A gripe might seem innocent, but restaurants learned this week that even mild complaints can fester into business killers if conditions are just so. Social media can amplify a grumble into a damning assertion in need of squelching, and even old media like signboards can be turned into sniping devices.
Here’s a roundup of complaints that landed restaurateurs in trouble in recent days, whether they were the grouser or the grousee.
Street closings can crimp the business of any restaurant, even one in New York City. When a charity foot race shut the roads around Dominick’s Bakery Cafe in the borough of Staten Island, one of the Big Apple’s more car-dependent areas, proprietor Dominick De Lillo wasn’t happy. His first mistake was bitching about the 5K on social media before he checked what charity it benefited. He called the race “a f***ing joke.”
People who saw De Lillo’s comment were quick to explain the event was a fundraiser for a local hero who’d been killed in Afghanistan while saving the life of a fellow soldier. Instead of backtracking or letting the matter drop, the proprietor followed up with, “Isn’t there another way to show appreciation?”
He’s been serially slammed in the 10 days since the race, even after apologizing to the parents of the fallen soldier, Michael Ollis.
Cooking over charcoal and wood is usually a plus for a restaurant. But not when neighbors are sick of the smoke. After complaining for two years, they reportedly forced Shepard Restaurant & Bar in Cambridge, Mass., to douse the coals on Monday. The local health commissioner agreed with residents’ contention that the soot and smell posed a health danger, and ordered the restaurant to desist with its signature prep method.
The Shepard hadn’t ignored the protests. Health officials acknowledged such efforts as using “scrubbers” to remove particulate matter from the smoke. Proprietors Rene Becker and Susan Regis said they’d also switched to woods that produced less smoke.
They’re appealing the decision. But in the meantime, the restaurant has switched to more conventional gas.
In case you missed this week’s editions of the networks’ morning shows, a host of talk shows, Fox News, Time magazine and even London’s Daily Mail, here’s a tip for helping peace prevail: Do not direct any trash talk at that seemingly innocent little redhead in pigtails. Wendy, it seems, has more sass to her than most mascots can boast.
In one of the more memorable sign battles of recent times, a Wendy’s restaurant has been waging a tongue-in-cheek battle of wits with a cafe across the street, Pure Water Ice and Tea Co. Chops on each other’s hospitality led to slightly more vituperative quips on the neighbors’ exterior street signs. Now it’s to the point where Pure Water has declared Wendy a “redhead with no soul.”
The Wendy’s has thrown such jabs as announcing, “Wendy’s parking only. Violators will be served Purewater.”
Accounts differ as to whether the battle of wits will continue. But the publicity is clearly far from over.