San Diego's Craft & Commerce has found a way to deal with negative Yelp reviews: they play audio readings of some of the worst snippets in their bathrooms. Co-owner Arasalun Tafazoli tells Eater that he and the management of the restaurant have always been fascinated by "the Shakepearean qualities of some of these reviews." There's "such a level of melodrama," he says, that the restaurant felt they had to do something with the bad reviews they loved the most. At first, they were going to do a mural, but after some deliberation, they decided on the bathroom idea. The voices in the recordings include everyone from waiters to friends to customers.
Here's one of their favorites, courtesy of Yelper Amy M:
Like it? Hell yeah.
Love it? Hell no.
Well, why the hell don't I love it? Isn't that why you're reading?
Started with the biscuits and the bone marrow. Biscuits were, IMO, teeny weeny! We couldn't have used all the dipping sauces on them if we used them as spoons! What's the deal guys? Bone marrow I liked a lot. Man candy could NOT get past the *ahem*... seminal texture and kept trying to eat it. But he couldn't. Once again, not enough toast with it. We asked for more, which we ended up PAYING for (whaaaaaaat?!?!).
Dinner, man candy got brisket sammy, I got (predictably) the burger. Raaaaaaare. Man candy was sad about his brisket. He should know better by now - nobody can top my brisket. My burger was very good. Toppings were kind of sparse. The fries were shoestring, and I thought needed more seasoning.
Idk. It's a good place. Nice atmosphere. But the chairs ain't comfy. And I know you can find a better gastropub if you bother to look.
This is not the first time a restaurant has turned bad Yelp reviews around to work in their favor. Back in February 2011, Michelin-starred Longman & Eagle in Chicago made a postcard out of a negative review. Owning your bad reviews in this way is at the very least hilarious, but Restaurant Hospitality calls it a brilliant PR strategy: "As marketing moves go, this one looks like a big winner that costs next to nothing." It's not like the place needs it, though, since Craft & Commerce's chef Jason McLeod won Michelin stars in Chicago at Ria, and the restaurant already has a strong four-star overall rating on Yelp anyway — with 900 reviews averaged.
That being said, Tafazoli doesn't only see the matter as a joke. The restaurant makes fun of what it sees as ridiculous, but there's a larger problem at play: "Less and less people are being hired to provide thoughtful criticism, and this is our livelihood," he says. "We're offering you food at around $12, and you treat it as if we've kidnapped your child."