Restuarant Review Filter
February 17, 2005 4:15 PM   Subscribe

My wife is a district manager for a corporate food service company. They provide cafeteria service for law firms, insurance companies, etc. One of her accounts was recently reviewed by a restaurant reviewer for a major metropolitan newspaper. She feels he used this opportunity to take a backhanded swipe at her company, which also provides food service at the major metropolitan newspaper, but under different terms and conditions.

Story is here. He praises the account at Wolf Block, which is heavily subsidized by Wolf Block. He then says that other accounts "get mixed, even openly hostile reviews." Here he is referring to the Inquirer itself. The pricng, subsidy and end result is much different at the Inquirer. The food service workers are unionized, unlike Wolf Block.

She feels that he is being unfair and comparing apples to oranges. Should she call or email the writer? She doesn't exactly want a retraction. The point of the article is kind of odd, since you or I can't really walk in off the street and eat there. It does praise the food. Let it go?
posted by fixedgear to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Why not write a letter to the editor or ombudsman? When I worked at a paper, this was pretty much exactly the kind of letter we got all the time. They'll likely print it.

If you wanted to not have her name tied to it, I'd drop a hint to the local alternative weekly. They love to try and poke holes in the local papers.
posted by GaelFC at 4:32 PM on February 17, 2005

The article is being registration, so I haven't read it.

But are you saying that the writer is having a go at the food service at his own paper? That seems a little odd. I would have thought that whoever it was in the paper's management that negotiated the deal wouldn't like that very much. This might be a problem that solves itself.
posted by krisjohn at 8:15 PM on February 17, 2005

After reading that review, I think your wife should take a deep breath and relax. The point that comes through is that the food company can deliver three-star or better food in a cafeteria setting, with minimal kitchen equipment to work on, which is incredible. It's a rave review for a cafeteria, and if she writes the reviewer to say anything, it should be "Thanks."

There is one line that says that in some places the company works, some give the product they get "openly hostile reviews." When you're a critic and you're gushing over cafeteria food, you need to admit that OK, there are places this company works where the customers complain.

Then it spends several paragraphs implying that most companies totally chinz out on the cafeteria contract, not being willing to pay for quality food for their employees. Heck, that's not a slam. It's an alibi.

Seriously. The relevant excerpt:

Intriguingly, Wolf Block's cafeteria isn't run by some rare bird. Its contract is with the local Newport Foods division of global giant Compass Group.

Even more intriguing is that in other Philadelphia locations, Newport's service gets mixed, even openly hostile reviews.

How come it's different at 1650 Arch? I ask Bill Shapiro, the onetime restaurateur (he owned BLT's Cobblefish) who runs the Wolf Block account.

For one thing, he says, the food is heavily subsidized by the firm: Employees pay half market price. (The food cost alone for the scallops was more than $4.29.)

But more important, Wolf Block sees its food service as a sweetener - part fringe benefit and part image burnisher.

If you're getting well-heeled Israeli businessmen together with U.S. venture capitalists, your Mediterranean conference lunch had better be up to snuff.

It's a perk, as well, for the nonprofessional staff. And there's the reality that lawyers who bill $700 and dine at the city's finest tables aren't going to settle quietly for swill.

You wrote: "The pricing, subsidy and end result is much different at the Inquirer." Sounds like you might agree.

I review restaurants for print media about once a month. Take it from me: This guy was impressed, and made sure the world knew it.

The line that upset your wife was apparently fair and factual, and as a critic I can tell you it went unnoticed by 99.99 percent of the people who read the piece, who when they were done only remember their crushing, aching jealousy over not getting diver scallops on a bed of French lentils for their $4.99 cafeteria lunch.

Sorry for the length, but for once I know what I'm talking about.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:36 PM on February 17, 2005

What exactly do you want, for your wife never to be offended?
posted by delmoi at 9:05 PM on February 17, 2005

I know this woman. Tell her to let it go. If she won't, use this quote "The cookery is skilled". If she still won't let it go say "Boopie, call a waahmbulance."
posted by Fat Guy at 10:50 AM on February 18, 2005

It's a rave review for a cafeteria, and if she writes the reviewer to say anything, it should be "Thanks."

Your wife might want to write a letter to the editor that says something like "As the district manager of ..., I want to thank ... for the rave review of the Wolf Block cafeteria, where we supply the food. We enjoy working with a company that is so dedicated to bringing good food to its employees, and appreciate the opportunity we have had at this cafeteria to show how good our food can be."

In other words: "We could do really great stuff everywhere if companies were willing to help subsidize the food." .... But without actual criticizing anyone

Consider this an opportunity for some more free publicity.
posted by WestCoaster at 10:51 AM on February 18, 2005

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