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February’s Church of Burger: Controversy! Ensues!

February 25, 2010

The Church of Burger’s second outing was, sadly, not as spiritual as its first.  On a rainy, cold Sunday, we were the first patrons of the day at the Central West End’s SubZero Vodka Bar. It’s a (duh) vodka bar that also serves sushi and burgers which you can top with a extremely wide variety of toppings.  I inferred that this is their “thing”: highly customized burgers, like Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar.

I’ll be brief about the food: my burger was ordered medium rare, and was delivered medium.  While it looked beautiful and was of an acceptable thickness, my cheddar-topped patty lacked any noticeable salt and was pretty dry. The bun, too, was dry, and crumbled midway through the meal. I wonder how it would have fared if I had a specialty burger with lots of toppings? Fries were actually salted, but somewhat limp.  Service was friendly and relatively competent, although we had a few long waits for things like the check, expected for a larger party.

But I’d rather not talk about a forgettable burger from a place I’ll probably never visit again.  What I’d rather talk about is the Twitter throwdown that happened not long after Church of Burger.  To make a long story short, fellow COB members Bill and Andrew both tweeted about the lackluster burger, and Chris Sommers, owner of Pi, took issue with that.

This set off a maelstrom of tweets.  Salient points:

The founder of COB weighs in.

You can click on any of the screencaps above to see that person’s particular feed and what they were saying in regards to this on Sunday and Monday.

Here’s where I stand: to me, if a restaurant touts itself as being a destination for a certain dish, say, a burger in this case, and we order 15, and none are good, let alone great, I’m going to tell people that.  I’m unemployed, and I paid $20 for a Fat Tire and a subpar burger. That’s not acceptable. I’m not giving them a second chance because I’m not a critic and I can’t expense report a repeat visit. Yes, restaurants have off nights. All restaurants. Mistakes happen. But when I eat out, why would I take a risk with a restaurant who has burned me before when I know I can get higher-quality consistency elsewhere? Why would I go back to SubZero for a burger when I know I can get a properly cooked and seasoned burger at O’Connell’s, or Newstead, or Dressel’s, or any number of other establishments?  As a diner, I owe SubZero nothing.

The rise of social media has given the average diner a venue to amplify their opinions, informed or not. Some in the industry don’t like that because it empowers diners. I don’t feel that I have an obligation, particularly on Twitter, of all places, to be less than upfront with my opinions. If anything, I’m going to be brutally honest. I think I’m more informed than the average diner, but if you think I’m full of shit, or if you aren’t interested in my opinion, you don’t have to follow me or read my words. If my F-list blog/Twitter is threatening your business, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. If you respect my opinion, you will consider my words. If you think I’m a poser hack, then you’ll dismiss them.

If you, as a restaurateur, or chef, or server, or manager, are feeling “bullied” or treated unfairly by the internet, maybe you should look at what you’re trying to do and ask yourself if you’re doing it well. Diners are not responsible for protecting the reputation of a restaurant. RESTAURANTS do that by putting out a good product.

What do you think?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 10:13 am

    Couldn’t agree more!

  2. February 25, 2010 11:11 am

    Great post!

  3. February 25, 2010 11:16 am

    Yeah I totally do not understand that “irresponsible” comment. People bash every other industry why should restaurants be exempt?

  4. Kristin permalink
    February 25, 2010 11:24 am

    I totally agree.

  5. ironstef permalink*
    February 25, 2010 11:54 am

    Awesome post, Kelli! Thanks for keeping track of all the tweets. That was certainly an interesting debate! I, of course agree with you. It should also be noted that us food twits/bloggers are not just going aroud trashing restos. we give them fair chances, and make sure to give props to those that impress us. In fact, I see more positive than negative reviews on twitter.

  6. Joel permalink
    February 25, 2010 12:51 pm

    Note to local eateries: If the only patron in your establishment is armed with Nikon D300S and a customized lens, perhaps you should bring your “A Game”.

  7. February 25, 2010 2:00 pm

    It’s like the trend of not keeping score in kid’s sports and giving everyone an award just so no one’s feelings are hurt has now been extended to adults or at least LOCAL businesses.

  8. George permalink
    February 25, 2010 2:46 pm

    One inherent problem the CoB may encounter: most restaurants can’t (or don’t dare) schedule their “A Game” on Sunday–both in FOH and BOH. Anyone with any seniority has asked for that day off…been that way since the beginning of restaurant time. And don’t even get me started on a party of 16….

  9. Amie Owens permalink
    February 25, 2010 3:57 pm

    I fully agree. If someone gets their feelings hurt because you were honest about a less-than-spectacular meal, then maybe they should try to be more spectacular.

    It isn’t your job to do the hand-holding and make sure they correct the issues. As an established business they should have better quality product.

  10. February 25, 2010 4:25 pm

    The High Priestess of The Church of Burger is burning up the comment section while mine is all kinds of sad and lonely.

    Thanks for covering this angle Kelli. Kudos.


  11. Susan permalink
    February 26, 2010 12:43 am

    OMG! The Post Dispatch reviewed burgers and didn’t like some of them! Uncool and irresponsible!

    The funniest part of this whole twitter drama (besides the fact that it’s via twitter) is that they accused you all of ripping the establishment to shit. I know what you and Andrew are capable of and that, my dear, was not “ripping to shit.”

  12. Meghan permalink
    February 26, 2010 7:35 am

    Well said. Also, most diners do not plan their meals around when certain staff is working, I expect good service & food no matter time of day or week. I think that’s just a cop-out.

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