Today I review Redd's in Rozzie, a fun, quirky neighborhood restaurant that emphasizes local ingredients.
Chef Charlie Redd, who refers to himself as "Chef Delicious," has an impish sense of humor. He also has a point of view. He penned an open letter to me on his blog, "about the stress leading up to the review," as he put it in an e-mail.
Redd depicts the view of the chef anticipating the reviewer in fanciful prose. The upshot: After worrying about my visits to R 'n' R, and considering trying to e-mail everyone he knows in the hopes of getting a picture of me, he simply decides to do his thing and let me draw my own conclusions, free of special treatment.
He writes: "R'n'R was supposed to be a place for all. It is a place where the working person was respected and welcomed, and a place where the experience of a reviewer was as important as the experience of a couple around the corner. ... From then on, I stopped obsessing over nailing your experience here, Devra, and reminded myself what R'n'R was supposed to be about. Nailing EVERY experience."
Well, yes. Every restaurateur should have the confidence to think this way. It's a sound approach to take. Restaurants can only be the best they can be. Focus on excellence with every customer who walks in the door, and a good restaurant will do good business. Often, when an under-prepared restaurant attempts to offer special treatment, it comes off as awkward -- a place trying to be better than it is. If the food is a little tastier on the reviewer's plate than other customers', that is offset by the weird behavior of servers and hosts trying to up their game. I was reminded of this at a restaurant where I believe I was recognized last week. The food was great. The rest of the experience was off.
I'll never forget the peeved chef who called to complain that I hadn't reviewed his restaurant yet (it had been featured in the Globe's Cheap Eats column). "I've been keeping my staff on its toes for months now waiting for you to come in," he whined. Ooh, that is annoying! Keep it up and you just might have yourself a well-run restaurant customers actually want to patronize.
Are you in it for the glory, or are you in it to feed people good food and make them happy? Recognition is wonderful, reviews matter, and I am sure it's very difficult not to get caught up in the game of spot-and-spoil when expecting reviewers. But focusing on treating every customer well is the best way to ensure a reviewer is treated well, and to win yourself a base of regulars who will keep you in business for a long time to come. Restaurateurs, listen to Chef Delicious.
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ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.