A Message To Our Readers About Black Lives Matter

Since the senseless killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police on May 25, even thinking about restaurants seems frivolous right now. The protesting that has flooded the streets in all fifty states has shown that the American people will no longer tolerate police violence and racial injustice. Seeing citizens of all races coming together internationally for change has been truly inspiring. We stand in solidarity with the black community and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The service industry—as with many “essential” sectors of the economy—relies on people of color. Though we too often cater to an overwhelmingly affluent white clientele, the staff of restaurants tends to be more diverse—including legions of hard-working immigrants and undocumented workers looking for an opportunity to better themselves. Inside our walls, we imperfectly understand the value of tolerance, the importance of respecting each other’s differences and learning to work as a team.

That said, as an industry, we still have a lot of work to do, inside and out. Gender imbalances that have long plagued us, not surprisingly, finally bubbled over the surface during #MeToo. It turned out that restaurants harbored some of the worst offenders. Now we must face our racial demons, many that’ve been festering beneath the surface for generations.

The work of black chefs has routinely been ignored in professional kitchens run by solipsistic white chefs and in glossy magazines led by unyielding white editors committed to anglicizing their content. The white food media has systematically excluded black voices from narrating their own stories while empowering white writers to co-opt and misrepresent black cuisine. Until just recently, restaurant criticism has been a singularly white pursuit, resulting in coverage that often contextualizes black cooking through a Eurocentric lens.

We need to hold restaurateurs more accountable for what happens inside their restaurants, too. How they respond to the Black Lives Matter movement shouldn’t only be a question of P.R. and messaging, it should be about instituting human resource policies that foster inclusivity. White managers must stop lamenting the lack of qualified black applicants coming through the door and walk out the door to find them. The pervasive culture of tokenism and performative allyship must transform into structural reorganization from the ground up by making real investments in the careers of employees of color.

Black Lives Matter will have an enormous impact on the restaurant world because, though it rarely acknowledged, food is political. Although making political statements is hardly at the core of our mission on this website, we hope to shape our content going forward with this in the front of our minds. Expanding our vision should also mean telling stories and sharing opinions that are written by or speak to communities of color. As always, we welcome any suggestions and feedback from our readers about restaurant-related topics that deserve further exploration.

If you see fewer articles here in the coming days, please know that it’s because we’re using this time for self-reflection, as we all should, and participating in the dialogue for change. The magnitude of these issues doesn’t leave much space to write about restaurants casually anymore. It shouldn’t. We can assure you that when the time comes to pick up our silverware and dig in again, we’ll do so with a fresher perspective and a more open mind.

Stay healthy and safe,


Opinion Restaurant Life Uncategorized

We Need to Stop Judging New Restaurants So Quickly

In our feverish race to be the first to dine at the latest hot new restaurants, it’s easy to forget that every restaurant has a lifespan—an arc of development—that’s inevitably more awkward in its infancy. A restaurant needs time and experience to mature like a human life does. It needs to learn to stand and walk before it can run. Newborn babies are adorable, but they often throw up all over themselves.

Now more than ever amidst wage pressures, rent increases and rising food costs, the restaurant industry needs us to be a more forgiving, empathetic audience. One visit should never define our opinion about any restaurant. It’s like going out on one date with someone new and telling everyone that he or she is a bad lover when you never even kissed.

Anyone who works in hospitality will tell you that opening a new restaurant is a nightmare. The kitchen inevitably melts down, people wait too long for their food, servers order the wrong dishes, steaks come out overdone, line cooks walk out in the middle of service. None of these issues are excusable, but they happen more often in the early going. 

Of course, new restaurants should do everything in their power to be ready on day one to offer great food and service. Most do. But the same food or service should be even more finely-tuned six months to a year later. Chillax, your Instagram account can wait. 

New restaurants

Critics rush to file opinions even more compulsively than civilians do when a trendy chef breaks ground on a new project. They crawl over each other to be the first to publish reviews, often while a restaurant is still in an embryonic state. It’s easier to forgive shrewd critics than merciless foodies; at least critics have the inherent excuse that it’s their job.

But the mortality rate among newly-opened restaurants would likely be lower if critics showed more restraint by delaying their reviews until these restaurants are given time to work out the kinks. Gratuitous slandering on crowd-sourcing sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor doesn’t help matters any either. This interim period when a restaurant first opens is critical to its future. It’s the time when we should be the most patient not the most ruthless.

If you don’t feel compelled to dine at a new restaurant again because your first experience was so bad, fine. But it isn’t fair to call it terrible after only one visit. If you do decide to go back, though, try to wait at least a month before you return. Start by telling your server or a manger that you dined there when it first opened and had a disappointing experience. Lay your cards on the table. Ask the staff for recommendations and show openness to enjoying the restaurant the way it is intended not how you intend it to be. 

Great restaurants will capitalize on these opportunities to win guests over. Bad ones will make the same mistakes all over again. It works the same in reverse. Your first experience at a new restaurant might be mind-altering while your second visit may be disastrous. Either way, we shouldn’t make judgements until we take the necessary time to ascertain that a restaurant is disciplined or complacent about its own excellence. It’s impossible make this calculation fairly after just one meal.