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Mar 10, 2012 11:23 AM

When do ethics come to play in your dining decision?

I've been mulling this over for a couple of weeks. I thought maybe I'd toss it out on Chowhound and see what other hounds think.
I couple of years ago I heard a rumor that a local restaurant allowed a celebration in honor of a highly despised world figure. The person who first told me about it seemed reliable. I didn't give it much thought. I haven't eaten at the place in years because of food quality issues any way.
Then I heard the story again from another person. The explanation attached to it this time is that it was a one time thing. Apparently the owner knew in advance what the celebration would be.
I help coordinate dinners for a dining group and this restaurant has been suggested as a destination.
Even if it was a one-time thing, if it was true that this restaurant knowingly hosted a dinner for this figure is enough to get them crossed off my list forever.
So where do hounds draw their ethical lines?
Some people make a big deal out of free-range chickens and how they want to eat only free-range meat. Most chickens go to market at age 7 weeks. So if you take away the time they are protected when they are young and the final two weeks of their life when they are kept penned up to fatten them up, a typical chicken has about 2 weeks to spend on the range, and most are too stupid to walk out the door. So free range chickens mean nothing to me, but obviously they do to others.
One Chinese (Americanized, otherwise I'd say Taiwanese) restaurant here used to proudly display pictures of Chiang Kai-shek. It reflected the owner's anti-Communist attitude. It turned me off because I considered Chiang Kai-shek to be corrupt (he was a Communist himself when it suited him politically) and because I was unhappy that he used all the American aide during World War II to prop up his own government and not fight the Japanese. But truthfully, if the food had been special there, I would have overlooked those objections and happily eaten there.
So when do ethics come into your choice of places to eat?

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  1. I won't eat at a restaurant that stiffs its workers: skimming tips, not paying delivery people for overtime, that sort of thing.

    14 Replies
    1. re: small h

      Sounds a lot like what Mario Batali just settled a $5+ million lawsuit over. See:

      Makes me want to think twice about patronizing his restaurants. What do other CH's think?

      1. re: josephnl

        Yes, that's a fine example, although I'm not pure of heart enough to promise that I'll never again eat at a Batali restaurant. Proof of impurity: I can now comfort myself with the knowledge that Batali has ceased the practice, so I can eat at Babbo with a clear conscience, as soon as someone offers to pick up the check.

        Here's an illustration of the other scenario I mentioned:

        1. re: josephnl

          Well, in the first case you mentioned, since the reports were only hearsay, and the group really wanted to go, I'd go with it.
          Free-range, organic deals to me, knowing what is and is not available in our area, may have some impact. I gladly order scallops at one place because I know they are literally just off the boat locally.
          In the last case, I would have to consider that maybe to the owners, Chiang Kai-shek was a hero. To many he was and to you he is not.
          I would not eat in a political office nor do I eat in church. So if a diner became such, I would avoid it.
          Chains like Chick-Fil-A, I would avoid like the plague, as I know they would not give great customer service to members of my group, nor would they hire them.

            1. re: linguafood

              I am sure a discussion on those lines would be deleted by the Mods, so I will only say a google search would lead to some articles.

              1. re: Quine

                Did a search, I'm never ever going there. Never been, they aren't in my area, but if I see them in my travels, they're OFF the list. Sickening I think....sorry this happens this day and age.

                1. re: freia

                  I've eaten at Chik Fil A a couple of times in Arizona several years ago abd have not returned. I have not gone back to Chik Fil A, not because of any perceived political faults, but because I was not impressed with the food.

                2. re: Quine

                  Well, I've heard they take their "Christian values" quite seriously, which apparently makes them homophobe asshats. Which is also why I don't eat there, personally.

                  I just thought you were referring to some special group of which I wasn't aware.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    I thought the group may have been "vegetarians" though I now realize it is not.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Calling Chik-Fil-A homophobic asshats is one way of putting it but I will not patronize any business, restaurant or otherwise, that discriminates against any group because of their religious or a social agenda.

                      I agree with the OP and wouldn't patronize that business. They have the right to celebrate anyone they that want but I also have the right to spend my dollars elsewhere.

              2. re: josephnl

                that's why i won't patronize his restaurants.

              3. re: small h

                unless you, or somebody you know, works there, how would you get this info before a lawsuit hit the media?

                as a restaurant lifer, this is far more common than you might like to believe.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  <unless you, or somebody you know, works there, how would you get this info before a lawsuit hit the media?>

                  I've seen workers picketing outside restaurants (Saigon Grill and the Central Park Boathouse, notably). Otherwise, yes, I read about the lawsuits.

                  1. re: small h

                    by the time a lawsuit has hit the papers, the egregious behavior has likely been going on for years.

                    i know people who have taken part in successful class-action suits, mostly against higher-end chains, like morton's.


                    i have worked for independent chef-owners who have done it, but being part of a small staff, we never had the resources to get going with a lawyer.

                1. Politics have no place in my dining choices.......I stay away from owners who are simply As*h*les, There was one celebrity chef that forced his employees to wear his choice for an election......I will no longer frequent his place no matter how good his food is. There's a difference in someone being in business and and someone in business forcing his views upon you.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: fourunder

                    i, also, will not patronize any place that in any way forces it's employees to support or work against any particular candidate.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I believe what you suggest is also against labor law.

                      1. re: John E.

                        i would hope so, but this last presidential election there were many news stories about CEOs who threatened their employees with the loss of their jobs if a particular presidential candidate were to win.

                        in my eyes, this is unconscionable coercion, not to mention that realistically, it is improbable that their employees would be able to swing a national election.

                        i haven't heard of the Labor Relations Board actually prosecuting anyone over these threats.

                        1. re: John E.

                          That didn't stop the fat guy in orange clogs....

                          1. re: fourunder

                            I must have missed that. What candidate did he force his employees to support?

                    2. I'll say that Facebook is changing this for me for sure. By "liking" certain chefs and/or restaurants, their posts of course now come up in my news feed. When someone who is completely on the opposite end of the political spectrum as me is regularly posting vitriolic, nasty and untrue (aren't they all?) posts about someone who is on my side of the fence who holds or is running for office, I find it very distasteful. I find that after seeing a dozen or more of these posts, including how "stupid" and "sheep" like people are who support whichever office holder/candidate, it makes me really not want to go to their restaurant anymore to keep them in business.

                      I already try to vote with my money as much as possible with what I know, and learn more all the time. I support businesses and establishments that I know tend to throw more of their political donations behind those people and causes that are ones I believe in. I go out of my way to shop at restaurants that source locally and with transparency so that I can easily find out what farms/sources they are getting their food from. I think the FB thing is just another step in that direction - and frankly, think that chefs/restaurants should not post that kind of stuff on their FB wall. You never know who you are offending, and whose dollars you will now avoid. But maybe they don't want my money since I am not of the same mind and heart that they are.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        I couldn't agree more. Keep your opinions to yourself, and so will I.

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          I agree with you, EWS, but the problem is those who prefer the thought, "Keep your opinions to yourself and let me shove my opinions down your throat and if you don't agree with me afterward you're a ____phobic!"

                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                            Wow, I encounter too much of that, at least from a certain segment of our society.

                            Luckily, I can just choose to not spend much time with such folk, though not always.


                          2. re: rockandroller1

                            That seems like a very bad use of business social networking... they should save that stuff for their personal pages not their businesses'. I probably wouldn't stop frequenting a restaurant just because I happened to hear the ownership had different political views than mine, but if they insisted on using their facebook page that way it would be enough to turn me way off.

                          3. There is a local diner that does extensive display of their political views. They are serious tea party people. I stopped going when they started doing that. But the food wasn't great to begin was a place where I'd get a grilled cheese and fries a couple of times a year.

                            OTOH, Chick-Fil-A has different views than I do, but I am a huge fan. Part of that is because they have great customer service and by all accounts treat their employees well. I can overlook some things for waffle fries ;-)

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                              Perhaps they treat their employees well - IF they hire them, that is. Check this out:

                              These guys go beyond sleazebaggery in my book, I can't bring myself to set foot in the place (not that I eat much junk food anyway, but I spit on them in principle).

                              1. re: BobB

                                But you do realize that the flier is a hoax and not an actual hiring flier from CFA?

                                Not to say that aren't asshats, and the info isn't true. And I think it's pretty cool that students are protesting to keep them from their campuses.

                                1. re: viperlush

                                  I thought I read that the flyer was a hoax/part of an NYU student protest- but based on I can see why they've developed such a bad rep.

                                  1. re: maplesugar

                                    That gawker article ends on a particularly ironic note, when it says, "Take a stand for gay rights and good taste: Eat a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich."

                                    Not too many years ago, Wendy's made headlines for pulling its advertising from the TV show Ellen when Ms DeGeneres came out. Of course, the author MAY have known that...

                                    1. re: BobB

                                      Yes, irony can have a very bitter taste.