[photo courtesy of Brian Benefield]
[This is the latest installment of “Cobb Cuisine, Culture and Community” by Brian Benefield]
Have you ever had a good or bad experience in a new bistro or even your favorite burger joint and felt compelled to Yelp it from the rooftops? Before you become a keyboard warrior and bash the place or offer a stellar five-star review, you should pause and think on it for a moment. Every situation that happens in a restaurant can be resolved or positively recognized before leaving the establishment, giving the owner the chance to hear the good or the bad. Some people I know have spent their life savings to follow their passion for cooking and serving others in a very competitive industry where margins are razor thin and costs have skyrocketed post-pandemic.
Mistakes happen, things get dropped in the kitchen by a new hire, and I’ll be glad to humiliate myself for the greater good. My first restaurant job was at a Cheers-type place named Houlihan’s at Lenox Square Mall in the early 90s. I was hired as a server with no experience, and during my first training shift, I heard bellowed from the kitchen, “Fajitas, pick it up for table 12!” Being the way too eager new employee, I ran to grab the blistering hot cast iron skillet with my bare hand and promptly dropped it to the floor. As my hand began to bubble and my pride sank, the manager said, “Send him home; he’s useless.” I went on to become a server trainer, bartender, and expeditor in the kitchen and worked there for many fun-loving years. But I never grabbed that damn skillet again without the fajita condom, or you may know it as a hot pad or oven mitt. Restaurant lingo was irreverently different back then, and I have a feeling it still is.
In the Insta and Facebook world, you can make your friends jelly by posting a beautiful artificially filtered picture of the mouthwatering dish you just devoured for lunch while they eat leftovers at home. Like it or not, social media is how we look things up, from restaurant reviews to local tours or even where to get a good haircut. Good reviews are crucial, and over 50% of consumers rely on them to decide where to spend their hard-earned money for dinner on any given night. Anthony Bourdain once said, “There’s really no worse or lower human being than an Elite Yelper, and they are universally loathed by chefs everywhere.”
My wife and I recently talked about how we are so glad we grew up in a different era without social media or the internet. We laughed that we’d have gotten in a lot more trouble if the crazy things we did were instantly posted for all to see. I use Google reviews quite frequently when we travel, but I do think they can be manipulated to favor certain places, and other spots sometimes suffer because of this weird technology black hole. Social media is anything but sociable. I once saw a brilliant chalkboard sign in a restaurant that read, “No Wi-Fi password, just talk to each other.”
So, next time you visit a new spot with probably limited servers and the owner is working the bar, garnishing food coming from the kitchen while mixing you a martini, have some patience and empathy for how hard they’re working to be hospitable towards you. Pause before you type, and if there’s a hiccup or your order comes out wrong, then seek out a manager or the owner to get a personal interaction to find a resolution. We are all human and make mistakes, but remember the word- Humankind.
Brian Benefield is an Atlanta native born in Dekalb County, who has lived in Cobb since 2003. He has worked in Hospitality, Marketing, Real Estate, and most recently Food Tourism. Married to Cecilie Benefield for 12 blissful years. They have a dog, Miss Pickles. Hobbies are mountain biking, running, gardening, and trying new recipes in the kitchen. Member of Les Marmitions cooking club since 2016, where we cook 5-course meals with local Atlanta chefs.