The customer is not always right

January 27, 2023

One of the unavoidable facts about dining out is that restaurants are run by people. It is also a fact that people are not perfect. So we can therefore conclude that restaurants are not perfect. That’s not an excuse – but it is a reason. Food service is a difficult and expensive business, so it stands to reason that the majority of restaurateurs want you to enjoy your visit. And if you don’t, most are willing – even anxious – to step up and make it right. And therein lies the tipping point between giving the restaurant a chance to correct a mistake, and becoming a laptop warrior angrily typing out complaints on the internet. However, if your complaint is justified (please note the word, “if”), and you do indeed confront the owner/manager and they are rude or dismissive, then all bets are off. Fire up that computer and type away.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an indignant email about a visit to a new restaurant. The writer droned on and on about how crowded it was, how much of the restaurant wasn’t seated, how long it took them to get their food, blah, blah blah. You’d think they’d strung her up from the rafters. Based on the date of the email, she had apparently wandered into the restaurant on its first or second night open. I know for a fact that only the bar was in operation, and even then they were not officially open to the public. They were probably trying to be nice and accommodated her as a favor. That’ll teach ‘em.

Rather than asking for a manager or anyone in charge, she wrote to me ... like I could make everything right. My email boxes at Cape Gazette, the radio stations and have always been a good indicator of the general attitudes about the business of eating here in the Cape Region. Though I’m at a loss as to what people want me to do with these complaints, I respond by asking them if they informed the restaurant owner or manager of their issue. Incredibly, the answer is always “No.” If the complaint actually seems justified, I’ll ask the writer why he or she didn’t say something. The response is either, “I didn’t want to hurt their feelings,” or I don’t get any response at all. Both mean the same thing: Their actions are more about a fear of confrontation or “not being liked” than they are about hurting someone’s feelings. However, these cyber-cowards have no problem going into painful detail with me, and possibly on Yelp or wherever, regarding the real – or imagined – transgressions. So rather than give the restaurant a chance to make things right, these entitled typists skitter to the safety of their living rooms to pummel the restaurant. So much for hurt feelings. I’ve lost count of the “reviews” on Yelp that are obviously posted by those who had never even visited that restaurant.

A complaint is not valid if it’s about having to wait in line at a restaurant. Other complaints that get vaporized concern menu prices. If a restaurant is too pricy for you, don’t go there. There are lots of good, mid-priced restaurants. Complaints about price are meaningless unless you have access to the company’s rent, food and labor costs. If a restaurant does actually price itself out of the market, it will not survive anyway. The proper price is nothing more than what the particular area – and the fixed costs – will allow.

When I write an actual review (not here in Cape Gazette; reviews are at, I start with the assumption that restaurants actually want to provide good food and service. So I rate them using one simple premise: Do they provide what they promise to provide, given their concept and price point? I’ll consider the merits of a perfectly prepared food-truck burrito the same way I will an expertly constructed Chateaubriand at a fine-dining joint.

A well-known restaurant quote states, “A great restaurant doesn't distinguish itself by how few mistakes it makes, but by how well it handles those mistakes.” Remember that as you continue to support our local restaurants here in the off-season.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

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