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December 21, 2006



I, too, tend to think that this policy is foolish. At very least, Chowhound could have a "complaints" area in which people could post information about bad experiences to which a business could respond. Additionally, it would be nice if you could contact people who make comments/posts directly to resolve issues.

I think one of the big dangers of the internet is how easy it is to ruin the reputation of a business/individual with a well placed post. I can well imagine your frustration at not being able to respond because of idiotic moderation policies...

...and it's good to know that I shouldn't trust Chowhound!


I agree with you when it comes to giving folks in the restaurant biz a chance to respond to comments. BTW, it's not just on-line communities like Chowhound, newspapers or magazines don't provide chefs/managers a chance to respond either.

I recently had the general manager and chef of Viognier, an upscale joint in San Mateo, respond to one of my recent -- negative -- reviews. Both were balanced and gracious responses. In the first post, the response is in a comment by the general manager:


The second response was in an e-mail by the chef to me, which I got permission to post:


In both cases, the responses contained credible information that provided a new perspective on my review. Very useful. This sort of interchange is valuable for everybody.


Hmm, does not look like the complete links successfully copied into the previous post. If you search for "Viognier" in the search box, upper right, you'll find the two comments from the Viognier folks.


Although I have never been to your restaurant, you are clearly very passionate about providing an excellent experience for your customers. Chowhound will never be balanced if they are seeing the world from such a one-sided perspective. I applaud you for putting this post out there to help "balance" the information on the internet.

Amy Sherman

I wonder if you could threaten legal action? I mean it kind of seems like slander/hearsay to me. Add me to the list of "disgruntled ex-Chowhounds" but that's another story.


As a fellow food professional I empathize with your frustrations and have been through a similar situation. Small solace that it may be is that most people do not know food as we do and from reading their commentaries should not be reviewing restaurants. After a number of years scanning various blogs I am not convinced that any blog or set of blogs drives business to or away from an establishment. And if you watch who is actually posting more often than not the discussions are driven by a handful of individuals. I subscibe to the view that we do what we do, as good as we can do it. We love it, we breath it, we live it. And as we witness all of our satisfied customers coming and going that is where our loyalties and attetnion should be focused.


It will be interesting to see what happends if enough food bloggers start commenting on this -- and send e-mails to Chowhound management. Perhaps this will help Chowhound see the error in its current policy. See my post "Should chefs be able to respond to negative reviews on-line?" at

Here is wishing everybody a fun and relaxing holiday season... except that the restaurant pros will be working their tails off to provide us with great meals. Thanks guys.


I think this opens up a very interesting conversation about the responsibility of customers. It is something I would like to research a lot more. I know my own thoughts on this have a changed a lot over the lifetime of my own blog which started off almost exclusively as restaaurant reviews which initially only about 4 people read. As my blog, to my surprise, became more popular, I started to grapple with my conscience over negative reviews I'd written.

These days I do not write something negative lightly. I have even been known to contact the restaurant directly when there has been a problem instead of writing a review.

But it is difficult for a customer to address complaints. There is no guide to how a customr should deal with problems, I think it would be a good project to look into.


Chowhound... I used to 'chowhound' back in the day. I have some personal correspondences with J.L. It was a really good resource when it didn't so much focus on 'Restaurants' with a capital R and instead was about 'chow.' It led me to the eternal wellspring of cheap and tasty Jamaican Beef Patties in Boston, among other things.
At some point it started to shift from being about $1.50 beef patties to being about $60 foie gras and duck confit.
On the lower end, there was a real need for 'customer quality control.' That is, those wantons might taste great, but if you hear from 14 consumers that they got ill after eating them, at random times on random days, you might want to take that into consideration - and payoffs one way or the other are more or less irrelevant. You don't want it to be the food police, or the health department, exactly, but long rambling discussions tended to turn into an informal zagats about what places were consistent, what places were unsafe, and what places were always delicious. You also got discussions which highlighted the difference between russians, latvians, and poles on what they were looking for in a peirogi - some would say 'it is just like mom made' and others would disagree, and so you got these hugely enlightening flame wars which ended up turning on the question of 'whose mom.'

Once Chowhound focused more on places like 'knife's edge' - well, it became hugely less informative, because there are plenty of places that discuss things like that. Standards went up, yes. You often get better food for $50 than for $.50. But standards changed, the issues changed, and the impact of consumer views and restaurant views changed.

Do I think the policy of not having owners posting is good? Maybe, maybe not. But most chowhound readers know not to take a single reader view into account too heavily. Would it be a nice thing for an owner to 'make it right' with a customer? Yes. But I've never had that offer made to me outside the context of my sending something back because there was a bug or something obvious. Do I want restaurant owners publishing lots of ads on chowhound? certainly not, even though I don't read it much anymore.

So, I guess there is a balance to be struck.

Is there a better way for restaurants to do customer service? An exit survey? Something that can't easily be twisted?

Perhaps. What about separating a kitchen and server tip? What about saying on the bill: "there is an 18% gratuity included by default: use either of these checkboxes to opt out of half the gratuity, and provide a short comment about what element of the meal dissatisfied you; either in the kitchen or in the service. or check one of these other two boxes to give a bonus to either the kitchen or the service." Then pay the servers a little more and kitchen a little less, to cover the lost tips and pay of one and so on for the other.

This would give you the feedback, and make tipping more consistent, and allow you to 'solve' problems sooner at your discretion - substantive complaints can be flagged and fixed; cheapskates and whiners would quickly become apparent.


my sympathies. We got called "racist" the other day. Apparently we were mean to someone's "mixed race" child (I put it in quotes, as around here, being half chinese and half white isn't really notable). My response was that we don't like children of any race, but that's really just the kitchen. Our servers are very friendly, and entirely too nice to small children, even if they're not so good at taking orders and bringing people their food in a timely manner. I have no idea why this woman thinks we were mistreating them, as I'm sure she never said a word, but now there's a post going around chowhound telling people not to come to our restaurant because we're racists. That's gotta be great for business. Jeez, makes me feel like I should take up some kinda slander case, though against whom I guess I'll never know. So, I guess there's absolutely no recourse. It is rediculous though. Damn Chowhound.

David L

In 'the old days', if people had a problem with a business, they'd take it up with the business directly and allow them to make amends (...or not, but that's another story...) Now people go on the internet and leave posts on sites and in forums, whether justified or not.

I know Trip Advisor allows businesses to respond, which I think is a good idea, since 1) It allows the business to respond, and 2) Shows that the business cares enough to respond.

I just noticed a thread on Chow.com about me (gulp) and some of the people left rather vicious comments. I've stopped reading them, since you can't control what people say about you. And no matter what you do, there's always going to be someone unhappy.


Please be very careful and think twice before you post photos on Chowhound. If they like your images they claim they have ownership over your copy right and will not allow the removal of your images. Think twice before you submit ANY content to Chowhound.
There are claims that they have even published a book and altered the posts of members as content.
Chowhound stands for every thing a true hound should hate. Big corporate America running over the little guy with heavy handed moderation and what in my opinion amounts to little more than theft.
I have emails from CH refusing to remove my images after I requested them to be taken down several times.


I am so incredibly pleased to find this. It seems asinine, and totally baseless, that a consumer resource can't act as a platform for the community to be engaged *with* the restaurant. If someone is out there positively or negatively representing your brand, and you are a smart enough restaurant to listen... why can't you join the conversation for clarification or celebration? It's arbitrary, and incredibly frustrating.

What's more, I am not here from the F&B side. I am here from the consumer side and was simply asking about local sommeliers that people like. It was deleted. that's ridiculous... it was legitimate, passive, and engaging.

Do they flag users? I don't know what I could have ever done in the past, but they delete almost anything I post. It's quite odd, and certainly doesn't help bolster the community aspect of their boards.


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