Food for Thought: Buyer Beware

A Critical Mind,
A good thing for your Wallet
And your taste buds too.
This post is inspired by the forthright thoughts that Alex Gill offered up on her Reddit AMA on Dec 11, 2015.  She touched upon a few trends that I have been noticing in Vancouver’s food scene.

The restaurant biz is a rough industry to make a living.  The local restaurant association pegs the failure rate of newly opened eateries at 70%.  As a kitchen kid, I witness this first hand and this was before social media, and sites like Yelp, and Zomato.
I can’t imagine doing my job under the scrutiny of the public eye and social media.  I would shudder at what my Yelp reviews would be.
  • “OMGZZZ Doesn’t staple documents with a perfectly parallel staple and didn’t refill stapler”
  • “Insists on using Comic Sans, when really should be using Arial Narrow in documents”
  • “Sucks at Job”

 

Given my experience, I have a hard time laying down the hammer on eateries, especially mom and pops shops with friendly staff.  To be honest, I think even the most cynical critic would have a hard time sticking in the knife to a restaurant run by a hard working, warm, and friendly family.  With that said if I am critical, I will try to be thoughtful about it.
Originally I was not going to write about  Waffle Frenzy but I saw something weird and with Alex Gill’s AMA lurking about in my mind, I decide to type out some thoughts. 
Waffle Frenzy seems to be run by young entrepreneurs, who are trying to earn a buck by capitalizing on a trendy food item, waffles. 
From my observation, restaurants often fail because of a combination of the below:
  1. Poor choice of location to start an eatery
  2. The space itself has major issues
  3. Subpar food
  4. Awful service

 

Some of these issues are beyond the owners’ control; while the last 2 points is where they create self inflict wounds.  Unfortunately, Waffle Frenzy is facing a struggle with points 1, 2 and 3. 

 

 
The Chicken Waffle sandwich was soggy (chicken and waffles), over sauced and had a peculiar bitter aftertaste (which I think stemmed from burnt garlic).  The best thing about the item was its fresh, crisp, and sweet lettuce.
It wasn’t a great experience, but I shrugged it off since you don’t know until you try.  I was curious to see if my meal was consistent with others’ encounters and was surprised to see a huge disparity between one review siteand another.
The five out of five reviews for Waffle Frenzy caught my attention.  At best, I would rate my experience a 2.  To be honest, I would not even give Bauhaus a five star rating and I absolutely adored my meal there. 
Hopefully those five star reviews came from family and friends trying their best to help out, and not the more insidious situation that Alex Gill had highlighted: paid for reviews.
Even the best marketing is not a panacea to an eatery serving crappy food.  I liken it to having a baby to save a bad marriage.  It doesn’t work, prolongs the inevitable, and often causes more suffering and misery for all involved. 
When restaurants get rave reviews that they should not (i.e. getting 5s when they should be getting 2-3s), it can create the most dangerous thing to a business: the really pissed off customer. 
I hope the staff at Waffle Frenzy work on the execution of their food to improve their business.
It’s unfortunate that there are those who capitalize on people in a harsh industry unfamiliar with good marketing practices, and sell snake oil solutions to flagging restaurants. 
As consumers we are accustomed to having our guard up when we look at advertising like commercials and billboards.  It seems we now need to further extend this critical mindset to areas like peer-to-peer review sites, blogs and publications that will provide a good review for a price. 
Although I suspect something shifty may be happening with Waffle Frenzy, this is not the first time my Spidey sense has tingled.  Dennis the Foodies’ call out of Scout’s review on Fat Mao comes to mind and so does anything where something is crown the best whatever in Vancouver.

It’s great to be aware of something new but be critical about what you read (include my blog), and in short, buyer beware.

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