There are two sides to every story, including those posted to Yelp and the like. And for those disputes, court is now in session.
The Post and Courier Food section weekly features a complaint that first surfaced online, along with testimonies from the patron and restaurateur.
You, the readers, are the jury. Join us in our Facebook group to weigh in on whether the customer is indeed right, or if the case should be resolved in the restaurant’s favor. Let’s enter the courtroom.
Shruti M. has been named to Yelp’s Elite Squad in three of the past four years, which means she posts reviews at an impressive pace, despite having a new daughter at home. (She traded multiple messages with this reporter, but a phone interview never materialized, in part because Shruti’s “baby's nap times are slightly unpredictable.”) Shruti this summer posted glowing reviews for Off-Track Ice Cream, Forte Jazz Lounge and The Southern General.
JuJu last year opened in the former Bambu Asian Bistro, offering an “urban American Caribbean fusion” menu. The restaurant’s three-hour-long happy hour, featuring conch fritters, Trinidadian deviled eggs and a basket of onion rings with glass of house wine for $7, starts daily at 4 p.m.
Because fellow Yelpers had endorsed JuJu’s happy hour, Shruti arranged to arrive at the restaurant during the promo period with her husband and baby. According to Shruti, only one or two tables were taken, so her family sat down for their discounted snacks. But they then learned from their server that the happy hour menu was only available to patrons seated at the bar or adjacent high-top tables.
Shruti asked if they could make an exception, since she wasn’t sure how to balance her daughter’s car seat on a bar stool.
“Our waitress was very kind and excellent with customer service and said OK,” she wrote in her recap of the experience. “But then she returned saying she was ‘caught by the manager.’ … I have never been treated so poorly at a restaurant before.”
JuJu owner David Silliman was at the restaurant at the same time as Shruti, and remembers being “stunned” that the young family was so determined to take advantage of happy hour pricing. As Silliman sees it, “Happy hour is a financial incentive for people to come in after work.” The restaurant uses the program to cultivate an upbeat, buzzy ambiance.
But if happy hour is important to the restaurant, it’s crucial to the bartender. When JuJu hires bartenders, part of the employment package is the opportunity to create a happy hour event. “It’s a pretty standard practice,” Silliman says. “It’s a financial incentive for a bartender to do a great job.”
In other words, as a way of guaranteeing additional income for a good bartender, JuJu restricts happy hour service to what the bartender rings up. While a bartender could theoretically deliver drink and food orders to the floor, his or her roaming the restaurant would undermine the goal of making the bar a fun place.
“You want to keep it to where they can give excellent service,” Silliman says. “The servers’ job is to take care of people who come in for dinner.”
Silliman adds that parents aren’t barred from holding their babies at high-top tables in the bar, which is what Shruti ultimately did.
Who’s right in this situation? Is JuJu looking out for its drinkers’ best interests by confining happy hour to the bar area? Or should everyone in the dining room get equal crack at the discounted menu? Join the discussion at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup