10 Things to do Before you Yelp!

  1. Poach a perfect egg.
  2. Make mayonnaise.
  3. Whip cream by hand.
  4. Make veal stock.
  5. Butcher a chicken.
  6. Fillet a fish.
  7. Grill a steak to medium rare.
  8. Bake a yeast bread.
  9. Identify a wine’s varietal by blind taste. Differentiate between a cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir by blind taste.
  10. Host a dinner party for ten without hired help.

It seems everyone has become a critic.  It’s nearly effortless to pass judgement, publicly, on every dining experience.

Trends in television have created an environment in which a chef’s success is no longer measured by time spent in front of a stove, but instead by time spent in front of a camera.  A dining public is also a viewing public, who can easily mistake what makes good television with what makes good food.

I have seen a line cook laid low by an overcooked steak, a baker by an unrisen loaf, and worked beside a server who smiled through a shift despite his infant daughter’s hospitalization.  A plate placed before you is most often the product of hours of labor, and love.

I ask for very little.  Before you post your next Yelp review, complete the ten tasks I have listed above.

Maybe your next meal won’t revolve around criticism, but instead a shared sensory experience.  The table will become a place for conversation, intoxication, and rest.  Your dining experience will be enriched by what you have learned.  I promise.

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65 thoughts on “10 Things to do Before you Yelp!

  1. There are definitely good points made here, but ultimately you have to remember that Yelp is a great tool for discovery of small businesses. Personally, I’ve seen a huge shift in my group of friends from typical Starbucks, Dennys, In-N-Out and Subway routines to unique spots, hole in the walls and crazy places specifically and only because of yelp. I Yelp all restaurants and bars before visiting, but only because I want to make sure I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into. Honestly, if anyone is so critical of a business, they’ll be critical regardless, its not specifically because of Yelp.

  2. Fascinating sentiments. Oddly enough, I’ve only accomplished about half of the items on your list (1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 but add in 4 if you’d consider homemade chicken stock as an acceptable substitute and 10 with only six guests) but have found that attempting tasks that professionals regularly accomplish has taken the fun out of eating out. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat out but usually it’s an in-a-hurry type of situation.) Many of the restaurants my friends and family enjoy I cannot because I look at the menu and think to myself “I don’t want to order that because I know I can do it better at home” so it takes me twenty minutes to order. Other restaurants that can provide me with the type of food preparation I cannot do at home (either because the ingredient is not easily available or the equipment needed I don’t have access to) is out of my reach financially.

    I do get your point, however. Restaurant review readers should consider the source, be it an amateur Yelper or a paid professional when commenting on the food but the other half of the experience when dining out is the service provided, which shouldn’t need qualifiers to be considered a valuable opinion.

  3. As a business owners my beef is not with Yelpers. There are morons everywhere and social media is here to stay. The Yelp filter removes 90% of reviews we get. The negative ones stay up but most of the positive get removed. People don’t get a full picture when visiting my Yelp page. Since the filter does not work it should be removed. Censoring Americans is unconstitutional. Not sure how Yelp can get away with it.

  4. I own a small 50 seat restaurant in a crappy part of town trying to bring food culture to a desperate audience of very few, to be clipped at the knees by self proclaimed experts on Yelp. For the first time in my 23 years in the restaurant business, I asked a guest to leave and not to return. Her comment about my house ground pork burger tasting like something from Micky D’s was my finally straw. I do regret my actions, but your list is inspiring. I’ve been a dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, busboy, waiter, sommelier, wine director, and now I finally got my own place. The point is to have someone with zero experience in my business to have so much power over my dream is depressing. My team and I spend hours making fresh ingredients for our guests to be criticized for a $9 meal of organic produce and fresh house ground Duroc pork is maddening. I’m not here to bitch, only to tell the truth. We live and die by the media sword and there is not a single thing we can do about it. I love what I do and can’t imagine my life without it.

  5. I am a professional brewer and I can say there are many similarities between our industries from the consumer review aspect. I would say that the rhetoric of beer geeks is even more inflamitrory than that of foodies, but that’s just my opinion. In my industry, it doesn’t matter how good something is, it’s only good if it is either rare or has been deemed good by someone of influence in the industry or reciept of a gold medal at a prominent competition. Although I agree that life’s cumulative experiences do affect our understanding of something like a restaurant visit or a pint of beer, and I agree that doing it yourself before passing judgement is always a good thing, posts such as this do turn it into an “us vs. them” issue. I’ve seen it in my industry plenty. For me, the bottom line is I make beer and I am passionate about it. I get to goto work every day and do what I love and make the beer I love. If someone else likes it, cool. If not, fuck em. Someone else will drink it. Allowing what one idiot says isn’t worth loosing sleep over. And consumer review sites are a a reality we can’t really do anything about. Getting upset because of what they bring is like getting upset that jumping in water got your clothes wet.

  6. I have worked in the restaurant industry for over 15 years, and I also consider myself to be an accomplished home cook. I am also a yelper, and I have to agree that the Yelp forum, inadvertantly perhaps, encourages a hypercritical point of view from its reviewers. I believe that users may initially post on yelp in order to give an honest review, but they eventually get sucked into the Yelp universe, and begin generating reviews simply to gain more status or more FUC votes on Yelp. As such, they enter establishments with the goal of reviewing, rather than enjoying, indulging, or relaxing, as icinthedark observes. This difference in mindset greatly effects their ultimate experience! I know this to be true, because I have observed the changes that being a yelper has had on my own dining ventures. As soon as I walk in a place, I am mentally preparing the clever review I will write, and picking everything apart accordingly.
    As someone who still works in the industry, I have observed a new trend: guests are less likely to ask for a manager when they are unhappy with some aspect of their experience, but they are more likely to post about their negative experience on an online site, Yelp, Facebook, etc. This is a seriously unfortunate consequence of sites like Yelp, because it deprives the staff of restaurant in question to address and remedy your concerns on the spot. And it does seem unfair to leave a permanent negative review without giving management the opportunity to redress the situation, whatever it might be.
    I suspect that yelpers actually get off on a bad dining experience, because they relish the opportunity to mull over the injustices and write some scathing review that might earn them a handful of FUC votes and maybe a new fan.
    As far as icinthedark’s suggestion that we all take the time to learn to do everything on the list before we post a review, I think this was just an elegant way of reminding all of us that food service and preparation is not an easy way to make a living, that it takes love, passion, time, care, and a very definite skill set. So just take a minute before you bash an establishment and the people who work there.
    As someone representing both sides of the issue, a restaurant employee and a yelper, I certainly found this post enlightening.

    • Thank you. Your comment is a perfect distillation of what I hoped to communicate and achieve with this blog post. I appreciate your comment so much I would like to invite you to be the first guest poster on my blog. If there is anything you would like to discuss as an industry vet, Yelper, or lover of food and drink I would be glad to use my blog as a forum.

  7. I’ve never reviewed on Yelp, but I have done 9/10 things on your list (never made veal stock). I go to a restaurant and pay a huge markup for my eggs, bread, etc., because these people are professionals and theoretically they do it better than I do. When they do those things at my home-cook level or worse, they lose my business and earn my criticism. I’m not going to be nasty about it, but I’ll complain about basic things badly done. (That said, I very seldom complain; I’m either an easy customer or I’ve been very lucky in my dining experiences.)

    • Red squirrel, restaurant food should be of a better quality of the average home cook. If it’s not prepared properly, I have no issue with you complaining. I have an issue with the anonymous, often mean-spirited criticism of restaurants found on review sites like Yelp. I have a problem with how the popularity of these sites, along with television shows where panels of judges critique the food of others, have affected the relationship between the restaurant guest and the restaurant employees in a negative way. I feel it also affects the dining experience. As a restaurant employee, it sometimes takes effort to drop my critical eye–To not pay attention to how many servers are on, to how many tables are in their station, to their standards of service. I feel that many guests, who get wrapped up in food competition television and Yelp, also go into restaurants with a critical eye. However, it not based upon the knowledge about how a complicated system like a restaurant runs. Part of the job of a restaurant is to make a guest feel as if there is not “behind the curtain.” However, if a customer is constantly looking for fault, and paying more attention to actions of their server, when their not at the table, and immediately counting minutes between courses, rather than enjoying a glass of wine, and the conversation of their dining companions, it is nearly impossible. To make dining out an exercise in criticism, rather than an exercise in enjoyment, benefits no one.

      I don’t think that you have necessarily been “lucky” in your dining choices. I think you might just be a nice person, who enjoys dining out because you like food, and being social. I do think that having performed 9 of 10 tasks on this list may contribute to you being an “easy” customer. Knowing some simple cookery, I think, increases one’s appreciation of a restaurant meal a bit more.

      I would try Veal Stock, however. Presentation and product aside, stocks are what separates restaurant quality food from home cooking in a great number of cases. For less commitment, as shrimp stock is a good place to start. Buy ez-peel shrimp, and make a stock with the shells. It is easier to extract the flavor from seafood, and a decent stock can be made in a matter of minutes, rather than hours.

  8. Now we just need to make a counter site to yelp in which restaurant employees post their candid reviews of customers. I wonder which will be more scathing?

    • As satisfying as that might be Steve, I really don’t want this post to develop into an us against them sort of thing. All restaurants need and should appreciate their guests. They should strive to make their experiences pleasurable whether they know have a decent knowledge of food and drink or not.

      I would like the average guest to be more educated about food, however. It would make for a better meal, and believe it or not, a better world. The table, and the average person’s relationship to the food on it, have wide-reaching effects. Food is intertwined with politics, with the environment, with sustainability, and with public health in very serious ways.

      Those who criticize my post often draw clumsy analogies, comparing a dining experience to hiring a plumber an electrician, to reviewing a new car or a film. I think food and drink, and dining out, are fundamentally different than these things. I deeply believe that when someone sits down at a bar, or at a restaurant, that they are a guest, not a customer, and certainly not a mere consumer.

      Although it can be entertaining, food should not be about competition. That makes for good TV, it does not make for a good meal. Dining should be about a shared pleasurable experience. The influence of Yelp, and other similar vehicles, affects the dining experience, and affects the experience of those who work in the industry. It affects the relationship between the guest and the hospitality employee. I don’t think it affects any of these things in a healthy manner.

      It has come to the point where whenever a guest walks through the door there is an implied (or increasingly overt) threat that they might disparage the business or any of its employees in a public forum. It adds stress to a business that is already more stressful than anyone who has never worked in the field can truly understand. It makes people like their jobs less, which makes their service suffer, and in turn leads to more bad reviews.

      Hospitality employees are required to let things roll off their back–to never show any signs of the stress that they are under. Anyone who has worked in the field long enough has most likely become better at this than most could possibly imagine. But they are all merely human.

      Yelpers may think that this “community” of theirs improves the experience for them, because it allows them to view the opinions of people like themselves before they commit to spending their money. But the influence of these sites affects the industry in a systemic way. It alters the relationship between the guest and a business and its employees fundamentally. As I entered a restaurant I was discussing my post, Edgewood Cafe: A Review of Sorts, with a friend. Give it a view. It is not at all about the business, but is about a friendship. Calling it a “review” is a bit of a joke. But the server overheard, and became visibly nervous. There is now always this sense of fear that the wrong person might sit in a servers section, who is in a nasty mood, and doesn’t want to be turned around. Who has decided to criticize before they even sit.

      This fear can’t help but affect the dining experience in a negative way. Word of mouth has always been a concern. But now it is broadcast, it is searchable, and although I haven’t confirmed this, I have read from multiple sources that Yelp coerces business into advertising with them by making bad reviews more prominent on their site.

      I wish both guests and business owners alike would ignore Yelp.

      I wish more people would make time to cook at home, to learn about food. Its history, its place in different cultures, how it is produced.

  9. Really, the problem lies with people who read Yelp! or Open Table to begin with, who actually give these fuckheads enough influence to warrant whole posts like this about them. I don’t think that your ability to cook, and certainly not your ability to taste blind (which usually turns people into even more of an asshole when they are proud of it), have anything to do with whether or not you enjoy a meal. People who want attention will always want attention and the best thing to do is pretend that these kind of sites do not even exist at all.

    The best way is to find out about a restaurant for yourself, or from those you trust.

    • I do think that understanding how the food gets to the plate can increase your enjoyment of the meal. It doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your meal at all.

      I agree completely with the rest. Blind tasting braggarts are annoying, but for those who tasting wine is a hobby, it is a fun party game, or something to do at the end of a shift.

      If I was to re-write this post one thing I would probably change 9) by substituting, “Identifying the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon by blind taste.”

    • “Really, the problem lies with people who read Yelp! or Open Table to begin with, who actually give these fuckheads enough influence to warrant whole posts like this about them.”

      Hi, I’m a “fuckhead” who can cook, and I read (and post on) Yelp.

      In fact, many more users of it would be able to do the things listed here than the general populace. There are plenty of dumb users of every single review system out there, and they were of even lower quality before Yelp.

      “The best way is to find out about a restaurant for yourself, or from those you trust.”

      That’s exactly why I use the site.

  10. Actually, knowing how to do everything on your list (except #9 which seems misplaced) makes me more likely to criticize sub-par food or service. Sure, a restaurant staff puts love and passion into their job, but an overcooked steak that took 30 minutes and cost $28 dollars is unacceptable. Someone who truly loves and has passion for food wouldn’t serve it. They would make it right!

    What some chefs and restaurants need to learn is how to respond to a negative review. Every review is an opportunity for improvement in quality control, service, or cutomer interaction. Yes, there are people who will bitch and moan no matter what, but if you offer resonable solutions to remedy a customer’s bad review it will become clear if the review was warranted or if they’re just a complainer.

    Here are two examples from my town.

    1- A restaurant put a bad review from yelp on the sandwhich board in front of their restaurant. It read, “Come in and try the worst sausage pizza (user’s yelp name) ever had!” That day their sausage pizza was the most ordered dish. Later on yelp, not only were there now at least a dozen positive reviews of that same pizza, but the original poster recanted his review and apologized. He had been in a bad mood and admitted he hadn’t read the dish description.

    2- A cupcake shop got some constructive critism on their facebook wall. A loyal and long-time customer had ordered a $6 cupcake to go. The employee just set the cupcake on the counter without a napkin or plate (they used to put to-go orders in boxes) and the employee was rude. Instead of dealing with the critisim or addressing the issues, the cupcake store deleted her comment and sent her a nasty private message. The message said esentially she didn’t know what she was talking about and don’t have the right to post it on our page. Four of her friends noticed that her comment had been deleted and asked her about it. After she told them the owner’s response, all 5 of them “unliked” the page and now go to another bakery that is about a block away.

    In example #1 the cutomer probably couldn’t do anything on your list. Yet, because the restaurant delt with the review in a creative way, the end result was a higher overall yelp rating.

    In Example #2 they took your “the customer isn’t an expert and therefor the review is unwarranted” attitude and lost 5 customers. There are a couple of funny aspects to this story that I didn’t mention. The customer works for a advertising company that specializes in restaurant advertising and her job in particular deals with restaurant promotion using social media. The other funny aspects are that I found this article from that cupcake store’s facebook page (they linked to it after the above mentioned incident) and the owner admitted she couldn’t do most of the things on your list.

    I have never heard of a restaurant going out of business because the customers weren’t smart enough. I do know restaurants that have closed because they didn’t adapt.

    Just some food for thought! See what I did there? Like the hot kitchen comment? HA!

    • My problem isn’t with the criticism. It’s with the quality, tone, and venue of the criticism. I am probably more critical than most considering my level of experience, but I’m much less likely to leave a nasty review on Yelp. With this post I was also trying to suggest that the Yelp and food tv culture that is iinfiltrating food is shifting the focus from enjoying a shared experience, to something more judgmental. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

      I could write a post on how a restaurant could best utilize Yelp reviews. How to respond, how to develop a filter. But this post was not directed toward them. It was a bit of a pat on the back to those in the Industry, but was also directed towards the Yelpers themselves. It is directed toward the gentleman in a cranky mood who fired off a bad review, later admitting it was unfounded, and perhaps he should have read the menu. Some will admit there mistake, but most won’t I’m just saying, “Don’t be mean on Yelp. Think before you write. Try to do these few things, you might understand the process,and in turn enjoy the process a bit more.” It is a food blog, written from an industry vet’s perspective, who is also an avid home cook.

      The list format, by going after Yelp (in a relatively even-handed, measured manner I think) were attempts to be a bit provocative, to drive traffic. I want people to read my blog. This post has been successful in that. It’s not hit “Charlie Bit My Finger” numbers but by the end of the day today 6,000 views will probably hit. I’ve gained blog and twitter followers, Facebook likes. The cupcake fan and social media expert would have to quantify this post as a success.

      Screwing with blog commenters like Brad is fun. I think some of my readers will enjoy it. He’s a pompous blowhard, most likely the worst type of Yelper, who made the mistake of commenting not on Yelp, but on a venue I control, and that is less hospitable to his opinions.

      I think everyone deserves a good experience, and well-prepared food when they go out. But lots of things affect a dining experience that are beyond the control of a restaurant’s employees. It ends up on Yelp nonetheless and they suffer consequences. You try to do the best you can, and if things aren’t perfect you try to make amends.

      A scenario. A couple goes out for an anniversary dinner. The man didn’t buy the woman the gift she wanted. He smiled too much at the pretty young hostess while being seated. She’s pissed. It’s over before it started. She’s not going to like anything. She writes a bad Yelp review. She was one of 35-40 guests that the server waited on that night. One of 100 that weekend. On Tuesday morning she writes a bad review. Criticizes the food, and offers vague criticism of the service. The restaurant manager reads this review. He or she doesn’t understand the context, but she can do a little research and determine who the server was. Or at least make an educated guess. The psychology of the dining experience is a very complicated thing. There are a lot of factors, which good, experienced servers can intuit in an eerie fashion. But the fact of the matter is, with a bad Yelp review, shit often rolls down hill. Rather than address a systemic issue, a lower-level, more vulnerable employee is targeted and punished. I don’t think most Yelpers are aware of this, and I think they might consider their words more carefully if they were.

      • So you’re saying that if Gordon Ramsey were to criticize someone’s restaurant it would be OK, but as a self-proclaimed non-foody, I am not allowed to do so? Actually, my reviews freely admit that I don’t know food. I generally focus on service and atmosphere, about which I do have knowledge.

      • Also, concerning the Great Cupcake Fiasco of 2K12. Why not send a private message, through email or Facebook, and see how the business responds before posting public criticism? If a private communication is ignored, or handled improperly, than a public criticism may be warranted.

        Puns are awesome.

      • “It’s with the quality, tone, and venue of the criticism.”

        The venue is less relevant. The quality and tone are endemic to user-generated content online, sadly.

  11. Man, did you pay the Brad “Don’t You Know Who I Am? An *Elite Yelper*, That’s Who!” the Titanic D-Bag to write his comment and perfectly illustrate your point? If not, you should have. The page of his dictionary with “irony” on it has clearly been torn out.

    I think the point is pretty simple, and having worked both in the industry and as a professional restaurant critic, hard to dispute: doing a little bit of home cooking and entertaining deepens your appreciation of what professionals are able to accomplish at scale on a nightly basis. We live in a world where an increasingly small number of people do either, especially the younger folks who seem to dominate Yelp, a generation full of folks who almost entirely subsist on prepared convenience foods and restaurant meals.

    It gets worse: most self-styled foodies can’t even distinguish between a service mistake and a kitchen mistake. I’d go further with this premise, and suggest that you can’t earn your license to dine out in a restaurant until you’ve not only ticked off this list, but also worked in a customer service oriented job for six weeks. You don’t need to be able to create a perfect souffle, but before you start critiquing a professional’s work on Yelp or anywhere else, you better be able to at least boil an egg, asshole.

    • A license to dine out? Wow, a hell of a lot of restaurants would go out of business under your proposal. Who’s the pompous douchebag now?

      • Mc Slim, I did not pay Brad to prove my point for me. But Brad and others were kind enough to post rude, mean, and ignorant responses to my blog post which they somehow felt disputed the suggestion that many Yelpers are rude, mean, and ignorant. They also keep on referring to themselves as consumers, which drives me crazy. Some people can’t seem to understand how dining out is different than buying a vacuum.

  12. F that! I’ve never done any of the things on the list, nor do I intend to. As an Elite-level Yelper, if I go out to eat and don’t like something, be it food, service, or atmosphere, I feel justified in writing a review to share my personal experience and opinion. I will also write reviews for good experiences. Deal with it!

    • It always amuses me when Yelpers feel entitled to publicly criticize businesses and their employees, yet don’t seem to be able to take any criticism of Yelp, Yelping and Yelpers. Congratulations on your elite-level status, however. Thrilled to see that elite status does not require any sort of knowledge of food preparation or hospitality besides frequently going out to eat and bitching about it on the Internet.

      • It’s not that I can’t take criticism, it’s just that I think your list of prerequisites is stupid.

      • WHen someone begins a comment with “F that!” and ends it with “Deal with it!” I think it does mean that they can’t take criticism, especially from a lowly food blogger who dares criticize you, the “Yelp Elite.” I heard the “Yelp Elite” is like being an astronaut or a Navy Seal. ONLY THE BEST OF THE BEST! If you hadn’t noticed, because you were too busy forming your comment in your head to actually read the post carefully and to understand its context, this is a food blog, written from the perspective of someone who has worked in food and beverage for years. I want to share my passion for food, drink, and cooking with others. To educate, entertain, and encourage people to cook more at home. I also think that restaurant guests should be respectful of those who work in restaurants and bars both in person and on the Internet. I like to learn things. I like my opinions to be educated. Perhaps you don’t. You feel entitled to pass judgement upon those who work in the service industry, because they aren’t spoken down to, snapped at, and disparaged often enough.

        P.S. I don’t think that my prerequisites are stupid. I think that you are stupid. I might go so far as to call you a stupid head. What exactly about poaching an egg is stupid Brad? Eggs are up there with yeast and wine grapes as one of the most wondrous foodstuffs on our fair planet.

        P.P.S. If you don’t like my post that’s fine, because I don’t value the opinion of stupid heads.

      • A stupid head? Is this blog written by my six-year-old? Sorry, but I don’t buy the concept that I have to be able to master something before I can review it. I don’t know how to make a movie or create a website, but I can certainly decide whether or not I like the experience as a viewer or user just as I can decide whether or not I like a restaurant as a diner. And honestly, it has nothing to do with demeaning people in the service industry. They are paid to do a job and if they do it appropriately I have no issues. And before you say that is not fair, please note that I am held to high standards by my boss as well and we are all held to standards by society. But hey, that’s just my opinion and since I could care less about learning to poach an egg, take it as you will. Clearly I’m just a stupid head douchebag.

      • Brad, there are many disparaging comments posted on Yelp. Perhaps not by you, but by many nonetheless. I don’t know what you do, but I doubt you are faced with the scrutiny, aired on the Internet, that service industry employees are. I expect reasonably good service when I go out. If I don’t receive it, I don’t go back. I don’t bitch about it on the Internet and act as if I’m doing fellow consumers some great favor. I say, “Maybe my waiter was having a bad day. Everyone has a bad day.” But then again I’m not a self-proclaimed stupid head douchebag.

  13. YELP – Anyone who has ever worked in the food service industry can tell horror stories & enlighten the public on perception versus reality. This stream, I think, is aimed at the pompous idiots that have some axe to grind versus the mainstream YELP folks. I wish that those YELPers who beat-up places with their reviews could have their own work scrutinized publicly with the same level of sarcasm & meanness. People should absolutely get what they pay for in terms of product quality & service when they dine out. The problem is that many people have very little understanding of what to expect or how to behave in a restaurant. Ask 20 people to describe what a medium rare steak should look like – you won’t get 20 consistent answers!! When people buy defective cars, wait 2 hours for a doctors appointment, have shitty cell phone reception, or get hassled by a rude receptionist at their insurance company; apparently those big ticket items combined with a mediocre level of service & product quality is tolerable. The idea, however, of waiting 20 minutes for an $25 ala minute grilled steak is somehow completely unimaginable. A restaurant is just a manufacturing facility like Toyota or Motorola. Those big companies have mostly automated production lines that make scheduled series of products & still consider a run with 3% or 4% subpar units a booming success. The food service industry hits those numbers with mostly manual production & a “wildcard” production schedule. Next time you sit down to rip apart a restaurant consider how you feel about uniformed folks outside your profession negatively commenting on it. Harsh YELP critics should think about the fact that their “expert opinion” reviews adversely effect hardworking people’s livelihoods. Just because you don’t think lasagna should have mushrooms or you waited 4 minutes for your side of Ranch dressing does not necessarily validate your rant.

  14. great advice…I’m tired of the “negative comments &haters society” that the internet has spawned…so easy to tear other people down while hiding in the bushes … a new business needs to go through growing pains…learning the ropes and about their miscues from diligent people in the front of the house that take time to talk and listen to their customers and attempt to build their cliental one relationship at a time… in the old days a few words of critique by a customer to a manager or owner gave the owner a chance to address the situation before the whole city was informed of the guests unhappy experience….the habitual complainers and malcontents who come into restaurants and other businesses looking for faults and a free ride are the top critics on yelp these days…DONT SUPPORT THEM …be your own judge…they are not professionals…if you do write reviews online, and you have had a bad experience, did you talk to the owner or manager first and let them try to turn your experience around and give them a chance to address your grievances first hand before you headed to your computer keyboard and your imaginary world of you as the most feared food critic from the ny times

  15. I see the err of my ways now! I will never review a dining experience, since I’ve never done most of the things on that list. I will also never give my opinion about a car I own, since I’ve never built one; or about a play or movie I see, since I’ve never produced or directed one.

    We’re such silly consumers to seek the opinions and experiences of other consumers, rather than just blindly trusting what we’re told by those who produce and sell the product.

    Thanks for enlightening me!

    • Tom, you would be enlightened by trying to do some of the things on this list. You might like to cook. You might enjoy meals in restaurants more because you understand the process a bit. You are not enlightened by offering weak analogies and sarcasm.

      Most people who work in restaurants don’t consider you a consumer, they consider you a guest.

      I didn’t call Yelpers assholes or morons, though many have, and in many instances it is certainly justified. I simply encouraged them to learn to perform a few tasks, to learn a few things. I write a food blog. I want to share my interest in food with others. I also want to share my writing with others, so I intentionally made the subject, structure, and headline of the post a bit attention-grabbing, a bit provocative.

      I don’t quite understand what you intended to achieve with this criticism of my post. Yelpers are often considered a bit snide, a bit mean, somewhat thoughtless. By being snide, sarcastic, and rude in rebutting my post are you trying to dispel this notion? It seems to me you’ve only confirmed it.

      P.S. You may have seen the “error” of your ways, or how you have “erred,” but as written the opening sentence of your comment doesn’t make any sense.

      • As a person who yelps,(rarely) and who has accomplished all these things in your list and at the Cordon Bleu.. I think you are likely unable to take criticism. Maybe you aren’t as talented as you think you are, or maybe you think someone around you has been abused. I will tell you… I think people have to go out of their way to either praise or bitch on a forum such as yelp. It is a little effort, and if I have had a moderately unsavory experience, I am not motivated to tell others about it. However, If it is a really bad experience that is utterly unjustifiable given my understanding of the world around me, then I am very motivated to navigate the internet obstacles to make sure that people know about it.

        I work in the public sector. I would like the opportunity to turn a bad customer service experience into a good one. But that means I can take criticism.

        But lets face it. A lot of people can’t take criticism… A lot of people who make a bad experience vocal at the time of the experience get rebuffed because lets face it American’s can’t take criticism. That is why American Idol no longer has Simon Cowell as a judge. And let me tell you, he canned a lot of no talent people who really need to be told “You’re bloody awful”.

        Now, all of that said, Yelp is horrible, because if the business in question doesn’t pay the hit man, then the only critiques you get on the front page of the business are negative. Yelp purposely puts the negative adds at the forefront, and the positive ones in the background… If yelp is your measure of customer service…. You have a warped view of the world.

      • The issue isn’t whether people who use Yelp! can do any of the things on the list — the issue is whether the restaurant staff knows how to prepare a meal and to deliver quality service. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

      • Brian, most people wish that the issue remained quality food and consistent service. However, many feel that Yelp does not contribute much to achieving this. There are evenhanded,thoughtful comments on Yelp. But it is often a venue for people to be rude, mean, and try to ape what they assume the role of a rude critic to be from watching TV. Those who work in kitchens and dining rooms feel Yelp and the like distract from what dining should be. It becomes about punching quips into your smartphone rather than sharing a meal with a friend or loved one.

        The issue of this blog post is decided by its author Brian, not by you. I decided to write about Yelp and how it affects restaurant guests, restaurant employees, and the dining experience.

        P.S. That thing about hot kitchen is very clever. Did you just make that up?

    • It’s not a matter of people knowing when food is ill prepared. This should be common knowledge. The people this list is aimed at are self-proclaimed food critics who do not have a smidgen of cullinary experience. The purpose of a critic is to bring attention to details, and without an understanding of details they won’t know what to look for. This ideal is very close to that of qualitative natural history; the aim is to enhance the aesthetic experience as much as possible. Truth is, most critics these days are actually reviewers. They hang a signpost not so different from the Facebook “like” button, and do not actually critique their subject.

  16. Soooo… If I’ve never built a TV, I shouldn’t make any comments on a website that reviews technology?

    I’ve read some shitty yelp reviews, but thankfully, I was raised with an understanding of what a “critical filter” should look like so I am able to ignore reviews that I suspect are written by morons. I’ve done 7 out of 10 of the above – I can’t ID wine, but then, I never drink it; if a server hooks me up with a fabulous pairing, you might hear it on my Yelp review, but if I hate the wine you probably won’t, because I know sweet FA about it and a server is not a mind reader. If a server tells me something is delightfully fresh and it comes out salty, I will let the server know – and if I don’t like the response, you will hear about it (and if I DO like the response, you will hear about it). I’m sorry, but how is a food appreciator not qualified to give feedback on a restaurant? And as a consumer, why is it unfair for me to be able to read other consumers’ opinions?

    I’m sorry, this post is probably less sympathetic than it should be… but this is the fifth time this week I’ve read someone’s complaint about how terrible the entire concept of Yelp is. If poaching an egg were more difficult than sending a man to the moon, it wouldn’t negate someone’s right to point out that the egg wasn’t done very well. And if several people have the same experience – Greasy Spoon down on 10th is not that great for eggs, despite the perfectly fluffy pancakes – well, maybe if I really want a great egg I’m going somewhere else. This is not unfair.

    Sorry, I probably should have put this on that “yelp is for a-holes” blog instead.

    • Not everyone can build a T.V. I think you actually have to be a robot. Anyone can poach an egg. I think it’s fun. I also think poached eggs are delicious. I love to slice them open and watch the yolk run across the plate.

  17. I get what you\’re saying here and I agree with the *sentiments* but I don\’t agree with it entirely… I can grill a steak for free at home, but if I\’m paying $20 for someone else to grill it for me and I ask for \”medium rare\”, I expect it to be medium rare.

    I\’m not a food critic, so if I write a critical review of a restaurant on Yelp it\’s not really about the food only. It\’s about the service and the establishment. An honest mistake or two isn\’t going to merit a negative review, but if my meal isn\’t what I asked for or isn\’t edible, I\’m going to send it back. If the kitchen doesn\’t do it right the second time, or the server gives me attitude about it, or if the manager isn\’t helpful. Then yes, that\’s going to be reflected in the review.

    I don\’t withhold tips from servers who are slow because the restaurant is too busy, because that\’s a management issue not the server\’s fault. But if it contributes to the overall experience at that establishment, then other people deserve to know what to expect before they go there (and the manager/owner needs to know that this isn\’t okay and should perhaps hire more staff). I will definitely be critical of a server who is rude, an establishment that isn\’t clean, and food that is… well… bad. There\’s a difference between accidentally grilling my steak medium instead of medium rare – and bringing me food that is inedible or not what I ordered.

    I have great respect for those in the food service industry and part of that is because I can\’t poach a \”perfect\” egg and I can\’t identify a wine\’s variety by blind taste. That\’s why I pay someone else to do it. But it\’s still a business and in any business, you want what you paid for. One doesn\’t have to be a dick, but one has a right to get what they paid for and enjoy it. I prefer that meals don\’t revolve around criticism. But if my dining experience is a bad experience, I don\’t have to pretend to be happy about that.

    • My favorite restaurant in Chicago is a place on Hubbard street. The food is the best I have ever had in the city, actually among the best I have ever had in the world, and considering my experience in the world, that’s a hell of a thing to say.. but…. The service is T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. terrible. It is never busy… The place is never full… But….the service is always terrible. I have been there when no one else is in the house… and it is always still terrible. Now… I don’t have to be a rocket scientist, master chef, bartender, bus boy, maitre d, or server to know that a restaurant that is devoid of people at a friday night at 7 p.m. should have something other than dreadfully useless service…

      I yelped about that.

      • Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. I’ve worked in restaurants for ten years. I am certainly able to take criticism. I wouldn’t have lasted otherwise. I love food, I love a loose workplace, I love to sleep late, and I love to pace. I am less interested in money and status than I probably should be. It’s why I’ve done it for so long. No one makes it 10 years working in the front of the house of restaurants without being able to take criticism. Criticism is offered much more freely than kindness from restaurant guests. We all become experts at eating shit with a smile.

        There is nothing more satisfying than turning around an unhappy guest. There is also nothing more effective in gaining a loyal, frequent guest. However, we prefer to do it in person, or at least on the phone, or through email.

        It is not just Yelp that can blackmail restaurant owners and employees into getting what they want. Yelper’s themselves do it. They make threats to get what they want. They are also just mean sometimes. They say food is improperly prepared when they often don’t know what properly prepared food looks and tastes like. Just because someone is grossed out by the layer of fat rimming a duck breast or pork chop does not mean it’s not supposed to be there. As long as the fat is fully rendered it is prepared properly. But Yelpers will claim their duck was “gross and fatty” and give a bad review. I think that is unfortunate.

        I love the democratizing power of the Internet. I’m a blogger. But that doesn’t mean that Yelp and Yelpers are themselves above criticism. As a forum I think it attracts a certain element that I find unsavory. I also find that it diminishes the pleasure of the dining experience for diners, whether they realize it or not. I can say for a fact that it diminishes the pleasure of many of those who work in the restaurant industry.

        To be honest, I find your comments on my blog to be T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. terrible. I’m not familiar with that acronym. Or are you a cheerleader, shouting out each letter individually as you would while shaking your pom poms and spelling out the team’s mascot at the BIG GAME! A bit melodramatic. Your use of ellipses is also excessive. Are you trying to make your comments read as if it is a carefully considered inner monologue with plenty of thoughtful pauses? Make a cogent, well-structured argument and the reader will think it was thoughtful. Lay off the…

        P.S. Cordon Bleu! Ooooh La La!

  18. If you do not like a restaurant, then don’t go. Don’t fucking review it as if you have some professional opinion. Most of you have obviously never worked in this industry. All the article says is that you should try a bit of what we do. If you don’t want to, cool. But dont pretend like you have a valid opinion all of the sudden. I dont come to where you work and tell you how to change a tire or a motherboard. Or how to change that design. Or how you should interact with this client or how you need to bring cost down in x department. You visit a business. You decide whether or not they suck. You stay or leave based on your personal opinion. Stop making that public. Still, it’s more yelps fault for making the “general populace” seem like they’re opinion of restaurants should be taken seriously.

    • I disagree. Yelp’s value isn’t in the individual reviews – it’s the conglomerate. If 80 percent of people going to your restaurant have all had similar experiences (and the experience happens to be shitty), I’d like to know before I plunk down $40, $60 or even $100 for a good meal. I’m smart enough to know that people can have a bad experience, and write a nasty review – but that doesn’t mean I’m going to have the same experience. In fact, I use discretion when reading reviews. As with any type of crowd-sourced reviews, the user has to take into account the sum of all things. 10,000 Frenchmen can’t be wrong…

      • I dont’ understand what your disagreeing with. This post simply argues that the act of dining, because of TV and online review sites has changed. It has become less about the food, and about breaking bread with friends and family. Less of a ritual, less of a celebration. I, as a lover of food, of cooking, and as someone who makes a living in the restaurant business, regret this shift. I intentionally made the structure and headline of this blog post provocative–I wanted people to read it. But if you read the post, I believe I still made it clear that a few simple acts of food preparation should come before the criticism. The food, the dining experience, should be more important than what one is going to say on Yelp. For some its not.

  19. I don’t know what yelping means (I could look it up but I won’t) but I have done 9 out of the 10 things above. Wine. I grew up in a family who drank Good Wine. I only purchase wine that has been bottled by the people who grew the grapes. I know when I like a wine, but I don’t know much that I can talk about. I know which areas that are likely to give birth to a wine that I will like, but I would not be good at picking the cépage, I have never tried to. Like art I always encourage people to react with their heart (and their eyes/tastebuds) and trust themselves. I may never do no. 9. I know about cooking with love though.

  20. Disagree. Most people dine out, especially at fine dining restaurants, because they can’t or don’t want to do these things for themselves. People pay good money, including good tips, for high quality food. If the restaurant doesn’t keep up their part of the bargain, I say “Yelp away!”

    • Double disagree!!! Unless you suffer from a severe handicap, you can do the things on this list. You can poach egg in the time it takes to check a coat at a restaurant. If someone doesn’t want to do these things, that’s certainly their right. Their opinions do have less value than someone who has done these things. Their opinions are uninformed. I also am curious what you mean by good money. What is good money? Do yelpers who can’t poach an egg know what food really costs? Are they aware of the cost of a pound of morels, or a pound of parmigiana-reggiano? Do they know why menu items cost what they do? If diners were aware of these things they could make better dining choices. It could only improve their dining experience. If people don’t want to learn basic cookery, I really just think it’s a shame. They are disconnecting themselves from what’s a fundamental part of the human experience, that is intrinsic to every culture that has ever existed. Cooking is sensual, satisfying. Doing these things will make dining out more enjoyable. Knowing a little about what goes into putting together the plate before you can only add value to the experience. I feel that dining is more than a simple monetary transaction. Many don’t. I want to change their minds. If just one person looks at this list and instead of saying, “I don’t want to. That’s not my job,” cooks an egg for the first time than I will have achieved my objective.

  21. Full disclosure, I am on Yelp, I use it near-daily, and am an ’elite’ member. I am NOT someone who tries pulling that little tidbit out in a restaurant or bar for admiration or free stuff.

    The problem with this sentiment is that while I agree that you shouldn’t be unnecessarily critical or overstep your base of knowledge in order to form that criticism on Yelp, the example doesn’t hold up. It’s like saying you should know how to install a circuit breaker yourself before you hire an electrician to do it anyway so that you can appreciate their skill all the more. Many people know that they like their steak medium rare, and might even be able to make it passably at home, but they instead go to a restaurant to trust in the skill of the trained professional behind the line.

    I’m not trying to be divisive, honest, just saying that the ability to DO the things you\’ve mentioned has little bearing on the ability to tell if they’re done correctly. Many people can neither poach an egg nor have the capacity to judge a poached egg. Would one or both of those pieces of knowledge enhance the experience and enjoyment of eating a poached egg at a restaurant? Absolutely. But are they BOTH necessary? Not really.

    Yelp is a barometer for what everyday people think of a place. People who don’t cook very often but go out to eat for the enjoyment of the food and not necessarily the process. They’re the ones contributing the most to the bottom line; discounting those opinions as ill-informed is a slippery slope. I don’t want or need the chef to be on television to appreciate what’s on the plate, I just want them to cook a good meal. Maybe it makes me sound like a dick, but I’m paying the restaurant the money that they’re asking for that meal. I shouldn’t have to pass a knowledge or skills challenge in order to dine there, or to tell others what I thought. Would it be good if I knew how to braise the duck I just ate? Yes (and I do,) but it’s not integral to my enjoyment of it.

    Sorry if this came off as bitchy. I swear I’m not trying to be a jerk, just presenting a differing point.

    • This post partly about expressing a bit of solidarity with people who work in the restaurant business. I make it clear that I am writing from this point of view on my blog. Except for a select few, working in a restaurant involves a lot of long hours and low pay. Many people who do it, especially those who eventually become successful do it out of love. Out of love for food, drink, and the communal act of dining. People write hurtful, careless things on the Internet, often anonymously, and often from an uninformed place.

      Being a chef, a server, a sommelier is not like being an electrician. Providing food and hospitality to guests is not equivalent to installing a circuit breaker. It is not a simple exchange of goods and services in the same way. No one celebrates a birthday, an anniversary, or a graduation by installing a circuit breaker. They often do so my sharing a meal–one that is home cooked or served at a restaurant.

      One appreciates pieces of art if they understand a bit about the culture of the artist, the techniques that were used, etc. Though food is not high art except in rare cases, I feel that attempting to do the things on my list will enhance one’s appreciation of food. It will make dining more enjoyable.

      It is also not a “skills challenge.” That sort of thing is for television, not for the home kitchen. Watching the yolk, brilliant yellow-orange, run across the plate after you’ve successfully poached you first egg is satisfying. Fresh mayonnaise is immeasurably better than that from a jar. There is no comparison. Pulling a well baked loaf from the oven, listening to it sing as its cools, with its intoxicating smell filling your home, is transcendent. It is an experience I want everyone to have. It will help one in turn appreciate the perfect yolk on your plate in the restaurant, and the bread baked in house even more.

      Comments on the Internet will continue, I understand that. But I wan’t people to have a deep appreciation for food, not a shallow one. Understanding how food is made will achieve this in my opinion.

      • You make some great points, and I feel like if someone were starting their own review blog, or contributing to a publication in some way, then they should have some sort of background or experience as you mentioned. At least they should make an attempt at understanding the craftsmanship and straight hard work that goes into being in the hospitality industry.

        Yelp is a crowd-sourced site designed to give a reflection of what the general populace thinks of a business, and not just restaurants. It includes business other than restaurants. You can review your hairdresser or barber for giving you a good haircut without having the knowledge to cut it yourself. You can review a real estate agent for doing a great job securing you an apartment when you’re from out of town even though you are perfectly capable of finding one on your own. And yes, you can even review your electrician for coming out on a weekend and fixing a blown fuse which you probably should just fix yourself but would rather have a skilled laborer do it. You can even review a restaurant for having terrible service, an aspect of the industry on which the quality of the food and skill of the chef has little bearing.

        Certainly these everyday life occasions are not necessarily causes for celebration as you pointed out, but none the less they are carried out by skilled laborers much like chefs, pastry chefs, bartenders and line cooks, who do what they do because ostensibly they do it better than others. As someone who has utilized all of the above mentioned services in the past, I feel I am qualified to give judgement on the service or product I recieved. As is everyone else. And that crowdsourced opinion in general gives a pretty good picture of overall quality, the reason why Yelp has been so successful.

        I agree that learning and mastering and or all of these skills will definitely enhance your experience at a restaurant, as it pertains to the food. Maybe it might even cause you to go in and review a place negatively BECAUSE you understand the process where you may not have before. Many who are not in the industry go to a restaurant simpy because they can enjoy the full sensory experience of a well thought out and prepared meal without the necessity of hours and hours in the kitchen to understand the process. I feel like relying solely on Yelp as a barometer of quality is mis-guided, but I feel that it would be unfair to disregard those opinions simply because they may not be as knowledgeable about the craft as others.

        You seem to have a much better appreciation of food and what goes into it than many Yelpers. I really do appreciate the sentiment, and as someone who has done everything on your list (save for #9, but talk to me about beer…), I can attest that all of those things do enhance the experience. I just feel that it is unfair to snub a yelp review simply because that person hasn’t completed that list. I’d be curious to hear what Sam, who also commented, has to say, being both a chef and a yelper himself.

      • Cooking and eating can be pleasurable. They should be pleasurable. I think everyone should cook. If you read my post, I hope I made that clear. The name of the post was meant to attract attention, honestly, and it certainly has.

        My blog is about sharing my passion for food and drink. If your a beer guy I suggest trying to find beers from st somewhere. The best beers ive ever had.

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