You know, I thought I was okay. I thought I’d given up on getting rattled. I thought I was able to deal with guests of all stripes. And yet, here I am, fallible as ever, ready to wish hateful bad fortune on a couple of twenty-somethings who are nothing more than clueless and mostly harmless children. Here I am again, this time not frustrated at millennial members of the staff brimming with indignity at being reprimanded for relentless personal texting and facebook- and instagram-checking while the grownups do their jobs for them.
This time, it’s at the millennials that any restaurateur will tell you are a plague of biblical proportions (and yes, I see the irony in what I’m saying here, but I’m cranky. Again.) There are a lot of things I dread in this world: people who chew with their mouths open; people who talk over you while you’re trying to make a point; people who whistle cheerfully at alta voce while I’m writing a cranky email. But something I dread more than all of them combined is this: the Elite Yelper. Yelp is a fascinating tool. It’s a place to talk about your trip to whatever- the restaurant, the boutique, the pet shampooer- but it’s also the home of the axe-grinder, and more often than not, the child axe-grinder. Like nearly any restaurateur, I dread Yelp. I hate the little email that pops up and tells me we’ve just been reviewed, even if it’s a five-star review we’ve just gotten, because it reminds me that Yelp is out there.
I used to get phone calls from Yelp trying to convince me to pay them to advertise. You know, I should pay them so that after a bunch of twenty-somethings who write so many reviews that they achieve “Elite” status and get invited to events that businesses are encouraged to host for free so that Elite Yelpers can come stuff their faces and write a positive review, Yelp will bump a little mention of my restaurant up to the top of the page when you’re investigating a different restaurant, and likewise, Yelp will do the same for people investigating Feast- bump another restaurant up to lure potential guests away since some other restaurant has paid Yelp to do so. All while they publish reviews that aren’t fact-checked from people who, well, you can read the reviews.
In my admittedly limited experience, an Elite Yelper is someone with even less experience, less life experience, who lives life through an iPhone lens, taking pictures of the places and events their bodies attend while their minds are focused on the snapshot they’ll be posting shortly, not to remember their experiences, but to announce to the world where they’ve been. They leave a trail not of memories but of photos and memes and hashtags, and again, not for themselves, but for an anonymous following of internet beings who scroll through to compare their travels to everyone else’s and probably bemoan their own limited fate of not remembering the concert they live-tweeted because they were focused on trying to hold their phone up above the heads in front of them.
I don’t want to pigeonhole an entire generation. I remember in my twenties resenting being lumped together with everyone else in their twenties, because I was (like all of the rest of them) DIFFERENT. That said, I do want to swipe at the legs of every Elite Yelper with an aluminum baseball bat, and that applies to the eight or nine Elite Yelpers whom I imagine are older than a millennial as well. And the reason I want to do it has nothing to do with the lifestyle they choose, as much as I may disapprove of it. The reason I want to do it is that I’m driven absolutely bonkers by the fact that the person who said everything was delicious and that they were happy and they would be back, or that mistakes happen and not to worry that someone spilled wine or that we were out of squash blossoms, then goes to the web to proclaim to the world how terrible Feast is, or any other small business, and toss around their self-proclaimed expertise. How dare we serve lobster with French toast? Doesn’t that sound terrible? I’ve never heard of such a thing, and therefore it’s wrong. And my absolute favorite: HOW is this place still open? Never mind that we’ve been open since you were peeing in your pants. The advice I’ll give to you, the advice you’ll likely ignore, millennials, and really anyone who dines out, is this: use your words. If you don’t like something, tell your sever. You can do it without being a jerk. You can even do it without being seen as a jerk. Just tell them so that they can fix it, and they will if they’re worth their salt.
Whew. Well, I’ve done it again. Every time I think I’m bettering myself and growing up and handling the irritations of running a business, I discover that I’m no better than the Elite Yelper I dread. Here I am on my own soapbox, complaining about how I’ve been wronged. The only difference is that I’d have preferred talking it out and actually resolving the problem rather than coming here to complain. Again. Boy, do I love you people who put up with me.
Only a couple of things to mention for the weekend- tomorrow’s wine tasting, for which you can still sign up,
and Sunday’s tasting, for which I’ve only just finished writing the heating instructions and posted them, and for which you can still order samples and pairings.
I’m pleased to say that I’m done simmering in my own juices, and as is often the case, it’s made me more tender. I’m back to where I was the other day, not caring so much that a couple of twenty-somethings whose time is spent evaluating and assigning value to everyone else all day don’t thing Feast is a good time. Turns out, I didn’t regard them that way either, and as luck would have it, as many as there are who might despise what we do here, there are enough of you who don’t, and you’ll keep us as busy as we need to be to keep on going for now. Thanks for that.