might, my innate love of some off topic tangents causes me to, well, go off topic. Also I tend to get a bit excitable so if something is annoying me I can get a bit uhh, colorful - particularly with certain posters about certain topics where I just think their stance is idiotic (I know I know, I should just not read their posts).

                                                                                                                                                                The only times I ever get irritated with posts being deleted (since I understand where the mods are coming from) are when a post of mine was deleted for clearly being inflamatory but I feel that the person I"m replying to is being just as bad but not being deleted (If someone's dropping a bomb and getting away with it, one should be able to respond in kind!) and on the few occasions where I really just disagree that something isn't pertinent to the conversation.

                                                                                                                                                                Once in a blue moon it is a bit different, once I had a post removed that talked about an establishment and a bout of food poisoning. It was removed and I received a message from the mods saying how they don't allow posts blaming a place for food poisoning due to how often it is misattributed - except that I never blamed that place (because I know full well that it is almost always misattributed), I just said that subconciously I linked the two and it was a hard mental block to get over, but I knew full well that it probably wasn't the source. It seemed like they just did a search on 'food poisoning' and saw I mentioned a restaurant in the same statement and nuked me.

                                                                                                                                                                These are a minority of cases though, by and large it always makes sense, even if I personally feel that their tolerances for things getting heated can be a bit low - but hey, like I said before it's their site and they make the rules ... if I don't like it I can leave.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                                  "The only times I ever get irritated with posts being deleted ... are when a post of mine was deleted for clearly being inflamatory but I feel that the person I"m replying to is being just as bad but not being deleted (If someone's dropping a bomb and getting away with it, one should be able to respond in kind!)"

                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, the few times I really get irritated with the mods is when this happens. More than a few times, I've had someone reply to a post of mine in a rather nasty way - and lots of times the mods have left those posts sit there for days. Then as soon as I get around to responding - ZAP - all the pertaining posts get deleted. I can't help it, that really burns me up when that happens.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                                    Yeah, that kind of situation bothers me, too. I brought up one instance that I thought was particularly eggregious on the Site Talk board a few months ago, but after much discussion the situation was left as is.

                                                                                                                                                                    My main problem with the moderation is the lack of transparency. I understand that the moderators are overworked volunteers and don't have time to explain every decision they make, but it can frustrating when something disappears and you don't know why. In some cases (as when a whole topic is deleted) it would be useful to delete the content, but leave the topic up with comments disabled and a note that the topic has been deleted. I've suggested various changes on Site Talk, but nothing has come of it.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                                                                              Ahhh. I remember the good old days, when Leff just sent out hit squads after obnoxious posters. It worked, too.

                                                                                                                                      2. Couple of general comments:

                                                                                                                                        1. The goal of Chowhound.com, in my experience, has always been to be a place for chowhounds to swap tips and ideas about what and where to eat. Giving feedback to restaurants/chefs or telling them what to do to fix their menu has never been what chowhounds use these boards for. Of course chefs and managers can read these boards to find out what people think of their food/restaurants, but we're not here to help or harm them, we just want to find the most delicious stuff out there for ourselves.

                                                                                                                                        2. There's plenty of restaurants out there; I don't feel I need to change a restaurant to suit my tastes. If it's not to my taste, I just keep looking somewhere else.

                                                                                                                                        3. The chefs that read chowhound are probably in the minority as the ones interviewed in the article are a biased sample. In the Boston area, think about the chefs at Anh Hong, Wing's Kitchen, The Daily Catch, El Jardin, Mangia Mangia, Royal Bengal, Betos, Alex's Chimis etc.

                                                                                                                                        4. "Bad reviews causing restaurants to lose money" For some people, eating out can mean choosing between several restaurants. If they end up going to a bad restaurant, that means a good restaurant is deprived of business. If we don't express which restaurants we like and dislike, we may cause worthy restaurants to lose money and thus take money out of the pockets of their employees.

                                                                                                                                        1. I can empathize with Chef Newell and others who feel as she does ("What sucks a little bit about the foodies is that sometimes they have no idea ... 'You wanna try it on? You can come in and wear this chef coat. You’ll cry in an hour' ").

                                                                                                                                          Restauranteurs are like engineers, film directors, airline pilots. They are judged by the quality of the final product delivered, not by the complexity or difficulty of the task they attempt to achieve. No bonus points are awarded for effort. As Scargard and others have said, it takes a certain kind of personality to thrive in that kind of business, in which feedback can at times be very harsh.

                                                                                                                                          One other thought:
                                                                                                                                          As a diner I welcome seeing negative CH reviews that reflect even a single visit to a restaurant. My own opinion about restaurants has differed frequently enough from other diners' that just seeing one or two negative reviews generally isn't enough to keep me from trying a place if the menu and overall concept seem otherwise appealing. But I do listen to the wisdom of the crowds. It's when I start to see multiple negative reviews, especially if a common complaint runs through them, that I will tend to avoid trying a restaurant I haven't been to before.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                            I have a couple thoughts on this topic in general and I agree with a lot of what you posted.

                                                                                                                                            I'll only say how I use Chowhound as a resource, but I think others tend to feel this way, too. When I read, I was going to say negative reviews but I'll open it up to any and all reviews of restaurants on Chowhound, I take many things into consideration: How long has the business been open? Do I know and trust the reviewer based on past experiences? Does the restaurants have a website? (And I totally agree to doing away with the Flash-o-riffic, musical, eyeball assaulting websites - really a turnoff). Most importantly, do they serve food I'd like to eat? Yeah, I know that sounds obvious but individual taste is a tricky beast.

                                                                                                                                            On another front I want to address some of the perceived power of Chowhound. While I don't think ZZMcTypealot giving a rave on Chowhound will vault a restaurant to never before seen heights, neither do I think a rant will bring down a worthy restaurant. Still, the power of Chowhound's CNET tech force has a very good, constantly tweaked system that floats Chowhound posts to the top of searches giving it power which may be real or simply the appearance of same.

                                                                                                                                          2. If I owned a restaurant, or were a chef, I'd frequently lurk at places like Chowhound. Companies pay a fortune for focus groups to get feedback, pay mystery shoppers, etc. You need to separate the wheat from the chaff but great wheat can be found. I've read some reviews here and thought, if only the owners came here, they'd know exactly what to do to improve their restaurants and business. As to the whining about others not being able to do it for an hour without crying...and? Is Newell only looking for feedback from people who can run restaurants or does she want to know what her customers want?

                                                                                                                                            1. I can see the issue from both points of view. Chefs need to realize that blogs and "customer peer reviews" are having just as much of an impact on a diner's restaurant choice as a traditional newspaper/magazine review had in the past, if not moreso. I don't have to wait or search for a professional review of a specific restaurant when I can alternatively do a 10 second search on Chowhound or Yelp and see what experience other people have had with the food/service/atmosphere. Chowhound and Yelp have played a bigger role in deciding where I go to eat in the past 2-3 years than a professional review has had in all the years prior.

                                                                                                                                              On the other hand the bloggers/customer peer reviewers need to be careful not to fall into what I call "The Lemming Effect" that is prevalent in every forum I've ever visited on the web. One person makes a post and then 10 people jump in to reply that usually agrees with initial post either to get their post count up or just feel the need to reply to everything being said. What was a single bad review is then reinforced with 10 "I agree" replies by people who probably didn't even share the same experience, and someone reading the thread for the first time now sees 11 negative comments about a restaurant instead of just the inital post. "The Lemming Effect" is all over the place, people piling on just for the sake of piling on, and considering the impact of food blogs/customer review sites nowadays, they should be more aware of what they post, especially if it's something negative to say and they have no firsthand experience.

                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bunson

                                                                                                                                                However, CH doesn't have a "post count", so that doesn't apply here (although the Lemming Effect certainly does).

                                                                                                                                                As for a professional reviewer - one person can only eat so much, so reviews are usually much slower to appear in a newspaper vs. the multitudes of Hounds who probably have already reviewed it months before.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bunson

                                                                                                                                                  I see that effect but not on CHowhound in the context we are discussing here, IE, food/restaurant reviews. I see it very prevalent on the boards "not about food" or "general chowhounding topics". There is so much "poor you" and consoling of whiners that it makes me want to jump off the nearest cliff! Now how many of you agree with me? Good! Let's all go.....

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bunson

                                                                                                                                                    Perhaps the place really just sucks, lemming effect or not. For all the CIA grads in the world, there really is a lot of crap on a plate out there. Lots of shoemakers.

                                                                                                                                                    The true value of CH is the discussion, usually in some detail. It's not a thumbs up or down proposition. If everybody is posting in the negative, including people that are most often fair and detailed in their criticism, then I would conclude that the place sucks and be appreciative that my fellow CH'ers once again came through and saved me from spending money for crap on a plate.

                                                                                                                                                    I've seen as much lemming effect to the good as I have to the bad - both need to be taken with a large grain of salt. I look for individuals that I trust and have agreed with in the past, and I look for detail. I rarely care about service complaints, they're part of the picture, but I'm really here for the food. I think that the majority of us on CH are at least as discerning as I am, and that the lemming effect at CH actually has very little impact on a restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                    Jim said many times that one of our goals was to keep the good places in business. Does that mean that the places that serve crap on a plate will always go out of business? Well... if that were true, there would be no Olive Gardens or TGIFs. Restaurants do fine without foodies and chowhounds, we are the minority - the majority eat crap on a plate and say thank you. It's just a matter of deciding whom to please and what kind of a business to run.

                                                                                                                                                    If you're a chef and you think that it's bad reviews and lemming effects that knocked you out of business because you serve only really good shit, you have great location, great advertising, and provide a truly wonderful eating experience for everybody, I would consider finding some sort of process to get your head screwed on properly.

                                                                                                                                                  2. Thanks for reposting this here, MC Slim. I wouldn't have remembered to go read the article otherwise. I do love so many parts of the article, especially the chefs' take on the dining scene. Having witnessed first-hand the effect CH has on some restaurants in Boston, I can only say I've found CH to be very useful when gathering large amounts of data about a wide variety of restaurants I normally wouldn't even know about. Maybe we should all go buy the chefs a drink.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: gini

                                                                                                                                                      >>And now anybody can write whatever they want about you and it’s on there.

                                                                                                                                                      Awwww, isn't that a shame?

                                                                                                                                                      >> “I went there and everything sucked.” And it’s like, okay, that guy got fired that day, came, and had a really bad time. And now I’ve got to listen to this rant.

                                                                                                                                                      An easy remedy to that: don't suck.

                                                                                                                                                    2. There is a good and a bad way to respond to criticism. I once read a review of a Japanese restaurant in Melbourne: http://ironeaters.blogspot.com/2007/0.... It said that the grilled salmon was "cooked to perfection" and the potato croquets were delicious. But the service was negligent, even hostile. One waiter rolled his eyes.

                                                                                                                                                      Ishiya Japanese Stonegrill could have responded to the review by refining its service. Its grace and friendliness would have attracted more customers and benefited the business.

                                                                                                                                                      Instead, Ishiya made up a fake profile, "Dinning [sic] out in Melbourne" and left an acidic insult: "you are actually quite demanding."

                                                                                                                                                      What does that accomplish, besides driving away customers? Restaurants should take criticism in a constructive, mature, and adult way, as an inspiration to learn and improve. That is the right way to react to criticism, not just in cooking, but in life.

                                                                                                                                                      1. Chef's having no control? Well, perhaps their owners do have some control over places like Citysearch. It was a 'well regarded' now-defunct Boston establishment which several years ago gave me what was to this day the worst dining experience of my 34 years on this planet. I wrote a conservatively-worded review on Citysearch and it was removed within 48 hours. Similar reviews addressing issues similar to mine disappeared as well.

                                                                                                                                                        This was just before I discovered Chowhoud. Fortunately honest, evenly-expressed criticism of dining establishments is welcomed here and we the consumers at last have some control. Hooray!

                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bad Sneakers

                                                                                                                                                          I wrote a review critical of La Paloma of Quincy in citisearch and it was removed within 48 hours. I reposted a month later and it was promptly removed again. I did it again and they did it again. I am sure the BIG AD that La Paloma place on citisearch's front page has something to do with it. I then knew that citisearch was a scam and is never gonna be fair so I never return.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: joebloe

                                                                                                                                                            There was a time when Citysearch was useful. Of course, that was a fairly long time ago. At least 7-8 years ago I started to notice that it had become real "funny", and not in an amusing way. That was around the time that I found this site.

                                                                                                                                                        2. One CHer today posted the departure of Chef Seaver from Hook (a restaurant in DC). Hook is definitely on my list of restaurants to check out but not any more. CH does have an effect on its readers, not all the time, but some times, and for good reason.

                                                                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                                                                                                            There will always be a certain portion of the CH members who lead the way to good chow and away from bad chow, and those timid souls and poseurs without their own discerning taste - the followers. The kind who would decide to stay away from a restaurant, not because there had been several reliable down-hill reports, but simply because somebody posted that a chef was departing. The kind who were unable to comprehend, despite being told, that the quality of the experience was not likely to suffer as said chef was rarely, if ever, actually working in that particular kitchen anyway. The chefs know, and I think appreciate the difference between CH leaders and followers.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: crackers

                                                                                                                                                              I don't know: you make it sound like it's completely unreasonable to wonder if a restaurant's quality might take a dip after the departure of its founding chef. I wouldn't drop a place outright from my list of places to try in such circumstances, but I might give it a little time for the new guy to find his footing before I tried it. You might call that being a timid follower; others might say that's a reasonable instinct to develop in the wake of dozens of iffy shakedown-cruise meals.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                I agree with MC Slim. I don't buy for a minute that even in a kitchen where the big name Chef is rarely, if ever, doing the actual cooking, that said Chef doesn't ever have a significant influence on that kitchen's output. And as MC Slim said, at the very least, such news would definitely cause me to consider giving such a kitchen time to find it's feet under a new Chef's direction.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree and on top of it, if the chef is highly regarded, the restaurant is noramally pricey. It's one thing to try a new restaurant when it's not expensive but rolling the dice it when it's $200 per person is a big risk for some of us who don't normally spend that much.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                    At the risk of dipping my toes deeper into such unfamiliar waters . . .Wondering if quality will take a dive is entirely understandable - particularly if the chef de cuisine is an unknown quantity and the prices are steep. But in the case of Hook, mentioned above, the chef de cuisine is well established and well regarded, there have been glowing posts and no down hill reports, and it's not going to break the bank.

                                                                                                                                                                    Deciding to take a good restaurant off a list for a bit is often prudent, but sometimes it's just because of timidity or because it's no longer perceived as being a cool place to go.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                      I often grab an appetizer at the bar as a way of auditioning a place; that way I minimize my stakes. It's not been a problem at most places.

                                                                                                                                                              2. And like it or not Chef/Owners need to understand we (their potential diners) are their bosses. They provide a service that we pay them for, if we don't like what we get we "hire" someone else at another place. The Chef/Owners that have figured this out are the successful ones.

                                                                                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                                                                                                                                  On the other hand, only giving the customer what they think they want is a likely path to mediocrity.

                                                                                                                                                                  Not sure I agree that potential diners are a chef's "boss." We're free to influence by not spending dollars there, but a great chef won't try to please everyone, focus-group-style.

                                                                                                                                                                  Just my opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: wittlejosh

                                                                                                                                                                    Only giving them what they want? Like tasty food in a nice enviornment?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                                                                                                                                      Like a boring crabcake, grilled salmon with nothing adventurous, and 3.5 uncontroversial pinot grigios by the glass.

                                                                                                                                                                      I like it when a chef takes risks that may annoy a portion of the paying public for sake of culinary artistry. I think it makes for a better restaurant when a chef doesn't pander.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                                                                                                                                        But not everyone agrees on the definition of "tasty" or "nice."

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: wittlejosh

                                                                                                                                                                        I agree, wittlejosh. There's a difference between being sensitive to customer complaints and letting your concept shift with the breeze.

                                                                                                                                                                        I know that many Boston GM types are reading every potential online source of criticism of their places on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean they're modifying their restaurants' core values on the fly. Print media, food blogs, and amateur review sites are just another source of feedback on how they're doing: input from patrons who leave without airing problems directly to the manager. You can fix service problems, adjust dishes, reconsider music, etc., without reformulating what the restaurant is all about.

                                                                                                                                                                        I suppose if you were a GM who acted on everything he read on Yelp, you'd end up with a restaurant that caters mostly to college kids and twenty-somethings. I suspect most fine-dining places are smart enough to recognize that's just one demographic of many that you might want to address, but not necessarily build an entire restaurant strategy around.

                                                                                                                                                                        Any restaurant that spins its compass every time a complaint comes in is destined to fail. But chefs and owners who read all critical online comments as personal attacks or baseless affronts from the ignorant aren't doing themselves any favors, either.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: wittlejosh

                                                                                                                                                                          I think "client" is a better analogy than "boss." A boss typically oversees and directs the work itself, rather than paying for and consuming the result.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Spiritchaser

                                                                                                                                                                          >>we (their potential diners) are their bosses.

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't know, Spiritchaser. I like to think of it more as a mutual negotiation.

                                                                                                                                                                          I will be a pleasant customer, not loud or unruly, I won't be outrageously demanding, and I will pay what is asked and tip the server generously for good service.

                                                                                                                                                                          In return, I want good to very good food, to not be taken advantage of, a leisurely UNrushed two hour dinner, and to be treated respectfully.

                                                                                                                                                                          If that is too much to ask of a restaurant, then of course, I will go elsewhere if I don't receive the above after two visits. And as the Boston chef observed, I 'will' complain.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                                                                                                                                            No we are not their bosses, we are customers, plain and simple. As a customer, you do not own the means of production, but are a consumer of the product/service produced. I pity the chef who has to fulfill the various whims of both the owner and the customer upon demand. You cannot serve two masters (or hordes of masters, as you suggest). The successful Chef is not the one who fulfills their customers' demands at will, but rather the one who convinces the customer that he has a product that they really want/need.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Just because I can't do a better job at running a restaurant doesn't remove the right to criticize.

                                                                                                                                                                            I'm pretty easy to please. Plenty of restaurants that get snubbed on these boards are perfectly fine for me. I only ask that the food I eat and the service I receive is along the lines of hte price I pay. I also believe that price - whether cheap or expensive - shouldn't be a determining factor of how friendly the waitstaff is.

                                                                                                                                                                            If I love a restaurant, I will talk about it on these boards constantly. I will never stop recommending my favorite restaurant and will defend it against all criticisms.

                                                                                                                                                                            However, if I have a bad experience, I will want people to know too, including the chefs and owners. I paid for that meal, and if I paid a high price for it, then I think the people who gave me that bad experience should know about it. If they don't correct the problem, I'm never going back and I'm not going to recommend anyone else goes back. What's wrong with that?

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                                                                                                                              >>What's wrong with that?

                                                                                                                                                                              Not a thing, Avalondaughter, not a thing.