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Sunday Musings: Food Blogger Gets Death Threats

Keith Lee is a 24-year-old former MMA Fighter-turned-star blogger with 14 million followers for his restaurant reviews. And a good review from him is like a goose that lays golden eggs to a restaurant. But things got really ugly for Keith Lee after one bad notice…

Keith Lee received death threats after his ugly review of the Atlanta, GA, restaurant scene..

Keith – try as he might – came out of a recent resto tour of Atlanta, GA, less than impressed. Not with any one establishment in particular, but with what seems to be the whole town’s attitude toward resto dining…

Setting the scene

One of Keith’s first bad experiences was with an upscale family eatery which (because I’m a merciful soul) will herein go unnamed.

His family was initially told there would be an hour wait for a table. But when someone realized who he was, a table became magically available right away.

That was only after he had tried unsuccessfully to access the resto’s food by other channels. He quickly discovered that there was no weekend take-out. No DoorDash delivery. His attempt to place a takeout order by phone was could-shouldered.

What was going on?

Keith confabbed with friend, rapper girl Cardi B., a native New Yorker who’s now an Atlanta Transplant. “Atlanta restaurants, they don’t like to make money,” she opined. “But I always find this eating in Atlanta: It is such an event. You could barely order in Atlanta restaurants. They don’t do no pickup orders, they don’t do deliveries.”

Following along on that disclosure, Keith discovered there’s a strict set of rules that to which all the decent Atlanta restos adhere. One which makes the resto-diner relationship adversarial, to say the least.

‘This thing we have’

The secret code of conduct Atlanta’s sit-down eateries allegedly follows is not unlike that the Mob used to enforce. Everybody does it but nobody talks about it.

Keith Lee did manage to uncover the following:

  • No water for your table until everyone is seated. This one has to be the most outrageous.
  • No reservations. Should you just dine alone then? This means getting ready to wait more than 90 minutes for a meal.
  • No call-in orders. So how exactly did they make money during the pandemic?
  • No large parties. More than 4 is unacceptable, which would not work for any family that has more than 2 kids.
  • No modification to orders over $75. Basically no dressing on the side allowed.
  • No splitting checks. Guess you better show up with your credit card with no balance. This would 100% be a problem in NY.
  • No waiting inside for to-go orders. If you have toddlers, guess you have to leave them at home then too.
  • 18 percent gratuity automatically added to everything. Not sure why they need a tip with all these rules.

That list includes pretty much all of the inconveniences, service travesties and money-related issues we’ve covered in previous posts about bad diner experiences. With the exception of charging $1 for a clean spoon.

My take

‘Desperate Measures for desperate times’. That’s the frame for the picture we keep seeing these days, when we visit restaurants on the verge of financial failure. They’re scrambling to pay their bills and, ideally, make a small profit for themselves.

But as I’ve said over and over: They’re just alienating potential customers with their nickel-and-dime tactics. Perhaps more effectively than with high menu prices.

I understand that most resto operators have everything invested in their establishments. Their finances, their physical and emotional health and their futures. But if you were a failing restaurateur… Would you resort to penny pinching and picking the pockets of your customers to stay afloat? Or would you take a long, wide look at the situation, and consider other, perhaps more-momentous changes to your business plan?

~ Maggie J.