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Apr 17, 2013 06:03 AM


I had very unusual and uncomfortable "chow" experience a couple of weeks back. I was dining with a few friends at an establishment I had been to several times in the past, however I'm far from a "regular" at. As the matter of fact I've never really spoken a word to owner/manager in any of my previous visits there.

Strangely though during this last visit the owner took an "odd" interest in me. Nothing offensive but certainly curious.......while I'm a fairly well known person within my local community, besides my past visits to this establishment I was confident I had no other association with this individual.

As he started to recite the specials he noted on one special "I know you don't like the sauce on that dish", directing the comment to me. Subsequently, he made a comment about the server, and then about my drink of choice. Suddenly it all came together..........he was quoting a review I had posted on this establishment about two months prior!!

I smiled and nodded at his comments, my companions asked how often I actually dined here since it seemed the owner new my every desire. I'm not sure if the owners intention was to show he actual reads reviews, or to actually make me as uncomfortable as he did. I'll chose to believe the first scenario since his tone was never snide or sarcastic, but it did create a bit of an awkward experience.

Hence, my picture is now removed from my profile! My review was overall a positive one, positive but honest. There were a few things I didn't care for but everyone's taste is different what I didn't like you might love. I don't hold a place accountable for things that are of varying tastes. Just because I don't like a pairing of sauces or ingredients doesn't make a place bad in my opinion and I try to point that out, we all have different palates, which was part of my review.

I'm far from a shy person but this experience was truly awkward and one in which I really didn't know how to respond. So I just played ignorant to it and tried to get on with the evening. No harm, no foul.

So my fellow Chow's have you ever been "busted"?

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  1. Twice and we laughed about it but I agree it was an odd experience to realize you'd been busted for your CH ways.

    Good reminder that the Net is a small space after all and food lovers from both sides of the aisle read the site.

    Also frustrating for owners who are not permitted to rebuttal or share on CH freely.

    2 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      Assuming you are not in fact a baby chicken as your profile suggests, how may I ask did they identify you?

      (If you are in fact a baby chicken, may I say, impressive!)

      1. re: jrvedivici

        spring chick if u please.
        and a big fat no to how because that will only lead to more of the same. i like a low profile when I'm not working the lens or out with pals.

    2. Ah, maybe owner was 1) nervous 2) trying to be subtle 3) not a good "actor," -- so all of that came off as awwwwkward.

      I'd consider it a huge compliment to be recognized-- AND, you know that That particular restaurant is aware of its image online.

      I've never been busted*, but in the days before Instagram, my solo dining and note-taking yielded both positive and negative treatment.

      * I don't write reviews that reveal restaurant names except in the case of CH meet-ups or formerly as an occasional "guest blogger" on expat sites.

      1. I have wondered how the restaurant critics for major daily newspapers get away with not having their identities known to the 'restaurant community'. It is my understanding that they usually bring a group, family/friends with them so they can sample multiple menu items. I remember reading somewhere that some of them have worn disguises into the restaurants.

        1 Reply
        1. re: John E.

          Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires talks about her adventures, and how tiring it became after a while. The book is a great read.

          From Google Books:
          Ruth Reichl's bestselling memoir of her time as an undercover restaurant critic for The New York Times.
          Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food.

        2. why would you feel "busted?"
          i've had restaurant owners and managers recognize me after a review.
          for the most part, the folks who own and run mid-sized and small restaurants are thrilled that they got an <<overall a positive>> review.
          also, for the most part, if the review had any critical points, the points are taken to heart in good spirit. (one restaurant changed their process for cooking one of their vegetables as a result of one of my reviews).

          not only have i been recognized by restaurant owners/staff, i've been recognized by other chowhounds who have come up to introduce themselves to me at various restaurants around my area.

          i never feel awkward about a review. it's my opinion and i'll only write honestly.
          i guess that's why i keep my pic up.

          5 Replies
          1. re: westsidegal

            The feedback restaurants have provided to me include reading not so glowing reviews detailed by a CH and read by others on a thread and then not being allowed rebuttal or further discussion on Chowhound under the rules of this site. Owners can't identify themselves and join the thread.

            Being recognized is not necessarily the issue it's knowing that my less than favorable review or comment was read by the owner. Dissatisfied experience are also written honestly. Glowing reviews aren't the issue, right? Sharing you didn't enjoy the food, that the place was shabby or noisy or you had a terrible dining experience (as written about often on NAF board) is the frustration for an owner who can't offer any comment. So yes, while I stand by my comments getting called out for them is how the cookie crumbles.

            I've also been called out by fellow hounds on the NJ board for "showing a bit too much fondness" for a particular place or food prep. Which I interpret to mean I now have a bias or that my reviews are coming off too favorable due to special treatment provided. So, there's another example of "busted."

            1. re: westsidegal

              For my part if I didn't explain it clearly, it was the owners approach to "busting" me about my review. As I said, instead of coming out directly he would "elude" to my written comments as he addressed the table. If he was straightforward and said something like "Excuse me, I believe I read your review" or asked me to step away from the table and addressed it would have been far less uncomfortable.

              To be perfectly honest from the point we were seated his bizarre attention to me (I assume while he was trying to put my face/stature to my profile pic) created what I initially perceived to be a "sexual" attraction. As if he was really "checking me out",

              Again, his tone was never snide or sarcastic so I don't believe he was trying to subtly antagonize me; however it was a very awkward approach and one that left my company realizing "something's up".

              Also I am "in" the industry, so I wasn't in the mood to get into a discussion about Chow and posting reviews etc. with the group of people I was with. (from my day job, non hospitality related). As I said, I've taken my picture off my profile. lol

              1. re: jrvedivici

                " As I said, I've taken my picture off my profile."

                Should I send you one of me to use?

                1. re: MGZ

                  Well I'm sure that would at least get me the sexual attraction of the appropriate sex!

            2. You would think an owner would be overworked and have no time to peruse chowhound. In fact this is the case and someone (employee, wife or child) tipped him to it

              4 Replies
              1. re: lastZZ

                Why wouldn't an owner spend a little time polishing his image and dreaming up PR, which would include checking the internet for comments on his establishment. Running a restaurant is not all physical grunt work. If you're running around like a chicken with its head cut off, then you're not an effective manager.

                Just a friendly word of advice.

                1. re: coll

                  Many restaurant owners follow Chowhound, Yelp, Urban Spoon, etc. just as much as they read local reviews in the newspaper. Being unaware of what people are saying about you in public is no way to run a business.

                2. re: lastZZ

                  IME, many, if not most, restaurant owners pay a great deal of attention to chowhound.

                  1. re: mcf

                    Especially if the restaurant maintains a website, FB and/or Twitter account. Even my tiny little sushi place has a FB page.

                    Social media being what it is, owners read...and if not them the wife, family & friends read...