Pie Hole: Handling Criticism in the Food World


pieholeCommentary

I used my last Pie Hole entry as an opportunity to blast Little Rock eateries for their lack of social media use as it pertains to growing business and reaching an audience. It was a broad, brushstroke criticism, as I chose not to single out specific restaurants. Truthfully, there were just too many establishments to criticize and I often like to keep things short and sweet.

Over the past few months since the piece, that word “criticism” has been stuck in my brain. The more and more I read…the more I realize there’s a large population in Little Rock that just doesn’t like any form of criticism, as it pertains to food.

There’s almost this “how dare you” mentality going on, not only from readers and commenters, but also from restaurants and food shop owners. Does this sound familiar?: “I’ve been going to X restaurant for 12 years and they’ve never made a bad pasta primavera.”

Look….there’s only a handful of individuals in this town who even write about food on a regular basis. Do you really think they are trying to tear down a business through negative words? Think again—it’s really just the opposite.

I get it, a person’s business is their livelihood, their dream, their everything. Writing negative things about it should never be taken lightly. Posts can quickly go viral, and a writer would never want to maliciously hurt someone’s business. But without some constructive criticism from time-to-time, how can things improve?

Don’t we want to raise the culinary bar in Little Rock? How can this be done if everything is already perfect? As writers, it’s our responsibility to highlight the good but also mention the bad. Maybe, just maybe, a restaurant owner will read our review and think: “Hey, they might be right. Maybe I do need to change this up a bit.” This could potentially lead to more customers and higher profits.

As a blogger, I’m somewhat of a business owner. Sure, I don’t make any money from The Mighty Rib, but I maintain this site as if it was bringing in the dough. That’s to say I care about it…tremendously. And if someone wrote negative comments about an aspect of my writing, of course I’d take it personally and be disappointed, but I’d also certainly take it to heart.

What if they’re right? Shouldn’t I first look at it from their critical perspective? Instead of saying “how dare you” maybe I should say “how can I get better?” What if I chose to build off the criticism, rather than let it tear me down? Heck, I could potentially end up with more readers, more comments, and an overall stronger blog.

Little Rock, it’s time to take the high road when it comes to accepting criticism. It could lead to great things.

  1. #1 by Zara on April 23, 2013 - 7:40 pm

    I could not agree with you more! Very well written piece which takes aim at the main point of food critics; improvement! If I were criticized, chances are 1) I probably knew it, 2) I would reach out via good customer service (gift card/apology/whatever it takes); &, 3) aim to improve!!! Food critics may not be trained chefs but they’re customers and airing their grievances is much better than negative word of mouth spreading rapidly w/I an owner ever even knowing about it or given the chance to improve. Good job, Mr. Shalin. Good job!

  2. #2 by The Mighty Rib on April 24, 2013 - 6:26 am

    Thank you so very much for the kind words, Zara.

    It’s also worth noting that’s once something is out there on the net, it’s out there. Chefs need to be mindful of how they respond to critics and diners, in general.

  3. #3 by Laurie on April 24, 2013 - 6:40 am

    As a person in the restaurant business we always try to follow all of the blogs and reviews. We have found that social media is some of the best advertising out there. I wish as times that customers would come to us personally if they have a problem and give us a chance to correct it before throwing it out there for all to see, but at the same time I also appreciate any feedback be it positive or negative. We have had a few “reviews” on some of the review sites that have come from personal grievances with staff. Those I consider very unfair and wish there was some way of policing these sites…in a perfect world.

  4. #4 by The Mighty Rib on April 24, 2013 - 6:54 am

    You make some excellent points, Laurie.

    And regarding personal grievances with staff…I agree, those should typically be handled directly with the restaurant.

  5. #5 by Debbie on April 24, 2013 - 8:12 am

    Absolutely well said. I do not believe that you must be a trained chef to appreciate quality food and service. In fact, as a consumer, I may have better insight and judgment. Honest criticism should always be received in the manner in which it is given. The food critics I know are only interested in promoting quality, not themselves. Thanks Kevin. Your honesty is appreciated.

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