[Updated 7.09: Since this incident happened, the restaurant has changed hands, and management has changed. This post is still here because of all the comments]
For those that have been following a service issue I had with one restaurant in town, it has now been resolved, for the most part, to my satisfaction. The restaurant owner has apologized for the action of his staff to the people involved, and I have decided there is no point in keeping the entry; it is now unavailable.
This is not about a witch hunt. It’s not about putting anyone out of business. It is about getting someone’s attention when other methods have failed. No one wanted a free dinner, they just wanted some respect, and an apology.
I appreciate everyone that has weighed in. The last comment is below. Thank you Mr. Chureau.
February 24th, 2006 18:42
I am one of the owner and chef of fenouil.
As we all know now, the way my manager dealt with the situation was to say the least, innapropriate.
I heard of the post on this web site by a friend today and was shocked by the way your friends, were treated that evening.
I regret that I was not personally involved in the matter sooner.
I look foward to speaking to offended parties so i can rectify the situation.
I do believe that my staff is curtious,gracious and attentive and that incident does not reflect the way we treat our customers.
They did what they did. No apology by the chef/owner should make up for what they did.
They behaved poorly. You happened to be friends with one of the customers that they behaved poorly to, and it gives them the impetus to take action.
But according to your original report, they had refused other gift certificates.
Just because someone is friends with you and has their situation resolved successfully, does not mean that others have.
Also, it does not detract from the way that the FOH treated your friends in the first place.
Have some journalistic integrity…keep the original post up. It’s what actually happened. Fenouil should be held accountable for their actions.
Angelhair, seriously, “no apology should make up for what they did”? Have you never made a mistake? Have you never needed to make an apology? Have you never needed to be forgiven? Have you never behaved poorly? Do uou really live your life without forgiving others transgressions?
It must be very stressful to be so perfect.
I think it is sad that it had to come to public humiliation before they took action. I think if anything, this makes Fenouil look worse. What happened to the snide manager? Is he still working there and thinking he is better than everybody? Maybe Pascal can address why he and his other co-owners didn’t rectify the situation earlier. Maybe they can explain why it took Food Dude posting the situation on his blog for any action to be taken? Come on Fenouil, if you want to earn my business again, address these questions.
I partially agree with Angelhair, I think you would be best served to keep the original post up with a note at the top explaining what happened. It would make you look a lot better. You didn’t bend under pressure to the Saucebox debacle, and that won you a lot of readers. I’m not saying you are under pressure here, but it just looks kind of bad.
It’s not about just forgiveness. Of course you can forgive the actions of an establishment. But it actually happened. You can’t delete that it happened.
Why not instead of excising the entire original post, you keep the post up and tell your readers what Fednoil did to make up for their behavior? By cutting it entirely, you lose your integrity.
Say you review a restaurant and on one of the several visits you made, you received extremely poor service. Wouldn’t you keep that in a review even if on other nights service was good. You should.
When you cut the thing entirely, it looks like the restaurant did you a favor because they knew what you could do to them. It looks like you are playing favorites with them for whatever reason.
People read your reviews because they respect your thoroughness and knowledge. Don’t let your readers down by showing them that you can be ‘bought’.
Food Dude says
Everyone is making some good points. Accompanying emails are telling me my journalistic entegrity was ruined for posting it in the first place, here people say it is ruined for taking it down. Hmmm.
It was a very long night of site tweaking. I’m going to think about this today before I make a final decision.
alan bluehole says
I agree with the first comment. I think an appropriate thing to do would have been to leave the story as is and to disclose the full set of comments/actions that took place after the post went up. Then we readers/consumers can decide, based on the entire situation from beginning to end, whether or not we want to frequent the restaurant. It looks like Food Dude’s been bought.
Kim Nyland says
“Maybe Pascal can address why he and his other co-owners didn’t rectify the situation earlier?”
Um…maybe he didn’t know?? Is that such a crazy answer….There is the FOH,BOH & UPPER Management…just like in every work situation things may happen (known as mistakes, which I believe everyone makes)that upper management does not know about, maybe ever…maybe not for days/week/months…& vice versa. I completely agree the floor management that night was pathetic & there really isn’t an excuse for that behavior but to write off the entire restaurant is just silly. We have had situations here happen that we haven’t had a clue about until weeks later, simply because the customer wrote a letter or called…no offense but were (boh/chef’s/upper management) just a little too busy to keep up with what’s going on with the floor at all times…& we’re (Apizza) just a pizza joint…I can’t imagine how hard it would be to run a “restaurant”….I have the luxury of being able to have enough time in my day to read about the next place I’d like to try on my night off (meaning food blogs). If this were a full blown restaurant, there is no way I’d know what this blog or Food.Org is.
The issue is being dealt with by upper management …if the resolution isn’t to the customers liking I’m sure we’ll read about it soon….but to delete the original story isn’t necessary, not only did it happen….it may help prevent situations like that from happening in the future…for both customers & FOH training sessions.
kim @ apizza
It’s an interesting situation. As a journalist myself, I’m keenly aware of the impact that one of your reports can have. The restaurant responded to your post. But how many other non-food-critic patrons will be mistreated?
Essentially, if your friends didn’t know you –– didn’t have a good friend with a food review web site –– would the situation have been rectified? Or would they ultimately have been dismissed by a restaurant that didn’t seem too concerned about a pair of poorly treated customers? It shouldn’t have taken your post to elicit a response.
Years ago a friend took his car to a Midas for an oil change. They drained his oil, but neglected the re-fill the car with oil. After my friend drove away and discovered this, the shop was unwilling to do anything substantial to rectify the situation. But when they got a call from a local TV investigative unit, suddenly the folks at that Midas were very responsive. Still, I never took my car to that Midas.
And your original post should still be up, because having read it… I’ll never have dinner at Fenouil.
Pork Cop, that was exactly the argument that Bruce Carey tried to make with his horrible whiney Saucebox letters. That is a ridiculous argument. Has Fenouil suffered from lack of business yet because of this? Are the servers now starving in the streets? Restaurants close all the time in this town. There are just too many restaurants around. Should new restaurants not open because they are threatening the jobs of struggling restaurants? Come on.
Pork Cop says
I think that a lot of peoples incomes are being influenced negatively by this whole ordeal. Most of these people had nothing to do with the situation. The point has been made(it needed to be made) and it’s time to move on and see how the restaurant reacts in the future.We all make mistakes.
alan bluehole says
that was much more than a mistake / perhaps the people whose incomes have been affected will seek work where management puts the customer first
Pork Cop says
No, I said that the point needed to be made and it has been made. Lets just wait ‘n see what happens next.
Pork Cop says
Also, Are the victims of this atrocity able to move on from this? If they can why can’t we?
I hope you will decide to restore the original thread.
alan bluehole says
No. They cannot move on from the atrocity. It’s a fenouilocaust. And you, pork cop, are a fenouilocaust denier.
Pork Cop says
I am the David Irving of Fenouilcaustersisises. Perhaps a 3 year prison term is in order?
It appears FoodDude cannot win for trying. He received so much flack for his original post and now that the situation has been handled with some shred of grace he has removed the posting. Personally, I do not think the original post was a mistake. It actually happened. Journalism involves accurate reporting, and the integrity of this sight seems to be such that one can trust its contents. Fair enough. What a humiliating experience and no one desires to be in those shoes. I feel sorry for the couple at the restaurant and feel sorry for the man that kindly bought them a GC. I think it was good of the chef/owner to respond. I do think caution with our words is wise, as reputation can be everything for a fine dining establishment. Removing the post, that, in my opinion, was not being bought. The point was made and no further damage need be done. That being said, re-posting the post would not be wrong as well as the truth was told and that is our freedom of speech. It gives consumers some power to demand that when we pay good money for a meal it better be a good meal. We can only hope the restaurant involved will learn from the mishap.
Food Dude says
You are all making good points. I appreciate the input.
The reason I took the post down, is because I didn’t want to forever influence potential diners decisions as to whether they should dine here, based on the actions of one employee. I seriously doubt this restaurant will screw up like this again. Lesson learned, move on.
It is one thing if I have three meals here and they are all bad. That is the action of a restaurant as a whole. But should the idiocy of a single employee forever haunt the owner who has dealt with the situation and wants to get back to making good food? It is (to stretch an analogy) kind of like punishing the parents for the action of their child.
I stopped in at Fenouil late last night for cocktails, appatizers and a couple of their amazing desserts. It was packed, there was a good buzz in the place, and everyone seemed to be having a nice time. So it looks like they’ll survive this debacle. No permanent harm done.
With all due respect, I think those folks who can read a post like this and vow “I’ll never have dinner at Fenouil” need to chill a bit. When you go to a restaurant and pay your money, the restaurant owes you a good meal and a good time that evening. They don’t owe you a lifetime of error-free servitude. Fenouil is clearly a very good restaurant, and based on my three or four visits there so far, they’re clearly trying hard to do well. They goofed this time, they recognized their mistake, and they apologized for it. That should be enough. Give ’em a break.
Let us not forget that Food Dude put up the original post because he wanted to get results for his friend.
He isn’t “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t”. He is damned because he already did.
By leaving the original thread off he just illustrates the whole quid pro quo that went on.
Food dude, IMO, lost his integrity the minute he used his powerful readership to get something: Namely, a satisfactory solution to his friend’s situation. He may say that he was not in it for anything other than an apology for the way his friend was treated, but the fact is he went to Fenouil and said, in essence, “Do you know who I am?”
Whether he friend was comped a meal, or simply apologized to is moot. His friend only receieved satisfaction because he is his friend and Food Dude is who he is.
I hate to quote Spidey here, but with great power comes great responsibility.
“But according to you original report, they had refused other gift certificates”
That is incorrect, the original report DID NOT say that. You are doing exactly what Pascal Sauton predicted would happen–blowing this out of proportion and embellishing the original story.
I stopped in at Fenouil late last night for cocktails, appetizers and a couple of their amazing desserts. It was packed, there was a good buzz in the place, and everyone seemed to be having a nice time. So it looks like they’ll survive this debacle. No permanent harm done.
With all due respect, I think those folks who can read a post like this and vow “I’ll never have dinner at Fenouil” need to chill a bit. When you go to a restaurant and pay your money, the restaurant owes you a good meal and a good time that evening. They don’t owe you a lifetime of error-free servitude. Fenouil is clearly a very good restaurant, and based on my three or four visits there so far, they’re clearly trying hard to do well. They goofed this time, they recognized their mistake, and they apologized for it. That should be enough. Give ‘em a break.
And remember: They’re still brand new. I’ve heard famous chefs say they wouldn’t set foot in a restaurant until six to 12 months after it opens because it takes that long to work the bugs out. A mistake like this is perfectly understandable at a restaurant that’s only a few months old.
If we had the original story to refer to, you would see that the manager did indeed tell FD’s friend that they had seen other certificates like that, and had refuse to take them as well.
But, alas, no orginal story!
This whole discussion reminds of a lynch mob scene in an old wester with Angelahir and Alan Bluehole being the agitators who are inciting the mob to lynch the people at Fenouil.
It only took the chef/owner 24 hours to respond. He didn’t know about the post until he was informed by a friend. He probably didn’t even know this site existed until his friend told him. After he was notified my guess is that he took the time to talk to all of his managers to get their side before responding. That may have taken a few hours depending on the managers’ work schedules. I think 24 hour response is reasonable.
Contrary to what some on you think, this site is not all powerful and not as many chefs actually read the posts as you think.
I am willing to give Food Dude the benefit of the doubt and believe that he made the best decision he could. To question his character for doing what he thinks is right, well, that’s just wrong headed. Sorry, it just is. I don’t see that his integrity is damaged in any way. Everyone else is entitled to their opinion also, but that is mine.
Angelhair, No I wouldn’t see that. The manager didn’t say that they had seen other certificates like that and refused to honor them. He said that peoople try to pass fake certificates. It is common in the dining industry. The higher end the restaurant the bigger target they are. He didn’t say that they had seen other certificates like that at Fenouil and not honored them.
You are embellishing the story to try to make your point. My final word on this thread.
Pascal Sauton says
It seems like a lot of people think that one goes in business to make people miserable! I have to say that once again, we are not always in control of who we hire. You try to hire well, you call the references, you train and train again and one day…you’re not around…and something goes sour. Your manager looses it and act stupidly…And you know what? If nobody tells you, YOU DON”T KNOW. Do you think that manager went to see the owners and said: “Boss, I screwed up, i treated these folks like hell”.
When one opens his dream, spends lots of money on it and have to fill a lot of seats, do you really think they want to treat their clients poorly? Come on…
I would bet that if the owners reacted so late, it’s just because they didn’t know about it. The managers just didn’t communicate the problem.
A few times have I found out about problems days, weeks even months later…
I think the post should have never been up BEFORE there was a conversation WITH AN OWNER, not a manager. Not with such a big problem.
Honestly, if I ever have a problem somewhere and the manager doesn’t satisfy my needs, I’ll go to the owner. And reverse, if a custumer has a problem in my establishment and lets me know, I will do all I can to make him happy.
As far as I am concerned, Food Dude post was an abuse of power. I’m glad he removed it.
Pork Cop says
I don’t think it was an abuse of power. Is writing about a positive experience abuse of power?
Pascal Sauton says
If it is the writer’s positive experience, then no, it’s not.
Let’s remember this whole story happened to a friend of Food Dude, not Food Dude himself.
Does he write his restaurant reviews on friends experiences, when he’s not with them?
Kim Nyland says
Pascal nailed it on the head as far as i’m concerned…I repeat….Amen, Chef, amen!….
Now let’s get back to where i’m going to eat this weekend..(Monday & Tuesday)
kim @ apizza
alan bluehole says
The reason businesses have managers is for them to MANAGE. No one should be forced to track down the owner of an establishment because the manager cannot perform properly. Time is money for the customer too.
I think Food Dude was right to post the original letter; rudeness by an employee is an issue every owner, as Pascal of Carafe points out, must deal with, and the sooner it’s cleared up, the better. So this site was the vehicle in the Fenouil case; cool.
Now, it’s been dealt with, and Dude–who gets to make the decisions around here–is free to leave the post, or remove it; he chose the latter, which shows the quality of forgiveness. To equate this with being “bought off” seems rather lopsided; to me, it also speaks of vendetta, something that (hello, Saucebox) takes a good deal of babysitting. Less taxing to let the wake close over.
Pascal Sauton says
The reason businesses have managers is because the owner CANNOT be everywhere and do everything.
NO OWNER can rely 100% on his managing staff, no matter what anybody says.
I double checked that I wasn’t speaking French, as many people seem to miss my point…
Have a great week end!
alan bluehole says
Monsieur, Je parle francais (mais pas bien), s’il vous prefer . . .
I understood you perfectly and I disagree. You were saying that someone who is not satisfied with a manager’s response should track down the owner, correct? What did I not understand that you intended?
As a business owner myself, I don’t waste my time arguing with somone else’s employees. If we have a disagreement and it looks like there is a stalemate then I will ask to speak to the owner. I won’t argue with the owner’s employee, yell at them, etc. It is like teaching a pig to sing… it annoys the pig and it wastes my time. I will just go to the owner and work it out with them. I go to the owner because my time is valuable. You make it sound like a huge ordeal and effort to “track down” the owner, like you’re headed on safari. It is very simple, you say”May I speak to the owner, please.” If the owner isn’t available or is not there, get their name and phone number and what time they are normally in.
You make less of a scene and reduce chances for embarassment/humiliation by just asking to speak with the owner. I would have asked for the owner the instant that the manager told me he thought the gift certificate was a fake. The chef/owner was on site. He could have, and I suspect would have come out to take care of the problem.
What is a bigger waste of your time…trying to teach an improperly trained, arrogant FOH manager with little common sense how to sing? Or just dismissing them and talking with the person who signs the paychecks?
Food Dude says
Thought about it a lot over the weekend. Got some terrific emails arguing both sides. I’ve been accused of so many contradictory things; if blogging has taught me anything it is different people can read the same thing and come up with entirely different interpretations.
Several people have compared what I do to what a newspaper does, but I don’t see it that way at all. A blog is more dynamic than a newspaper can ever be. My biggest advantage is being able to update reviews any time a restaurant changes. Still, enough doubt has been raised in my mind as to whether this means I should have the right to make an entry disappear entirely, I have gone ahead and made the original post public again.
Apologies in advance to the group of readers that will say I shouldn’t do anything but restaurant reviews, I am out to get the restaurant industry, I am out to get Fenouil, I know nothing about politics, food, or ethics. You are correct about one thing: I am not a journalist and have no training in the field. Pardon me while I feel my way through.
Alan Bluehole says
I strongly believe you made the right decision. Thank you.
Seems like every thread comes back to one recurrent issue, service. With all due respect to Pascal Sauton (who’s food and service have always been great), restaurants are in the service industry. Make people happy (good food, nice atmosphere and good service) and you thrive, don’t get it right and you die. Word of mouth has always been a big part of a restaurant’s success or failure. I’m sure that the couple from LO’s friends already have heard about the bad experiecne with the manager. The internet (and blogs) only accelerates the word of mouth, both positive and negative. That is not “abuse of power.” What is “abuse of power” is a restaurant manager treating a customer this badly.
It is never the responsibility of the customer to track down an owner to rectify a bad experience, although it is the customer’s right. Again, we don’t have the original thread to refer to, but as I recall, the friend went back and talked to a different manager and still didn’t get the issue resolved OR brought to the attention of the owner. That only occured when this posting was on the web for over a day. At best that means the owner is not hearing all that is happening in his investment from his managers. At worst, it indicates a desire not to hear bad news. Either way, a big problem for the future.
This thread makes me a little sad, because I don’t want to see what I think is an excellent site go the way of sites like photo.net, where the populace of commenters overran the proprieter and forced his will in the direction of dull crap that offends no-one.
All should remember that, no matter how much your feelings get hurt, it’s still FD’s site to say or not say what he wants, and he is kind enough to leave comments on so you can call him on it either way. He’s way too kind, really. I would have written paragraph 3 of comment 36 in a much different way :)
As the owner of a small business (not a restaurant, but definitely within the definition of “hospitality industry,”) I have to disagree with Pascal (who I greatly admire) – I do take responsibility for the actions of my employees, because I hire them and train them. I also stick up for them if a customer is being abusive or completely unreasonable.
I read the original post, and we’ve no intention of returning to Fenouil – but not because of the post. It was instead a case of warm oysters, cold food (that should have been hot,) and lukewarm service.
Food Dude: I see that you have restored the original thread. I think that was the better decision. I respect that you considered the comments of your readers and were prompt in making your decision.
Tuna Fish Boy says
Dear Food Dude,
Have a plate of cookies and warm milk on me! You have done what all great writers (both fiction and non-fiction) try to do — incite passion.
Because of you, Portland is no longer a “ho hum” food town.
As an aside, if it had been any of my bosses who had the gift certificate experience, they would have assumed it was my (or any of my fellow employees’) screwup and blamed me, not the restaurant. I marvel that the boss had the faith in his employee to go to the mat and blame the restaurant at all.
LOL at “Fenouilocaust”. Maybe they’ll turn the place into a museum so we will never forget.