And the Internet-Restaurant War Wages On …

You’ve heard it already: Restaurant owners hate bloggers. Mario hates them. Even Michael Ruhlman, blogger though he now is, agrees. “Chefs seem almost uniformly to loathe the blogosphere,” he wrote in a recent article for the Restaurant Hospitality website. The story continues, “‘They have free reign,’ cries Chris Cosentino, chef-owner of Incanto, in San Francisco. ‘They can say whatever they want and all you know is they call themselves garlicboy32.’”

Of course, these chefs and restaurant owners may be complaining more about the comment activity on sites such as Yelp and the like, rather than about established blogs, which—anonymous or not—have a reputation, an audience, and a growing level of accountability. After all, a small number of chefs are bloggers.

The most recent salvo in the ongoing struggle—and perhaps the most carefully considered—comes from restaurant owner and blogger Haddock, who writes Knife’s Edge. His beef? You shouldn’t be posting complaints online unless you’ve brought up the issue to the restaurant in question and given the staff the opportunity to make it better. His ire was roused by a post aimed at another restaurant in his town, where the poster said he wished the owner would read the comment and do something about the situation. In Haddock’s words:

[B]efore you post on that ‘foodie’ site, ask yourself, ‘Have I told the owner about this?’ Because if you haven’t, you have no business putting things on-line. And you definitely have no business putting things on-line, ‘hoping’ the owner will read the post, take notice and do something about it.

There are those who disagree with Haddock’s assessment of the situation, and they speak up in response to the posting (“[I]t’s lazy of you to expect everyone to come to you. I’m in marketing/PR and I know how it goes- if I want honest feedback, I have to go out and get it. The only people who will come to me are the people who are deliriously happy or the ones who are rabidly upset,” writes one reader.) Haddock addresses this in a second entry on the topic, explaining the lengths he and his staff go to to assure satisfaction. Sometimes, even that is not enough.

“I just ask that we express our opinions personally when we can, rather than broadcasting them,” Haddock writes in the follow-up. “If we are reduced to calling each other names anonymously on the internet, we have taken a step backward as a species.”

If calling each other names anonymously on the Internet is a step backward as a species, I fear that step was taken long ago.