It’s become something of a trend for restaurants with unwarranted negative online reviews to strike back — and one Omaha, NE restaurant may have found the funniest way to do it yet: Farm to table eatery Block 16 has turned their bad Yelp reviews into dramatic monologues, and they are magnificent. I’m not kidding when I say I just spent roughly 40 minutes snorting into my coffee while watching them.
Although Block 16 owners Jessica and Paul Urban consider their customers the best part of running a restaurant, the restaurant biz is not without its down sides. Explained Paul in the first installment of the series, “The worst part about owning a restaurant is Yelp. Yelp reviews are mean and sometimes hurtful — and we thought the best way to overcome these would be to get a bunch of our chef buddies together with some beer and grilled cheese and read our most horrible Yelp reviews in an overly dramatic fashion.” Shot in black and white and underscored with moody, depressing piano music, the resulting videos highlight customer behavior at its worst. New episodes arrive on YouTube every Sunday at 10am; right now, they’re up to episode eight, and I can’t wait for the next one.
Yes, restaurants have a responsibility to provide food and service commensurate with the price on the menu to their patrons — but if the “Behind Closed Ovens” series on Jezebel’s Kitchenette blog has taught us nothing, it’s that customers have a tendency to assume that social contract means they can make unreasonable demands and behave poorly to restaurant staff, even when there’s no reason to do either. It’s worth noting, by the way, that Block 16’s reviews are largely both glowing and lengthy; its patrons wax poetic about its virtues in a way seldom seen in online reviews. The negative ones are few and far between; furthermore, they usually seem to be a result of people either not reading the menu properly or wanting the restaurant to be something different from what it is.
Take my personal favorite, for example. It features a reviewer by the name of Tim who was put off first by the fact that Block 16 doesn’t serve chicken breast (“Who wants wings and thighs and drumsticks?” wrote the incredulous Tim), and then by the lack of barbecue sauce on the pulled pork roll. Here, give it a watch:
The next time something terrible happens to me, I am going to shake my fists at the sky and yell, “NO BARBECUE SAUCE?!”
The videos aren’t just limited to Block 16, either; when the Urbans and all of their chef buddies gathered together to eat grilled cheese, drink beer, and shoot, they all brought their own terrible Yelp reviews, as well. Take this one from a Yelp user named “Jenny Z.,” for example: She and her fiancé went to The Boiler Room for their anniversary and came away disappointed with the experience; the review itself is currently filed under “not recommended,” though, so do with that what you will. It sounds kind of like Jenny Z. wanted the restaurant to be something it’s not: She didn’t like the décor, she was upset that they didn’t get special treatment for their anniversary, and they didn’t stay for dessert because they didn’t like the look of anything on the menu. Weirdly, though, she described the food as “alright [sic], but nothing remarkable for an upscale place”… before going on to say that “the duck comfit [sic] had a nice crisp to the skin that was delicious,” that her fiancé said his swordfish was “fantastic,” and that her Wagyu was “cooked to the perfect doneness.” I’m unclear about how that amounts to just “all right,” but, well… to each his or her own? Or something?
I would argue, though, that as hilarious as these videos are, they’re actually more important as PSAs: They’re geared towards teaching people how to handle bad restaurant experiences. Obviously you’re not always going to have a fabulous time at every restaurant you go to, and obviously not everything is always going to end up being to your taste — but first, do your research so you know what you’re walking into (if you’re skilled enough with the Internet to leave a Yelp review, you’re skilled enough to look the menu up ahead of time); and second, speak up respectfully if you need to. Sure, you’ll probably come across the occasional manager or owner who’s a jerk if you try to talk to them; by and large, though, they’re willing to listen to your complaints, as long as you’re not a jerk yourself.
Head on over to Block 16’s YouTube channel for more.