On Friday, Devra First, food critic for the Boston Globe, wrote a column, “I’m a restaurant critic – I’m not ready to eat at a restaurant right now” and it touched a few nerves with restaurant owners and restaurant workers. You can read Devra’s column here.
Mike Shaw, owner of Loco and Fat Baby, wrote an impassioned letter in response to this column.
You can read it below:
I know nothing about you. As a person, nothing. But as a critic, and a medium for our industry, there are a few things I know.
I know that when I first opened Loco five years ago, you wrote a comically inaccurate review of our restaurant in the midst of the horrific 2015 snowstorms that plagued restaurants throughout the Northeast. I know that you often times review restaurants not on their merit, but on your addiction to relevancy. I know that you have time and time again claimed to be an advocate for our industry and our people, the industry that has paid your bills for as long as you have been at this.
I know that we made your humorous 1.5 star review into a motivational trigger, as I had it painted on the front door shortly after it was published. I know that Loco has been a success story in an industry riddled with failure. I know that your impact on a restaurants success has dwindled as quickly as the readership of the daily newspaper.
I know you claim to know us, but you do not. That is all I know about you.
But, if I were a betting man, which every person in small business is, here are a few things I would bet on. I bet that you pretend to care about restaurants, but you don’t. I bet that you believe you are writing about a class that is “less-than,” for a class “better-than.”
I bet that you have never had to send an e-mail to hundreds of employees telling them that in the blink of an eye, their livelihood was gone, and may never come back. I bet that on March 20th after an 18-hour day of attempting takeout for hundreds, you did not sit in your car across the street wondering how you would provide for your pregnant wife and future child. I bet you did not stare at the emptiness of a place that has been your total and complete fullness since the day it opened. I bet you did not have the weight of your employees futures, who over time have become family, occupying every inch of your soul. I bet you did not cry uncontrollably onto your steering wheel at the unsettling feeling that the prospect of a thing so much bigger than yourself, may never open again. If I could, I would bet the house on it.
What I would never have bet on is this; that the Food Editor for the most reputable news publication in the Northeast would write an article so self-serving, so egomaniacal and so detrimental to the psyche of an industry they claim to support. If it has not dawned on you yet, your opinion about your personal comfort level about dining in a restaurant does not matter right now, because you can’t. No restaurants are open. So why use that incredible platform to further push consumer confidence away from the places you claim to love and advocate for?
I respect your effort to stay relevant and your need to produce content for your employer. I am sure that droves of support poured in after this was published about your courage and boldness to write such a piece. I disagree. What an opportunity wasted. An opportunity to write about what actually matters now, about the 300,000 restaurant workers in Massachusetts that may never have a job again, about the actual challenges of our industry, not just your internal struggles with how you feel. That opportunity has passed you by, and I am sorry for it.
Your article speaks to staff safety, as though our teams’ safety and wellbeing hasn’t always been our primary priority. It carries a tone of fear for those people coming to work. Have you ever had to give a prep-cook a raise in the midst of a pandemic because he is worried about making rent because he lost his second job? No? Well, we had to yesterday. And the look in his eyes was real fear.
And as for our guests, our pursuit of emboldening them with the confidence that we provide a safe and welcoming environment, is not exclusive to Covid. It is what we do every day. That pursuit will not change, yet the road we travel it on will.
If you feel so inclined, I encourage you to continue to write about food. Continue to write about your mediocre service, and the loud dining rooms you loathe. Hell, even continue to write about science, as you have here. But don’t you dare write about the struggles of our business and our people; for those are two things you know nothing about.
See, this article would matter if we could open, but we can’t. So as we sit and await our fate, so should you. Rewrite this article on June 8th, when strong guidance from the State is in place, a full 21 days of measurable data is gathered and analyzed, and when we can open our doors. And hopefully then, we will all be here, to safely and warmly welcome you and any others back into our homes with open arms.
Bet on this, I will relish the opportunity to prove you wrong again.
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